Dichro head vs. Multigrade filters

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by gedra, May 2, 2009.

  1. gedra

    gedra Member

    Messages:
    41
    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2008
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I plan to purchase a B/W enlarger and seek advice on whether a dichro/variable contrast head or a condenser unit with multigrade filters is best. I've seen reports (incl. the "darkroom expert" at Shutterbug magazine) state that dichro filters often degrade over time giving unpredictable results necessitating filter change. Opinions pro and con are appreciated. Thank you.
     
  2. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,473
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In my opinion that statement is not true. Dichroic filters are very, very stable over time.
     
  3. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

    Messages:
    3,126
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I don't know about dichroic filters, but multigrade under-lens filters degrade over time. I know this without a doubt, because I have seen the difference myself.
     
  4. fschifano

    fschifano Member

    Messages:
    3,216
    Joined:
    May 12, 2003
    Location:
    Valley Strea
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, if dichro filters fade over time, I haven't seen it yet and my Omega Chromega 2 dichro head is older than dirt and lived in a commercial lab before I got it. It has seen a lot of use and it shows, but it functions perfectly. Omega even states in the documentation for the head that the filters will not fade and should never need replacing. On the other hand, the acetate VC filters do fade and need to be replaced periodically. How often depends on how often they're used. They are easily damaged, and if they ever get wet you can kiss them goodbye. Ilford Multigrade filters now cost about $60 US for a set of 6 x 6 inch filters. The 3 x 3 inch filters are around $40. That's a lot of money for an unnecessary expendable when a dichro color or variable contrast head can deliver the same results with more flexibility. The only complaint I have about using the dichro head, and it is a very minor complaint, is that I can't achieve the hardest grade possible with the papers I use. At best, I can get about grade 4. With the Multigrade filters, achieving a true grade 5 should be possible. I have never needed to use anything remotely close to that in practice. If I have a negative that won't print well on anything from grades 1 1/2 to 3, it's usually not worth printing. The very softest grade is possible with full yellow filtration. The very hardest grades are good for what I like to call "special effects" but not much else.
     
  5. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

    Messages:
    3,126
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Oh no! I spilled distilled water on my set a couple weeks ago. I would like to know why the Ilford filters are so expensive. Isn't it a matter of just filtering the amount of Magenta light vs. Yellow? Since I usually only use 00 and 5 anyway, why can't I buy the appropriate filter material by the sheet?
     
  6. ann

    ann Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,919
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Shooter:
    35mm
    you might check at b&h as i have gotten 12x12 sheets of specific grades.
     
  7. Thomas Wilson

    Thomas Wilson Member

    Messages:
    230
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2008
    Location:
    Baltimore, M
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I would recommend a dichroic head (preferably 4x5).
    Commercial grade 4x5 dichroic enlargers are going for 10 cents on the dollar of their original cost, in many cases free, leaving plenty of spare $$ for some good glass.

    As for the dichroic filters, they are very stable; not so for the gel. The added advantage of going with a dichroic 4x5 right out of the gate is that you have all of the primary format sizes covered, as well as the option to print color.
     
  8. panastasia

    panastasia Member

    Messages:
    625
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2007
    Location:
    Dedham, Ma,
    Shooter:
    Med. Format Pan
    I have the option of using my color head w/dichro filters, or my cold light head and Kodak Polymax Filters, mounted in frames, that slide above the lens. One other option I have is to use 2 Kodak Wratten filters, deep blue (#47B) and green (#56) with a 3x3" view camera filter holder attached to the lens. This set-up is best for precise split-grade printing with cold light. For general production type work I use the Polymax filters (I've been using the same ones for years - no problems). I never use my color head because of the limited filtration range and fiddling with the dials is an added chore that breaks my concentration.
     
  9. Paul.

    Paul. Member

    Messages:
    306
    Joined:
    May 13, 2006
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    While dicrotic filters may not fade they do get dirty. When I baught my DeVere 405 I found my prints were softer than previously, suspecting the filters were at fault I phoned Odessy sales enquireing if new ones were available, they were BUT the advise I was given was, they should not be needed unless broken, try cleaning them with alcohol on a cotton bud but be careful as they are a bit delicate, if you brake them we have them in stock.
    I cleaned the filters and have had no more problems.
    Hope this of help to all.
    Regards Paul.
     
  10. markbau

    markbau Member

    Messages:
    102
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2009
    Location:
    Woodend, Aus
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Might be helpful to you to do a bit of reading regarding diffusion versus condenser heads. David Vestal's book, (Art of B&W enlarging) long out of print but should be available through a library, has a great chapter on this very subject. I wont try to sway you one way or the other i just think it would help to be aware of the differences.

    Mark
     
  11. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

    Messages:
    1,749
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    Tufts Univer
    Shooter:
    35mm
    If you will not be doing color work, use filters. I do both and prefer filters if I'm doing B+W and dichro for color. The reason is that with filters you can change freely in between grades without adjusting the time.
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    There are tables for doing the same thing with color heads. The trouble is finding (or making your own) table to match your enlarger with the paper you're using. I've got the tables printed with my enlarger's manual taped to my wall next to the enlarger, in a nice big font so I can read it easily. One of the two tables works with most papers. (Ilford and Foma papers use one table, most others use a table intended for Kodak papers.)
     
  13. MartinP

    MartinP Member

    Messages:
    1,458
    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Don't forget Multigrade heads too. If you can find one for your enlarger of course....