Diffuser or Condenser

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by cliveh, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,711
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    To help re-establish my street cred in the analogue silver printing world, can I ask a question that has probably been asked before on this forum, but perhaps not in this way. Given two negatives of an identical subject, but one exposed and developed to suit a diffuser enlarger and one exposed and developed to suit a condenser enlarger, which would you prefer to print on? For me it would probably be the condenser to give that snap to the print that only a condenser or point source can do.
     
  2. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

    Messages:
    2,936
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Location:
    Misissauaga
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Diffusion. Way less dust hassles most of the time. Handy to buy as a dichroic to dial filtration in and out, since most of todays paperas are multi-graded.

    I do have condensor enlargers as well. One has option for point source, but I have read up, and they have too much of a pain in the ass to align issues to make me ever try it.
     
  3. djhopscotch

    djhopscotch Member

    Messages:
    148
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    If both negs are exposed and developed to suit the enlarger, light source doesn't makes any real difference. I have and use both, the differences are minor to say the least. I would use a diffuser so i don't have to fiddle with a filter drawer.
     
  4. fotch

    fotch Member

    Messages:
    4,824
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Location:
    SE WI- USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Diffuser VC, Color head, dust. A good photo is a good photo.
     
  5. jp498

    jp498 Member

    Messages:
    1,467
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    Location:
    Owls Head ME
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't depend on a condenser to give "snap" to a photo.

    I've used condenser head in school, but it didn't jump out at me and proclaim it's awesomeness. Instead I had to put grubby filters under it.

    I like dichroic color heads, which would be diffusion. The contrast adjustment and less dust is valuable to me.
     
  6. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,473
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Condenser enlargers are more economical. More lumens at the baseboard for Watts in the bulb. Smaller power supplies, less heat, less expense. The drawback is that darkroom dust can be very well represented in your final prints. Also, continuously variable filtration is not easy to implement, thus usually not offered.
     
  7. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    2,612
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Brooklyn, N.Y.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Diffusion/Color head. Not only the dust problem but the ability to dial in a filter value between suggested grade values.
     
  8. clayne

    clayne Member

    Messages:
    2,837
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would also choose diffusion.

    Btw there are some hybrid diffusion/condenser enlargers (kaiser) that permit full VC control.
     
  9. George Collier

    George Collier Member

    Messages:
    1,064
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As others have said - less dust showing in the print, more even illumination across probably any format size, focus remains stable (most of these cold lights have a heating element to maintain bulb temperature and performance), and highlights print more easily. Read up on Callier effect (no relation) for why this is so. And the contrast difference is not linear, so development adjustment is probably not really a perfect one, so contrast adjustments are probably needed anyway.
    What I did experience when switching from condenser to cold light (at the time both were used with graded paper, so filtration didn't enter into things at the time-for me) was that I could add 15% - 20% to my film development time, to bring highlights up, along with better mid-tone separation. I looked at it as a way to increase tonal range in the negative.
    I had heard about the "snap" thing too, but never saw it. Grain is also less pronounced, in my experience - a good or bad thing depending upon your "grain politics".
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

    Messages:
    2,674
    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2004
    Location:
    Phoeinx Ariz
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use all 3, point source, condenser and diffusion, both cold light and color head. I like point source for some
    35mm for a gritty look, grain really stands out but very sharp, cold light for 4X5, condenser for 6X6 and 6X9 and a color head for multigrade RC. If I had to chose just one it would be condenser, I print on graded paper most the time. I dont have any issues with dust and I can spot quickly spot a print.
     
  11. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

    Messages:
    2,131
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Location:
    NYC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    diffusion, even spread of light across entire mixing box to the negative, one less source of dust contamination, dial in filtration, dont have to worry about switching condensers out when changing formats.
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,213
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    ditto
     
  13. skahde

    skahde Member

    Messages:
    427
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    At one point I had a Durst L54 (condensor only) and a L1000 with colour head side by side. When adjusting contrast, prints from the same negative came out almost identical. The grain was no snappier from the condenser but in fact looked slightly larger und a wee bit less sharp under a loupe which I suspect is caused by diffraction of the direct light on the grain-pattern. But as you can read in Barry Thorntons Edge of Darkness, bigger grain can make for the impression of a snappier picture.

    In the end I sold the L54 and switched to the diffuse light source entirely as it meant a lot less time wasted on spotting.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

    Messages:
    769
    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    Location:
    Leiden, Neth
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Condenser.

    You can use a higher grade paper with a diffusion enlarger but it just doesn't look the same.

    I love hard gritty grain.

    Dust is all a matter of being careful, having good eyes and using A-grade film; it's perfectly avoidable, even with six surfaces.
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    18,038
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Most modern condenser enlargers use a coated bulb so are already somewhat diffuse so the differences in local contrast between them and a fiffuser enlarger with a dichroic head is minimal. They do show up any dust though.

