Omega D-2 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Just curious. Everyone seems to recomend diffusion over condenser, but many times its been stated that the the old Omega D-2's are one of the best enlargers. They are condenser, right? I know also that each type of enlarger can work best depending upon the neg., too. Also, any feedback on the Saunders LPL VCCE black and white? Diffusion, and built in filters that compensate for time. I just can't do a diffusion and a condenser.

-- Raven Garrow (, April 26, 1999


It's largely a matter of personal choice...but negatives do need to be tailored differently (ideally) for the different light sources. The general feeling seems to be that a diffusion light source supresses grain (as well as scratches, etc). To me, all it does is make the grain muddy and actually (in my opinion) make the overall print less sharp. I've used condenser enlargers exclusively for years. The grain structure is an intregal part of the silver image. If the grain size, especially in an LF neg, is getting in the way of the print brillance and crispness..there are other problems. Same holds for sctatches. (as well as chromogenig emulsions.

-- C MATTER (, April 27, 1999.

I owned an Omega D2 and as you say they have a reputation as being a very good enlarger. The D2 has some limitations. It was replaced by the D2V which was much better. The D2V had variable condensors which you would move depending on the film size and lens selected. The D2 may have had extra condensers but mine didn't. Subsequently I had a very uneven light source when I used 35mm or medium format.

Dust marks, generic to a condenser enlarger, were also a big problem. I would clean & clean negs and still get dust. I fixed both problems when I bought a colour head. The D2 instantly became a diffusion enlarger with all the advantages of that - very little dust, very even light and I also put away my contrast filters.

A year or so later I was able to pick up a used (but never used!) Chomega D with two Componon-S lenses an 80 & a 135 for next to nothing at a Canadian Armed Forces sealed bid auction and I sold the D2.

This brings me to my next point. The down side of a diffusion enlarger is the lack of contrast compared to a condenser type. Well with these lenses I use perhaps 30 to 45 cc of magenta when I'm printing. Obviously my negs have something to do with this & perhaps they are contrasty. But these lenses provide wonderful contrast on their own as well. Add a little time to your development and that will give you all the contrast you'll need.

Adding it all up. I'd never buy a D2 or even a D2V unless I expected to buy a diffusion head very quickly. I'd also buy the best lenses I could afford and dial in a little extra magenta for those old negs.

-- David Grandy (, April 27, 1999.

David went the expensive route to fix his old D-2. He could have bought the proper condesors and solved his uneven light. This brings up a good point "know your system"! I have used my pre-war(world war II) slider d-2 for 12 years with condensor light only. I have tailored my printing style to it much the same as mister MATTER. I make very large prints and love the strong, contrasty condensor light for just that reason. I also know that many modern vc and rc papers have been optimized for cold and diffusion sources so they are more contrasty than their predecessors so I choose older style gel coated fiber papers. I don't use variable contrast papers because I'm superstitious. Somehow my mind wanders to think that filtration could block a corresponding tone and I couldn't deal with that possibility. Just me. Hell I don't use too many filters on my cameras unless the shooting situation is extreme. I feel that if my negs are good I can place any tone exactly at the density i want it to be. Don't get me wrong if someone were to give me a new zone IV or saunders lpl enlarger I would be beside myself with joy but I'd buy condesor heads for really big prints and would probably use graded fiber base on everything anyway and for these remarks I will be branded a purist by all the split-contrasters out there. But I'm very happy with the results I'm getting and wouldn't hesitate to compare prints with VCer's. About the dust all I can say is you don't know a thing about dust until you've printed in Oklahoma with me. Keep clean, that's it, that's all there is to it. I don't see too much dust on my prints so chalk that up to the printer. Raven a d-2 will work fine and so will the condensors, you can diffuse condensors with a 10 dollar piece of opal diffusion glass if your prints are too contrasty. I often use the diffusion glass for smaller prints and it works beautifully. Good luck and adapt

-- Trib (, April 27, 1999.

This is more a reply to "Trib" than to the original message. I'll put Trib's message in quotations when I refer to it:

"David went the expensive route to fix his old D-2. He could have bought the proper condesors and solved his uneven light." If they a) made them and b) were still available and c) were easily repositioned. If I wanted to stay with a condenser enlarger I would have bought a D2V condenser housing.

