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Durst L1200:  Laborator 1200 5x4 Enlarger
Durst L1200: Laborator 1200 5x4 Enlarger
Published by Xpres
17th June 2011
Default Durst L1200: Laborator 1200 5x4 Enlarger

Some notes about the L1200, the main enlarger in my darkroom.
They're not complete yet and I've still to add some photos, but I'd welcome any comments and corrections. What have I missed, what can I add?
I'll put up some images to show the evolution of the enlarger too, as well as some of the older parts that aren't shown in the last manual.

...Popular Enlargers: Durst Laborator 1200 or L1200

The L1200 is a professional bench top 5x4 enlarger with a huge variety of accessories available to suit every user.

Durst made a range of both amateur and professional enlargers for over sixty years until 2006 when the digital revolution put an end to the mass market for these machines. The Laborator 1200 was one of its best sellers. From a simple condenser head through to a complex computerised version it can cope with anything, which made it a popular choice for many businesses as well as individual professionals during its thirty years of production.

So there were lots about! But when the commercial world went digital many found their way into the hands of enthusiasts keen to get hold of a first class bit of kit at a bargain price. Many others, sadly, ended up in landfil, but there are enough around for them to appear for sale on a regular basis. Durst USA seems to be still running through some new old stock. (see link below)

For the large format worker these days they represent a versatile and reliable choice of enlarger, although there are better choices if you only work with 35mm. They're capable of printing all formats up to 5x4 in black and white or colour, with many light sources available including the Ilford multigrade series.

(L1200 fitted with an Ilford 500 Head)
They're big and they're heavy!

If you're looking for one...

...expect to pay around £200 upwards on ebay and over £500 with a dealer depending on the model, condition and accessories included. The emphasis is on the 'upward', as they can be very expensive, but bargains can be had.
The most popular combination seems to be a late model chasis with an ilford 500 head, or if you can find one, a VLS500/501 - both for use with black and white multigrade papers.
The later columns were a few inches taller and were equiped with a long focusing arm.
Weak points include the bellows carriage and coil spring. Make sure both are in good order and that the carriage moves up and down smoothly and stays still when the brake is on. There are some small plastic cogs inside the unit which are difficult to find replacements for if broken.
Accessories are expensive and sometimes hard to find so make sure there is as much as possible included. Lens panels are common to all durst enlargers though. Neg carriers, masks, mixing boxes, condensers and the like will depend on which set up you're after. They all have strange names which can be confusing so have a look at the link to the manual below.
The neg carrier is called 'Femoneg' and there are two types, one of which is designated 'AM' and accepts marginally bigger inserts. Better if you want to see the whole of a 5x4 neg with a glassless mask.
Colour heads are usually cls450, cls500 or cls501. Or it may have the B&W condenser head, or maybe the VLS500/501 multigrade head, or the BWL450 diffuser head. All are listed in the back of the manual. There is also a point source head and the 'Multigraph' computerised system.
An interesting accessory to look out for is the 'febidap' which, with the use of the M805 condensers and neg carrier, allows medium format negs to be rotated in the enlarger - so always the right way up!
Is it easy to move? - Yes, if you take it apart a little it will fit in a small hatchback with the seats down. Always move the head to the top of the column before you remove it though, or the coil spring will bring it up mighty quick and hurt you. The bellows unit will seperate form the carriage but you don't need to do this unless it has to be shipped. The base is easily removed.

During its production life, around 1980 and again around 1990, there were a few changes in design and updates to the heads and accessories available, but they all seem to be more or less compatible with each other.
Although it was a bench top enlarger a wall mounting kit was available, as was a drop table which replaced the baseboard.

(The L1200 in 1976)

(The eighties version)

(Nineties version)

Femoneg carrier sizes:

The manual (last model) and lots of Durst info:

PDF list of Durst consumer products (link on this page):

Parts and maintenance UK:
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By Alan Sleator on 4th February 2012, 07:56 PM
Default Durst 1220 multigraph

I have the manual for the Laborator 1200 Multigraph if anyone needs a copy.

Best wishes,

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By Andy Cat on 27th July 2012, 12:01 PM
Default Thanks i'need it

Originally Posted by alan sleator View Post
i have the manual for the laborator 1200 multigraph if anyone needs a copy.

Best wishes,


i'need it .

Best regards

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By stu goodman on 18th March 2013, 08:25 AM

my 1200 transformer expired and i spent ages trying to replace it...looking at around 5/600 quid!!!
had it rewound at around£80 but not satisfactory.

it sat there unused and missed for a year while i looked at exciting things like an astron or a l&j... eventually somebody suggested looking at lighting transformers... again about 80 quids worth but it did the trick... needed a proper sparks to wire it in but working fine for b/w (not stabilised and no use for colour). i'll put up the make and type of transformer later
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By TimHolmes on 30th April 2013, 11:29 PM

I had one of these, they are well made enlargers, I'd highly recommend it. I bought mine from an Indian chap in North London, maybe Golders Green 1993 and I sold it to the guy who used to sell hand tinted B&W prints on Camden Market 1995 he lived in South East London and let me return and rent it off him a few times. I couldn't keep a dark room at the time.
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By cblkdog on 11th October 2013, 12:33 AM

I hate to say this but a good friend just shut down his studio and had to throw out one of these beautiful enlargers. I couldn't take it because I don't have the room. BTW I have a Omega D2 with an Ilford 500 and a B7 with a Iford 400, love those Ilford heads.
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By Adrian Twiss on 18th August 2015, 04:35 PM

I am very lucky to have one of these wonderful enlargers. My initial purchase (£900) was a multigraph model. It did not suit my way of working and needed very precise calibration for every type of paper you used. There is one consultant in the UK who can do this work but it is neither quick or cheap. He also offered to come and train me on its use. In the end I was lucky enough to swap it for a VLS501 version owned by a German gentleman who brought it over from Germany when he had business in the UK. I still use it regularly attached to an RH Disigns timer that has performed faultlessly from new. The only consumables I have bought for it are bulbs that I obtain from Norther Photo Supplies.

It is not at all convenient for 35mm but I am lucky to have a meopta magnafax for that.

the L1200 is probably the best enlarger I have owned.
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By Bentjudges on 12th October 2017, 09:38 AM
Default Durst L1200 Laborator 1200 5x4 Enlarger

That Durst is a wonderful enlarger. If I were still doing wet photography, and if I were on your side of the pond, I'd grab it in a minute.
My lowly Beseler still sits in my darkroom, unused.
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By Bentjudges on 14th October 2017, 02:18 PM
Default Durst L1200 Laborator 1200 5x4 Enlarger

I had to laugh at myself - when I first saw your post I misread the title as "Dust Enlarger." Just what every photographer needs
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By Renato Tonelli on 20th January 2019, 03:26 PM

This is my favourite enlarger; I have both the Multigraph and Colorhead.
The only problem with the Multigraph is that I need to recalibrated it for the two papers I use: Ilford Multigrade FB and Adox MC 111

If anyone has the calibration tables for these papers and is willing to share them, I would very much appreciate it.
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