A 50mm enlarging lens is standard equipment in most darkrooms.  And while these lenses are not specifically designed for submini work, they can sometimes do any adaquate job.  In fact, if you only make submini enlargements occasionally, tend toward smaller-sized prints (up to 8x10), and use a larger-sized submini negative (such as half-frame), you might not need to buy an extra lens just for your submini work.  Just rack the enlarger up toward the ceiling and see if you can get a big enough print.  And if your enlarger goes high enough (or you can project on the floor), you might even be able to use your 50mm lens with 110, 16mm or smaller formats.  

The biggest obstacle in these situations is that the enlarging paper and the enlarger head will be several feet apart, making focusing and other settings and adjustments difficult and annoying.  A simple solution is to use a close-up lens on your enlarger lens.  Many 50mm enlarger lenses have filter threads on the front.  If you screw in a supplementary filter of the appropriate strength, you can get the enlarger head much closer to the paper.  First, you might need to locate one or more step-up rings if you can't find a filter the same size as the thread on your enlarger lens.  Next, you'll need a filter of the right strength.  This will vary according to the film format you are using and the size of the enlargements you want to make.  A good starting point is a +3 close-up lens.  For larger formats (such as half-frame) and/or smaller enlargements (such as 5x7), a +1 or +2 might be better.  For smaller formats (such as 16mm) and/or bigger enlargements (such as 16x20), a +4 or +6 might be better.  

Put the close-up lens above the lens in the enlarger -- that is, inside the bellow -- where it can rest on the lensboard (concave side facing the lens). That way you don't have to try to find one in the thread size of the enlarger lens -- a very difficult task. Keep in mind that the stronger the close-up lens (and the bigger the enlargement), the more deterioration there will be in the print.  So, make sure you use the best f-stop for the lens.  Just as important, use a top quality, two-element close-up lens.  These are better corrected for optical aberrations than the less expensive single element types.  Minolta, and others, make super-quality two element lenses, while Vivitar, and others, make lighter, cheaper, easier-to-find single element types.

And remember, if you plan on doing a lot of submini work, if you love big prints, shoot a lot of TINY negatives, are a fanatic about quailty, or have extra money to burn, invest in a true submini lens.

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COPYRIGHT @ 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Joe McGloin. All Rights Reserved.