Is my enlarger too bright?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by BetterSense, Jan 21, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Even with my lens stopped down to f/16, an 8x10 exposes it only 10-15 seconds. Is this a problem? I heard that shooting 35mm stopped down to f/16 starts to cause a reduction in sharpness due to diffraction. Then again, the DOF is better. Should I use a dimmer or something, or not worry about it?
     
  2. E76

    E76 Member

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    Either your enlarger is too bright or your negatives are too thin. If your negatives print fine, then I would look at ways of reducing the light output. Depending on your enlarger lens, you're only going to want to stop down one or two stops to gain maximum sharpness (check the lens' datasheet for the optimum aperture). If your enlarger is aligned properly, DoF is the least of your worries. A dimmer isn't a bad idea, and neither is a lower wattage bulb. I know some enlarger heads, such as the Chromega, included little ND filters to slip in front of the bulb; that may be another option.
     
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  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Check you're using the correct lamp. As the previous poster says your negs may be too thin as well.

    Ian
     
  4. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    The negative was a BW400CN; perhaps that is more see-through than a silver negative. What is a desirable exposure time for making prints, anyway? The enlarger is a Beseler Printmaker 35 with the stock lens as far as I can tell.
     
  5. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    You can use any time you like to make desirable prints.

    Consistency is the real problem with short times, plus if you wish to hold back an area or burn an area, longer times will assist you to be more consistent.

    I usually ensure that I expose for at least a three second exposure, this gives the lamp time to warm up and be consistent.

    Using f8 will bring your times down to 5 - 8 seconds, nothing wrong with those times, as long as you are consistent.

    You don't mention whether your enlarger is equipped with a colour head, if it is, you can make neutral density by adding equal amounts of all three colours. For instance:- adding 15 units of Cyan, Magenta and yellow is ½ a stop of neutral density, 30 units of each is 1 stop of neutral density.

    C41 B&W film is usually thinner than many home developed normal B&W films, especially if you have under exposed and have slightly thinner than normal negatives for that process.

    If you enlarger is the condenser version, then coupled with a thinnish negative, I can well believe the times you are doing to be about normal.

    As for using a dimmer, I don't believe it would be too good an idea, unless you used the dimmer all of the time. My reasoning is that as you reduce the light output, your lamp changes colour, this in turn will change the colour of the light reaching your paper, which in turn changes the contrast.

    This may mean that you will have lower contrast prints, forcing you to use a higher contrast filter.

    If your enlarger is equipped with a Beseler lens, it would be at the worst, of quite reasonable quality. Generally the type of market that an enlarger is designed for, should give you an idea of the type of lens.

    I'm assuming your enlarger is for the lower end of the market, schools, public darkrooms, amateur home phorographers and places like that. This would suggest that your enlarger and it's lens are of quite serviceable quality, learn how to make it sing, you should be able to surprise yourself with what you will be able to wring out of it.

    You'll know when it's time to move on!

    Mick.
     
  6. Rick Jones

    Rick Jones Member

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    Personally, I would be more comfortable exposing in the f5.6 to f8 range depending on the lens. If your enlarging timer gives you 1/10th second timing experiment to see if you can actually see a difference in the prints made at f16 and f8. If not why worry? You don't mention whether you print with VC filters but I never print without a filter in place and that will ,of course, increase times.
     
  7. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    It's no big deal, Better. As others have said, when you begin using real b/w film, instead of that chromogenic stuff, your exposure times should increase. This will allow you to choose the optimum aperture for sharpness, and a suitably long exposure time to allow convenient burning and dodging. FWIW I always use F11 and make all exposure changes through altering of time. My Rodenstocks and Nikkors are all F/5.6 max aperture, so the two-stops-down "rule" applies.
     
  8. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    All the above is good advice. I like times of at least 15 sec. for straight printing and up to one min. if there is burning/dodging to do. I keep two wattages of enlarger bulbs around when I need them. 211 - 75W & 212 -150W. A 213 is 250W, but I've never needed that. These are the standard old enlarger bulbs. Yours may take the newer Halogen type. See http://www.freestylephoto.biz/sc_search.php?rfnp=2100&q=bulb&rfnc=2101& for some popular bulb types.
     
