Developing for the enlarger

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negativefunk

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Hi all,

I am currently printing using a condenser head, but I also have a colour one that is serviceable now and I might switch to that - if not else hoping to minimise dust issues.
It should be noted that I am a long way from achieving good results and I am working on my workflow.

With the condensers I find it hard to control contrast. I very often end up printing at grade 0-to-2. Practically never above that save very few exception (and I think I like contrasty stuff).

Do you develop your negatives according to your enlarger? What difference should I expect between using condensers vs diffusers? Can it be quantified in contrast grades, roughly?

And if that's the case, is it really useful to have different heads, beside recovering\printing outliers (such as exceptionally flat negatives\botched exposures..)?

Thanks!
 

xkaes

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Yes, different heads can be useful. As you mentioned diffusion heads reduce the appearance of dust & scratches. And diffusion heads reduces contrast by about one grade. So if you like higher contrast, a diffusion head might not help much -- you could achieve the same result with a lower grade filter.

Also MOST condenser enlargers have more light fall-off than diffusion heads -- but that might not be important to you.
 

Nicholas Lindan

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The difference between a diffusion and a condenser enlarger is a bit more than 1/2 a grade. Most condenser enlargers are properly diffusion/condenser where the diffuse surface of the enlarger's light bulb is imaged through the negative and on to the back surface of the enlarger lens. Point-source condenser only enlargers are rare and are, in general, a real PITA to use.

I now use a Beseler 45 with a condenser head. I generally reduce development time and increase exposure to get a lower contrast negative. Kodak's ASA and development times are for diffusion printing and I find the resulting negatives to be a bit too contrasty. I aim to print on grade 2 1/2 or 3 using Ilford's variable contrast papers.

If I were printing with a diffusion/color-head/VC-head enlarger I would probably use Kodak's exposure and development recommendations.

Either enlarger can produce nearly identical prints. I have old prints made with a diffusion enlarger and new prints made with a condenser head and I can't see much of any difference - any changes are due to changes in papers over the years.
 
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negativefunk

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Thanks both. I was sort of hoping the difference to be wider in order to have more leeway, if it makes sense.
 

AgX

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Point-source condenser only enlargers are rare and are, in general, a real PITA to use.

Because the lamp-condensor or condensor-lamp distance has to be adjisted at every change of enlarging scale.

(Marks at the collumn for the scale and respective marks at that adjusting facility should reduce the hassle.)
 

Rick A

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Hi all,

I am currently printing using a condenser head, but I also have a colour one that is serviceable now and I might switch to that - if not else hoping to minimise dust issues.
It should be noted that I am a long way from achieving good results and I am working on my workflow.

With the condensers I find it hard to control contrast. I very often end up printing at grade 0-to-2. Practically never above that save very few exception (and I think I like contrasty stuff).

Do you develop your negatives according to your enlarger? What difference should I expect between using condensers vs diffusers? Can it be quantified in contrast grades, roughly?

And if that's the case, is it really useful to have different heads, beside recovering\printing outliers (such as exceptionally flat negatives\botched exposures..)?

Thanks!

In the old Kodak Darkroom Data Guides there was a development wheel to help ascertain developing time for diffusion or condenser enlargers. You develop longer for diffusion and less time for condenser, as length of development controls contrast. I have both types of enlargers and develop accordingly. I also do a good bit of alternate printing methods and develop even longer for the contrast needed for salted paper POP and cyanotype. Standard contrast suitable for grade 2 or 3 works for carbon transfer prints. You will have to do some testing to see what development time best suits your personal taste for ideal contrast for your printing method and equipment. This becomes easier to deal with if you use large format and shoot individual negatives rather than roll film. The decision is made at the time of exposure depending on lighting situation whether to expand or compress contrast to account for subject brightness.
 
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negativefunk

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Thanks Rick, that's more or less the direction I am trying to take. I don't shoot LF but with medium format I tend to shoot a whole roll in similar lighting condition (and if I don't finish it in one session, i tend to fill it up with cats and family)
 

john_s

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Way back in the previous century I changed from a condenser to cold light head. My prints improved dramatically. But it was not the inherent superiority of one head over the other, it was because my negatives were too contrasty (manufacturers' film speed and development recommendations). Now even with my cold light head I prefer to expose film more and develop to a lower contrast. It took me a long time to work that out, in the days before the internet.
 