    However if you use a more intense small light source, usulally refered to as a point source enlarger with condensers you can increase the local contrast but setting the lamp needs to be done every time you change the enlargement to get the best illumination, the lamp housing needs to be quite tall (on a vertical enlarger).

    A dichroic head enlarger is far better all round whether it's a dedicated VC head or Colour head.

    Ian
     
  17. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,711
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Are, now you raise another moot point. In my own darkroom I always use glassless carriers, even on my diffuser enlarger.
     
  18. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

    Messages:
    754
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2009
    Location:
    lancashire,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    And then there's the Vivitar V1 which I acquired knowing little about enlargers, but the more I read and use it the more I think this is a nice piece of kit. Dichroic colour head through a "light pipe", which insulates all heat, then condensers and glassless neg carrier. The little I've used it so far, dust hasn't been a problem.
     
  19. ooze

    ooze Member

    Messages:
    368
    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2004
    Location:
    Istanbul, Tu
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have both a condenser and diffuser enlarger but almost always use the diffuser. Reasons are similar to what others have said.
     
  20. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

    Messages:
    5,480
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Location:
    Atlanta GA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have condenser but have printed on both and would prefer diffusion.

    There's nothing special about the contrast of a condenser head, nor anything especially bad about it (no matter what Fred Picker said to sell his cold lights.) It's just contrast. With negatives developed to suit the prints won't know the difference, tonality wise. And even with negatives not adjusted, the difference is well within the range of paper contrast adjustment. The one big difference is that the diffusion source will show less dust and surface defects. That makes it worth wanting for me, but condenser is what I have.

    I did recently buy an LED light source lamphouse and it's an improvement. It doesn't do anything for the sharper rendition of dust, but it does eliminate heat and negative popping as a variable. I too use glasseless carriers. Dust is enough of a problem with two surfaces. I'd probably give up photography or go hybrid rather than mess with six!
     
  21. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

    Messages:
    683
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2006
    Location:
    Oklahoma, US
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    If the negatives were developed to adjust to the light source a dichro/VC head would be the best. But enlarging is not that simple.

    1. Most of us have many negatives with a range of negative densities. Some look better printed on a condenser and others print easily on a dichro head. MF negs printed on a condenser does not result in grain with my print sizes.
    2. There are variations in enlarger ergonomics and quality. My favorite enlarger is a Leitz 1c, semi diffused light source.
    3. My LPL 670 XL (condenser) has even illumination; producing a bright image on the baseboard. It weights less and easier to move than my 670 MXL dichro. The condenser avoids long print times when making large prints.
    4. A dichro softens the edge of dust. One should use several non enlarger techniques to minimize dust issues. Eliminating dust reduces one dichro advantage.
    5. Some images look better on my condenser head, more micro contrast in low tones with mid tones shifted up the scale a bit. That may help an image or may not.
    6. Having flexibility to use a dichro or condenser on the LPL is useful, especially with graded paper. With the LPL modular design I switch heads leaving the carrier, baseboard and column in place.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 16, 2012
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,990
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    i like both so much that
    i still have the condensers for my d3v
    and i bought a set of condensers for my omega e4

    i used to sweat the small stuff like this, but now i don't care ..
     
  23. clayne

    clayne Member

    Messages:
    2,837
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yep. You're on the right track on that one. :smile:
     
  24. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,130
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2004
    Location:
    Trim, Ireland
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    For years I preferred diffuser over condenser but then got a Kaiser, so now I have the best of both worlds :smile:
     
  25. jonasfj

    jonasfj Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2013
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The "extra snap" that some mention in this thread is probably related to the higher contrast you get from a condenser head vs a diffusion head using the same negative and paper grade.

    However, the starting point of the thread was that the negatives were developed according to the different types of heads and thus the print should be more or less identical.

    Condenser heads require a smaller light source to give the same exposure. Therefore, they use less power, produce less heat (probably the most important aspect as it prevents the negative from buckling) and the power supply is smaller and cheaper.

    Diffuser heads are less sensitive to dust.

    It's a little bit like the discussions on topics like Tri-X vs T-Max 400, D-76 vs Xtol or SLR vs range finder. Obviously T-Max 400, Xtol and SLR:s are superior! ;-)
     
  26. MDR

    MDR Member

    Messages:
    1,411
    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2006
    Location:
    Austria
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Jonasfj the lightsource of a diffusion enlarger is a 12V low voltage lamp that is smaller in size than an Opal Bulb, the wattage is about equal as the Halogen lamp has a higher Lumen than the Opal Lamp. A condenser focuses the light therefore it also focusses the heat a diffusion enlarger as the name says diffuses the light and spreads it over the whole neg it is usually less hot. I have use both and like both equally. Imo the differences are usually vastly exagerated.