condenser vs diffusion : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I will be purchasing a Saunders enlarger soon, and they now make a variable contrast enlarger. The filter system that is "housed" in the enlarging head would be great, but it is a diffusion enlarger. I've only worked with condenser.

I'm well aware of the "Callier" effect, and I've heard there is less burning and dodging with diffusion because of this.

The price tag of the two enlargers is expensive, so I want to make the right decision.

I'm doing b&w exclusively. Anybody I've asked so far has said condenser!

-- Raven Moss (, May 21, 1998


Get the diffusion enlarger. Who has told you to go with the condenser? Every time I get into this discussion with someone who argues for condenser heads I end it quickly by asking the other person to name one excellent photographer who uses a condenser head to print black-and-white. I counter with Ansel Adams, John Sexton and all the other famous landscape photographers. Actually, I don't have to present a counter argument, because no one has ever shown me an exhibition quality print made on a condenser head. If condensers are so great why do all the great black-and-white photographers use diffusion heads?

-- Darron Spohn (, May 21, 1998.

Raven, Use a diffusion light source with your enlarger for B&W printing. I cannot imagine why anyone would tell you otherwise! Read Adams' The Negative for a good discussion on the benefits of diffusion light sources with B&W. Good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (, May 21, 1998.

Correction: Raven, Not The Negative, read Adams' The Print.

-- Sergio Ortega (, May 21, 1998.

< name one excellent photographer who uses a condenser head to print black-and-white...?

Try the 35mm guys, like Eisenstadt and Cartier-Bresson (or at least Eisenstadt's guys in the lab at Time-Life and and that fine old gentleman at who was Henri's Magnum printer.) I guess it depends on your definition of what makes a great photograph.

-- K. Eisner (, May 21, 1998.

Try a dichroic color head. yes i know that you will only be doing b&w but if you are using multi-contrast papers you will A.) have dialable, constant filtration but also more even illumination than the standard flourescent tubed diffusion heads.

-- Ellis Vener (, May 22, 1998.

"Try the 35mm guys, like Eisenstadt and Cartier-Bresson ..."

Um, this _is_ a large format discussion group. 35mm is a different beast, and photojournalism is a different game.

-- Darron Spohn (, May 23, 1998.

If you key your exposure, processing and printing to whatever enlarger you purchase, with whatever light source it has, you can get excellent prints from any head. Diffusion or cold light types tend to suppress scratches & minor imperfections a bit but any light source coupled with a good lens and excellent technique will give good results. The real trick is in getting images that are actually worth printing.

-- Dan Smith (, May 24, 1998.

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