I enlarge with 9 different enlargers and my conclusion is, that difference in print quality can be seen between condenser and diffuser enlargers. Maybe this is not recognized or measureable scientific statement, but result of my enlarger tests and my capability of seeing. I am trained as artist, not scientist.I also believe that photography is not only scientific term.
But differences may arise across your group of 9 enlargers due to a variety of variables including alignment, focus, lens, negative, negative flatness, contrast/filtration, print processing, safelights, print viewing conditions etc.
You also need to define exactly what it is you mean by quality in the first place.
If someone perhaps less experienced reads the thread, how can he/she come to meaningful conclusions without knowing how the tests were done and how the results were evaluated? What if someone else fails to see what you see? Who is correct?
One other argument for "diffusion" or Cold Light enlargers is that they call for a negative with a more expanded range, which also enhances separation between intermediate values, or tones in the mid ranges. The reduction in the "callier" effect (no relation!!) is most present in the highlight, or more dense portions of the neg, so separation in the mid tones is seen to be enhanced by the cold light system. I am stating this passively, because, as posted above, I am neither a scientist, and have made only one comparison, a very long range indoor architecture shot (4x5) with direct sunlight on a wall, which was the first image I ever printed with the cold light. I acheived a quality of separation and total range not possible with my condenser enlarger, at least not at the time (1980 or so). With the added benefits of less dust (and other surface defects in a negative) reproduction, lower tremperature (no neg buckling), absolute evenness of illumination across the entire frame, and no need for alternate condensor arrangements for different neg sizes, I never used the condensor system again.
Fred was not the only proponent of cold lights, Ansel Adams being one of the early ones, and plenty of others over the years.
As kobaltus states, I feel that there is a difference, for me especially in the mid to low values, a better kind of tonal separation. In my mind, I'm thinking that this may be due to the expanded range in the neg, although, it could be argued that most of the expansion from normal HQ developers is in the upper ranges, not the lower.
I would be willing to bet that an extensive test of a variety of current papers and available enlarger light sources would show that certain papers behave more favourably with certain light sources.
You know, those "curve" things that a few of us on APUG seem fascinated by.
Michael, as you correctly point out the variations across even 2 enlargers is enormous and this snap I mention is not just about a contrast difference as mentioned in other posts. I have printed the same negative on a condenser and diffuser and after adjusting for the reduced contrast on the diffuser I produced two prints from which I could discern no difference. I suppose what Iím trying to say is that given a negative ideally exposed and developed for a condenser against a negative ideally exposed and developed for a diffuser, the one produced on a condenser below a certain physical size exhibits a sort of snap quality not shown on the diffuser version. I know this is very unscientific, but it is something I have observed over many years.
Originally Posted by Michael R 1974
I was hating how some of my V35 prints were looking. A hard to describe flatness. I fixed my problem by storing the V35 and using my Focomat Ic instead.
Just checked Ctein Post Exposure, page 69, figures 6-14, 6-15 and 6-16 illustrate that he tested and graphed the different curves that correspond to Condenser vs. Diffusion enlarger - after matching the prints for contrast.
It corroborates what Cliveh has been saying: The highlights have more contrast in a Condenser - even when the prints are contrast-matched.
Ctein complains that Callier didn't study photographic materials so it can't rightly be called the Callier effect. So we need a new name, I vote to call it the Collier effect and say George came up with it.
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
A lot of the arguments in print are academic, and in most cases of limited value simply because they make reference to materials which are now
seldom used. VC papers for one thing are a lot more common than graded options. There is a much bigger choice in developers, and many of the
special ones like pyro (of all flavors) are quite commonplace. Most of the rules of the game have changed. For a handful of people, this might
still be an worthwhile distinction...
Please note that in my OP I am not trying to say that either diffuser or condenser are better, but just that I notice this difference for a condenser over a limited size of prints for a given negative.