Colour head vs condenser for b&w?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by fran, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. fran

    fran Member

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    Hi all,

    So I have been using a durst laborator 1000 with a condenser head since I started printing and have gotten great results with it. I mainly split grade print and my 0 and 5 filters are just about shot!

    So I have a durst 401mk2 colour head sitting there (enlarger came with both) and was thinking about hooking it up. I'm missing the transformer for the colour head, but have a power supply that will do the job well.

    So for the sake of an hour or so I could have it running (assuming the lamps are ok!).

    What's the general thinking on these? I've heard that condenser heads can be more contrasty, but not sure if that's universal opinion?

    Is it worth going ahead and hooking it up?

    Fran
     
  2. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Since you've got it and can make it work, certainly hook it up and see. It may or may not differ in contrast or sharpness from the other head. There are other variables.

    You may find that there are negatives that do not require split grade, but need something in between standard filters.
     
  3. fran

    fran Member

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    So other than figuring out what dial settings - filter settings, is there anything much else to watch out for?
     
  4. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    I have found on my colour head that moving the knobs, it is possible to move the alignment of the head slightly so that the second blast of light makes my pictures ever so slightly unsoft. Or, the head is still vibrating when I start the exposure and it is completely out of alignment. Under the lens filters was my solution. So, if you are going to use the filters in the enlargers head, do so slowly/carefully and give it 5-10 seconds to make sure it is not moving when you start the exposure.
     
  5. fran

    fran Member

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    Ok, thanks Kevin. The filters seem to be mechanical inside the head - there is a direct mechanical linkage from the knob to the filter? I haven't actually fitted the head on (well I did try it to make sure it fit way back when I got the enlarger) so I'm not sure if there is play/movement there. Will have to watch out for that - Thanks!
     
  6. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    I also use under the lens filters rather than the colour head settings. I posted in a similar thread recently about my experience with establishing reliable highlight times when changing colour head settings which can lead to frustration, more test strips and wasted paper. Some people enjoy struggling with complexity but I find using Ilford papers with Ilford multigrade filter gels simplifies the path to a good print.

    As a generalisation, diffuser heads mean longer exposure times and what I would call more "smoothness" in rendering of grain rather then less contrast. This is usually most evident in expanses of clear sky. It is worth experimenting with the same negative at the same enlargement in both. I prefer condenser for some images and diffuser for others but it's not about contrast, which can be managed, more about the content of the negative and subject matter.
     
  7. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Ding ding! Back into the ring... the title fight, Condenser vs colorhead, Round 7,254.....
     
  8. fran

    fran Member

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    Thanks guys. I really don't mean to drag up any old arguments!! I'm satisfied that each may have their own favourites, all with good reasons too. I'm more looking for what to watch out for - the "gotchas" given that I have zero experience of the colour heads.

    Anyway, I have the transformer sorted and intend hooking it up to see if the bulbs are OK. If they're not then the experiment will probably die right there!

    Fran
     
  9. bsinmich

    bsinmich Member

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    I sure question the use of filters under the lens. That is the reason they put filter drawers in enlargers. Why would you want to stick something betweenthe lens and photo paper to diffuse the image, even slightly?
     
  10. paul_c5x4

    paul_c5x4 Subscriber

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    The lamp in the Durst colour heads are usually fairly common - either an ELJ or ELC which you should be able to purchase from any decent electrical outlet.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Do you enjoy spotting dust marks off of your prints?

    If so, the colour head may reduce your chances to practice :smile:.
     
  12. clayne

    clayne Member

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    I have both a De Vere 504 dichroic and a Kaiser VPM9005 condenser. When printing black and white, I like the slightly more "open" (contrast) and ever so slightly less cutting look of the De Vere (which is diffusion based) - however, when actually making heavy use of filtration more than just basic stuff, the Kaiser wins out as exposure times are kept nearly constant for different grades. With the De Vere, and many other dichros, you have to recalculate based on filtration. This is a pain in the ass usually. However, what isn't a pain in the ass is noticeably less dust issues with diffusion based enlargers and I just generally feel more connected to the De Vere vs the Kaiser (but still like the Kaiser).
     
  13. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    The increase in contrast is a result of physical properties, not opinions.
     
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  15. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Depends on how the enlarger is feeling that day I guess.
     
