35mm negative printed on a diffuser or condenser enlarger

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by cliveh, Jun 24, 2013.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I know this is an old chestnut that has probably been discussed infinitum before on APUG, but I’m interested in any new opinions. When printing, I use both a condenser and diffuser enlarger. However, when printing a 35mm negative which has slight under exposure, but developed with sufficient contrast, is the snap of a print produced on a condenser preferable to one produced on a diffuser (ignoring dust issues)? I think yes and over many years I have noticed that the best of my student printers using 35mm gravitate to a condenser enlarger.
     
  2. Noble

    Noble Member

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    This is going to be interesting.
     
  3. KennyMark

    KennyMark Member

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    For perhaps the most passionate opinion, see "Fred Picker" and "callier effect". As with all of Mr. Picker's opinions, wear a cup.
     
  4. gzinsel

    gzinsel Member

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    this problem:sad: thin shadow, normal highlight) will not be a issue for either enlarger. from my experience, It is the other way around. over exposed and over developed negs, that make it difficult to print with"snap"!!. if your shadows are a little thin, I am assuming 1/2 stop? under, then I guess you will get some good blacks, since there is less there. I can not say for sure, because I do not know the C.I. I mean where are you highlights compared? did you have a normal scene to begin with? then give normal dev? or did you have a low contrast scene to begin with? or did you have a high contrast scene? did you add or substract dev. time, what was your aggitation like? do you have good micro contrast, but not good over all contrast? what developer are you using? how much carbonate do you have grams/L? how much restrainer are you using? I think many people/beginners gravitate to condenser because they do not know how to control anything else (film developer/film, paper developer, paper, toning. and "THAT" (meaning condenser- 5 filter) contrast impresses them. getting a good black. you can acheive delicate highlights, smooth tonality+ excellent blacks on either, if you know what you are doing. whats easier????????????? who knows, a micro point.
     
  5. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    They're probably using condenser enlargers because they got them old and cheap! And I personally cannot think of any negative I couldn't
    print using a diffused light source. Once in awhile someone will want to preserve some very distinct visible grain effect; but many people who
    do own condenser heads alter them for diffusion them anyway. There are decades of arguments over this subject in print, but much of the logic
    seems obsolete now that very high quality variable-contrast papers are commonplace, along with fancy developer tweaks with accomplish the
    same kind of thing with less pain.
     
  6. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I'm betting on more ridiculous than interesting.
     
  7. newcan1

    newcan1 Subscriber

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    It's boring. I have two condenser enlargers and two diffused light source (dichroic) enlargers. The difference in results is negligible. the main difference is that the condenser enlargers are brighter, offering shorter exposures. Maybe a slight difference in contrast, but that's all.
     
  8. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    The denser the negative the more contrast difference you will see between the two. I get about a 1/2 to 3/4 of a grade more contrast from the condenser head with my normal negatives. It also seems that the condenser alters the effective shape of the curve a bit over diffusion, so it's not always possible to match prints between the two; you can get any two points to match, but not the entire image. That's just my observation, but I haven't seen it described elsewhere, so maybe it's user error or something unique to my system. Neither is consistently better than the other.

    The sharpness issue is overblown in my mind. I can see it, but its very slight. So is the dust issue. I need to spot on both.
     
  9. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    My gut tells me that 35mm developed to slightly low contrast and printed on higher contrast paper through a condenser enlarger and an APO lens - this is how to get the most 35mm quality.

    Today, I'm hoping to get 0.62 CI from some rolls of TMY-2... And I plan to print them on Grade 2 paper with a diffuse light source.
     
  10. markbau

    markbau Member

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    We'll need to dig Fred Picker up to answer this :smile: Seriously though, regarding sharpness, the sharpest prints I have ever made were from PMK developed FP4+ printed through a colour head. Regarding contrast, conventional wisdom says to always reduce development times from what the manufacturer recommends. In my experience, if printing through a colour head, this is bad advice, I find that the manufacturers advice is pretty much spot on for colour heads. Condenser enlargers are another matter and need slightly reduced development but as David Vestal found, the resulting prints cannot be told apart.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    It is important to remember that most enlargers we consider to be "condenser" type are actually more of a hybrid type, as they tend to use bulbs with a diffusing envelope.

    A "point source" is needed to get the full effect of a light path that includes condensers.
     
  12. kobaltus

    kobaltus Member

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    I prefer good condenser enlargers. Callier effect is result of poor quality of some condenser lenses . The prints enlarged with poorly made condensers have always increased contrast with poor tonality.
    Enlarger with well made condenser lenses could produce prints with high sharpness and good tonality.
     
  13. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Let's add hybrid light V35 focomat into account as well :smile:
     
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  15. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    The answer is no, there is no difference in print vales made with a condenser and with a diffuser enlarger. This assumes that the negatives are developed to the proper Gamma needed for each type of enlarger. I refer everyone to Richard Henry's book Controls In Black And White Photography where he actually made tests concerning this question and presents a full discussion.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 25, 2013
  16. PeterB

    PeterB Subscriber

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    Condenser enlargers generally give higher contrast. If as you write your contrast in the neg is sufficient (i.e. 'normal' for your process) then you don't need more contrast than you normally would so using a condenser enlarger will not offer an advantage from that perspective.

