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  1. #1

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    Condenser to diffusion

    I'm about to upgrade by old Omega B66 condenser to a Saunders/LPL 4550 with a VCCE head. I'm currently working on reprinting a portfolio of 35mm negatives, which will be the first negatives I work on in the new enlarger. I've always read about the differences between diffusion and condenser enlarging, but I've never actually used a diffusion enlarger so I'm wondering if anyone can comment on real world comparison experiences with the following:

    -Contrast: On my condenser setup I am standardized on around grade 1. With existing negatives, can I expect to be on around grade 2 with diffusion?

    -Accutance: I'm a little worried about the accutance factor - will the prints actually appear less sharp from a diffusion setup?

    -Dust spots etc: Does diffusion actually lessen the effects of dust and small negative defects?

    When I attended a John Sexton workshop, his opinion was that my prints would look just as sharp on a diffusion enlarger, and that I would not be sorry, even with small format negatives. However I'm a little confused by this. If diffused light helps hide dust and small imperfections, wouldn't that automatically mean a decrease apparent sharpness? I always thought of it as a zero-sum game, like pretty much anything else in the photographic process - ie you gain something here, and lose something there. It's always a compromise, is it not? If a diffusion enlarger gives you high sharpness, AND reduces the appearance of grain, dust and imperfections, it sort of violates that zero-sum law. And in that case why would anyone not use a diffusion enlarger for 35mm?

  2. #2
    Jim Noel's Avatar
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    1. That is a possibility, but not a certainty. Take the time to print a favorite negative at various contrasts to determining what works for you.

    2. You will not be able to see a significant difference. Edges likely will appear slightly softer, under a microscope, or in extreme enlargements.

    3. Not to the extent many advertise. I find little if any difference her. You still must keep negatives clean.

    In the end, you must practice with the enlarger and find what works for you, not for me or anyone else.
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Films NOT Dead - Just getting fixed![/FONT]

  3. #3

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    Indeed I will obviously still keep my negatives fanatically clean, and will do lots of experimenting with each individual negative to determine the proper contrast (same as I would do with any system). I was just wondering if in peoples' experiences the differences between condenser and diffusion enlargers are as great as one might expect based on what you find in the writings of Ansel Adams etc. I guess I expect not. I'm assuming with older thicker emulsion films the differences were probably greater (more callier effect in condenser enlarging with thicker emulsions, etc).

    Thanks for the reply

  4. #4
    Jon Shiu's Avatar
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    There is a difference in sharpness, or edge contrast, but for most photographs it will not make a difference in an aesthetic sense. After I switched to a diffusion enlarger, I tried for 2 weeks to reprint a picture of sand and couldn't get the brilliance that I got before with a condenser enlarger. But that was the only photo that was a problem.

    Most pictures will be easier to print on the diffusion enlarger, because the highlights will come in easier and small changes of contrast can be easily adjusted.
    Last edited by Jon Shiu; 08-16-2010 at 02:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Mendocino Coast Black and White Photography: www.jonshiu.com

  5. #5
    MattKing's Avatar
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    IIRC an Omega B66 uses an opal bulb. As such, its light source is actually half way between a true point source condenser enlarger and your new diffusion enlarger.

    There will be a difference due to the change in light source, but it won't be as large as you suppose.
    Last edited by MattKing; 08-16-2010 at 02:40 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: possessive, not a contraction
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

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  6. #6
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    ...
    -Contrast: On my condenser setup I am standardized on around grade 1. With existing negatives, can I expect to be on around grade 2 with diffusion?...
    Yes, with very similar tonality.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    ...
    -Accutance: I'm a little worried about the accutance factor - will the prints actually appear less sharp from a diffusion setup?...
    Due to the circle of confusion, this depends on the size of the print. In theory, yes, but the harder paper grade compensates for much of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    ...
    -Dust spots etc: Does diffusion actually lessen the effects of dust and small negative defects?...
    Definitely! Just make sure the negs are clean, and don't let it make you skip the glass carrier!
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  7. #7
    Greg Davis's Avatar
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    I made a set of comparison prints for my students using a negative developed for diffusion enlarging that I printed on all grades with both a diffusion color head and a condenser head. I used Ilford Multigrade filters for both enlargers and the same lens so the comparison would only be between the light source. The negative is correct on grade 2 by diffusion, but is most closely matched by grade 1/2 with the condenser, though grade 1 would be OK. I don't see much difference in sharpness, but it is a 4x5 negative printed to 8x10 so I didn't expect any. The condenser head exaggerated the dust more than the diffusion head in my comparison.
    www.gregorytdavis.com

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  8. #8
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    Greg's tests verifies my and other people's experience. Love to see the prints!
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht View Post



    Definitely! Just make sure the negs are clean, and don't let it make you skip the glass carrier!
    Yes, glass carriers...a whole other issue I'm still experimenting and wrestling with for 35mm.

  10. #10
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    I ended up with a diffusion head because I bought a dichroic enlarger. I have not seen any reason to get a set of condensers to swap in, if it is even possible. Just clean the negatives and find something else to worry about.

    Steve
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

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