  16. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    I usually go with a diffusion head, as I get more control with color filters when printing bw. Also no one had mentioned that some lenses require a diffuse light source to be even. Wide angle enlarging lenses in particular.
     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I use both, sometimes I will gravitate to a certain head for asthetic reasons, but this would be for a discerning photographer whose work is done in a specific style.


    When working with Colour Heads, a trick that all professional colour darkroom printers know is to come at your number from the same direction all the time.

    for example if you are doing split printing and one of your filtrations is say 100magenta, you should always reach 100 by coming from the lower numbers each and every time, if not you will never be accurate.

    Now for black and white work I will admit that this is not as critical as in colour , ( in colour we were splitting hairs over 1 cc colour correction and the direction of placing the number will give you at least a 3 cc difference.) when training new printers this is the first thing the colour correction supervisor would do.

    For skin tone I sometimes tend to want to use a colour head over my condensor enlargers.
    For documentary work I tend to want to use the condensor over the colour enlarger.

    These are small decisions that are made , but in day to day reality I like working with both types and as long as my lens is good , my carrier is aligned, and I am keeping my film flat through the whole exposure sweep , then the difference boils down to slight differences.
     
  18. fran

    fran Member

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    Very educational - thank you all for the insights so far.

    I quickly fired up the head this afternoon and the bulbs still light up so its worth proceeding with the rest of it now.

    I have some wiring ahead of me as I'm missing the transformer/timer box that originally came with it. I can modify it to work from my existing timer though so all should be OK I think. It will be more of a hassle to organise venting the cooling fan I think though. Many thanks to the now unknown poster who mentioned that they had a pavelle 401 PDF - I found the comment and a link in an forum archive from 2006! It was still live and I snagged a copy which gave me great help in figuring out the original setup.

    So if anyone ever needs it, I have a manual for both the Durst 401 and Durst Laborator L1000!!

    Fran
     
  19. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I use a color head for black and white and the built in filters work well. When I have more time, I will start doing color printing again.
     
  20. fran

    fran Member

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    Just wanted to update the thread - I got the head up and running and fitted and its working fine. I need to spend some time now running some tests getting to grips with the settings to change contrast.

    I've seen a few references (Paul Butzi) to using a system of combining the magenta and yellow dials to give variable contrast but constant exposure. I've got the article he wrote and the table of figures for durst heads (also quoted on the durst pro USA site) so intend to try them out at least.

    Many thanks to all who have contributed to the knowledge I've gained over the last week or so!!

    Fran
     
  21. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Stick with the condenser.
     
  22. fran

    fran Member

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    Yeah, maybe I will - and I can tell you it ain't going anywhere! I just want to gain some experience with both heads...... I think that's a good thing and should certainly teach me more. Doing that will give me more skills (hopefully) and maybe..... maybe at the end I can make better prints.
     
  23. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Stick with the diffuser.
     
  24. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Stick with the confusing dispenser.
     
  25. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Have both, use both. IF THE NEGS are developed to print on grade 2 with either enlarger, they will be very close. That means a longer development time for diffusion. The differences are slight so you will have to have them side by side to see the differences. Overall contrast is the same as you adjusted the time in negative developer to compensate. The condenser print will have more snap in the low tones, the diffuser will have less in the low but more highlight separation. A diffusion machine burns in highlights much easier.

    The condenser will have 1 grade more contrast than the diffusion. Taking the same neg and printing with #2 condenser and #3 diffusion does not produce the same print.

    If your filters are shot, then either buy new or purchase Roscoe Cine Gels from B&H. They are made to cover stage lighting for theater, but you can use them for VC printing. Buy green for soft and blue for hard. Buy 1/4 and 1/2 to fine tune. The man who made Aristo lights put me on to it. Remember yellow filters out blue leaving red, which the paper does not see, and leaving yellow and green which the low contrast layer reacts to. Blue filters out yellow so the high contrast layer activates. I printed an Aristo head this way for years. The Roscoe filters are large so you need to cut them to size and put them into a cardboard frame, but you will have two lifetime supply from one sheet.

    A color head will also work as a diffusion head . Use yellow for low and magenta for high contrast.
     
  26. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    condenser and color heads, both make great prints as long as the negative was devekoped to gihavethe appropriate contrast for them.color heads like s negative with a bit more contrast and they hide minor flaws such as dust and grain.but either light source will work if handled appropriately.