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Melvin J Bramley

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In this age of exotic light sources from Ilfords computerised multigrade head to Zone VI, LED lights and others, are condenser light sources no longer a 'professional ' or serious darkroom users equipment?
Just how many of you still use a condenser head and why?
 

Kino

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Contrast.

I like punchy images and a diffused head just doesn't give the same effect.

I also like glossy paper and cold paper developers for the same reason.
 

Pieter12

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Up until a few months ago I used a condenser Omega D5 with a Modern Enlarger Lamp LED. Before that the D5 had a halogen bulb, making slightly sharper prints than the original tungsten bulb.
 

131802

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I've never used anthing other than a condenser head enlarger.
 

ic-racer

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When all the electronic enlargers have failed, the condenser enlargers will still be working.
However, the condensers need to be treated with care. If they break or get fungus or scratched, then they are no good.
 

albada

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When all bulbs in condenser enlargers have burned out, LED enlargers will still be working.
Advantages of LEDs:
  • No inserting/removing contrast filters. Instead, turn a knob labeled "grade".
  • No heat-warp of negative.
  • No burned-out bulbs (that are hard to replace).
  • You can turn on red to position burn/dodge tool before exposing.
  • You can set both exposure and grade from one test strip, saving time.
I ditched both condensers and Micro$oft, and never looked back.
"Put your hands on a LED-head, and you'll never let go."

Mark
 

Hilo

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I have used the Leitz enlargers professionally since 1978, in their original set-up with the condensor heads. And I still do.

Why?

Because the prints are fabulous. They have a beautiful strong contrast while giving fine detail in the darker parts. The grain, when printed with the correct filters, is very beautiful. Lets say the opposite of looking harsch. Generally, I arrive at the right exposure and the correct filter with one, perhaps two tests.

The thought to change that never entered into the equasion. I guess, I am someone who simply is not interested in changing a good thing.

Finally, these enlargers were beautifully designed. Round heads, incredible condensers. To lose all that in exchange for an out-of-place looking square head: no.
 

koraks

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Just how many of you still use a condenser head and why?

Well, I'm using a diffusor-condensor setup with a LED head, does that count? No, it's not 'professional' in any way. It's a hobby project that sort of got out of hand and turned into a functional machine, and somewhere in the process I ditched my other enlargers because I didn't see the point in growing a forest of enlarger columns. I can only use one at a time anyway.

But what gives? An enlarger is basically a fancy slide projector. It shines a light through a negative and a lens to project an image onto a piece of paper. As long as it does that reasonably well, consistently and is easy enough to use, it's fine. I see no reason to fuss over the question if it's 'professional', fashionable, etc. In the end, if it gets the job done, I don't really care one way or another how it does it. Now I'm happy with the Durst 138 with its Frankenstein light source, but if life changes drastically and somehow I find myself 10 years down the line with only a simple 35mm camera and an old and rusty Meopta enlarger I saved from the scrapheap, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it either.
 

Philippe-Georges

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Condenser (Omega D3 and Durst 139G), with an incandescence bulb.
Fort the 'spicy grain', feeling of sharpness, intense base (=blacks), clear whites, 'punchy' image tonality and more efficient dodging and burning.
I have the feeling that with a diffuser head D&B isn't so 'visual', but that could be just me...
 

xkaes

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Edward Weston preferred a point light source -- which is a standard condenser, taken to the MAX. You ONLY use the lens WIDE OPEN!

Just because something is new doesn't mean it's better.
 

Paul Howell

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I use condenser head with a standard LED bulb, if I need to print grade 4 I switch back to a tungsten blub.
 

Philippe-Georges

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Edward Weston preferred a point light source -- which is a standard condenser, taken to the MAX. You ONLY use the lens WIDE OPEN!

Just because something is new doesn't mean it's better.

I thought that E.W. only made contact prints, A.A. wrote something like that in his book 'EXAMPLES'...
 

Paul Howell

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I had never read that EW used a point source, AA did with at least some of his 35mm negatives, in his last edition of the Print he mentions a point source head for his Bessler 4X5. I tired a point source, made one from an old Federal enlarger, use a small halogen lamp, way too sharp, and the grain.
 