M Carter

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This is just one-guy's solution (and a guy not interested in finding a densitometer at that).

Test test test.

I set up a still life and test any combination of film+developer I'm interested in. I meter the still life with a spot meter, and shoot a couple ISOs if I'm using something like Rodinal - any developer that I find to be weak in box speed. Rodinal 1+50 is consistently around a half-stop more exposure for me (IE, I rate Acros 100 at 80).

I take my best shot at development times, and I dry the negs with a hair dryer (it's just a test) and go right to testing. I set the enlarger for #2.5, frame and focus, and then I take a scrap of the leader at those enlarger settings, and do a strip test. I find the maximum black time for the leader, which is the maximum shadow detail the film can produce. On that strip test (it's just grays and blacks, just the leader or the edge of 4x5 film), I look for the time I can just see a change from almost black to black. I return the neg, and that's my exposure time.

I do test prints of each ISO, an find the ISO that works for me. If I have highlights from detail, to texture, to pure white, my dev. time is good. If not, I develop more tests with different dev. times, and use the exact same printing setup.

I've been doing a LOT of emulsion work, it's fixed grade, so I've done tests that match the grade of the emulsion. It all works like gangbusters for me, it's "real world" vs. charts & graph paper. Just one path, but I keep a book of test prints and I know how much time to move highlights around a half stop or so. Here's one of those tests below.

(Desktop printer-scanner scan of a print, but...) in the final print I can tell her dark sweater is a knit, and I have texture up to F22 (styrofoam block). It's a little "flat", but it should be - I have all the tones I might want, and I can toss some as I dial in contrast. The half-stop blocks in the test card are extremely handy, if two of them look about the same at the high end, I know how many half-stops over or under developed I am. I just adopted rotary processing for 4x5 and dialed that all in, the same way. Simple and effective, and you can learn a lot in single afternoon by chopping up a roll of 35mm/120, or using a few sheets of 4x5.

6HGPC7l.jpg
 

Paul Howell

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I find that I can adjust with filters or in the old days with a moderate change in paper grades, today I print mostly with condenser heads, I do have a color head and a very old Federal enlarger that is a diffusion type which I set up occasion. Unless I'm in zone frame of mind and shoot very shorts rolls of 35mm I expose for zone III shadows and VII highlight and use MC filters or split grade printing to adjust the highlights as needed.
 

Sirius Glass

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I have a condenser color head. For years I used the filters to get the paper grades setting the wheels carefully. Now I almost always do split grade printing with the strongest magenta and strongest yellow.
 
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negativefunk

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Thanks all, lots to go through here!

John - I think that's the general direction I will end up taking. Really need to put the colour head to use to decide what should be my standard setup and knock out a variable from the process.

Sirius - I was reading the split-grade printing thread in the forum and I found it very interesting, but I was under the impression that it's still one step ahead of where I am now. It's something I would like to get to, though, as I feel I am largely guessing print contrast right now.

Carter - thanks a lot for this, I really like the visual approach you suggest and I think I saw some of your tests quite some time ago in a thread I cannot seem to be able to retrieve. I have been thinking of some testing to do to get more consistency in the process and I read elsewhere of something simpler/more intuitive for me to use as a starting point - I have just been lazy so far. I am aware I may lack some discipline to test as extensively as you did. I hope the below makes some sense!

I tend to use only 3 different films (hp5 and fp4 are 90% of what I shoot - Acros the other 10%), and - at least right now, I always use the same developer for each film at the same dilution (unless i mess up, which happens). I now think that I should focus on a single enlarging system while learning so that's another variables off.

So I need to determine the ISO to expose the film and development times - consider that I classify my 120 rolls according to the general scene contrast in a scale of 5

I would shoot three scenes classified as contrast 1 - 3 - 5 on my arbitrary scale on a few different rolls, exposing for the shadow and applying some serious bracketing. The rolls are then to be developed with different times - so far the direction with the condenser head points toward a reduction of the development time. I don't really know how much to reduce development time on each roll (nor how many rolls to shoot), but I read of "outflanking" here so maybe I shouldn't be shy and go for 25% less each roll.

From the negatives I should be able to see which ones hold more detail and "print better/easier" in my chain. I would hopefully end up with approximated times for steps 1-3-5 which would be good.

