If your grain focus finder is not adjusted to your individual eyesight, chances are it is giving you a focus error. You need to see the reference line and grain in focus at the same time for it to be accurate.
i'm still wondering whether when you printed your less sharp results, you were still wondering what the bellows on your enlarger was for.
I just looked at your "What are enlarger bellows for" thread and the images.
the bellows are to stop light flooding out but also they allow for focussing. i.e. movement of lens up and down relative to the film plane which is why they are flexible.
N.B. Very Important:
Enlargers which can print bigger format negatives and hence use longer focal lenses, can also be used for small format negatives such as 35mm. But with 35 you usually use a 50mm lens which focusses a lot closer to the negative. This results in having to compress the bellows right up when focussing. Infact they can be so compressed that they are effectively spring loaded and are trying to force the lens stage back down. This can move the focus a tad after you let go of the focus knob unless your focus adjust is very tight which makes focussing difficult.
The easy solution to this is to use a Durst SIRIOTUB which is a recessed lens panel and allows for less bellows compression when using a 50mm lens. I think you may need one of these. It's cheap. Nova darkroom had some a little while ago. You need to check that your Ilford head accepts durst lens panels which are a standard fit so it probably does but check first.
Also note that durst also made VEGATUB which extends the range of the bellows. But a VEGATUB is NOT what you want for a 50mm lens on your setup. I mention this just in case they say we have a VEGATUB.
I'm not sure what this means, but it sounds like you're talking about an under-the-lens filter. If so, it could be degrading the image quality a bit. It's best to use an enlarger that's designed with filters in mind, with either a built-in filter drawer or a set of built-in filters (either placed between the light source and the lens).
Originally Posted by ted_smith
Certainly the name is good, but even the best lenses can go bad. If you got it used, there's no telling what's happened to it. It could have been dropped, submerged in scummy water, used as a hockey puck, or whatever.
: It's a 50mm Rodesntock Apo-Rodagon which, I am assured, are one of the best such lenses available.
It sounds like your enlarger has filters built into it, so there's no need to use a separate yellow filter. Use the yellow filter built into the head. Also, as I noted earlier, do not focus with the filter in place; focus with white (unfiltered) light.
: Durst 'chassis' with Ilfospeed Multigrade 400HS head
Any "slop" in the enlarger can certainly affect focus. It's conceivable that when you focus, you put pressure on parts that slightly shifts the position of the negative. When you let go of the focusing knob, that pressure is released, the negative shifts position, and the focus changes.
My negative carrier is far from ideal - I need to replace it really. The framing sliders wobble (one of them, at least) and the left hand lever is broke so it doesn't lift up and down without finger interference.
IMHO, it shouldn't be difficult per se, although as others have said, there is a learning curve. If you're running into constant and serious problems, it could be that you're working with substandard equipment (maybe not bad to begin with, but abused) or are otherwise handicapping yourself in some way.
This whole 'self-printing' is shocking difficult.
Durst's can have an issue with slipping when older, they creep up the column, it's a very simple adjustment.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
There's 2 or 4 (depends on the model) plastic pressure/friction pads that need adjusting by tightening slightly, too much means you cant raise or lower the head, so you tighten to that point then just back off. They are under the cover on both sides on the height adjustment bit by the handle.
Also there's a felt pressure pad that does the same for the focusing rails.
These things wear over time with constant use.
In this case though I suspect there's no sharp detail in the image to focus on making it much harder anyway.
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checking if focus is moving is very easy to do. Just focus a neg on baseboard and leave it for 10 mins and then check without touching anything. If it has gone out of focus then you have a problem. Could be the bellows compression as I mentioned or could be the lock wear as I an mentioned. It's all part of configuring and checking your set up.
I had understood that the filter was used during enlarging, now I think you have clarified that it was used on the camera, right?
Suggestion. Start with making a new negative. Perhaps a landscape or buildings, something you can do with your camera lens at infinity. Camera on a tripod, no filter, use a lens hood, hand held meter, something about F:8 on the lens, shutter speed as needed per the exposure meter. Oh, and use a fine grain film like Plus-X or HP4.
Then try enlarging to a 8x10 and see if it is sharp. It should be, with almost any enlarger and lens.
Let us know how it turns out.
Try to take it one step at a time. I agree with the statement "not rocket science" as the craft is fundamentally pretty simple. However I disagree that it is ever really "a piece of cake" to make fine prints. Making crap prints is a piece of cake, but no matter how good your negatives are, really good printing takes alot of practice, work, and time. Regarding everything having to be precise, yes this can seem overwhelming at first because you keep discovering little details that can go wrong. On the technical side of photography, it is all largely a matter of applying basic skills with care, and then as you keep practicing you encounter issues and problems that you gradually solve. The nice thing about a forum like this is you can keep asking questions and others with more experience can help you solve problems and hopefully avoid some of them.
Originally Posted by ted_smith
Bob - no, they don't. It's a crappy carrier in need of replacement but I don't know where to obtain a suitable replacement for my enlarger.
To clarify, the yellow Lee filter was used on the camera at the time I took the photos to add a little contrast to an otherwise flat overcast day. It was not used on the enlarger.
I will try a few of the suggestions made and see how I get on - adjust grain finder, try to see if enlarger goes out of focus after few minutes etc etc.
You do need glass for that carrier, and for sure your neg is popping, Focal Point in Florida will sell you the glass, I would recommend a couple of units.
remember AN on the top.
the advise to focus and wait 30-1minute to see if something sags is very good.this will help you isolate the problem, neg popping is a whole can of whoop ass and will drive you crazy, cleaning glass is the lesser of two evils.
Originally Posted by ted_smith