which is the best enlarger

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which is the best condenser or cold light for large format printing of black and white.

-- eric belgrave (ericb@sunbeach.net), December 07, 1999


Many of the best printers today use diffusion heads such as a color head or a variable contrast head which is a color head but only adjusts in the spectrum for black and white. They offer much more even light output than a coldlight. I personally don't like condensers because of all of the surfaces of glass that you should keep clean, but some very good printers like what is believed to be improved sharpness from a condenser.

-- Jeff White (zonie@computer-concepts.com), December 08, 1999.


You will probably get apposing viewsto this question. I have seen things get pretty heated on other discussion boards when it comes to discussing enlarger types. I am in the condenser camp. I have owned an Omega D6 for many years, and although I like a lot of the bells and whistles I see on many of the new fangled enlargers, I doubt I would change enlargers.

It true, a condenser is more critical when it comes to dust and scatches. It is less forgiving. But for me that just means my negatives should be scatch free and my darkroom environment should be clean. The trade off for white glove environment has been prints with crisp contrast and full tonal range. Now people in the diffusion camp will tell you that the same is accomplished with a diffusion head with a lot less headache. I would disagree.... if using my negatives. Theoretically there is no dicernable difference, if proper alterations are made to the negative. Basically, a diffusion head will require a negative with higher contrast than a negative using a condensor. I'm not sure I agree with this, but I do know that my negatives print much flatter on a diffusion head. I can compensate with paper contrast or paper development, but I have never been able to produce quite the same results with a diffusion head.

I read somewhere that Brett Weston printed with a point source. You can't get farther away from diffusion than that. But then, some people simply don't believe me when I mention that. I wish I could find the source where I read it...

For what its worth.


-- DonSigl (donsigl@hotmail.com), May 28, 2002.

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