    Unless you underexposed by more than 1-1.5 stops then you should not worry about compensating for any compression/reduction of the (local contrast) in the shadows. If OTOH you did under expose by too much then a condenser enlarger won't help you anyway.
     
  17. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    So is the snap quality I mention merely a figment of my imagination? Perhaps in my OP I should also have mentioned that the preference I refer to is probably limited to smaller print sizes, up to about 20" x16".
     
  18. PeterB

    PeterB Subscriber

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    I nearly made a note of this in my last reply but it is possible you are using the word 'snap' to describe the higher contrast the condenser enlarger will give you for the same negative printed in both a diffuser and a condenser enlarger. If this is the case then try developing your negs for 10% longer than usual and printing in the diffuser enlarger, or alternatively if using MG paper, use a higher grade filter in the diffuser enlarger.
     
  19. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Hi Gerald,

    I remember you told me something similar in one thread about focomat V35 and condenser enlarger. I need higher gamma for V35. So example:

    if I develop Trix in Rodinal 1+25 for 10 minutes at 20C with 30s start agitation and later 3 inversions every half minute - and with this film prints on condenser enlarger on grade 2 paper I like: what should be my starting point in developing TriX for v35 Focomat?

    thanks,
     
  20. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    I don't believe that "snap" is a recognized or measureable scientific term. Often one's preconceived ideas influence what one sees. I mentioned Mr Henry's book to avoid a long and drawn out thread based solely on conjecture. Since he made many careful and well thought out tests I will take his word over anyone else's.

    I highly recommend this book as it refutes with actual data the many misconceptions that people have about photography.
     
  21. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Here is the Kodak site which shows graphs of the Contrast Index (similar to Gamma) for Tri-X. While it is for Kodak developers you should be able to easily figure the time for other developesr like Rodinal since the slopes on the graph are very similar to one another. The usual values for Gamma are 0.5 to 0.55 for condenser enlargers and 0.65 for diffusion ones.

    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/f4017/f4017.pdf
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 25, 2013
  22. kobaltus

    kobaltus Member

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    I enlarge with 9 different enlargers and my conclusion is, that difference in print quality can be seen between condenser and diffuser enlargers. Maybe this is not recognized or measureable scientific statement, but result of my enlarger tests and my capability of seeing. I am trained as artist, not scientist.I also believe that photography is not only scientific term.
     
  23. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    But differences may arise across your group of 9 enlargers due to a variety of variables including alignment, focus, lens, negative, negative flatness, contrast/filtration, print processing, safelights, print viewing conditions etc.

    You also need to define exactly what it is you mean by quality in the first place.

    If someone perhaps less experienced reads the thread, how can he/she come to meaningful conclusions without knowing how the tests were done and how the results were evaluated? What if someone else fails to see what you see? Who is correct?
     
  24. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    One other argument for "diffusion" or Cold Light enlargers is that they call for a negative with a more expanded range, which also enhances separation between intermediate values, or tones in the mid ranges. The reduction in the "callier" effect (no relation!!) is most present in the highlight, or more dense portions of the neg, so separation in the mid tones is seen to be enhanced by the cold light system. I am stating this passively, because, as posted above, I am neither a scientist, and have made only one comparison, a very long range indoor architecture shot (4x5) with direct sunlight on a wall, which was the first image I ever printed with the cold light. I acheived a quality of separation and total range not possible with my condenser enlarger, at least not at the time (1980 or so). With the added benefits of less dust (and other surface defects in a negative) reproduction, lower tremperature (no neg buckling), absolute evenness of illumination across the entire frame, and no need for alternate condensor arrangements for different neg sizes, I never used the condensor system again.
    Fred was not the only proponent of cold lights, Ansel Adams being one of the early ones, and plenty of others over the years.
    As kobaltus states, I feel that there is a difference, for me especially in the mid to low values, a better kind of tonal separation. In my mind, I'm thinking that this may be due to the expanded range in the neg, although, it could be argued that most of the expansion from normal HQ developers is in the upper ranges, not the lower.
    Who knows?
     
  25. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I would be willing to bet that an extensive test of a variety of current papers and available enlarger light sources would show that certain papers behave more favourably with certain light sources.

    You know, those "curve" things that a few of us on APUG seem fascinated by.
     
  26. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Michael, as you correctly point out the variations across even 2 enlargers is enormous and this snap I mention is not just about a contrast difference as mentioned in other posts. I have printed the same negative on a condenser and diffuser and after adjusting for the reduced contrast on the diffuser I produced two prints from which I could discern no difference. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that given a negative ideally exposed and developed for a condenser against a negative ideally exposed and developed for a diffuser, the one produced on a condenser below a certain physical size exhibits a sort of snap quality not shown on the diffuser version. I know this is very unscientific, but it is something I have observed over many years.