How to make a DIY Photo Enlarger from an Afghan box camera

Sep 27, 2021

Cheng Qwee Low

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How to make a DIY Photo Enlarger from an Afghan box camera

Sep 27, 2021

Cheng Qwee Low

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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In a previous post, I shared how I converted my Afghan Box Camera into a slide projector. The principle of the slide projector involves putting a light source at the back whose light passes through some condenser lens. The light then goes through the slide and finally pass the projector lens and be projected big on the projector screen.

I thought that would be about the same principle as a photo enlarger in the darkroom. In the enlarger, we have also the light pass through some condenser lens (depending on the design) and it will pass through the negative, go through the lens and it will be projected big on the photo paper so I thought maybe I would try to use my Afghan Box Camera again to convert it into photo enlarger, in this case, it will be horizontal enlarger where I will project the image horizontally onto the wall surface.

Negative Carrier

I decided to use my photo paper holder inside the Afghan Box Camera for this conversion. I taped up a 6x7cm window using some black PVC tape. If this is to be a more permanent setup, I would make a proper negative carrier for now. For now, this will do and I used some small pieces of masking tape to secure the 6×7 negative flat against the glass. To focus I would move the focusing rods per the usual way when using the Afghan Box Camera which move the negative towards or away from the lens.

Light Source

Unlike a light source for a slide projector, the enlargement is smaller so light source for this enlarger can be relatively less powerful. So I use a simple 11W warm color LED bulb. As I do not have a timer, I simply use the on/off switch for the bulb during printing to control the exposure time.

Lens

I do not have a dedicated enlarger lens so I use my trusty Fujinon 210mm lens as the enlarging lens. For a safe filter, I dug out an old Cokin red filter and a Cokin filter holder. I would just slip the filter and holder over the lens if I need to block the light from reaching the photo paper.

Paper

I use the Arista Edu 5×7 inches Resin Coated paper. Being a variable contrast paper, I could use the Ilford Multigrade Contrast filters to control the contrast of the print. Again, this is done simply by taping the filter on the rear element of the lens during printing.

Results

The results have shown that the box camera can be easily turned into a photo enlarger by making a few changes to it

  • Add in a light source
  • Replace/convert the photo paper holder with/into a negative holder
  • Add in safelight filter and contrast filter

Improvements

Nevertheless, a few improvements can be made

  • Better way of holding the paper on the wall instead of just using masking tape.
  • Some method to confirm the squareness of the enlarger to the photo paper
  • Better way to hold the safe filter and contrast filters

Conclusion

Vintage Solar based Horizontal Enlarger

 

About the Author

Cheng Qwee Low has been doing photography including traditional darkroom printing since 2003. He started shooting using film cameras using the 35mm film format. After dabbling in digital photography, he found himself being drawn back to film photography a few years ago. This time he is attracted by the large negative size offered by a large-format camera.

At the same time, he started to explore deeper into the roots of photography and the various 19th-century photographic processes. Through the various manuals, books, websites found on Internet, he managed to learn the wet plate collodion photography and Kallitype Printing process on its own.

You’ll find more of Cheng’s work on his website and YouTube channel. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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