Omega or Zone VI
For VC black and white.
What do people recommend as a preferred enlarger?
Ease of use?
Quality of work?
I have experience with the Zone VI. The lightsource is less bright than others on the market and long exposures are boring to me. I ended up selling it. I bought a Saunders LPL 4550 xlg with the VCCE head. It is supurb. It gives dial-in control over your contrast and this control is exposure matched (your exposure does not change with contrast adjustments.) Bruce Barnbaum uses this enlarger (six of them, I believe) although he prefers the dichro color head. John Sexton has 4 of these in his darkroom with the VCCE head. If I had it to do over again, I would buy this unit without hesitation.
A lot depends, I think, on what type of head you want. Personally, I prefer the additional sharpness and contrast of a condenser enlarger over cold-light or dichroic heads. I use an old Omega D2V that has served me well for close to 40 years. If I were to buy new today, I think I'd lean toward the Saunders - unless I won the lottery and could afford an 8x10 Durst.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
Well, why not both. I have an Omega D2 (as opposed to DII) that was rebuilt (re-chromed, etc, etc) that I picked up from someone leaving LF for $150. It came with a nice Rodenstock 135 and also a Wollensak 162. I used it stock for about 6 months and then picked up a Zone VI VCL head for it. I VERY much like this head. The dial box is a bit less direct than the Aristo in that the various grades are not preprogrammed but I have actually found this to be a feature. I use the D2 mainly for 4x5 and some 6x7.
Between the head and the enlarger and two lenses I have less than $1k in this setup. I do have a Beseler 23C that I've bought twice and sold once in the past 20 years. It uses the condenser setup and serves my 35, 6x6, and sometimes 6x7 needs.
As with Ralph I prefer condensor enlarger for the bulk of my work, When I need to print skintone smooth I switch to the diffusion enlarger .
My needs for ease of use and maintenace I find the Omega brand very versitile in negative stages, lens mounts and general alignment.
Regarding quality issues, The best lens you can afford is where it is at.
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I really don't want to start a condenser/diffusion thread. I wonder, though, if this isn't very dependent upon format. I print 4X5 and make from 10 to 30 prints of a negative. I also dislike long exposures so coldlight heads are out. This leaves condensor or diffusion heads. Both carry enough heat where negative pop becomes a problem on multiple print sessions. This forces a glass carrier. I find it impossible to keep 6 surfaces dust free and so the forgiveness I get from the diffusion enlarger lures me in that direction.
Just thinking through how I got to where I am.....
I too struggle with cleaning the glass, I print cibachromes as well , dust is rendered black in the print so it is imperative to have a clean neg stage.
A negative will pop whether it is condensor or diffusion light. There are tricks to reduce the likely hood of this but I have resigned myself to use glass as I love sharp edge to edge prints.
If sharpness is not of the most critical issue in your prints then by all means take the route of least resistance and do not use glass.
the type of enlarger does not matter on this issue.
On a positive side, I do find that the thicker base of 4x5 helps, I do not find that the negative pops as much and the overall magnification is less therefore allowing one to use a glassless carrier.
I find with medium format the film is thinner and pops easier.
With 35mm the magnification is usually much greator and less for giving.
Therefore the need for glass in these two sizes (I find) is imperative.
If you are doing multiple prints with no glass I think you would need to focus for each print.
If you preheat the negative say 30-40 seconds you usually don't have a need to refocus. By usually, I mean that I never have. First I run the enlarger for a minute and then focus. Then after processsing each print, I heat it up for 30 seconds or so and then make the exposure. If you use the metronome method, this can be integrated with your work flow. If you use the timer, just set it for x seconds, warm the negarive, when it turns off, load the paper and make the exposure.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
I like my exposures in the 40 second range and I like the way that the cold light (and diffusion head) acts with dust. Since I switched to the Zone VI VCL my dust problems have been virtually eliminated. I stillm have the d2 condenser head with the 4x5 condensers as well if I choose to go back to it.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Be honest now - what is the longest time it has taken you to mount a neg in a glass carrier? I have several negatives having large areas of open sky that have take me 45 minutes (not counting breaks to go beat my head against the wall)....
Even with all of the forgiveness of a diffusion head. I can't imagine using a condensor system. I guess you would become intimately familiar with spotting dyes. Digital does have it's advantages....... (oops)
I will be honest with you, sometimes I walk away and re-wash the neg, sometimes I get someone else to give it a go. (we are talking cibachrome) and yes I am an excellent spotter. I learned in 1973 from Don Dunsmore how to spot while I was at college and I have owned and frequently use a Windsor Newton #2 .
I print a large majority of my work and others with 35mm and medium format negatives. There is a huge difference in sharpness , between using glass or not using glass. Some workers confince themselves that there is not as they do not like the cleaning process and as well have never learned how to spot a print.
If you are using 4x5 primaraly, as I stated earlier I think you should be ok without glass as the film is thicker and more stable, As well I would use JMdavis technique of heating the neg up . It sounds like a very workable method for 4x5.
Now to be really honest, I cannot imagine how a worker would choose a diffusion head over a condensor head, In fact I am buying a point light source
(ooch) to get even more dust into the mix.