Taming condensers

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by AgentX, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. AgentX

    AgentX Member

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    So I just got a condenser enlarger (Omega D2V); won't have it set up for a while but am musing on things.

    I much preferred using a cold light head back when I was last printing. Just liked the fact that it cut down on the visibility of dust, marks, and any other flaws, and seemed to print better with the negatives I was making at the time. I know the best thing for me to get would probably be a dichro head. Will look for one on Ebay, etc. once I'm back in the States.

    But I do recall an old photo teacher of mine putting tracing paper and translucent glass between or under the condensers on different enlargers; called it the "poor man's Aristo." And I saw Glennview is selling a domed plastic disc to accomplish the same thing while supposedly keeping illumination more even.

    Anyone using such fixes to make the light a little less harsh with their condenser enlargers? I can't comment on how well it worked back in high school, since I wouldn't have known what a good print was if it hit me in the face. And with the $100 price tag for the Glennview disc, seems a little crazy not to just get the dichro head if/when I can find one cheap. but I figured I might as well ask, if only to do my small part in keeping inane discussion alive online.
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I've used rice paper under my condensors before, just make sure there isn't a watermark on the paper to project through. It works, but its personal preference if you want to do it or not once you see the results.
     
  3. R gould

    R gould Member

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    I have used the tracing paper method, but I personally prefer the condencers on their own, I find I get better contrast and a sharper print,but I guess it is all a matter of personal preferance,Richard
     
  4. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    or you could look for a used cold light head for your Omega. I fitted a new Aristo to mine and have not looked back. I hear that Aristo is no longer making them, but some might be found on the used market.
     
  5. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    I cut a round frosted glass to fit on top of the Omega B-22 internal fillter drawer. Reduced the illumination intensity which allowed printing in the 12-18 sec range at f/4 or 5.6 while reducing contrast by just under 1 grade.
     
  6. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Member

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    Milk glass.

    Or compensate for the added contrast at the film developing stage.
     
  7. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Let me see, a diffusion head suppresses dust and scratches and does not harm fine detail. I wonder how this can be.

    Rubish.
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Most (if not all) modern condenser enlargers use diffuse lamps so a aren't "point source" condenser enlargers which increase contrast and enhance detail.

    However the dichroic heads with mixer box diffusers do tend to suppress dust and scratches because the light is diffused closer to the top of the negative as opposed to before the condensers in the bulb.

    The result is no discernible drop in image fine detail along with better suppression of dust and scratches on the top, non emulsion side.

    Having Durst's with condenser & diffuser heads there was only a slight drop in contrast with the colour head, and dust was definitely suppressed and you can't tell which head a print was made with as the detail is the same.

    However modifying an enlarger to give extra diffusion may well alter contrast.

    Ian
     
  9. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    AgentX: The source of light doesn't matter. You can make an excellent diffusion enlarger by laying a sheet of white, translucent plastic on top of the negative carrier.

    The Glennview product looks really good, but you can decide if you like the effect a diffusion head has by laying a piece of drawing vellum, rosco 'tough rolux' diffusion media (lighting supppy store/video/theatrical supply), or even white printer paper.
     
  10. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Let me see, a diffusion head suppresses dust and scratches and does not harm fine detail. I wonder how this can be.

    Yeah, what Ian said. Diffusion illumination produces more detail than we can ever see in a print. Don't believe me, go sniff grain at an Ansel Adams show. Diffusion heads have the same contrast as contact printing with a light bulb, like Weston did.

    In areas of technical photography where the highest possible contrast was more important than transferring all the data from the negative, point source lighting was popular. Not because diffusion heads couldn't make prints with high definition, but because special needs are, well, special.

    The cool thing about science is that you can try it for yourself.
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Mentioning Ansel Adams and print quality raises an issue.

    I took my wife to a small Ansel Adams exhibition touring the UK in 2008, I've seen a lot of his work before including the major show at the Barbican, London, late 80's ? (catalogue's back in the UK) which had also been shown in the US. I was quite surprised that many of the prints lacked the qualities I'd seen in previous exhibitions, only a few where up to the standard I'd expected. Most were images I'd seen print of before.

    The truth was many were his early prints off negatives, they came from his daughters collection.

    His later prints off the same negatives have far more detail, better tonality, appear finer grained. Many of the images I'd seen previously were large so probably made with his home made diffuser head, the improvement in quality was quite noticeable.

    I'll stick to my diffuser enlargers, the quality & fine detail off even 35mm is superb as Don says, and no condenser enlarger will match it easily.

    Ian
     
  12. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    The same thingy that suppresses dust also suppresses detail. In my experience, condensor enlargers do produce sharper prints.
    You will indeed have to tame them though. I put wrinkled aluminium foil on the walls of the condensor and lamp housing, and it reduced the slight hot spot that kept bothering me.
     