  9. jmxphoto

    jmxphoto Member

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    I had similar issues with my darkroom setup right out of the gates. I was getting exposures of 3sec @F22 (80mm lens with 6x6 negs) on kodabrome II. Granted Kodabrome is a speedy paper, I initially swapped out the 150w bulb for a 75w. I got the new bulb for $2 + shipping on ebay. As I was frequently using old paper I also added a small ammount of Benzotriazole to my Dektol which reduces age fogging by slowing the paper down. The combination allowed me to use slightly more sane exposure times at F16. I was also using Fuji Neopan Acros which has an almost completely clear base.

    Also, have you tried putting a contrast filter in the filter tray?
     
  10. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Yes eventually I will probably be using contrast filters for my multigrade paper, but right now I don't have any.
     
  11. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    I think your time is too fast for f/16, and you are surely experiencing diffraction. If you want to make a smaller print your times will shorten more.

    I like an enlarging time between 12 and 30 seconds to allow control and dodging and burning.

    I had a similar problem with the smallest bulb in my enlarger, and so placed some Rosco gels between my light and condenser, and this brought my times in range with good results. A neutral density filter would also work above or below the lens.

    Modify the set-up to get the times and working aperture you want.
     
  12. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    As I understand it most MG papers produce a grade 2 without any filtration so unless you can be sure of producing all your negs to print at grade two in terms of correct contrast then getting a set of filters might be a good idea. It would be a high priority for me if i were in the same situation as you.

    pentaxuser
     
  13. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    Alternatively to the MG Filters - you could fit a ND Filter to your enlarging lens - just as you would to camera

    I very much doubt you would see any difference in print quality between a print done at f16 and one done at f8 in a 10X8 print - but you should try it for yourself

    10 to 20s is a good target range to expose a print for - it gives you a long enough time to dodge different areas (if required) without it being way to long and very tedious

    Martin
     
  14. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Yours is a common problem. Many enlargers were designed at a time when papers were a lot slower than they are now. Those designed with filter drawers or dichro heads also took into account the fact that variable contrast and color correction filters eat up a substantial amount of light. So here you are, working with fast modern papers with nothing to attenuate the light save the adjustable aperture of your lens. You mentioned using Kodak BW400CN. It is a chromogenic B&W film, but unlike Ilford's XP2 has the orange mask making it more suitable for printing onto RA4, rather than standard B&W papers. The orange mask adds quite a bit of density, so you can dismiss any notion that a standard B&W negative will require a longer exposure time. Yeah, you'll have short exposure times, and they'll get shorter when you switch over to a proper B&W film. It will be a challenge to get any sort of consistency without a very precise timer, and you'll have no time for the dodging and burning manipulations so critical for making a fine print.

    I have a medium sized Omega B600 enlarger sitting on the bench in my darkroom that gave me the same grief. Even with a 75 watt lamp and with the lens stopped down all the way, I was getting sub 10 second exposure times making 8x10 prints from 35mm negatives. Things became ridiculously unmanageable when making smaller prints, which was the whole reason for me getting this machine in the first place. So how do you get around this? Easy. First things first, get yourself a set of variable contrast filter and use them. Even if you need a grade 2 and the paper's default is grade 2 without filters, use the filter. That alone will cut down the light by about 1 stop more or less. If that's not enough, and it wasn't for me, get some neutral density lighting gel from Rosco. It's not expensive, in fact it's dirt cheap. A 20x24 inch sheet costs about $6US. Cut some down to size to fit your enlarger. A layer or two in the filter drawer along with your variable contrast filters will do the trick nicely. In my case, I stacked two layers on top of the condenser, and occassionally will use an extra layer in the filter drawer.

    These gels come in various densities. I'd recommend the Rosco ND .3 Cinegel # 3402. This is a 1 stop neutral density material that will not affect the color balance of the lamp. It will not affect contrast control, only exposure. See this page, and scroll down to find the description: http://www.rosco.com/us/filters/cinegel.asp.
     
  15. jglass

    jglass Subscriber

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    Agree with Frank and jmcd. On Frank's advice in another thread I got Rosco ND filter gels for my enlarger (Beseler 23cII). I got a sheet of 1 stop (0.3) and 1/2 stop (0.15) for next to nothing at B&H and now I can move my times up and down to suit my comfort level, size of print (as someone else said, if you start doing 5x7's your times will be even shorter) and paper.

    Lower wattage bulb is also good.

    Thanks Frank and all. I do dig this site.

    Jeff Glass
     
  16. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I had similar problems with my Omega B8 -- a 5x5 test print from a 6x6 is a rather small enlargement and it's difficult to make small adjustments in a five second exposure, let alone dodge or burn. When I discovered all three of my lenses take the same filter size, I bought a 2-stop ND filter; problem solved.

    DaveT