How important to clean enlarger condensers?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by stark raving, Apr 30, 2005.

  1. stark raving

    stark raving Member

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    Here's a newbie question, folks: I'm assessing what I have on hand to use in a darkroom - I had an elementary level one 30 years ago. I find stowed in my basement a "Vivitar 66" enlarger. Looking at the condensers, I find a moderate amount of dust, crap, and fungus on the inner surfaces. Problem is, the condenser assembly is a cheap sheet metal stamping obviously not intended for disassembly. Before I ruin this thing trying to get to the condenser inner surfaces, how important is it to clean these? What affect and how much will moderately dirty condenser surfaces have on prints?

    Thanks,
    Jonathan
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Unfortunately the glass really does need to be clean.

    I'm not familiar with the enlarger, but if the metal casing is riveted you could drill out, disassemble then re-rivet after cleaning.

    All the Condenser enlargers I've used allowed for easy cleaning of the lenses.

    Ian
     
  3. stark raving

    stark raving Member

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    Ian, thanks for your input. This was evidently a budget enlarger in it's day; my parents gave it to me as a present when I was a teenager. If it's not useful in its present condition, I'll go ahead and risk messing it up - I'm definitely going to have to cut some metal to get this condenser set apart.

    Jonathan
     
  4. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I'd clean the outside surfaces only. The theory of a condensing lens system is to bring rays of light parallel to one another ... the reflector of a flashlight ("torch" to those of you who speak "U.K.") is an example of a condensing system. Whatever dust, etc., is on the interior surfaces will not have a major effect on the image - mainly, it will decrease the amount of light passing through. No focusing, per se, is done by the condenser array.

    The empirical test for a condensing lens system is to try it without the focusing lens -- simply remove the enlarging lens and turn that puppy on. Ideally, you should see the image of the bulb filament projected onto the plane of focus - and centered in that field. If it is, you will have the most EVEN illumination across the field that is possible.

    Simply put, I'd advise against tearing things apart.
     
  5. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    If the condensor isn't clean it won't transmit as much light and it won't do it evenly. That said, you don't need to be manic about it.

    David.
     
  6. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    I have a 4x5 condenser for my Omega D2.. It has a hairline scratch on the bottom of one of the lenses which shows itself in just about every print I make with it..

    My other condenser set isn't pristine, but it is scratchless.. Results from that are fine by my eyes.
     
  7. jmdavis

    jmdavis Member

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    Phillip,

    I had a similar problem with my D2 set which led me down the VCCL path. In my case, the scratch was not visible in every photo (depending on aperature). But was a problem sometimes. That and the fact that a replacement set along with a 6x7 set is around $400 decided me on the Zone VI VCCL head.
     
  8. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    Jm, actually that is what prompted me to purchase a used Aristo cold light head for 4x5 printing.

    The 4x5 condenser lens is huge and exposed.. So easy to scratch/chip it.
     
  9. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Getting back to the question that was asked at the beginning of this thread...I personally think that it is important to keep the visual path as clean and unimpeded as possible...

    I wouldn't want anything to impede the function of the condensors...I am not anal about this...just cognizant of the degradation that can occur.

    I am thankful that I haven't dropped or scratched one of my condensors since I began using a condensor enlarger...

    On a separate note, while I can not say that every condensor system is the same as those in my enlarger, the manufacturer clearly states that the purpose of the condensor set is to focus the collimated light at the nodal point of the enlarging lens. In my enlarger I have a number of different focal length condensors that are specific to different formats.
     
  10. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    The "Nodal Point" is not the same as the Field of Focus. Even then ... I'm thinking of ray tracing ... ?

    Kind of surprising that a scratch on a condenser lens should be visible ... but, to tell the truth, I can't remember ever working with a scratched condenser lens.

    I have DeJur condensing system enlarger - I have to restore the Power Cable, which disintegrated over time. When I get it going I'll try out a "simulated" scratch.

    Does anyone know of a source or the Old Style two prong, "Iron-Toaster" plug-in power cords?
     
  11. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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  12. josephaustin

    josephaustin Member

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    Radio shack sells them as electric razor power cords.
     
