Turning a Condenser Enlarger into a Diffusion Enlarger?

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Eric Jones

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Hello All,

Currently I work in a public darkroom facility which is outfitted with Omega D5 Condenser Enlargers. Has anyone tried diffusing a condenser enlarger by introducing white plexi or a Lee or Rosco diffusion gel into the condenser light path? Was the stop loss too much therefore introducing paper reciprocity problems or did the diffusion have any other negative consequences on the resulting image? Just wondering about others experience or thoughts before I go test myself.

Thanks
 

Tom Stanworth

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Have a go. I tried using frosted glass once and it was not a clean enough peice to work. There was a big loss in light, but then again, it is just that the condenser had been really fast. It might make sense (if the inside of the condenser housing is light absorbing black) to make it white to increase the amount of light hitting the diffuser.

Tom
 

David A. Goldfarb

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I've known people who have done that and said it works. It's certainly a cheap and easy experiment. If it were your own enlarger, you could add a cold light head at very reasonable cost. Aristo sells one for Omega for around $200-300.
 

Donald Miller

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Durst does offer this as an approach, for those who want diffusion, on their condensor enlargers. A great deal will depend on the bulb wattage. I would use 1/8 in opaque acrylic if I were going to attempt this. As others have related the light loss will be substantial. Another thought is to increase the bulb wattage to a 500 watt lamp. If the condensors are left in the light path then heat affect on the acrylic would appear to be manageable. My Durst 5X7 condensor does use that wattage (500 W.) lamp.
 

Doug Bennett

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I did it with my first enlarger, an Omega B-22. I first tried some milk glass, but the reduction in light was severe. I then used a piece of Rosco 111 Tough Rolux under the bottom of the bottom condenser. The light output was still accecptable, and I was hoping to have "the best of both worlds." However, comparing prints with and without the diffusion, I was unable to see a difference.

I've since moved to a Beseler 23C-XL enlarger, and have not repeated the experiment. I did borrow and try an old Aristo coldlight head, but was not impressed. Exposure times were way too long for my taste. Was the lamp on its last legs and growing dim? Maybe.

I tend to produce a fairly contrasty negative, and did have problems with highlight rendition. I was commonly using a #2.5 or higher filter, thinking "more contrast, more contrast." One day, I pulled out the #1 and used it, and voila, my highlights were much better.

Now, I tend to print my "normal" negs on a #1, then "kiss it" with the #5. Works for me. YMMV.
 
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Eric Jones

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Thank you everybody for your thoughts. I guess I should have explained the "why" I wanted to do this in my original post. I own a Saunders 4550XLG diffusion enlarger but it will be a few more months until my darkroom is complete. I print my "fine art" prints on Begger Silver Supreme paper which only comes in Grade 2. I wanted to tailor my negs to that Grade 2 with diffusion enlargement. But, hey I'll throw a Step Wedge in the condenser and see empirically the difference with and without a form of diffusion in there and report back my thoughts.
 

Paul Howell

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Eric,

It is my understanding that simply does make a diffusion enlarger. A true diffuson enlarger is sans condenser and uses a large mixing box to really diffuse the light. Does the dark room you work in have color heads? A color heads is a diffusion type, but most require different mixing chambers for different negative sizes.
 
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Eric Jones

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Thanks Paul,

Last time I looked they all had b&w condenser heads but I'm going to ask the owner if he has any other heads lying around that I can switch out, hopefully he will.
 

Thilo Schmid

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Eric,

this should be possible, but you will likely face the following dilemma: if you place the diffusion material somewhere between the lamp and the condenser, it will not be very effective. If you place it between the condenser and your neg., you will not have many degrees of freedom and every texture, scratch or irregularity in the material will affect the print.

It might be an option to place the diffusion material between the two condenser lenses. I have not yet tried this.
 

Maine-iac

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Eric Jones said:
Thank you everybody for your thoughts. I guess I should have explained the "why" I wanted to do this in my original post. I own a Saunders 4550XLG diffusion enlarger but it will be a few more months until my darkroom is complete. I print my "fine art" prints on Begger Silver Supreme paper which only comes in Grade 2. I wanted to tailor my negs to that Grade 2 with diffusion enlargement. But, hey I'll throw a Step Wedge in the condenser and see empirically the difference with and without a form of diffusion in there and report back my thoughts.