  13. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    The truth was many were his early prints off negatives,

    Pretty significant improvement in enlargers from Pre-WW2 to Post-WW2 !
     
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  15. AgentX

    AgentX Member

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    As for me, I found a dichro head for $100...
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You've done well.

    And along with coated enlarger lenses they allowed enlargements to become closer to the ideal of a contact print in terms of quality,

    Have fun & make great images.

    Ian
     
  17. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Rainphot, your solution is ingenious. Mine was a bit more "hi-tech." I bought a spray can of translucent stuff which is used to make household windows pass light but block off direct vision.

    In the context of something OP said, my approach would allow varying densities in case there is a need to even out condensor light. I used it on an Omega C700. And it comes off easily when needed, with mineral spirits.
     
  18. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Regarding the Adams prints. I saw a touring exhibition in Washington, DC some years back. My understanding is the prints had all been recently made by protoges. I found the prints harsh, contrasty, and very disappointing. I blamed it on the papers now available.
     
  19. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    That is the key advise!

    I almost wish we had all diffusion-type enlargers in our darkroom. I have 19 sets of condensers to keep clean. The 23c's don't need it very often, but the D5-XL's need it often since students can change the position of the top condenser based on the format they are using -- this introduces dust and other mysteriously appearing objects into the chamber holding the condensers.

    Vaughn
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    All the prints I've ever seen were all AA originals.

    Many of AA's early prints are "harsh, contrasty, and very disappointing." that was the point I was making.

    He radically changed his way of printing, that coincided with changes in enlarger lenses and light sources.

    Ian
     
  21. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Good job!
     
  22. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I made two ground glasses for home made 4x5 cams using the spray Krylon window frost. The stuff works well enough, but care must be taken to get an even coat and no bubbling or dense spots. I see no reason not to use it for a diffuser for an enlarger.
     
  23. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I notice a difference in sharpness between diffusion and condenser heads. However, I feel that the larger the format of film, the less I notice this difference. I will definitely be looking for a condenser head for my "new" Beseler 45, which came with a dichro color computer head. (The enlarger replaces by Omega B-22XL, with condenser head.) The Beseler is not complete without one, IMO. I need the same look I was getting from the Omega. With much of my 35mm "work" (and some of my medium format), I am utilizing sharp grain and high contrast, so the look I get with a condenser head is very important to me.

    As for dust, I find that cleaning your film before printing it works well. :D Note: it can be annoying and painstaking, but is always worth it to be able to use the condenser head, especially with 35mm, IMHO.

    As for scratches, I find that filling them with nose oil works absolute wonders. Knocks me out of my sox every time I do it! Nasty, long, sharp, white, impossible-to-spot scratches completely disappear with this trick.
     
  24. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Lizards?
     
  25. clayne

    clayne Member

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    As someone who owns both a condenser (Kaiser) and diffuser/mixing box/dichroic (DeVere) enlarger I can state that detail is not discernible as being anything significantly different. I do generally prefer the prints from the DeVere as their contrast is more in line with what I prefer. However, since I tend to Se tone everything I'm taking that into account as it affects contrast after the fact.
     
  26. Pavel+

    Pavel+ Member

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    Interesting points of view here. I have an ilford 500H sitting on an Omega 5D-xl right next to my D2 and variable condenser head.

    I have to say that I find the look of the two to be quite different and while I am not certain of it I feel that it is more than the difference in grade. I can match grade at one point in a print and have the others fall differently. I personally prefer the condensor look most of the time but do not find any a difference in fine detail in any way - actually if pressed I'd have to say that I think the Ilford head may win out there. Purely unscientific, all this, of course.

    The other somewhat unusual reason for liking the D2 and condensers in general is something that has nothing to do with the look of the print but rather their simplicity. There is no power supply to fail one day nor any funky components. It is pure old fashioned simplicity and that gives me comfort as the day of inexpensive parts will slowly fade away. When the ilford head or transformer goes - it goes to the junk heap. Parts are too expensive, hard to find and of questionable longevity themselves.

    So getting adept with condensers has a side benefit for me. It makes me feel better future-proofed. :smile:

    The dust thing however I find grossly overblown. I have few problems with dust showing and while it helps the diffusion enlargers don't stop flaws showing. Sloppy habits are the wrong approach so relying on diffusion sources is something I don't really get - I must confess. It hasn't been hard to eliminate the problem for condensers and I'd take the same care for diffusion printing. Kind of like mixing chemicals in proper proportions or watching temperature - something that simply comes with this darkroom passion. :smile: