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  1. #1

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    Any *real* gain of a condenser head?

    I have two 4x5 Durst Laborator 1000 enlargers, both with color diffusion heads. 90% of what I print is B&W with some color here and there. In reality would I notice any difference in print quality by adding a condenser enlarger into the darkroom? I would ideally just like to pick up a condenser head for my other enlarger, but they are next to impossible to find.

    I hear both sides, one saying diffusion enlargers are too soft for B/W and other other saying, it's nothing worry about, just go ahead and use it.

  2. #2
    cliveh's Avatar
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    I have 2 enlargers in my darkroom, a De Vere 504 with dichromatic head and a Durst Graduate condenser enlarger. Although both have their own special qualities, I probably use the Durst more often. I know the argument about dust with a condenser, but if you keep your negs clean, the snap of a print made with a condenser is one I prefer and a much simpler print to make (in my mind that is).

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

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  3. #3
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shootar401 View Post
    . In reality would I notice any difference in print quality by adding a condenser enlarger into the darkroom? I would ideally just like to pick up a condenser head for my other enlarger,
    "Quality"? That's subjective. They are a bit different, but I would stop short of saying one was better than the other. I, too, have a pair of enlargers (Beselers) one with the color head, and one condenser. I could make prints of the same negative, and you would not be able to tell me with certainty which was which. I'm not saying they would be exactly the same, but it's not that obvious.

    Still, if you ever come across a condenser head for your enlarger at a price good to you, I would say: get it. It's all subjective, after all.

  4. #4
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shootar401 View Post
    would I notice any difference in print quality by adding a condenser enlarger into the darkroom?
    The condenser heads are more efficient. More light per wattage. The drawback is that dust on the negative can be more prominent and the heads almost never have adjustable filtration.

  5. #5

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    In my experience a condenser is sharper & livelier than a full diffusion head, but I use a Leitz 1c for 35mm , which is semi-diffused.

  6. #6
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    I prefer diffusion enlargers. Depending on how your film is processed, I think highlights block up faster. There's more of a chance of "soot and chalk" prints. I don't know if other APUGers experience the same.
    "Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
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  7. #7
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    In the past I had always used condensers for two reasons: I was printing black & white and I was using a darkroom that I did not own. When I decided to set up a darkroom I had already printed color at Kodak using their diffusion heads. I first high quality used enlarger was the same type as I had used at Kodak. I asked the seller and he told me that the dichroic heads would make great black & white prints, but I might see some slight softness. Once I had it set up and started using it, I was happy with the black & white prints. I would not hesitate to chose a diffusion head for both color and black & white. I do not have color printing experience with condensers, but I do remember the dust concerns.
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

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  8. #8
    JLP
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    I have always printed with condenser heads and have developed my negatives accordingly but it does happen that a negative is to difficult to print with a condenser head so having both is a nice option.
    Just last week I received a new old stock Dichro S head for my 23C II and it can actually be used with both the original condenser and the diffusion chamber that comes with the head.
    It takes about 5 minutes at most to switch.
    An option available if you only want to have one enlarger.
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  9. #9

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    Dear Shootar401,

    "In reality would I notice any difference in print quality...?"

    I have used both extensively and the slight difference in contrast between the two is dwarfed by all the other variables that we deal with. Personally, I would spend very little money converting from either system unless I was printing enough color for the convenience to make a difference. Of course having both types in the same darkroom looks very cool.

    Neal Wydra

  10. #10
    AgX
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Brown View Post
    I, too, have a pair of enlargers (Beselers) one with the color head, and one condenser.
    I assume the Beseler condenser head has less a pointlight sourse than the Durst L 1000.

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