World's Cheapest Darkroom Enlarger

Introduction: World's Cheapest Darkroom Enlarger

This is my invention: a camera obscura photographic enlarger. Someone else has probably made one before, but I haven't found it on the internet yet.

You can buy all of the supplies in the dollar store. To make one you'll need:

To make your own enlarger you'll need:
A sturdy cardboard box
Black card to make your camera obscura
A magnifying glass/lens
Tracing paper or similar
Some transparent red plastic (you could try colouring in clear plastic from food packaging with a red marker if you can't find any, but would need to test it's light safety before making prints)
Tape and glue
A small light (preferably with a clip)
A clipboard
A sheet of glass
Some black tape

This has been tested and WORKS! The second video details how I made my bathroom into a super budget darkroom and the usage of the homemade camera obscura enlarger.

To test the light safety of your enlarger/safelights/filter: Take some unexposed photo paper and place a coin on top of it. Turn on your safelights/ your enlarger with the white light on, but red filters covering the white light. Leave for 5-10m. Develop the paper as normal under safelights. Examine carefully in daylight after fixing and washing. If the paper is grey or you can see the coin's outline then there is a white light leak in your darkroom and you need to isolate and fix it. If it is totally white then your safelights and filters are doing their jobs. Remember- safelights are only safe for FOUR MINUTES before they begin to gradually fog undeveloped photographic paper. The effect is cumulative, so always put your paper back in the lightsafe bag and box immediately after removing a sheet to expose to avoid gradually fogging the whole box over time.

Here are details of my darkroom supplies and the associated costs:

My entire darkroom setup cost around 6000 yen/ $60/£40, and that's including 50 sheets of photo paper and chemicals to process it! Here's what I bought and used:

Light proofing: 4 x black felt squares, iron-on bonding tape, black paper, black electrical tape, push pins and velcro squares, 2 x red bike lights to use as safelights = 1260円

Enlarger: camera obscura kit, red acetate sheet as a filter, piece of glass, clipboard, cardboard box, LED clip light = 525円

Developing: 3 x trays, 3 x tongs, thermometer, 3 x mixing jugs,  fixer concentrate (makes 5 litres), vinegar for stop bath, instant coffee, washing soda, vitamin C powder, plastic box for print washer, 2 x  packs of metal clips for print drying = 2743円

Photographic paper (Fujibro Varigrade WB 6x4 inches, 50 sheets)= 1380円

I also splashed out and bought the following for developing negatives: changing bag= 1436円 and a 35mm, one-roll second hand developing tank= 1600円. I spent money here because negative emulsion is around 100 times as light sensitive as paper, so require total light safety to avoid fogging.

I would <3 <3 <3 to see your results from using my design and to hear your thoughts. Please post links, comments and your experiences below! Thanks!

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    mandolin dan
    mandolin dan

    8 years ago

    bloody marvelous! I am going to look into making one, without a doubt. I will have to modify the design as I'm shooting with Brownie boxes at the moment, so obviously the size of negative will be larger. did you manage to get the blacks blacker through experimenting more or not?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very good work.

    You could achieve far better results using a better lens, like that of an old slide projector. Even a 35 mm camera objective can work.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your comment. I've seen some interesting designs that use 35mm cameras, but I don't have one, or the money for one, so wanted to see just how cheaply it was possible to make a working enlarger for.
    My creative ethos is that if something is machine perfect, then it sort of defeats the point of making it by hand, so I don't mind that my pictures will never look like they came out of a photo lab. I'd much rather make a pinhole camera than use a DSLR any day.
    I think experimenting with different types of magnifying lenses in this design could prove interesting. At the moment I'm waiting get some supplies so I can develop negatives at home and see how this works with real 35mm negaitves.