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  1. #1

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    Dichro head vs. Multigrade filters

    I plan to purchase a B/W enlarger and seek advice on whether a dichro/variable contrast head or a condenser unit with multigrade filters is best. I've seen reports (incl. the "darkroom expert" at Shutterbug magazine) state that dichro filters often degrade over time giving unpredictable results necessitating filter change. Opinions pro and con are appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gedra View Post
    dichro filters often degrade over time giving unpredictable results necessitating filter change
    In my opinion that statement is not true. Dichroic filters are very, very stable over time.

  3. #3
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    I don't know about dichroic filters, but multigrade under-lens filters degrade over time. I know this without a doubt, because I have seen the difference myself.

  4. #4

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    Well, if dichro filters fade over time, I haven't seen it yet and my Omega Chromega 2 dichro head is older than dirt and lived in a commercial lab before I got it. It has seen a lot of use and it shows, but it functions perfectly. Omega even states in the documentation for the head that the filters will not fade and should never need replacing. On the other hand, the acetate VC filters do fade and need to be replaced periodically. How often depends on how often they're used. They are easily damaged, and if they ever get wet you can kiss them goodbye. Ilford Multigrade filters now cost about $60 US for a set of 6 x 6 inch filters. The 3 x 3 inch filters are around $40. That's a lot of money for an unnecessary expendable when a dichro color or variable contrast head can deliver the same results with more flexibility. The only complaint I have about using the dichro head, and it is a very minor complaint, is that I can't achieve the hardest grade possible with the papers I use. At best, I can get about grade 4. With the Multigrade filters, achieving a true grade 5 should be possible. I have never needed to use anything remotely close to that in practice. If I have a negative that won't print well on anything from grades 1 1/2 to 3, it's usually not worth printing. The very softest grade is possible with full yellow filtration. The very hardest grades are good for what I like to call "special effects" but not much else.
    Frank Schifano

  5. #5
    BetterSense's Avatar
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    They are easily damaged, and if they ever get wet you can kiss them goodbye.
    Oh no! I spilled distilled water on my set a couple weeks ago. I would like to know why the Ilford filters are so expensive. Isn't it a matter of just filtering the amount of Magenta light vs. Yellow? Since I usually only use 00 and 5 anyway, why can't I buy the appropriate filter material by the sheet?

  6. #6
    ann
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    you might check at b&h as i have gotten 12x12 sheets of specific grades.
    http://www.aclancyphotography.com

  7. #7

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    I would recommend a dichroic head (preferably 4x5).
    Commercial grade 4x5 dichroic enlargers are going for 10 cents on the dollar of their original cost, in many cases free, leaving plenty of spare $$ for some good glass.

    As for the dichroic filters, they are very stable; not so for the gel. The added advantage of going with a dichroic 4x5 right out of the gate is that you have all of the primary format sizes covered, as well as the option to print color.

  8. #8

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    I have the option of using my color head w/dichro filters, or my cold light head and Kodak Polymax Filters, mounted in frames, that slide above the lens. One other option I have is to use 2 Kodak Wratten filters, deep blue (#47B) and green (#56) with a 3x3" view camera filter holder attached to the lens. This set-up is best for precise split-grade printing with cold light. For general production type work I use the Polymax filters (I've been using the same ones for years - no problems). I never use my color head because of the limited filtration range and fiddling with the dials is an added chore that breaks my concentration.
    "Pictures are not incidental frills to a text; they are essences of our distinctive way of knowing." Stephen J. Gould

  9. #9

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    While dicrotic filters may not fade they do get dirty. When I baught my DeVere 405 I found my prints were softer than previously, suspecting the filters were at fault I phoned Odessy sales enquireing if new ones were available, they were BUT the advise I was given was, they should not be needed unless broken, try cleaning them with alcohol on a cotton bud but be careful as they are a bit delicate, if you brake them we have them in stock.
    I cleaned the filters and have had no more problems.
    Hope this of help to all.
    Regards Paul.

  10. #10

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    Might be helpful to you to do a bit of reading regarding diffusion versus condenser heads. David Vestal's book, (Art of B&W enlarging) long out of print but should be available through a library, has a great chapter on this very subject. I wont try to sway you one way or the other i just think it would help to be aware of the differences.

    Mark
    It is said that we remember the important things, if true, why photograph? I forget, so I photograph.

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