enlarger types--cold light head vs newer cmy closed loop

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having learned first on a condenser type and now having been using a "cold light diffusion head" on my d5 for a good number of years, i have noticed perhaps a shift in the type of enlarger used by a good number of photographic "artists". is this assumption true? with my setup and using the filter system, i a very satisfied with my results. (i use ilform multigrade papers) now i am reading of photographers "dialing in some many points of majenta, so many cyan and so many of....", i am wondering if this is creating better prints, etc? with todays papers & enlargers undergoing rapid changes and improvements, are enlargers with a closed loop digital cmy system "better"?

Or does Truth still come forth--"it's in the eye of the beholder" as well as the practitioner.

Your thought please.

raymond a. bleesz

-- raymond a. bleesz (bleesz@vail.net), January 26, 2000


Raymond: I have had the good fortune to use all four light systems on Ilford and Kodak papers: Condenser, cold light with filters, variable contrast cold light with built in contrast control, and the color heads with the variable filters. For an experienced printer as you obviously are, there isn't much difference in the cold light and variable types. There is a difference in the condenser, as you found out years ago. When I worked as a contract photographer of the Army, we had access to all types of enlargers and all worked well. I presently use the old tried and true Aristo with filters on my D-2 and am quite happy with it. The color heads we had provided good control, but they used the little high intensity bulbs, one for each color filter, and they didn't last long and were expensive to replace. I don't see any advantage to this type head. The variable contrast cold light head also made good prints and was infinately adjustable but was a pain in the keester to adjust and use. The first ones we used gave lots of problems, but the maker changed them out and the later ones worked well. A good print from either system is a good print. I don't think there is much of an advantage over the old system other than the fact you don't have to add filters. I fully expect to get flack about this, but I am giving you my experience and opinions. Good printing, Doug

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), January 26, 2000.

I've used a condenser with filters, a color head, and an Aristo variable contrast head. I don't think there's any inherent quality difference among them. I do prefer the Aristo head just because it's so easy to use. I think I experiment a little more, particularly with switching contrasts when burning, when I don't have to go to the trouble of fooling with filters. The Aristo is very reliable. I've had mine for about five years and never had a problem. The color head I used was a Beseler 45A. It was convenient and very good for color but not so good for black and white (very slow with medium and large format negatives). Dichroic heads probably are as convenient and reliable as the Aristo but I've never used one.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis@tampabay.rr.com), January 26, 2000.

I've used dichroic as well as single grid cold light heads for variable contrast printing and found them both to be satisfactory. The problem with each is that due to the slight impact different filters make on exposure time necessary to achieve identical middle gray tone rendition, it's necessary to make a compensation table. I've never found one in the instruction manuals that worked perfectly. Then again, you could get a dual grid cold light like the Aristo VCL-4500. Once you've tried it, you may never go back! The green tube doesn't change intensity with changes in contrast settings. This means that the soft or light emulsion gives identical highlight rendition. As you crank in a higher contrast setting, the blue (actually violet) tube gets brighter, darkening the hard or dark emulsion in the paper. This allows very easy estimation of the changes needed to get exactly the results you want. The steps on the contrast control box, while not equiv. to paper grades (none of them are), are very evenly spaced and predictable in their effect. I highly recommend this system and would be curious to hear from any others who have had experience with it or systems like it.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (razeichner@ameritech.net), January 26, 2000.

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