Mr. Trib uses fiber base paper seemingly all the time. I use resin coated multigraded paper for commercial work and fiber based MG paper for fun. If someone out there can spot glossy resin coated prints then they are welcome to a condenser enlarger. For me there was no choice.

I'm sorry that I missed Trib's point about "to think that filtration could block a corresponding tone" How? I would think that with a colour enlarger the ability to add or subtract magenta or yellow in infinite steps would give him greater control than a graded paper. I suppose that tweaking the developer would add flexibility but I'd be a little concerned about doing that for each different print.

"I feel that if my negs are good I can place any tone exactly at the density i want it to be." Yes and if I had perfect negatives I would buy grade two paper and this discussion would be over. I don't, and I suspect Trib doesn't either. By the way I just don't understand that sentence. "If my negs are good" (I assume well exposed & properly developed.) "I can place any tone at the density i want it to be." What does he mean by tone and how do you place it at "the density". I would assume that he would place mental tonal values before he exposes the film and then he develops the film with these values in mind. I'm thinking of Zone - those seem to be Zone terms - and this would all happen before the print stage.

If I get a good negative I should be able to get a good print with blacks, whites and greys with (in my case) about 30cc of magenta. If I want more contrast I go up, less down. Trib must choose a higher contrast paper or a lower contrast paper or a different developer or developer concentration. That I'm afraid are the choices at the print stage.

To sum up: for me a condenser system just wouldn't work. My need for resin papers precluded spotting. My print quality is pretty good as well, and I'm not about to apologize for using modern tools. I haven't seen a drop off of quality or sharpness but I have seen an increase in ease of use and a decrease in material wastage.

-- David Grandy (, April 27, 1999.

Sounds like you negs are all over the map, dave. It's true my prints and I'd say 90 percent of them are printed on grade 2 fiber in dektol. Another 5 percent I'd estimate are printed on grade 3 fiber sometimes both grades in various developers. And sometimes I'll burn up a whole box of paper to get a print just right! Just me I'm wasteful. I can spot rc glossy but what would be the point, it would still look like crap. Rc glossy in my book's glossary is a four letter word. B and C are true about the omega condensors anywhere on the planet. I'd be concerned about you changing the contrast filters for every single print. I do use mc as a tool on rare occasions for testing grades but then I buy the fiber graded equivalent for my final prints. I don't understand "mental tones", to me if a tone is zone 4 then that tone is zone 4, at the printing stage if I then decide I want that zone 4 at zone 3 well,just guess what i do. I do alot of wasteful things come to think of it, I spend hours on most prints cutting out dodging and burning tools and masks from shirt board with an x-acto. Then more time just trying to register those tools on a stand. I'll dump six ounces of fresh paper developer because it's just six ounces for a better print. Sounds like my methods are different from yours OH WELL.

-- Trib (, April 28, 1999.

No my negs are fine. I do need to adjust contrast a bit and that why I use use MG papers.

The orginal question was on a D2 and whether it would be a good idea to buy one. My points are that it is dusty and difficult to get even lighting with the standard condensers. Can you make prints with a D2? Yes. Are their better enlargers? Yes.

You have perfect negatives that aren't "all over the place" yet you need a box of paper to make a good print. RC papers are crap to you but you don't need to make commercial prints. I straight out don't understand " me if a tone is zone 4 then that tone is zone 4, at the printing stage if I then decide I want that zone 4 at zone 3 well,just guess what i do." Well what do you do? I have no clue because this isn't a sentence. And what, after you make burning and dodging tools, do you "...Then more time just trying to register those tools on a stand" What does this mean?

You seem to think that using a box of paper to get a print is what everyone else wants do do. I don't, and I don't think that I need to.

-- David Grandy (, April 28, 1999.

Yes, RC emulsions have apparently been boosted in contrast to allow for cold light printing. This is fine as all of my commercial printing is done with VC emulsions. Ilford and Kodak a few years back both tweaked their VC filter sets and added a super low..00 filter apparently realizing that a lot of people will continue to use condenser, or even point source light sources

-- C MATTER (, April 29, 1999.

