frustration with condensers

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Mike, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. Mike

    Mike Guest

    Any of you get frustrated with keeping spots, lines, and specs clear when
    using a condenser?

    I'm using an old Omega DII condenser for 4x5. The original glass wasn't
    perfect. I found replacements on eBay and ended up using one piece from
    each set after trial and error. However depending on the exact focus, I
    still get some lines/spots that show up. Most the time this isn't a
    problem unless the enlarger height and focus is at some exact spot.

    It might be time for me to plop down $300 for an Aristo V54 head....
    Mike, Jan 13, 2006
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  2. Mike

    UC Guest

    I use an Ilford anti-static cloth on the negatives, which cleans them
    up really well. I favour glassless carriers. If you're using a glass
    carrier, it's somehwat more difficult.

    Are you talking about spots from dust on the condensers? Yes, they must
    be kept clean, but at normal lens apertures any spots on the condensers
    are very far out of foucs.
    UC, Jan 13, 2006
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  3. Mike

    Mike Guest

    Not talking about spots on negatives
    Not for me. Lines and spots are in focus enough to really ruin prints.

    Come think of it, I think this has only been a problem for me when making
    a 2x enlargement of a 4x5 negative (8x10). Anything bigger and everything
    goes out of focus. Also when I raise the condensers to take the negative
    out, they go out of focus too. Maybe I can build some kind of spacer to
    keep the bottom condenser piece raised from the negative a bit?? Because
    right now, the bottom glass is very near the negative and this is where
    the focus is! Why did they do this?!
    Mike, Jan 13, 2006
  4. I never owned an Omega. I used a B-22 in a night-school class once, and that
    was junk. But I have seen D-Series enlargers from them in other people's
    darkrooms, and they seem to be well made. I use a Beseler 45-MCRX. I have
    more trouble keeping the negatives clean than the condensers. But a long
    time ago, I got a Zone VI high voltage electrozapper brush (forget its exact
    name), and that pretty much fixes that except for C-41 in 35mm format, where
    I seem to get dust in the emulsion, and nothing will fix that. I do not
    bother to process C-41 in 35mm format anymore, so that problem is fixed. A
    1-hour lab had the same trouble with C-41 in 35mm size, so I take the stuff
    to a real lab. Unfortunately there were just two around here, and both have
    closed, put out of business by digital cameras an picture cellphones. There
    is still a good lab in New Jersey somewhere, but it is too much trouble to
    go there.
    I have an Aristo D2-HI and a Zone VI 2-color head. They work, although the
    Zone VI is not really bright enough, and the regulator for the green tube is
    not well engineered (takes forever for the green tube to warm up enough to
    regulate, and there is interaction between the green and blue. I think they
    do not have heaters for the tubes or, if they do, the one for the green tube
    is not close enough. Also, I doubt they have color filters in front of the
    detectors for the tubes, and the green detector can see the blue tube.).

    But diffuse light sourse is not the miracle that Fred Picker had always
    claimed. I happen to use them because that way, a contact print and an
    enlargement print with the same contrast, and I value that. Another thing is
    that if you use a condenser head light source, you must develop the film to
    a lower contrast index, which would be no big deal, but it does reduce your
    effective film speed somewhat (usually around 1/3 stop).
    Jean-David Beyer, Jan 13, 2006
  5. Mike

    John Guest

    Or even just a regular Aristo head. Both work well with good, graded

    John, Jan 13, 2006
  6. Mike

    Mike Guest

    How do the old heads work with VC paper? I rely on VC paper to compensate
    for my "sloppy" work. In other words, my process isn't fine-tuned to
    create a negative that always prints right at Grade 2.

    What puzzles me is that the condenser glass is nearly flush with the
    negative. Hence the focus will capture any flaws in the glass. If the
    glass was even an inch away from the negative, this wouldn't be a problem.
    Mike, Jan 13, 2006
  7. To keep the size of the condensers manageable. The light
    from the condensers exits in a cone that comes to a 'focus'
    on the rear element of the enlarger lens.

    If the condensers were 1 inch above then they would have to be
    17% larger. To get the mass of the condenser one cubes the
    linear dimension: 1.17^3 = 1.6. In fact the whole lamphouse
    would be 1.6x as heavy (and at a minimum 60% more expensive)
    than one where the bottom condenser sits just above the negative.

