Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Robert James View Post
PKM, there is a guy that I have seen post on LFF that makes an LED variable contrast head. I believe he just started making them. If you are really tied to that enlarger maybe it would be a good solution for you. Frankly in the long term your best bet would be to get a Saunders/Omega/LPL VCCE enlarger. If you aren't going to print color, they are just sooooo nice to use. The only other enlargers (for 4x5) I think I would consider would be the Durst 1200 or maybe a Kienzle, but they are really expensive. Durst's can still be had cheap(ish). Using filters below the lens is also a good plan and better than using a color head. VC filters are speed matched (at least Ilford's are) so until you get to grade 4 the exposure remains the same. I think 4 through 5 are one stop slower. It could be grade 3 though. My memory is foggy on that.

To answer the question "why" use a VCCE head, the answer is in the name itself. "Variable Contrast, Constant Exposure." The head provides constant exposure values throughout the range of a paper. This is very handy while printing. A color head will land you all over the place exposure wise. When I used a color head I would always split print. One exposure through max magenta and one exposure through max yellow. That simplified things, but it was a little slow turning two knobs all the time, especially for small proof prints when one exposure would be much better and faster.

Edit- PKM I forgot to add that your Omega film holders will fit straight into the Saunders, although I have an Omega glass holder that is too thick/screws stick out too far.
I use VCCE especially the Ilford 500 system because I usually lay very improvised different contrast grays on the image. I usually first print the image on grade 4, and then expose various parts in grade 4.5 and 5. Or some times to burn in the hight lights I simply expose it through high power lamps by grade 3-4. I use grade 5 so much that when I printed for my Berlin exhibition I printed 24 50x60 prints and burnt almost 10 lamps in four days. Each lamp won't survive more than 45 minutes when I burn in the print. No kidding. I improvise a lot when I do dodge and burn. The finished images look very full because they are based on grade 3 or grade 4, but there are various parts so violent and they are under grade 5. I fully understands how important VCCE is...