What Light Source Should I Get?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by MurrayMinchin, Dec 15, 2006.

  1. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    I'm having a hard time choosing a light source. There's so much manufacturer marketing hype and overly 'helpful' retailers pushing their brands out there...I need help from real-life photographers!

    I print on Ilford Multigrade IV FB paper with a Beseler 45MXT enlarger. I'm looking for a diffusion head that will connect to the RH Designs StopClock Pro and Analyser Pro that I also plan to get. (I'm leaning away from cold lights and the StopClock Vario). If things work out, I should be ready to purchase the whole lot in about four months.

    Please dispense your wisdom in the available space below :smile:

    Murray
     
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  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Why not go for a second-hand Ilford Multigrade head, they do appear for sale fairly regularly.

    Ian
     
  3. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Murray,

    Could we look at how you got to this conclussion? Why are you "leaning away from cold lights and the StopClock Vario?" I have no axe to grind. I agree with the Stop Clock either version, and have a diffussion head on a Saunders LPL 4550XLG/VCCE and a cold light on a 138S converted to 8x10. Maybe if we better understand your thinking we can offer thoughts that make sense to you.

    John Powers
     
  4. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi Ian - the Multigrade 500 is one I've been 'googling'. Do you have one? What makes you recommend it?

    Hi John - I wanted to use an RH Designs Analyser exposure meter which as far as I know doesn't work as well with cold light heads, because one or both of the tubes may change between when the readings were done and the exposure...a problem that would be compounded (I think) with long, complex burning and/or sharp and unsharp masking sequences. Another reason is that the StopClock Vario would work great for splitgrade printing (which I don't do) as it reads only the volume of light, not the colour of it as well. Doesn't this mean that if using both tubes at the same time, if one tube heats up and produces more light at a different rate than the other tube, the timer would compensate for a shortened exposure, but not the increase or loss of contrast?

    I want a light source where I can work on a print one day, come back to it another day and start exactly where I left off, or be able to make slam-dunk perfect re-prints days later. I've standardized a method of testing emergence time in the developer, so the only variable left is the predictability of the light source. (Well yeah, there's paper contrast between emulsion batches too, but I buy 16x20 in boxes of 50 and cut it down to whatever size I need).

    Bonus points will be given if the recommended light source can pass the 'focus on a negative, take it out, ramp up the contrast, make a light gray print' test...and its smooooth from edge to edge and corner to corner.

    Murray
     
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  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Consider a dichroic head. I am using an Analyzer Pro connected to the Beseler Dichro head for the 45M** series enlargers. These often show up used on feePay and go pretty cheap. If you didn't pre-order the Analyzer with sockets for the US style plugs, you'll have to do some minor surgery on the plug so it will take the Analyzer-style plugs. It's a five-minute job.
     
  6. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    That's two timers. If you want the features that differentiate the Analyser Pro from the StopClock Pro, get the StopClock Pr and a Zonemaster II meter. It provides the Analyser features that the Stopclock lacks and plugs right into it.

    There are pros and cons but let me address what I see as your concerns...

    I have no experience with dual-tube, VC coldlight head. I have a ZoneVI/Aristo with an older lamp that I have to color correct until I acquire a V54 lamp. I do split grade with two filters, not by blending light from two tubes. The head utilizes a stabilizer. If I print with my stabilizer at say "F" today, "F" tomorrow will match the output. A stabilized light source does not require the Vario and will work fine with the Stopclock Pro, according to Richard.

    I'm planning on using my ZoneVI head and stabilizer with a V54 lamp, soft and hard filters, a Stopclock Pro and a Zonemaster II. I believe I will have none of the problems that are of concern to you.
     
  7. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Murry,

    You may have answered your own question in the first two paragraphs by giving reasons that lead to the diffusion. Either is good, but which is better for you?

    If I understand my cold light head correctly there is only one white light. The color is added depending on which filter of the Ilford set I put in for contrast. I am using Kentmere VC FB paper.

    In my case I think your last paragraph was solved in the 8x10 enlarger when Michael Mutmansky installed a 12x12 light rather than a 10x10. I asked your question when I bought his enlarger head. He felt the larger head had taken care of the question since I would only be using the inner portion of the light. He also included a center filter he created in Photoshop in case there was a problem.

    I have never felt the center filter was needed, but it was nice to have in the event it was needed. I base that decision on the idea that I don't need to burn in the edges of a print on a negative that has fairly even light from edge to edge. I have used other enlargers where burning in was needed so I understand the problem.

    Hope this helps confirm your decision.

    John Powers
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Hi Murray, I've used various Multigrade heads over the years, but have always used Durst and De Vere standard colour heads in my own darkrooms, as I occasionally make colour prints.

    The build quality of the Ilford heads is excellent, but as few professionals are now shooting much film there's plenty sat idle. I could probably get one (5x4) in the UK for free but unfortunately shipping to Cnada is high, and I'm not back in the UK until the spring.

    Ian

     
  9. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Thanks all for the help :smile:

    You're right jstraw, I should have said ZoneMaster II meter.

    The Beseler 45s Dichroic head does sound good so far. One place quoted me a price of $1,600 for a 'refurbished' Beseler Computerized colour head...but I think I'll avoid that one.

    I used to print with a cold light and a Zone VI Tik-Tok compensating enlarging metronome on graded paper and was more than satisfied with the consistant exposures. When I went to VC papers, I aquired a Zone VI VC cold light. It's a lemon. That experience makes me shy about VC cold lights now. I also want to avoid using a one tube cold light and VC filters.

    I've got over 20 years of negatives to whip into work prints, then fine prints. The timer and meter will be a real help in that...now I just need to find a light source compatible with my enlarger.