    The 17% comes from ratioing the present distance from the
    condensers to the lens ~6 inches, by the new distance ~7".
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Jan 13, 2006
  8. It depends on just what color tube you have. The one in my D2-HI looks white
    to mey eye. I can use Kodak polycontrast acetate filters in the filter
    drawer of my 45MCRX, but I also put in a fairly strong yellow filter (#12, I
    think, but maybe #15, possibly just a CC60Y). I have not done this in a long
    time. Just one more thing to dust off before making a print, because it is
    so close to the negative.
    Even Ansel Adams was seen purching Agfa Brovira Grade 6 paper on at least
    one occasion. Maybe he could not develop the negative enough to get the
    contrast he wanted. Or maybe he was buying it for a friend. That I do not know.
    On the Beseler, the glass is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch away from the negative,
    so that smoothes it out somewhat. I do not notice any flaws in the glass,
    such as bubbles or striations visible to the naked eye. There are tiny chips
    at the edges, but this does not seem to matter.
    Jean-David Beyer, Jan 13, 2006
  9. Mike

    Peter Chant Guest

    Just the thought of Mr Adams furtively sneaking into the shop with wearing
    dark glasses...

    ....its for a friend.


    Peter Chant, Jan 13, 2006
  10. Mike

    John Guest

    I added a 20CC Yelow gel to my Aristo head as the light output made
    for extremely short exposures and the contrast was about G3.5. It
    subsequently lost about 1.5 stops of light and the contrast dropped to
    G3.0 which worked fine for my needs generally.
    FWIW, I've rarely printed on a G2 that I liked. I prefer the slightly
    better shadow contrasts produced on a G3.
    You probably have enough room to add a piece of diffusion glass such
    as white translucent acrylic or even simply a piece of etched glass
    such as the non-glare glass used in framing.
    If you have enother 1/8th inch you can add in a spacer of some sort.
    Are you running very high apertures ? I stopped doing this some time
    ago myself and have adjusted all of my enlargers to work at 2 stops
    down from wide open by simply changing the bulbs out for lower output


    P.S. Another "trick" I did with the D2V w/condensers was to polish the
    lamp-house. This effectively made the light being projected a little
    softer. I just used some sulfuric to remove the finish and then
    polished it with steel wool.
    John, Jan 14, 2006
  11. Mike

    dan.c.quinn Guest

    Glad you mentioned that. I've a B8. The condensers have
    not been checked for years. I also make low diameter enlargements.
    One trick would be to use a faster stop and thus a more shallow
    depth of field. Very short exposure times may result. Dan
    dan.c.quinn, Jan 14, 2006
  12. I forget what I was doing, but making 8x10 prints from 4x5 negatives was
    probably it. And exposure times were too short. I stuck a ND 1 (10x) filter
    in the filter drawer along with everything else, and that increased the
    exposure time enough for convenient processing. With my present Zone VI VC
    cold light head, I have the opposite problem: insufficient brightness, so I
    need to use f/5.6 to f/8 on my 180mm f/5.6 enlarging lens.
    Jean-David Beyer, Jan 14, 2006
  13. Perhaps you are using too small an aperture. This will increase the
    depth of focus making the lower surface of the condenser in focus.
    For small enlargements there is a need to do this because the
    brightness makes for short exposures. You might try to insert some
    filters into the filter draw to cut the light intensity, or try
    a dimmer enlarger bulb. Keep the f-stop at 5.6 or 8 and see if this
    Robert Feinman, Jan 14, 2006
  14. Mike

    Mike Guest

    I've got my 3rd set of 6.5" condensers on the way. These were described
    as "like new" condition. Sigh. We'll see...otherwise I'm plopping down
    the cash for a Cold Light!
    Mike, Jan 15, 2006
  15. Mike

    dan.c.quinn Guest

    My B-8 is a 6 x 9 version of your D. I've given that bottom
    surface some thought.
    One, as you've suggested raise the condensers and/or space
    the entire assembly up-wards some small fraction of an inch.
    Two, with-in the assembly, at bottom, place a disc of diffusing
    material. Some thin plastic or glass should do.
    Three, use a longer than normal focal length lens. I use a 105
    with less than 6 x 9 negatives to lift the enlarger higher
    on the girders; more head room and I think less
    depth of field at the negative stage. Dan
    dan.c.quinn, Jan 15, 2006
  16. Mike

