Enlarging 4x5

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by sun of sand, Nov 3, 2007.

  1. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    Something I've been putting off as it's just another expense since I haven't printed 1 single 8x10 of anything as of yet
    I'm just shooting film right now and making proofs/4x5 contacts to see where my composition/developing is

    Local seller has color chromega head and condenser 4x5's
    I'm not asking which one is best or anything, don't worry
    I think I'm good with a condenser ...
    BUT
    Is a color head more enjoyable to use than a condenser? Is it really any simpler?

    My biggest issue is not knowing what to look for
    Is a D2 condenser -or similar- basically the same build as my B22 condenser?
    2 condensers + supplemental for smaller negatives?
    Lens cone for long lens I know about
    What else do I need make sure of? Sounds like the seller has parts galore ..I just need to know what to walk away with.

    Got anything?

    How large are these guys? I have a 7 foot ceiling and use a 30 inch tall and deep farm table so I have about 60 inches for the enlarger. I don't plan on making very large prints, though.

    Also
    Are 4x5's just as good as medium format enlargers for printing those smaller formats or is it easier to just use the 4x5 for everything?


    That's about it
    Thanks for any help
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Just get the Omega colour head, you don't need the condensor head.

    It's perfect for everything. Buy it and fit it in later there is always a way.

    Ian
     
  3. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    DAMN! I figured.

    I've read that color heads cost more to maintain
    the "filters" need replacing fairly regularly and bulbs are more expensive

    Is it more upkeep with em?


    I can understand how color may be two birds with one stone but color processing seems so far off
    It seems to come down to diffusion/condenser

    Thanks, Ian.
     
  4. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    You can use the color filtration (yellow and magenta) for contrast control on VC papers, at least for the middle grades.
    The Omega D's are sort of similar to your B22, except much larger, nothing except a lens would interchange though.
    The major difference or advantage of using a 4x5 for only smaller negatives would be that they tend to be much sturdier, so might be less prone to vibration than smaller enlargers. The columns are longer so you can make bigger prints than you can with most 35 and MF enlargers.
    The bulbs are generally low voltage halogen projection bulbs, and they are more expensive than the screw-base bulb used in an Omega D. IDK about filter replacement, I don't think they are prone to fading, as they aren't based on dyes.
    The color head gives you more control on contrast because you can steplessy vary the filteration, up to it's limits. Then again, Ilford Multigrade filters are 1/2 grade steps, so it's hard to argue how much more control is needed. I hate filter swapping though, so I like working with a color head.
    Whether difusion is better is really a matter of taste, scratches and dust are somewhat less apparent with diffusion. Contrast tends to be lower.


    Barry
     
  5. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    A color head will be easier to get the correct contrast, but if your film development is correct, this isn't too much of an issue. With diffusion enlargement, there is the issue of softness in a print. I was amazed to see Donald Miller's point source enlarger in action on one of my negatives earlier this year. I have never seen a sharper print than this from my own film. The negative was developed with minimal agitation and the print was as sharp as the film, simply not possible with a diffusion head. tim
     
  6. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I have heard of people replacing dichroic filters but I have my doubts that this is very common - with half a dozen enlargers of mostly 20+ years of age I have never had a problem with the filters. In theory at least, they will not wear out at all quickly as they rely on interference coatings to work - they are not just coloured glass.

    Colour heads normally take low voltage 200W or more halogen lamps whereas condensers tend to take lower wattage mains voltage globe lamps. Halogens are more expensive but that is not a major factor given the on-going costs of chemicals and paper etc. Enlarger globe lamps seem to be getting more difficult to source these days. If you get a colour head, make sure the corresponding transformer/voltage stabiliser is included.

    Have fun, Bob.
     
  7. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    The Omega D2 (not variable condenser) has a couple of sets of condensers, depending on what size you want to print. There is no aux condenser like in the B22. If this is the setup you have, let me know. I suspect I could find a way to get you a set of condensers for MF and 135 (or even the big 6" condensers for 4x5, if you need those). I found a Beseler MX enlarger and have no desire to get the Omega up and running.

    tim in san jose
     
  8. matti

    matti Member

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    Hi Tim,
    I have always thought that it was just a matter of different overall contrast between condenser and diffusion enlargers. But this surely sounds like sharpness.