    Thanks again!

    Murray
     
  10. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Don't overlook the obvious: the standard condenser head and VC filters. About as sexy as your S.O. giving you grey flannel PJ's for Christmas but it does get the job done with _zero_ muss and fuss.
     
  11. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I'd be very careful of "computerized" heads. In my experience, they aren't very reliable. In a basic color head, everything is pretty easy to fix. You might have to change lamps, lamp sockets, fans, filters or mixing chambers. That's about it. None of that is too hard to fix.
     
  12. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Thanks Nicholas, but it's diffusion all the way for me. I live in a temperate rain forest where the light is usually soft and diffuse to begin with, so a condenser light source would probably add too much snap & sizzle when it isn't needed.

    Peter, I've read horror stories concerning the discontinued Beseler computerized colour head. As I live a two day drive from both Vancouver and Calgary (where I probably couldn't get it fixed anyways), such a complicated and apparently problem prone head wouldn't be the way to go.

    So far the Beseler 45s appears to be in the lead as I'm finding it hard to find information on the (also discontinued?) Multigrade 500...any other options I'm missing?

    Murray
     
  13. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    One of the selling points used by the sales person with the computerized colour head was to imply that regular dichroic heads experience colour drift, such as when a new bulb is put in...is there any truth to that? Is it a problem in 'real life', as in, does it effect contrast in VC papers to a noticable degree?

    Murray
     
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  14. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    Murray,

    In my experience there isn't much change when changing a bulb. My guess is that with a new bulb that you'd get slighter bluer (hence more contrasty) light. But as I said, I expect that the difference is small. (In other words, I haven't noticed a change in contrast when changing bulbs; but then I've only had the change the bulbs in my enlarger once.) What can happen is the dichroic filters, especially the magenta, can fade. It's also possible for the material in the mixing chamber to slowly yellow a bit. It really is a good idea to get a step wedge and figure out what contrast your system is giving you.
     
  15. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    As a person who has done a lot of colour printing, I can honestly say, when the light globe goes, the colour does change.

    However the change is minimal!

    As the globe wears down it starts to get slightly warmer. The operative word in the last sentence, is, slightly. When I have had to put a new globe in, in the middle of a printing session, I usually just run it for about 5 minutes, then do another print of the negative that was in the enlarger and see what difference there is.

    I had a globe go a few weeks ago, whilst I was printing B&W. I distinctly remember that the difference was slight, as far as exposure was concerned, about 1/16th of a stop. The grade I was using was 3 1/4 and I didn't alter the colour head at all.

    When doing colour and a globe goes, the difference is usually about 1 or 2 units of red.

    I wouldn't worry about it.

    I personally have a DeVere 504 with a colour head, which was originally computer controlled via a direct video analysis of the negative. I simply cut the wires and use the head manually, nothing to break or go wrong.

    In another life, I used two of these units in a colour lab. All of the darkroom workers used these enlargers and their computer analysis program, to get a very close approximation of what was required. Then we would subjectively view the test print under a controlled light source and make final colour adjustments using our eyes, experience, and, Kodak print viewing filters.

    We did the same when we printed B&W, with the Ilford 500 MG head on a Beseler.

    I would suggest that a Beseler enlarger is the best thing since sliced bread, especially with regard to the rotating neg carrier, which I think is nothing short of pure genius.

    That said, I believe the DeVere enlargers are the strongest and best in the world, which is why I bought one.

    I do though, distinctly remember two young photographers who had too much of the demon drink at a Christmas function, happily riding up and down on one of our Beseler enlargers, almost burning out the electric motor. Tough things those.

    Mick.
     
  16. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Good point, Peter, about testing with the step wedge. I'd have to get one anyways for calibrating the ZoneMaster II, so doing a quick test a couple times a year to see if the filters are changing would'nt be a problem.

    Thanks Mick, that's comforting information about bulbs. (Those two students wouldn't have been blansky and Bubbles Hedbob, would they)?

    Murray
     
  17. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    A diffusion head lowers contrast about one paper grade ... or a condenser head raises it about one grade -- depending on where you want to start.

    After adjusting paper contrast or developing CI to match, the resulting HD curves are _identical_. If you use an enlarging meter the contrast difference between the heads is transparent - the prints will be identical without any adjustment to developing time as the meter will select the appropriate contrast grade for the negative/light source combination.

    If you are using a condenser head but are always reaching for the #0 filter then a diffusion head may be a better choice. Contrawise, if you are using a diffusion head but are using a grade 4 filter/VC setting then a condenser head will give more latitude.

    It's religion, some people just _believe_ in diffusion heads and that's that.

    Me, I sacrifice silver on the alter of my densitometer.
     
  18. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi Nicholas,

    My 20+ years of negatives were originally developed to print with a cold light on (or try to land near :wink: ) grade 2 of the original Zone VI Brilliant paper, so they're a tad rich for a condenser light source I think. When they 'improved' Brilliant, my negatives printed well on the new grade 1 leaving me no room at the soft contrast end of things. I switched to Ilford Galerie as its grade 2 matched the old Brilliant grade 2...I chose to change paper brands rather than change the way I developed negatives.

    I like being near the middle of the field with my negatives, instead of being crowded against one of the sidelines...gives me more wiggle room and can make dodging and burning less troublesome :smile:

    Now the quest is on for a new VC light source...eefreakinggad! (This will be my last process change...really...for sure...I think.........)

    Murray
     
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  19. schroeg

    schroeg Member

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    I just got a V54 lamp that I am using with an ancient Aristo D2-R head. Works wonderfully and the condenser head is now officially gathering dust.:smile: