ITD, you ask what advantage there is in using a dedicated 35mm enlarger.
I make prints from 35mm and 120 roll film. For years I used a succesion of multi-format enlargers for this. My latest is a Meopta Magnifax. Changing from 120 film to 35mm involves changing the condensers, changing the enlarging lens, fiddling about making alterations to the negative carrier, and changing the column height. All before you can start making a print.
Recently I bought a Leitz Valoy 2. Being a dedicated 35mm enlarger this needs no setting up. It just sits there ready for printing at the flick of a switch. So it saves a lot of time. And my Magnifax stays permanently set up for 120 film.
Apart from my home-made 5 x 4 enlarger, the leitz Valoy is the only enlarger I've used that has an evenly illuminated baseboard. All the multi format enlargers I've used have had central hot spots. The Magnifax is a half stop brighter in the centre of the frame than at the edges, as revealed by readings from my spot meter, and this is better than some I've used. I believe this fault is a result of design compromises in multi-format enlargers. Each print can be balanced up by burning in all 4 edges. But this takes time-which is what this thread is about.
So my Leitz Valoy is quicker to use.
It is also a stop brighter than the Magnifax, despite having a lower wattage bulb.
It's helical focussing is very precise and accurate.
All round, it is just so efficient and a joy to use.
And it only cost me £20 on Ebay.
Thanks Alan. Might be something to bear in mind if I could find space for a second enlarger!
The key to saving time in the darkroom is to select an interesting image before you even take out the camera.
To speed up proof printing in the darkroom, a Heiland splitgrade module on your enlarger does wonders!
I had the chance of working with one today*. Amazing!
* yes, I do still make small MF negatives from time to time :-)
For years I had a tiny darkrom, with not even enough room for three decent sized dishes! It's a real luxury now to have room for three enlargers.
Has that been a mix of condenser and diffusion enlargers?
Originally Posted by AlanC
I'd like a condenser head for my now with Color 3 head Meopta
6x6. The Color 3 projects a central cold spot. No problem so far
with my Omega B8 condenser. It is though a 6x9. Dan
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I've set my bladed easel aside and now use the
Originally Posted by ITD
single size speed easel. Does a better job of holding
the paper flat and is quicker to use. Saunders and
a few others have produced drop frame single
size easels which are likely quicker yet.
Focusing can be time consuming. I've gotten around
that by developing the "Focus Once" method. For same
size negative and image an exact focus is determined.
The elevation of the enlarger is noted and the
image is 'sized' on the easel.
Conventional focusing could be quicker. Too many worry
about the projected sharpness of minute highly magnified
grain. And do the worrying with lens wide open. Dan
I do it a little different. First, I almost never make a contact sheet, it is a waste of time and paper IMHO. Second, I keep my negatives clean so I don't have to clean them. Third, I make few if any test "strips", I make test prints to get the most information in the shortest time. Also, I usually don't dry my test prints before moving to the next one. You need to develop a eye for dry down with fiber prints.
Originally Posted by ITD
No. All the multi format enlargers I have owned have been double condenser enlargers. Some were really basic. A Gnome Beta 2 had a hot spot you could practically fry an egg on. I had another Gnome before that, then, when I got more cash, a Meopta Opemus 6 (b&w).
Then a friend went over to the dark side (bought a digital camera) and gave me his Meopta Magnifax (6 x 9). As I now have a Mamiya RB 67 this is really handy, despite its slight hot spot.
My home made 5 x 4 enlarger is a diffuser (no hot spot)
I've found that the key to "production" is standardization. I use only 2 films and two developers for all my work in 35, MF and 4x5, development is 'one-shot' and timing and agitation etc. is consistent. I have an MF enlarger I bought used with no neg carriers set up purely for proofing and ran tests for 'minimum exposure, maximum black' for each combination. (I ran these tests with clear neg strips IN THE NEG SLEEVES!) Now, until I change paper batch, (or until the manufacturer "improves" one of the products) I have a standard exposure for each film/developer combo. Expose all the proof sheets and develop them two at a time. In my "enlarging enlarger" I've established a standard height for an 8x10 work print for each format and an exposure time for each film/dev/format combination. This way, once I've selected worthy opponents from my proofs it is just as easy to bang out the work prints for further evaluation. My film exposure and development time were established by trial and error to provide shadow and highlight detail on an evenly lit test subject with normal contrast paper so an evaluation of a work print on normal paper tells me whether the image is worth pursuing further and what adjustments to contrast or other printing techniques I'll need to use for a final print. I think the key to production is an initial investment in time and money to test your film, developer etc. and then to be a little (perhaps a LOT) anal in the consistency of your technique - timing, agitation, temperature etc. That said, the investment saves a lot of time, frustration and money in attaining a usable work print. The final "fine print" is a different matter - but consistent work prints that offer a known point for departure enable you to make many final printing decisions before you go into the darkroom.
I'm only a university photo student, so I'm no expert or anything, but I just want to concur what others have said about negative scanning.
I make contact sheets and examine them with a loupe on a light table, but this is mainly just to make an initial selection. What's so good about scanning is that you have a digital image which you can easily and quickly manipulate in Photoshop. You can, in seconds, test out croppings, see what level of contrast works, roughly burn and dodge certain areas to see what effect is created; I even test out different borders to see if they work with the image.
Another good thing is that it provides you with a very easy way to test out "concepts" for images -- ie, maybe a subtle vignette around the image is desirable, or maybe you want to severely burn or dodge some area. In this way, it boosts your creativity, because there is a cost-free (and virtually time-free) way to experiment, to indulge every little creative impulse.