    I have one of Donald Miller's prints and it sure is sharp... But I suspected my whole process, from tripod to lack of optimal local contrast, that was to blame and never thought there would be a real difference in light sources.

    hm... Is it possible to fit a condenser head to a durst 138 color head...

    /matti

     
  9. keffs

    keffs Member

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    Whilst the colour head might at first appear to offer advantages with contrast, IMHO, it is not easier to use compared to filters. One major factor is that exposure times will change when the filtration is changed, wheras the exposures with filters are easily determined. It is possible to get intermediate grades using filters by split grade printing. I much prefer to use filters, even with colour heads.

    As to condesnser vs difusser, both work, and for a "well" developed neg, the same print should be possible with either. Film dev times might have to be different though.

    Steve
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Steve, have you not heard of dual filtration, what rubbish. Both are simple, given a colour head it's pointless using additional filters.

    Ian
     
  11. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    The difference between a color head and a condenser is convenience. That's all - you can make quality prints on either.

    Color heads allow you to adjust the contrast using the inherent color filtration. With a condenser head, you must use filters. You can get a wider range of contrasts with filters, but with a color head you don't have to buy separate filters. And some older enlargers (my Omega DII for example) don't have filter drawers, so you have to compromise with under-the-lens filters. I've never heard of anyone having to replace dichroic filters, but I have heard claims that conventional contrast filters have to be replaced periodically. Frankly, I believe that if you take reasonable care of them, they don't need to be replaced unless and until they become so old that they are fading. The bulbs in color enlargers tend to be more expensive halogen lamps while the bulbs in most condenser enlargers are less expensive incandescent, but in both cases they are special bulbs.

    If you are going to print color, you definitely should consider the convenience of a color enlarger - color printing with filters is a real PITA. But for black and white, the choice is less clear. A dichroic enlarger is a convenience, but certainly not a necessity.

    You can easily print from 35mm negatives using a 4x5 enlarger. You will need a different enlarging lens, a different condenser set (if you are using a condenser enlarger), and a different lens board or cone. And you will have go be prepare to swap out the lens (and condenser) to move between formats. Not a problem - just something that you have to deal with. Practically, I have found that I tend to concentrate on one format in a given printing session, so again it's not a big deal.

    Ceiling height for 4x5 enlargers is potentially an issue. In my former darkroom, I also had a 7 ft ceiling, and that wasn't enough to allow my enlarger head to move to the top of the column. So I had to design my enlarging station to have adjustable shelves so that I could move the easel lower. In David Vestal's book, he has a picture of his darkroom in which he cut a hole in the ceiling to allow the enlarger to move higher. This is not a showstopper - just another opportunity to find a creative solution to a nuisance problem.
     
  12. keffs

    keffs Member

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    Ian,

    Thanks for the impolite reply.

    Yes I have heard of dual filtration. However, the effects of the colour head do deteriorate with time. Hence, testing for the specific enlarger would be required, and would need to be repeated at regular intervals. So, yes it can be done, but rather cumbersome, unless of course acurracy and repeatability are not required. I have got much more controlable and consistent results since I started using external filters.

    In addition, colour heads can't always give the same range as filters do.

    Steve
     
  13. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    I have a D6XL with a long column and it fits in a normal sized room (more like a closet actually) - normal ceiling height, and sitting at a comfortable level (I'm a tall guy).

    I use it for 4x5 mostly, but also medium format and 35mm occasionally (so far just a couple of rolls of HIE). It works great for everything I've done, though of course it's good to have appropriate lenses for each format (150 for 4x5, 90 for 6x6, and 50 for 35mm).

    I have the colour diffusion head (chromega dichroic whatever) and the colour filters are handy for changing contrast. I had to position my safelight so I could read the numbers in the dark, but not a big deal.

