Best enlarger for TMX100 based printsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread
I am thinking about setting up a black and white darkroom in my bathroom or spare bedroom, and have no desire to print color. Since eventually I will be forced into a digital darkroom (as we all will), I want to be cautious about my purchases.
I primarily shoot TMX100 developed in TMAX. I think my negatives are fine-grain and have wide latitude in terms of density. My negatives come pretty close to matching the tonal range that I desire to print. I realize that a print cannot have the same tonal range as the negative (without a whole lot of burning/dodging), but want an enlarger system that will give me the most printing latitude to handle my negatives.
I am having difficulty in selecting a type of light head. I can see the benefits and drawbacks of both condenser and diffuser heads, but it is hard to quantify the "sharpness" and "increase in contrast" provided by condensers without having experience with both. I expect that most of my prints will be 5x7, with some 8x10's. Do you think that, given the characteristics of my negatives, and my enlargement expectations, I will be able to notice any appreciable difference between the two types of heads?
Does anyone have experience with the Saunders/LPL 670CXL, or LPL enlargers in general? I am leaning towards it because it is: 1) Compact. 2) A triple condenser, so it should make pretty “snappy” prints. 3) The above-optical filter drawer can be used to make contrast adjustments (with filters) or can be loaded with a homemade diffuser to reduce the susceptibility to scratches and dust. 4) Later on, I can add the dichroic or VCCE lighthouse onto the same chassis, if I find it really necessary.
If I won’t be able to see a noticeable difference in sharpness/crispness between the 670CXL and 670MXL, I may decide on the MXL for increased scratch/dust isolation and easier VC capabilities.
-- Marcus DiBuduo (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 23, 2002
The condenser v. diffuser debate has gone on for years and will continue indefinitely. At least, these days, there seems to be general acceptance of the notion that, in terms of final print quality, there is little if any difference between cold light and any other type of diffused source. But the only real answer to the larger question is that you have to determine for yourself which source gives you the type of print you're happy with. Personally, I've never been happy with the prints I've made on condenser enlargers (I also shoot TMax 100 almost exclusively, processed in TMax RS). I'm much more comfortable with a diffuse source. I've used a Zone VI cold light in a D-2, and am now using an Ilford constant exposure system in a D-5XL and can't tell any difference except that I have a wider range of contrast with the new set-up, and the relatively constant exposure from grade to grade is a real advantage for me in the way I work. On the other hand, I know many photographers who love condenser light and would simply not be satisfied with a diffuse source. I don't think they're wrong, I just think they have a different aesthetic from me, or perhaps their methods are such that they can achieve on a condenser what I can achieve only on a diffuse enlarger. So I'd say that, before you invest in an expensive enlarger, you should make a real effort to find other darkrooms to use where you can work with both light sources. Only then will you be able to make an intelligent decision based on your personal aesthetic.
-- Randy Bradbury (email@example.com), April 23, 2002.
I agree with Randy, but I'm on the other side of the discussion. I have found that you need a slightly lower contrast negative with a condenser system. I overexpose my negatives & underdevelop them by 20%. I am very happy with the results usually printing through a #2 or #2 1/2 Ilford filter. However, If I was buying an enlarger today I would go with a "Dichroic Head" or a VC head. I used a cold light head many years ago and found them problematic with Variable Contrast papers. I understand that this problem is now solved but I would opt for the "Dichroic" head for the ability to dial in stepless contrast control. Of course if you plan on using graded papers the problem is moot.
-- Robert Orofino (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 23, 2002.
This topic will certainly never be exhausted! Remember that the amount of diffusion is a continuum, and depends on the design of the enlarger. Not all condenser enlargers are created equal and they range from point source (very rare) to pretty flat. Diffusion enlargers are, well, diffuse. The type of source is more important for VC papers, and remember that VC papers are designed and optimized for filtered incandescent light. It's usually a struggle to get cold light heads to behave properly, though it can be done. IMHO, TMX negatives are a special case, requiring just the right setup and a high degree of skill to get good results. I'd agree you should find a darkroom or darkrooms where you can experiment with various different enlargers. And digital isn't going to force me anywhere!
-- Conrad Hoffman (email@example.com), April 23, 2002.
We are all going to be forced into a digital darkroom.....pure bullshit!! If you think that way, forget the enlarger and worry about what computer, scanner, and printer to buy.
-- Don Sparks (Harleyman7@aol.com), April 24, 2002.
I agree - no way that the _whole_ world will go digital, at least not for the next decade or maybe 2. There is no substitute for 'analog' photo processes, not yet anyway. I think that will even be true after (perish the thought) 'analog' processes are no longer available. Unfortunately, the high-skill hobbyist and the artist, being small parts of the overall photo market, will see the cost of our gear get higher and higher as the consumers and deadline-oriented pros choose more automation and electronics. Eventually, analog will go away. Your old Speed Graphic, Rollei and F2 will be relegated to the dust- bin of history. But hopefully that's a ways away yet.
As for enlargers, yes try several. As well as papers, developers, etc. B&W darkroom techniques have so many degrees of freedom you will never exhaust them all, nor will you ever find the 'perfect' equipment or technique. But then, that's part of the fun, isn't it?
-- Bill Dickerson (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 06, 2002.
Every photography thread eventually turns into a "chemical versus digital" debate, so let me allow this one it's destiny. When I said that eventually I will be forced into a digial darkroom, I did not imply that I would be throwing away my chems next year. I hope to have a good 50+ years of my life, and I believe that digital imaging (not digital photography), will come a long way by the time I am done here. I believe that DI is very close to matching the quality (resolution and tonal range) of standard 35mm, and within 3 years will be equal.
I also believe that chemical photography is very different from DI. I enjoy CP as a hobby, creative process, past time, etc.., which is why I bought a film camera. Digital will, at some time in my life, match the quality of chemical (if you don't believe that, I am sorry, but it is true). But when it comes down to it, I enjoy the proecess of using chems, and refuse to let one more thing become digitized... for me. Eventually though, I forsee a future when chem's for hobbiest's will no longer be readily accessible. At this time, I may need to switch to DI.
-- Marcus DiBuduo (email@example.com), May 06, 2002.
I would definetly look for something with a cold head not only for the contrast factor but for the dust and scratch factor also. I switched to large format some time ago but remember what a pain it was to continuely spot the prints. As to the OTHER debate what radicals on both sides fail to recognize is that photography is an artistic medium so whether you are making Ziatypes from an 11X14 negative as a fine art print or silver prints from a 35mmm neg or doing Daliesque landscapes via the digital darkroom its all a form of personal expression. Artists are still painting with oils and watercolors a medium that is at least 500 yrs old so my big question is where's the BEEF. It is unfortunate that each new thing that comes along causes a polarization of forces rather than uniting themn in a common goal. The resurgence of alt- process stuff should be ample evidence that the chemical process is here with us unitl most of us participatine in this discussion are dead!Did I mention pinhole? So like I said where's the BEEF.
-- Ronald LaMarsh (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 07, 2002.