VCCE Heads : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm heading toward giving up dust-attracting VC filters and buying a VC head for my Beseler 45MX. I'm not interested in printing my own color any more because I'm hooked (with prices that compare with other things that hook you) on LightJet 5000 prints. So I've decided against a dichroic head, and been trying to find some threads that discuss the various VCCE heads. Haven't found much, though remember seeing some discussions. Can anyone point me to some threads, or weigh in with your own opinions? Also, best places to find one used? Haven't seen any lately at keh or ebay. Thanks, John

-- John Sarsgard (, September 12, 2000


I've used the Artisto VCL 4500 for about five years now and like it a lot. The convenience is great, as is the ability to adjust contrast in increments of a tenth. I coupled mine with a Metrolux timer and the combination is very nice. By flicking a switch you can print in blue only, green only, or (contrary to the statements made by Fred Picker in the old Zone VI Studios catalogs) a constant green with ever increasing blue (the mode I use 99.9% of the time). The convenience factor makes it more feasible, for me at least, to make a base print and then burn in various areas at various different contrasts. You can do this with filters, of course, but it's not very convenient to make three or four changes in the same print. Oriental used to market a vc head (actually made by ZBE)but it's off the market now. I think that ZBE now sells it under its own name but I haven't seen any publicity about it. I have a friend who owns and likes the Oriental version but it had more features and more complexity than I was looking for. AFIK, Calumet/ZoneVI still sells the Zone VI vc head but I don't know anything about it. I do recall some users complaining in one of the newsgroups about some aspect of it but don't now remember what it was. If I can provide you with any more specific information about the Aristo head, send me an e mail. Brian

-- Brian Ellis (, September 13, 2000.

A quick note about the ZBE VCCLS. I owned one and, yes, it was feature rich. I sold mine when I went to larger formats. Right now, the head is no longer built by ZBE, but they have parts for service EXCEPT the tubes. So I would be VERY cautios about buying a VCCLS now as the most important part of that head is the tubes and they are no longer available ANYWHERE. I saw 3 or 4 sold on eBay recently....

The Aristo VC4500 head is SUPERR bright and has the feature set you'll need. It is much brighter than the Saunders as well as the old ZBE. I haven't used the Ilford Multigrade 500, but I've only heard good things about it. These can be found used somehwat easily.

Get the 1998? Steven Anchell book "Variable Contrast Printing". He reviews most of the VC heads out there.

Run a search on or (search link on upper right) and you should find a lot of customs labs that need to unload their analog equipment. also has a ton of stuff.

-- Carlos R. Herrera (, September 13, 2000.

The Aristo head is, I believe, the least expensive of the batch. It has a homemade quality to it with unlabeled switches but it is not too hard to get used to. Its scale does run from 0 to 5 in .1 increments but these numbers bear no particular resemblence to actual grades. By actual tests, I don't get grade 2 until about number 3.5 on the LCD knob; which means that real grades 2 to 5 are scrunched in ever smaller increments between LCD #'s 3.5 to 5. By the time I get over 4 or so .1 actually equals about one-half grade change.

Buy the extra green dimmer too. Without it, you'll have to dodge so fast you feel like a pickpocket in Times Square. Also, you'll need the greem dimmer if you print pyro negs, (because they're progressively more green with plus development.)

You will have to test for each paper you use and make a table to hang on the wall so you can tell which LCD # equals which grade #.

-- John Hennessy (, September 13, 2000.

I own a Ilford 500 head for my Durst Laborator G139. It is mounted on top of the condensors and is usable up to 13x18. While it is reasonably bright, I think it should be _much_ brighter with it's 2x300W bulbs...

It has a few serious drawbacks for me:

- It isn't compatible to my RHD analyzer (a tool I love...), so you have to make measurements and dial the measured time into the controller.

- It's light is green-blue even in focus mode, making the red filter nearly unusuable. Since I use a vacuum baseboard without markers, this is unfortunate.

- It makes NOISE. It has a built-in fan to get rid of heat from the 2x300W bulbs. This is the biggest problem in my eyes.

- While all grades are nicely spaced (tested with a steptablet and a densitometer), the grade 5 is no real grade 5 (at least with Agfa MCP, the paper I use most). I can get the same results with my Meopta color head and magenta filtering. I believe the Ilford 500 is calibrated for Ilford MG, so I'd have to use a different exposure for different grades, since no paper has the same sensivity for all grades.

So I decided to remove the Ilford 500 head and, using a LADANE adapter, put a Meopta Color 3 head on my Laborator, bought for DM 100 via It has about the same level of brightness with a 100W bulb, I can use my analyzer with it and it has no fan. Using a table to dial the required filter into it is no big deal and I get about the same range of grades out of the MCP. Since the RHD analyzer is capable of using a correction factor for each grade, I don't have to do any mathematics to correct the exposure when changing the gradation.

It is really easy to find these exposure correction factors and the required filter factors for every paper using a step tablet, even without a densitometer. Paul Butzi has an excellent article about this on his page(see

Meopta makes a VCC head built on the Color 3, so I asked them about getting a real grade 5. Meopta answered me that the maxium grades with the Meograde are about the same as the Color 3 and the hade a "built in" exposure correction, so I think you'd have to make a own correction table for your paper(s).

A really fine VCC head might be the Heiland Splitgrade, but this thing isn't very cheap and I have no personal experience with it. It looks mighty fine on paper...


-- Marin Jangowski (, September 14, 2000.

John I also use a Multigrade 500 head which I bought second hand with a DeVere 504 enlarger. Marin mentions the focusing problem with the red filter, Odyssey Sales (who took over from DeVere) recommended an orange filter and I've had no problems with this, the image is quite bright. With regards to the noisy fan, I found that is not the fan as such but a slight resonance of the rear vent panel and to cure this I placed a small piece of foam in the vent to dampen it. It is now very quite indeed.

It's an absolute breeze to use, being very consistent both with timing and grade selection. Exposure times are from 0.1sec. to 99.9sec. and grades from 0 to 5 plus 1/2 grades (but not 5.1/2). It has features for "burning-in", you can also switch grades at any time during an exposure by a touch of the keypad. There is even a batch counter for keeping note of a large print run.Optional extras are a footswitch and exposure probe.

What I particularly like about this system is if you do a lot of "split-grade" printing you don't have to touch the head to make the setting just the keypad to change the grades, no wheels, dials etc., thereby reducing the risk of vibrations and speeding things up. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (, September 14, 2000.

John I forgot to mention a couple of shortfalls with the 500.

1) although the focusing light is bright I find it difficult to focus with the unaided eye. However with a quality focusing device like the Peak it becomes very positive indeed. 2) if you take a long time to compose the image the light goes out after about 100 secs. and if you keep switching it back on the thermal cut-out will kick in because the head has over heated and you must wait for it to cool down. This can be a real pain, but to be fair this could be that my 500 head is a little sensitive other users may not encounter this problem.

-- Trevor Crone (, September 14, 2000.

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