    I don't print colour but I like it for B&W. I'm not sure how the multigrade / VC filters work, but one thing I like is "dual filtraton" settings that come listed in a table with most papers... these let you change grades without changing paper speed (though you may have to run a short test to fine tune your exposure a bit). It beats running a whole new test strip once you decide you need more / less contrast.

    I've never used the drop in filters, but I do like the idea of not having another thing (or set of things) to keep clean, and nothing gets in the optical path between my negative + lens & the paper which can only be a good thing :smile:
     
  14. Don Wallace

    Don Wallace Member

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    I used a D5XL (a fancy D2) condensor enlarger for a few years but recently bought a DeVere 504 with a dichroic head. I like the dichroic head very much but there are both advantages and disadvantages

    When you change contrast with a condensor enlarger, you have to take the filter out and put another filter in. If you start to do things like printing the shadows with one filter and burning in highlights with another, this can be a little tedious. With the dichroic head, you just dial in the different filtration. It only takes a second.

    The major disadvantage with a dichroic head is that a change in filtration requires a change in exposure time. With a condensor enlarger, the times are more consistent. In my experience, if you changed filtration in the lower range, under 3.5, the printing times were pretty much the same. The same was true of 4 and up. However, with the dichroic head, the printing time changes with each change in filtration and it is not intuitive. You will need to do a test strip with every change or (and I highly recommend this), you need to do some calibration, or "speed matching."

    I know, I know, everyone hates calibration, especially me, but if you take the time to do it - and it really is not that hard - you will be able to make a very simple calculation to find the new printing time with every change in contrast. It is worth doing it for the advantages of using a colour head. I have several articles on this that I would be glad to copy for you.

    Supposedly a dichroic head is kinder with regard to dust. I can't comment on this yet - not enought experience - but it is looking like that might be the case.

    The idea that condensor heads are sharper than dichroic heads is simply not true.
     
  15. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Ilford provides dual filtration settings that minimize the speed changes between grades for color heads. Not all the paper makers publish dual filtration settings though.
    I recently bought a dichoric enlarger for 4x5 and I've been going through the calibration exercise, and my exposures are pretty consistent using the dual filter method from grade 1/2 up to 4, and no less consistent than when using Multigrade filters. Ether way, dichro or otherwise, some negatives will need fine tuning when changing grades.
    I am also finding in my tests that the recommended dichro settings are about 1/2 grade lower than the equivalent Multigrade filter. And, as stated, the dichro head can't hit the extremes, like 00 and 5, though it's closer to hitting 00 than 5.
    However, the convenience factor is great, and like Walter, I like having fewer things I need to keep track of and maintain.
    Diffusion is a little more forgiving on dust and scratches than condenser heads, something I've recently been able to confirm.
    As for sharpness, I would think that for the commonly available equipment, the lens is a far greater determinant of how sharp the prints are than the light source.
    In comparing prints that I've done on the condenser enlarger, and the dichro so far, I haven't seen any difference in sharpness that is attributable to the lighting.

    YMMV
     
  16. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Has everyone forgotten that the Omega D2 with Point Source head was available as a stock item in the 1950's.

    It like many things it was found not to be all that it was supposed to be. It soon disappeared from the Omega catalog as lab technicians around the world using the Point Source light found it to be too close to the same quality as a good Condensor or even a diffusian/colorhead types of enlarging.

    Photographers did not support it so it quickly went away.
    It is amazing to sit here 55 years later after it was dropped from the Omega line to hear how wonderful it was. I owned and used one for several years before I dumped it and went with a Dichroic head. Still have it though it gets little use any more. I would not have kept it if it did not give me wonderful results. Never found it necessary to repalce anything other the bulb of all these years. It all cost me a bunch back then, but now they are available everywhere for next to nothing. I am not knocking the Point Source Head, or anything for that matter simply relating my own experience. Yours could vary, but they still discontinued it because of lack of interest and sales.

    Charlie................................



    It seems that some of us really enjoy the re-invention of old gadgets from the past that failed in their own day!