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  1. #1
    pstake's Avatar
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    Valoy II with Componon-S versus V35 (condensor sharpness versus diffuser)

    For a good while I've printed only with my Valoy II, first with the original Focotar and more recently with a componon-s 50mm.

    Just a few weeks ago, I came a cross a V35 in great shape for a $100 and I snatched it up because of all the good things I had read, mostly from people in this forum.

    Did some rearranging in my darkroom and finally got the V35 set up next to my Valoy II, which I'm keeping for right now as a backup. It took me about half an hour to get the autofocus / column height tuned into my Albert four-blade easel — but I think I finally got it lined up, although I'm not 100 percent positive. Only about 97 percent positive.

    Using the v35, my productivity doubled. Not only because of the autofocus but also because of the built in filters (this is the color head version). This makes it possible to effectively use a neutral density filter to control / maintain my ideal aperture ... f5.6. It also frees up my hands (which were previously holding filters under the lens) to work on dodging / burning, etc.

    One of the prints I made is one that I had also recently made with the Valoy II set at f16 because it's a thin negative. When looking at either print by itself, it looks sharp. But looking at the two prints side by side, the Valoy version looks just a tad sharper. The negative has a few small scratches, and these, too, are more apparent in the Valoy version. I realize that condenser enlargers exaggerate scratches worse than diffuser-type enlargers.

    My questions is: Is the apparent sharpness difference that I am seeing, the result of the higher-contrast condensor enlarger, or is it the difference between the Componon-S and the Focotar 40 lenses?

    (I know, pictures would help, and I will scan the prints later ... just wanted to see what opinions I could get)

  2. #2
    Nicholas Lindan's Avatar
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    You are seeing diffraction at f16 w/ the VII Vs f5.6 w/ the V35.
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  3. #3

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    It is a myth that diffusion heads are less sharp than condensers so assuming contrast is set to the equivalent level, that should not be a reason for a difference in apparent sharpness. If the contrast was not the same, then you might see a difference in perceived sharpness, though not actual sharpness.

    If there is a difference in actual resolution, there are several variables to check before making conclusions about the lenses. Check alignment, focus (with a grain magnifier), vibration and negative flatness. Then factor in different lens apertures. There is more diffraction at f16 than f5.6 so one would expect the Componon to have the advantage in this comparison. However, at f5.6 depth of focus is less than at f16, so any lack of flatness in the negative will be magnified.

    I highly doubt you'll see a difference between the Focotar and a Componon-S. Leica fanatics will probably disagree. I used a v35 with a Focotar for quite a while and did not see an improvement in sharpness vs my other enlarger at the time which had a Rodagon.

    Nicolas - I think he's saying the valoy/f16 print looks sharper.

  4. #4
    Chris Lange's Avatar
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    From what I can tell, though, even at f/16 on the Valoy, that print looks to be sharper than the one from the V35...
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  5. #5
    pstake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Lange View Post
    From what I can tell, though, even at f/16 on the Valoy, that print looks to be sharper than the one from the V35...
    Yes this is the case. The f/16 - Componon-S / Valoy II print looks a smidge sharper.

    The Valoy holds the negative flat by virtue of the condenser seating directly on top of it. The V35 uses a half-glass negative carrier that, as far as I can tell, does just as good a job at holding the negative flat.

    I would not expect the Focotar to be any sharper than the Componon-S, but I was hoping that it was at least as sharp.

  6. #6

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    It could still be a contrast effect.

    Regarding the lenses, what kind of shape is the Focotar in? Is it clean? Any haze or anything? Perhaps also try it at f8. Not sure what the optimal aperture of the 40/2.8 is.

  7. #7
    pstake's Avatar
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    Focotar-40 lens was a little dusty when I got it but it cleaned up well. Glass is virtually perfect, now. Componon-S also has perfect glass.

  8. #8
    Nicholas Lindan's Avatar
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    Ah ... not diffraction, then.

    The sharper scratches and more apparent grain with the VII will give an illusion of sharpness, as will the 1/2 grade of extra contrast due to a condenser light source. Also, the contrast grade of under-lens filters won't precisely match the contrast dialed in with a color head (unless you have gone through painstaking (and quite pointless) calibration or just happen to be lucky) - the difference may have added to the contrast discrepancy or subtracted from it.
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  9. #9
    pstake's Avatar
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    And finally here are scans. These are not final prints (I gave the finals to the woman in the picture) but they are close enough for this purpose. The contrast difference is apparent — in these samples, it is partially a difference in filtering and partially a difference in exposure. I understand that this is not exactly apples to apples but I wasn't conducting a scientific examination.

    Perhaps I ought to!

    Cropped one is the Componon-S on Valoy II at f16 split filtered under the lens; full frame is the V35 / Focotar 40 using color-head filtering.

    Both scanned at 2400 dpi then resized to 600dpi in order to upload.

    Am I imagining the difference in sharpness?


    Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #10

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    Probably.

    The valoy print looks darker and more contrasty. Both of these things can make a print look sharper. The slightly smoother gradation you get from a diffusion head can also have an effect. Very hard to evaluate the lenses this way.

    I don't think anyone will be able to give you accurate observations based on scans.

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