I tried "converting" my condenser head to a diffusion head by all the methods suggested in these posts many years ago. Gave up when I discovered that no matter what I did, the light was still being collimated by the condensers. That's when I got an Aristo cold light head that served me well for many years, until I started using VC papers almost exclusively and also wanted to print Ilfochromes; then I broke down and bought a colorhead for my Beseler 45 which I've used for everything very satisfactorily ever since.

I have the 4X5 mixing box on mine, and theoretically, if you're printing smaller negs, you should get the smaller format mixing box, but I haven't felt any need to do that. I don't see the point. For medium format, which is what I use most, and using my split filter printing method, my exposure times under the enlarger are in the 8 seconds Magenta and 6 seconds Yellow range with the lens at f/11 for an 8X10 enlargement. That's perfectly acceptable to me.

With 35mm negs, the times increase slightly by a couple of seconds, but for that, it's hardly worth the investment of money or time switching mixing boxes.

Larry
 

dancqu

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Thilo Schmid said:
If you place it between the condenser and your neg., you will
not have many degrees of freedom and every texture, scratch
or irregularity in the material will affect the print.

I don't know what you mean by "degrees of freedom"
Blemish free thin sheet diffusing are materials are plentiful.
I think my Omega B8 has room directly on top of the
negative carrier for some thin sheet. Dan
 
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Rosco doesn`t work as the pattern shows if next to the negative. 1/16 plexiglass in the filter slot above a condenser set will get you somewhere between condenser and diffusion. Round plexiglas cut to a circle and put under the condensers of my Omega is pretty close to diffusion.

All methods waste a lot of light
 

Timberwolf

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Rosco doesn`t work as the pattern shows if next to the negative. 1/16 plexiglass in the filter slot above a condenser set will get you somewhere between condenser and diffusion. Round plexiglas cut to a circle and put under the condensers of my Omega is pretty close to diffusion.

All methods waste a lot of light

Your last method is what I will try. I have the round plexiglass from an old cold light.
 

Pieter12

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I print my "fine art" prints on Begger Silver Supreme paper which only comes in Grade 2. I wanted to tailor my negs to that Grade 2 with diffusion enlargement.

Not sure why you would need a diffusion enlarger for that. In my opinion, nothing beat the crispness of prints made with a condenser enlarger.
 

Paul Howell

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In the last 15 years things have changed, finding grade 2 paper has become a treasure hunt, I think you can find grade 3 and 4. If you want a diffusion enlarger on cheap, another treasure hunt. Federal Stowaway Jr. It is a very nice diffusion enlarger with milky glass, uses a clear blub and works well with a LED bulb. Comes with fixed doublet lens with water house stops. Made from stamped metal parts, mine fits to the point no light leaks. It is a 6X9, when using smaller formats times can get somewhat longish.
 
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Bill Burk

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Not sure why you would need a diffusion enlarger for that. In my opinion, nothing beat the crispness of prints made with a condenser enlarger.

When you have a negative that is too contrasty, the diffusion enlarger reduces the contrast.

Normally it's a question of taste, and you tend to create negatives to match your own style so your negatives are generally going to work for you. But @Timberwolf has a negative that isn't working because it's too contrasty... I think some diffusion may help this case.

About the only thing I don't like about a diffusion enlarger is that I cannot use the 'needle' retouching tool because scratches in the base are invisible in the print. My negatives might not look good printed by a diffusion enlarger, I know my developing times are longer than most people's.
 

Bill Burk

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With today's MG papers, a contrasty negative should still be very printable with a condenser enlarger.

Likewise, I have a full set of Omega condensers for that day I need to print an underexposed negative.
 

gone

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I have dozens of those underexposed negs Bill, but I'm not looking forward to printing them. I have had trouble w/ those no matter what enlarger I've used, although the diffuser enlargers did make "better" bad prints.

The main advantage of having a diffuser enlarger is that, for me anyway, prints from negatives that have issues look better than the condenser prints, which show every tiny little blemish/bit of dust/water mark.

Like Paul, I've had success w/ old Federal diffuser enlargers. They're fiddley to work with, but that 6x9 glass negative carrier is pretty cool. The old Durst I had spoiled me, that thing was ultra easy to use and made nice prints.
 
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