printing b&w on a color head : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm just curious, if you had your druthers. When printing black and white, a black and white head enlarger, or color. I heard one can "fine tune" on a color head.

-- Ravin (, March 26, 2001


I like to print with a diffusion head, of which a colour head is one type.

I find that a condenser light source is more likely to have a hot centre than a diffusion one. A condenser head also will show much more dust marks on a print. The light is so focused in a condenser enlarger that any dust on the neg throws a very distinct shadow onto the paper,and this shows up as a white dust mark on the print.

A diffusion head has a broader (and as I said more even) light source. Its light comes at the same dust spec from more angles and "looks around" that dust. The result in any case is less noticable dust marks and less print spotting later.

A colour head will allow you to change contrasts (assuming you are using a polycontrast paper of some kind) by dialing in different levels of yellow or magenta light, depending on whether you want to decrease or increase the contrast in the print. It's just easier to do this than reaching for a plastic or gel filter. You don't have to go looking for them, your filter choice is infinite, and you don't have to worry about them getting scratched and softening your image - if you use the bellow the lens filters.

A true black and white variable contrast diffusion head, is fairly rare but it will give you a greater range of magenta and yellow light. I'm not sure if that range is all that necessary, but it's available I guess if you do need it. There is no cyan on a B&W head since it's not needed.

A diffusion enlarger has the reputation of being naturaly lower in contrast than a condenser type and that may make you want to punch up the contrast by increasing development times when you process new film. In my experience that hasn't been a problem. I went from a condenser head, with uneven light and plenty of dust; to a colour head with even light and no dust but what seems to be the same amount of contrast as before. So what was the additional variable? Well I also went from 50 year old Wollensack's to Schneider Componon-S lenses. And that's a price I'm willing to pay.

So can you make a great print with a condenser enlarger? You bet. It's just harder.

-- David Grandy (, March 27, 2001.

Raven, I guess it depends on what you mean by "b&w head". Like David, I've been using a couple of Beseler 45s heads at work for a long time to print b&w and really like them. But, if you mean a dedicated variable contrast (b&w) head, not a condenser, I think in the end it would be about (not quite) the same. Unless you were using a Multigrade head, or a bi-tube cold light. You might be able to get more out of both ends of contrast with a dedicated head. Sometimes it's hard to get max. contrast on a color head. I don't really think in terms of grades when I use a color head, instead I think in terms of "points", so yeah, you can really tweak the contrast as you see fit.

-- DK Thompson (, March 27, 2001.

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