    Lloyd Erlick Guest

    February 1, 2006, from Lloyd Erlick,

    When I did this I was amazed and delighted. I
    doubt you will regret the move. Even better
    would be the Aristo VC light and Metrolux
    controller. But the plain light is just fine.
    I predict you'll wonder why you didn't do it
    years ago.

    (I suppose I should declare my own biases --
    I'm a portraitist, so you could say I'm in
    love with skin tones and tonality and shadows
    full of meaning ... Maybe people who like
    harsh contrast and soot and chalk and Bill
    Brandt might like condensers better.
    Although, frankly, if I liked soot and chalk
    I might still prefer an Aristo light.)

    Lloyd Erlick Portraits, Toronto.
    voice: 416-686-0326
    Lloyd Erlick, Feb 1, 2006
  17. Mike

    Lloyd Erlick Guest

    February 1, 2006, from Lloyd Erlick,

    Although the discussion is about condensers
    rather than negatives or carriers, I have to
    remark about glass negative carriers.

    For many years (many) I used glassless
    carriers. My reason was the supposed ease of
    operation. Laziness doesn't really even
    qualify as a reason, because I had never
    tried glass carriers so I could not say which
    was easier or 'lazier'.

    Well, after I finally slipped the glass
    inserts into my negative carrier and made
    some prints, I realized the prints were
    better. Glass negative carriers help one make
    better prints. Period. The reason is negative
    flatness. The results are plainly visible in
    prints; the corners are noticeably sharper
    when glass a carrier is used. It saddens me
    to say this, because I have years of prints
    made glasses. But it is true.

    It is accurate to say my reluctance to try
    the glass carrier was based on laziness. I
    believed the extra four surfaces would be a
    nightmare of dust and specks and print

    But no nightmare ensued when I finally tried
    glass. I made sure the glass inserts were
    clean before I put them in. One was
    anti-Newton ring glass, and both were brand
    new, so pretty clean. In any case, cleaning
    them was no problem, and took only a moment.
    Since they are just glass, cleaning in
    distilled water would be simple where
    necessary. The glasses are plain flat
    surfaces, so they're far easier and quicker
    than cleaning a lens, at any rate, although
    even that is hardly an onerous task. And like
    a lens -- especially a nice house-trained
    enlarger lens -- it will stay clean. Yes we
    can mess it up, but how often does that
    happen, even for slobs? I find cleaning the
    glass carrier is extremely easy with one of
    those cloths they include with a pair of
    eyeglasses, and a bit of breath on the glass.
    No spit, please.

    So the glass negative carrier is really
    extremely little more work than glassless,
    but it has a definite payoff in print

    We have Bob Saloman to thank for persisting
    in pushing the notion of glass negative
    carriers. I read his exhortations a long time
    before I tried.

    Lloyd Erlick Portraits, Toronto.
    voice: 416-686-0326
    Lloyd Erlick, Feb 1, 2006
  18. Mike

    Lloyd Erlick Guest

    February 1, 2006, from Lloyd Erlick,

    When I tried the black and white C-41 films,
    I found the same problem. I never processed
    them myself, but I could not find a lab that
    could give me negs free of specks when
    enlarged to 16x20. The negs always looked
    fine to the eye, but enlargements always
    showed specks. I solved my problem the same
    way you did.

    Lloyd Erlick Portraits, Toronto.
    voice: 416-686-0326
    Lloyd Erlick, Feb 1, 2006
  19. Mike

    John Guest

    I guess you don't have much of a Goth clientele ;>)

    John - Photographer & Webmaster -
    John, Feb 4, 2006
  20. Mike

    UC Guest

    This shows that you're an absolute moron. Condensers do not give 'soot
    and chalk', any more than any other system. You simply have to develop
    your film properly, and theat means LESS than the times given by the
    idiotic film manufacturers.
    UC, Feb 4, 2006
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