Yes it's a horrible run-on but the answer is clearly understood...burn that zone 4 until it becomes a zone 3. The stand is an old light stand that I've altered to hold tools and masks (cuts down on bleaching and dyeing). I've a sneaking suspicion that we're talking about two different qualities of printmaking, commercial and fine art. I don't make commercial prints. I may proof on rc but those get seen only on my darkroom walls. For me the d-2 works fine. Also don't get me wrong, I may use more than a box of paper to get a print that satisfies me. Sometimes I'll reject a print for a burn or dodge that is just a fraction too dark or too light. Sometimes after I've wasted an incredible amount of paper printing just one neg I'll see something that could be improved. Maybe I ommitted a interesting curly blade of grass in the crop. Those issues are hardly the D-2's fault. I'll go to any lengths to satisfy myself regarding printing. I apologize for assuming the same about other printers.

-- trib (, April 29, 1999.

Well, perhaps another opinion will help a little. I have plenty of experience with both condenser and diffusion heads, as I teach photo at a university in Michigan, as well as act as the "photo technician". (We currently use both types of heads - diffusion and condenser.) From my experience, it is almost impossible to tell the difference in a "normal" sized print (8x10) made from any size negative. A print this size made with a condenser (assuming the correct filtration/grade of paper is used) looks idential to one made from a diffusion head (again, assuming filtration/paper grade is correct). The tonal range is identical, as is the grain structure. (I'm not talking about Tmax 3200 here!). The human eye can only perceive a certain degree of sharpness, especially when it comes to smaller prints. Now, on the other hand, if an enlargement of 20x24 or larger is made, there will indeed be a difference...especially if we're talking 35mm (God forbid!) or medium format. Prints made from a condenser enlarger will look a little sharper. So what's the drawback? Well, the tonal range. Condensors tend to block upper and lower zone values (i.e. getting extremely subtle highlight and shadow detail becomes a little harder). The larger the print is, the more obvious it becomes. This is not to say it cannot be dealt with, though! Good dodging and burning techniques will take care of the problem, as every experienced printer knows. Several years ago I tested the two types of light sources for myself. I took a step-wedge (the little "grey scale thing" you calibrate a densitometer with) and put it in a glass negative carrier. I then blew it up to about 4x24" to see how the different light sources would render the tonal scale (with no filtration). Using a standard grade 2 paper, I matched the Zone V's by changing the exposure times between the two heads. I discovered that the diffusion head was able to print a longer tonal range (about a step in either direction). The condenser head simply had more contrast. If the contrast was dropped on the conderser head, the middle Zones (4-6) went out of wack, which is to be expected. Basically, what this told me was that if I was going to print with a condenser head I would have to be damn sure I had a good "tonally correct" negative, because if I didn't I was going to be spending some long hours with the dodging and burning tools at hand. Therefore, I chose the diffusion head. Since I tend to enlarge most of my negatives up to 20x24 (well, 18x22 actually), I then became concerned about the level of sharpness with the diffusion head. Would it be acceptable? The answer was (and is) yes. Looking at a 20x24 print, I can see no loss of sharpness, even-though in the back of my mind I know it may look a little (and I mean a little!) sharper if it were made with a condenser head. Does that bother me? Nope. In fact, when looking at prints in galleries, I have noticed on occasion that some will look too damn sharp, and it begins to hurt my eyes. (Well, not literally, but you get my point.) Different photographer prefer different levels of sharpness, plain and simple. I have spent the past two summers printing 32x40 enlargements (4x5, Tmax 400) for my now ex-college professor using an older Omega "E" chassis retrofitted with a modern Chromega 5x7 diffusion light source. Even at that degree of enlargement the prints look prefectly sharp (and virtually grainless, amazingly enough!) It all depends on what you feel works for You. As long as you are using a good lens (which is a topic for a whole different discussion), it should not be an issue. Also be sure to check the alignment of the enlarger, and don't print with the lens fully open or closed. The sharpest apertures are usually f/8-f/16. If you are going to use variable contrast paper with a condenser paper, make sure the filtration is anywhere other than "below the lens". Don't put anything between the lens and the paper! Well, I've said enough. Use whatever gear you can get your hands on, plain and simple. Don't be afraid to try different equipment and make comparisons, and then go with whatever "feels right". Case and point - I finally discovered that I prefer the look of a contact print, so I bought an 8x10 camera and do most of my printing that way. The contact print just has a certain "glow" to it that enlargements do not. But, then again, that's just my opinion. :) Good luck.

-- Adam DeKraker (, May 09, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