  13. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    You must keep condensors clean, inside and out. My Durst enlarger has a pair of condensors arranged in a metal box. Unfortunately, when it gets cold (I've no heating in my darkroom), the condensors steam up owing to heat from the light. The effect is immediately noticable on the baseboard, but luckily it is easily remedied by taking the condensor arrangement apart and wiping the lenses down. BLIGHTY
     
  14. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    One could say Blighty that God shone on Yorkshire first as it's further East, and dank Lancashire needs longer to awake from its slumbers. Perhaps we shouldn't re-open the wounds of the Wars of the Roses :smile: To our US friends these took place a few hundred years before the American continent was re-discovered.

    But actually a bit of condensation usually occurs in condensor enlargers in our dismal British climate, so it's worthwhile turning a condensor enlarger on half an hour before you want to use it to allow the heat to dissapate any condensation.

    Back to the original post I can't believe that its not possible to clean the lenses, having asked around I can't find anyone near me with a Vivitar enlarger but there must be a way to clean them

    Ian
     
  15. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    Ian,
    You are right! (not about Yorkshire of course, perish the thought! :wink: ). What I should have said is, if your condensors 'condense' then you must clean them. However, prevention is better than cure; so during the cold weather, I warm the condensors verrrrrry slowly near the fire. Works a treat. Regards, BLIGHTY.
     
  16. stark raving

    stark raving Member

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    Postscript: I finally got the damn thing apart. Methodology was brute force - these are mounted in a cheap sheet metal stamping, I just had to pry and pry and finally the "lid" came off. Cleaned the inner surfaces, re-mounted the glass and pressed the whole works back together again. Lord only knows if the two lenses are anywhere close to being in alignment now.

    Jonathan
     
  17. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I _must_ clean mine before my next printing session.
    I see dust on my neg, so I clean it carefully by inspection, I put it back in the enlarger and the next print has new dust on it. It must be picking it up int the enlarger so I'm going to make it a project to clean the condensors, blow out the bellows and wipe down all the interior surfaces.
    Hopefully, I will get the time back in reduced spotting time.
     
  18. Sean Tang

    Sean Tang Member

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    I found a clutch of Durst Latico condensers which appear to be in good shape. However, they are covered in thick coats of dust. How do I clean off the dust without scratching the glass? Should I vacuum them? Some of the dust appear stuck to the glass; should I remove them from their frames and rinse them in distilled water?
     
  19. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I would not go to the bother of removing the glass from the metal enclosures...I would just immerse the entire condensor into water and let the dust soften and gently swish the condensors in the water to remove as much as possible.
     
  20. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Two things - I am late with the first, but one of these "steam caddys" seemed like the answer for the gentleman with the old vivitar - the steam does wonders to remove stubborn dirt. Unless the heat cracked the lens, but I doubt it.
    Now, as to the "dirt does nothing, scratches do" question. Yes, a crack or a scratch is structural damage to the substance of the condensor. As such, it acts as its own, totally unpredictable lens/prism. Dirt, stains, etc., do not.

    My Omega has a what looks like a water spot on the bottom side of the top lens of the condensor (its two pieces of convex/flat glass, with the convex parts facng each other). I assume years of temperature changes and condensation built up moisture on the glass, and when it condensed, it rolled to the lowest point and eventually dried there. I looked at cleaning it, and decided that a misaligned condesor would be more obtrusive than the little water spot. So far, I have been proven rigth, as I see no artefacts that I could realte to it on any of the prints I have made.
    This is by nomeans an argument against cleanliness - I go as far as I prudently can to clean my lenses, etc. Its just about sme trade offs that might be worth making (lesser of two evils type thing).

    Well, just some thoughts from a beginner - do take them with that in mind,
    Cheers,

    Peter.
     
  21. mopar_guy

    mopar_guy Subscriber

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    Last night I spent some time cleaning my Beseler 23-C II. I couldn't really remember the last time I had cleaned the condenser lenses. I even feel better today.
     
  22. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    The condensers need to be spotless, unless you want UFOs in your prints.