Valoy II with Componon-S versus V35 (condensor sharpness versus diffuser)

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by pstake, Jul 10, 2012.

  1. pstake

    pstake Member

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    For a good while I've printed only with my Valoy II, first with the original Focotar and more recently with a componon-s 50mm.

    Just a few weeks ago, I came a cross a V35 in great shape for a $100 and I snatched it up because of all the good things I had read, mostly from people in this forum.

    Did some rearranging in my darkroom and finally got the V35 set up next to my Valoy II, which I'm keeping for right now as a backup. It took me about half an hour to get the autofocus / column height tuned into my Albert four-blade easel — but I think I finally got it lined up, although I'm not 100 percent positive. Only about 97 percent positive.

    Using the v35, my productivity doubled. Not only because of the autofocus but also because of the built in filters (this is the color head version). This makes it possible to effectively use a neutral density filter to control / maintain my ideal aperture ... f5.6. It also frees up my hands (which were previously holding filters under the lens) to work on dodging / burning, etc.

    One of the prints I made is one that I had also recently made with the Valoy II set at f16 because it's a thin negative. When looking at either print by itself, it looks sharp. But looking at the two prints side by side, the Valoy version looks just a tad sharper. The negative has a few small scratches, and these, too, are more apparent in the Valoy version. I realize that condenser enlargers exaggerate scratches worse than diffuser-type enlargers.

    My questions is: Is the apparent sharpness difference that I am seeing, the result of the higher-contrast condensor enlarger, or is it the difference between the Componon-S and the Focotar 40 lenses?

    (I know, pictures would help, and I will scan the prints later ... just wanted to see what opinions I could get)
     
  2. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    You are seeing diffraction at f16 w/ the VII Vs f5.6 w/ the V35.
     
  3. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    It is a myth that diffusion heads are less sharp than condensers so assuming contrast is set to the equivalent level, that should not be a reason for a difference in apparent sharpness. If the contrast was not the same, then you might see a difference in perceived sharpness, though not actual sharpness.

    If there is a difference in actual resolution, there are several variables to check before making conclusions about the lenses. Check alignment, focus (with a grain magnifier), vibration and negative flatness. Then factor in different lens apertures. There is more diffraction at f16 than f5.6 so one would expect the Componon to have the advantage in this comparison. However, at f5.6 depth of focus is less than at f16, so any lack of flatness in the negative will be magnified.

    I highly doubt you'll see a difference between the Focotar and a Componon-S. Leica fanatics will probably disagree. I used a v35 with a Focotar for quite a while and did not see an improvement in sharpness vs my other enlarger at the time which had a Rodagon.

    Nicolas - I think he's saying the valoy/f16 print looks sharper.
     
  4. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    From what I can tell, though, even at f/16 on the Valoy, that print looks to be sharper than the one from the V35...
     
  5. pstake

    pstake Member

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    Yes this is the case. The f/16 - Componon-S / Valoy II print looks a smidge sharper.

    The Valoy holds the negative flat by virtue of the condenser seating directly on top of it. The V35 uses a half-glass negative carrier that, as far as I can tell, does just as good a job at holding the negative flat.

    I would not expect the Focotar to be any sharper than the Componon-S, but I was hoping that it was at least as sharp.
     
  6. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    It could still be a contrast effect.

    Regarding the lenses, what kind of shape is the Focotar in? Is it clean? Any haze or anything? Perhaps also try it at f8. Not sure what the optimal aperture of the 40/2.8 is.
     
  7. pstake

    pstake Member

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    Focotar-40 lens was a little dusty when I got it but it cleaned up well. Glass is virtually perfect, now. Componon-S also has perfect glass.
     
  8. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Ah ... not diffraction, then.

    The sharper scratches and more apparent grain with the VII will give an illusion of sharpness, as will the 1/2 grade of extra contrast due to a condenser light source. Also, the contrast grade of under-lens filters won't precisely match the contrast dialed in with a color head (unless you have gone through painstaking (and quite pointless) calibration or just happen to be lucky) - the difference may have added to the contrast discrepancy or subtracted from it.
     
  9. pstake

    pstake Member

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    And finally here are scans. These are not final prints (I gave the finals to the woman in the picture) but they are close enough for this purpose. The contrast difference is apparent — in these samples, it is partially a difference in filtering and partially a difference in exposure. I understand that this is not exactly apples to apples but I wasn't conducting a scientific examination.

    Perhaps I ought to!

    Cropped one is the Componon-S on Valoy II at f16 split filtered under the lens; full frame is the V35 / Focotar 40 using color-head filtering.

    Both scanned at 2400 dpi then resized to 600dpi in order to upload.

    Am I imagining the difference in sharpness?


    Cindy_V35.jpg

    Cindy_ValoyII.jpg
     
  10. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Probably.

    The valoy print looks darker and more contrasty. Both of these things can make a print look sharper. The slightly smoother gradation you get from a diffusion head can also have an effect. Very hard to evaluate the lenses this way.

    I don't think anyone will be able to give you accurate observations based on scans.
     
  11. pstake

    pstake Member

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    Thanks, Michael.

    It really shouldn't matter but due to my various neuroses, it will nag at me if I am using the much-more convenient enlarger, knowing that I'm not transferring my zeiss taking glass as effectively as I could. I prefer to get the sharpness / lens situation nailed from the start and not have any questions about it left in my mind thereafter, even it if means no autofocus. As with all other technical aspects of photography, confidence in the process I've established frees me to focus (pardon the pun) on printing.