Ideally this should be repeated at different sensibility settings, but I can start at nominal ISO and, if I am getting this right, an indication could already jump out from the bracketed exposures themselves.

If not else I used these considerations as an excuse to get a spot meter :smile:
 

M-88

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Unfortunately I'm relatively new and inexperienced with darkroom printing, so there's not much I can tell, but I can answer this question:
Do you develop your negatives according to your enlarger?
I try to shoot and develop my film ao that the negatives are well exposed and well developed so that I end up with negatives of proper density. This saves me from a lot of burn/dodge/masking, which in turn, saves me some paper and money, and an awful lot of time. Anything else can be rectified/modified via multicontrast filters.
 

flavio81

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Do you develop your negatives according to your enlarger? What difference should I expect between using condensers vs diffusers? Can it be quantified in contrast grades, roughly?

And if that's the case, is it really useful to have different heads, beside recovering\printing outliers (such as exceptionally flat negatives\botched exposures..)?

In the past this was the only way to develop...

You will find in some film datasheets suggestions for development for condenser vs diffuser enlargers. Condenser enlargers are supposed to produce contrastier results by design.

I had a lab that produced very good B/W prints. I asked the lab to see the enlarger, it was a Durst with a color head (diffusion lighting).

So I got myself one.
 

Sirius Glass

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Unfortunately I'm relatively new and inexperienced with darkroom printing, so there's not much I can tell, but I can answer this question:

I try to shoot and develop my film ao that the negatives are well exposed and well developed so that I end up with negatives of proper density. This saves me from a lot of burn/dodge/masking, which in turn, saves me some paper and money, and an awful lot of time. Anything else can be rectified/modified via multicontrast filters.

I agree. It is simple, why make much ado about nothing?
 
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negativefunk

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Perhaps one has to train oneself to the point of noting that there was nothing so complex after all :smile:

"Properly developed" is still an elusive quality to me, i thought they generally were ok until i brought them under the enlarger.
 

Sirius Glass

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Perhaps one has to train oneself to the point of noting that there was nothing so complex after all :smile:

"Properly developed" is still an elusive quality to me, i thought they generally were ok until i brought them under the enlarger.

It works much better if you bring your negatives to the location for the negative tray rather than place them under the enlarger. :wondering:
 
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negativefunk

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I should have specified that I enjoy stacking enlargers on top of each other
 

MattKing

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Do you develop your negatives according to your enlarger?

Yes, but it is probably better to say that I develop my negatives so that they are, as much as practical, mostly straightforward to print.
And the enlarger has a role in that.
But it isn't an overwhelming role.
If most of your prints are at grade 2, than you are doing fine.
If most of your prints are at grades 0 through 1, you are limiting your options unnecessarily. And you are also leaving yourself vulnerable to some deficiencies (essentially a flattish spot in the curve) built in to some variable contrast papers when used with lower contrast filter settings.
FWIW, by preference I've been printing on my own enlarger with colour heads or variable contrast heads for several years now - meaning a diffusion source. But when using my Darkroom Group darkroom, I have the choice of condenser heads, cold light heads, variable contrast heads and colour heads, and most of my negs can be used with any of them.
 

tomatojoe

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Perhaps one has to train oneself to the point of noting that there was nothing so complex after all :smile:

"Properly developed" is still an elusive quality to me, i thought they generally were ok until i brought them under the enlarger.
There is no such thing, Properly developed means you were able to make a photograph from it. Rumor has it that KODAK used to print someplace if you used a diffusion or cold light head to develop your film more.
 

Heath Moore

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what is the difference between the "old school" cold light source diffusion head and the modern diffusion light source with those dichroic filters for adjusting the contrast of thelight source. Currently I'm happy using the condenser head and VC filters. Nothing wrong with touching up dust spots with a good brush on a final print. Reluctant to try the aristo cold light head for my D2V because my understanding is that they were meant for graded, not variable contrast filters. So I'm just at a quandary because when people mention diffusion light sources its generally the modern ones. Can anyone with knowledge suggest how to go about trying out my cold light source without setting myself up for disappointment? Tall order I know but I'm a patient man.
 

flavio81

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Tetenal developers guide, PDF;

1663903393482.png




And then they give two times, for the desired contrast level, on every film:

1663903438573.png
 
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