Another LED upgrade to the De Vere 54

I’ve owned a De Vere 54 enlarger for a few months, and in that time I have modified it several times. First I spruced up the bulb-powered condenser head by converting to diffusion and making it use a halogen reflector lamp. This proved unsatisfactory and I couldn’t get the illumination even enough. Plus it was too dim.

I picked up a cold cathode head for it. In its original state, it wasn’t really usable because the tube had a nasty flicker. Plus it looked as dangerous as hell when I opened the lid. I decided to convert the cold cathode head into an LED head. This was a success, but recently I noticed that not all of the LEDs in the array were no longer shining with equal brightness, and one or two had broken completely.

Faulty LED array
Faulty LED array

So I picked up an LED panel from an eBay seller in China which is intended to be mounted in a ceiling tile. Its 6×6″ size makes it ideal for a 5×4″ enlarger and the light is much brighter, whiter, and more even than my home-made LED array. It’s not much smaller as the photo makes it appear, but it is square rather than rectangular. I’m not sure why the original cold cathode head was rectangular either.

New LED panel
New LED panel
Comparison of LED panels
Comparison of LED panels

Finally here’s a glimpse inside the head, fitted with new LED panel. It came with an LED driver included. In the interests of future flexibility last time I worked on this head, I decided to terminate the incoming power lead with a trailing 13A socket. This time, I could have wired the LED driver directly into the incoming power lead but I decided to fit it with a 13A plug. Most of the space inside the head is empty – it used to contain the cold cathode tube, a diffuser and a huge ferrite transformer!

The LED head
The LED head

I will now need to do some testing with this new LED panel to determine its baseline exposure times and its contrast grade. The new LED panel is warmer white than the old array, which looked quite blue. The old array had a native contrast grade of about 4, so I hope the new one is a bit softer. Grade 2 would be nice.

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