    Guess I'll be doing a little testing. I'm going to make the same print using a known tack-sharp negative on the v35, using each lens focused manually.

    If anyone knows a better method, please let me know.
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    The real question is: Does it really matter?

    You might see a closer approximation of the actual sharpness when you start making larger prints. But then again, I don't know what size you're currently printing at.

    I will say this, though: If you want to compare how sharp your prints look from two different enlargers, you ought to be using the same lens. And you need to try to match the contrast, taking into account the higher contrast a condenser enlarger automatically gives you.
    Also, are you using a high quality grain focuser? You can fine tune the focus of the V35 by rotating the helical ring at the lens.

    My own V35 is a dream to use, and I love it to bits. Compared to prints from my Omega, using the same 40mm Focotar lens, with prints made to the the same final contrast, I can't see that much of a difference, honestly. Until I go to 11x14 size, that is. And this is where the V35 starts to really shine for me. But it's still subtle, and I would be equally happy with the prints from either machine. The difference is, to me, how much easier it is to use the V35, how much fun it is, and the amazingly consistent results.

    - Thomas
     
  13. pstake

    pstake Member

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    http://www.google.com/products/cata...a=X&ei=MZT9T9iEGIiq2gWmiLiCBw&ved=0CEwQ8wIwAA

    Above is a link to the grain focuser I use. It's a Bestwell Micro Sight. I've used worse...but not sure if it merits "high quality."

    The V35 is absolutely a pleasure to use. Quick, easy and consistent. I made eight identical postcards in about 15 minutes. I might have done two with the Valoy.

    Thomas, are you saying that with the same Focotar 40 on your Omega and V35, prints look about the same until 11x14, at which point the V35 prints are better?

    My prints are usually smaller ... 4x6 (postcards), 5x7 ... and most often 8x10. Sometimes 11x14 but that's the biggest size for which I have trays to process.

    I'll be doing some testing to settle the matter once and for all, for myself and my peace of mind, if nothing else. Same enlarger, negative, both lenses — on both enlargers — using the under-the lens filters on the Valoy II and the closest approximation via color head on the v35.

    Thanks for all the feedback, Thomas and Michael.


     
  14. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I'm sure the Bestwell is all right. The one I use is a Peak Model 2. Link It does the job nicely, but I'm sure your Bestwell does the job similarly.

    Yes. It seems that the larger the magnification, the less 'perceived sharpness' from contrast and grain seems to matter, and true sharpness shines through.

    Regarding the enlarging lens and your comparison. You don't really need to move the 50mm lens from the Valoy to the V35. It's not the easiest thing to calibrate it for the 40mm again once you're done. But moving the 40mm Focotar from the V35 to the Valoy makes sense, and will make the comparison viable. Why do double the work, AND be stuck with the 'wrong' focal length lens on the V35?
     
  15. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I understand. I have the same neuroses. It took me months to decide between a Schneider and Rodenstock even though I knew there was no difference and I wouldn't be able to see one anyway.

    If you are mostly printing 8x10 or smaller, both your lenses will produce tack sharp prints. The most critical things are enlarger alignment and negative flatness.

    If you're going to try to test the lenses, make sure to print with each lens at a few middle apertures.
     
  16. pstake

    pstake Member

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    A little embarrassed to admit that my grain focuser was not focused correctly on its internal reticle.

    I bet my prints get a bit sharper, now.

    sheepishly,
    Phil
     
  17. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I have two enlargers in my darkroom, a Durst Graduate, (giving that snap to resolution and sharpness) to prints made with a condenser enlarger. The other is a De Vere 504 with a Dichromatic Head. I use both depending on what I’m trying to print; however, the De Vere is the one which I use to produce ultimate quality in terms of exposure and contrast. In short, it is the dog’s bollocks of enlargers.
     
  18. Bigpaul

    Bigpaul Member

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    Interesting thread, as I've been going through similar issues with my two enlargers/lenses. For the last couple of years, I've been using my old Focomat 1b with the 50mm Focotar 2 lens.......this is very easy to use, with accurate autofocus speeding things up considerably. The only thing not to like about it is the amount of dust and scratches that show through to the final print.......I end up spending ages on spotting! I know that the real answer is to improve cleanliness all round, but this is not easy, especially when my darkroom doubles sometimes as our kitchen!! So, I've recently re-commissioned my Durst 305 with colour head........certainly less spotting is required, so for the time being this is my in-use enlarger. Now, the question of which lens to use? Using the Durst, I've been comparing the Minolta CE 50mm f2.8 lens that I've always used in it with the Focotar 2, and I'd say that the difference in print appearance between the two lenses is at least as great as between the two enlargers. The Minolta is clearly more contrasty, giving the initial appearance of greater sharpness; under a loupe, however, the sharpness seems to be the same, at least on a 10 x 8 print. The Leitz lens seems to handle contrast in a more delicate way, somehow, if that makes sense? I guess which one is "better" depends very much on the negative, and also on the effect desired. Anyway, my point is that it would definitely be worth comparing the two lenses in the same enlarger, as any comparison of different enlargers with different lenses contains simply too many variables.......and that any presumed difference between the enlargers (ie condensor vs diffuser) could be, in fact, more a matter of differences between lenses?

    Anyway........all very interesting stuff!