Enlarger types

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Paul Giverin, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    For the past year I've been using a Durst M370 B&W enlarger which I
    believe is the condenser type and it seems to work well for me. Recently
    I came by a Fujimotor colour enlarger which I believe is the diffuser
    type. I've not got around to trying it out yet.

    What I'd like to know is:- what is the difference between the two types
    in terms of print quality? Is one better than the other?

    Sorry for posting a photographic question here. I'll try not to do it
    again ;)
    Paul Giverin, Feb 22, 2010
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  2. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    Thanks for that Trev.

    You say condenser types have higher contrast. Can't you just get round
    that on the diffuser types by dialling in more contrast using the colour
    adjusters. That way you get the contrast and the better light spread.

    I suspect you are going to tell me that its not as simple as that.
    Paul Giverin, Feb 22, 2010
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  3. the condensor gathers the light and effectively 'concentrates' it into a
    single column of focussed light which is transmitted through the neg.

    The diffuser supplies a source of, well diffuse light rather than
    focussed light.

    What difference does it make? Ultimate image quality will always be
    higher with a condensor enlarger but will show every spec of dust
    whereas the diffuser will be more forgiving as the light is not focussed.

    There can be issues with getting even coverage with condensor enlargers
    - especially cheap ones. A good medium or large format enlarger would
    supply you with interchangeable condensors to use for various film
    formats to keep exposure times down.

    Would you see the difference? Well hopefully you would see a difference
    if you had identical prints from each enlarger and compared them side
    by side. Personally I would always go for a well made diffuser with the
    absolute best quality lens I could buy.

    Dudley Simons, Feb 23, 2010
  4. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    That's a very good explanation, far more accurate and succinct than I
    could hope to manage.

    I think the condenser arrangement was essential in the days of dim,
    low wattage bulbs. The diffusion arrangement was made viable by the
    availability of very bright halogen bulbs, and it was also essential
    for the use of dichroic colour heads that are also used (or adapted)
    for monochrome printing with multigrade paper.

    The very best diffusion enlargers now almost match the outstanding
    sharpness of the best condenser enlargers, especially when used with a
    top quality enlarging lens. But they are a lot more forgiving of
    blemishes and especially dust on the negatives.

    I know several photographers who produce very impressive "fine art"
    black and white prints that sell at high prices. Their results are
    top quality. Yet none of them uses a condenser enlarger. They all
    use top quality diffusion enlargers with top quality lenses.

    I use a Leica V35 with the matching Ilford black and white head. On
    their recommendation I have replaced the excellent Leica Focotar 40mm
    f/2.8 lens with a Schneider APO 40mm f/2.8 that was specially made for
    V35 users who wanted something even better. It offers biting
    sharpness across the frame, even at full aperture. I very much doubt
    that you could get sharper prints with a condenser enlarger.

    There's only one problem. My abilities with a camera and this
    enlarger fall far short of what the camera/lens and enlarger/lens
    combinations can achieve. So I am painfully aware that any
    deficiencies in the results are 100% down to me. :-(

    To try to answer Paul's question ... you have a very good enlarger.
    Buy the best lens that you can reasonably afford and make sure that
    you have the correct condenser for the negative format you are using.
    Then rest assured that you have the equipment you need to produce
    prints of excellent quality, and enjoy yourself!
    Bruce, Feb 23, 2010
  5. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    Thanks to Dudley and Bruce for the explanation. I did find a good link
    which explained the issues mentioned above.


    It got rather heavy in places and actually recommended the condenser but
    its obviously quite a contentious matter and I suppose it comes down to
    personal preference.

    I suppose I'm going to have to try them both side by side with the same
    neg and compare the results. As for the lens, I've got a 50mm Nikkor F4.
    I can't really justify upgrading at the moment because its my experience
    that's the limiting factor and not my equipment ;)
    Paul Giverin, Feb 26, 2010
  6. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    Thanks Rog. I have subscribed but it seems a very low traffic group.
    Last post seems to have been on 17th Jan.
    Paul Giverin, Feb 26, 2010
  7. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    That lens will be more than good enough. Just make sure to stop it
    down two stops (to f/8) which will give optimal performance.
    Bruce, Feb 26, 2010
  8. Thanks for the reference. I was going to give up on it (after a quick
    scan through it) because it didn't mention the importance of positioning
    the light source relative to the condenser/lens set up. But eventually
    it got round to it.

    Although he made a lot of dust issues (reasonably) - I don't think he
    made enough of uniformity of lighting. A compromise system is to have a
    fresnel condenser behind a diffuser - that gives some directionality to
    the diffused light.
    Best of luck! I have to say that it's one of the compensations of
    digital not to have to worry about darkroom dust! ;-)

    Michael J Davis, Feb 26, 2010
  9. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    You obviously haven't ever had to clean a digital camera's sensor. ;-)
    Bruce, Feb 26, 2010
  10. LOL! Not so far. I just try to be careful and use a blower cautiously!!

    But I was horrified when in the 1990's I bought a film scanner to go
    digital. I thought I'd had it easy in the darkroom!!

    Michael J Davis


    Photography takes an instant out of time,
    altering life by holding it still. - Dorothea Lange
    Michael J Davis, Feb 26, 2010
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