Sirius Glass

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I use a color diffuser head for color and Black & white enlargements. Bulbs are still available for my but I stocked up because incandescent bulbs are outlawed in California except for special use bulbs, such as enlarger bulbs, and that might making it hard to get bulbs in the future.
 

Philippe-Georges

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Well, I'm using a diffusor-condensor setup with a LED head, does that count? No, it's not 'professional' in any way. It's a hobby project that sort of got out of hand and turned into a functional machine, and somewhere in the process I ditched my other enlargers because I didn't see the point in growing a forest of enlarger columns. I can only use one at a time anyway.

But what gives? An enlarger is basically a fancy slide projector. It shines a light through a negative and a lens to project an image onto a piece of paper. As long as it does that reasonably well, consistently and is easy enough to use, it's fine. I see no reason to fuss over the question if it's 'professional', fashionable, etc. In the end, if it gets the job done, I don't really care one way or another how it does it. Now I'm happy with the Durst 138 with its Frankenstein light source, but if life changes drastically and somehow I find myself 10 years down the line with only a simple 35mm camera and an old and rusty Meopta enlarger I saved from the scrapheap, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it either.

What's a "Frankenstein light source"?
 
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After all the enlargers and light types I've used in my life, my favorite is a diffuse light source through a condenser. That is basically what most condensers are. My Focomat 1c is that way. So is my LPL 4550 with a 35mm mixing box in it. The 4x5 box is straight diffusion. I've said before that the LPL 4550 with the 35mm mixing box is the best 35mm enlarger I've ever used. Better by a little than my Focomat, though the Focomat is easy peasy to use so I usually just use that.

I also have a Minox enlarger which is a point light source. Incredibly sharp but a bit of grief. These days I usually just use the LPL to enlarge Minox. Not quite as sharp but once you get past more than good enough, everything is more than good enough. I've always wanted to get a Durst with the point light source head, but I think it might just be too much grief in the end. The prints would be super sharp but unforgiving.

There is no such thing as a professional enlarger. There are professional users I suppose, but I've seen some incredible prints come off the worst enlargers. The operator is the only thing that really matters past a most basic certain point.
 

xkaes

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After all the enlargers and light types I've used in my life, my favorite is a diffuse light source through a condenser. That is basically what most condensers are.

My Beseler 45MXII has different colorheads, but Beseler also made a lesser-known, optional accessory that attaches the colorhead on top of the standard B&W condenser -- which is normally removed when the colorhead is installed. The only thing Beseler says about it is "for a different look". I have one and like it for exactly that reason.
 
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Edward Weston preferred a point light source -- which is a standard condenser, taken to the MAX. You ONLY use the lens WIDE OPEN!

Just because something is new doesn't mean it's better.

Technically it wasn't a point source light since he used frosted bulbs and typically wrapped them with tissue paper.....

I believe his son Brett though used a point source enlarger after he moved down to medium format.
 

MattKing

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There is no such thing as a professional enlarger. There are professional users I suppose, but I've seen some incredible prints come off the worst enlargers. The operator is the only thing that really matters past a most basic certain point.

There certainly are enlargers designed for professional/commercial use - robust machines designed for very heavy use and high throughput.
The Durst line of machines come to mind - not the ones designed for the home user, but the ones like the model that friends of mine own that cost $38,000.00 when purchased new (by a commercial user) back in the 1970s. Working with that enlarger is really impressive, but mostly it just does things really well that other enlargers also do. It is a 5x7 enlarger, so that certainly adds capabilities that smaller enlargers don't have.
With enough room, I'd be very happy to set up a two enlarger bench - one with a condenser and a diffused bulb, the other with a diffusion source. That would give me two useful approaches, although the diffusion source would get used more.
 

Sirius Glass

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While I do not have a condenser, a condenser would be good to have for higher sharper black & white prints.
 

Pieter12

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As I posted earlier, I used a condenser D5 up until recently. I switched to a Heiland LED head that removes the condensers but gives me the same sharp, crisp prints I had been getting from the condenser set-up with the advantage of being able to do split-grade printing over the full range without having to switch filters.
 

ic-racer

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Durst marketed "Professional Enlargers."
Screen Shot 2023-01-22 at 2.11.27 PM.png
 
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