Heiland Splitgrade versus RH Designs Analyzer

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I've read many of the Usenet comments about the Heiland Splitgrade (HS) system and browsed their website. I've also done the same for the RH Designs Analyser / ZoneMaster (RH), and I'm uncertain which of these very fine tools to get. I've just purchased the V35 with VC head, so my inclination is to use that head with the RH Designs (and of course save $600-$800).

If I've understood the descriptions of these tools, the HS head replaces my VC head and will control its own filters to make both a #00 and a #5 exposure on the print paper. The exposure is determined by probing the image, looking for highlights and shadow, and then comparing the differences in densities to its database for the chosen paper (e.g. Ilford MG IV). I've read some conflicting info about this: one post said that the HS only uses the whitest highlight and the darkest shadow that has been probed to compute its exposure. Another post said that the HS accepts probes of many spots of differing densities and then analyzes the density distribution over the entire grey-scale. Which is it? Also, the HS always tries to put the whitest highlight into zone 8 (almost white but with some detail) and the darkest shadow into zone 2 (almost black but with some detail). What if the negative doesn't lend itself to that, for example a moody, gray, overcast scene?

Now, for the RH Designs analyzer (RH). This tool seems much more powerful in theory: you can probe up to 8 spots and alter their relative grey-scale zones by changing the paper-grade and the exposure-time controls. Thus, for the moody overcast scene it's up to me to determine where I want the "whitest" highlight (perhaps zone 6). Also, since I'd be using my own VC head, it seems that I'm responsible for making sure that the RH calibration matches my equipment (nicely finessed by HS by forcing their own filter head into my enlarger!). How do you do split-grade printing with the RH? From reading their website, it seems that for split printing, it may be worthwhile to get their Zone Master and their Stop Clock Pro (rather than the Analser-Pro), because the Stop Clock Pro has 2 channels that can be programmed with different exposures (for example, one for #00 and one for #5). The alternative being to get the Analyzer-Pro and constantly write down what the 2 exposures should be. Correct me if I've misstated this.

My photographs include portraiture, sports, scenics, family candids, maybe some architecture ... and I also like to capture moody and dark situations. So, the question is, which do I buy? I am certainly pressed for time (unlike when I was in my twenties and could spend all weekend in the darkroom). It seems that the HS is ahead for ease-of-use and time. It seems that the RH is ahead for flexibility - can that be translated into time-savings with repeated use? I've read a lot of comments from people who sound like experienced and demanding darkroom users that praise the HS, saying that for most of what they do, the HS takes the hassle out of obtaining very good, keeper prints. Does that mean that the power of the RH may be unnecessary for most prints?

Thanks in advance for all answers.

- Paul

-- Paul Greenbaum (paul.greenbaum@pfizer.com), December 15, 2001


I've read some conflicting info about this: one post said that the HS only uses the whitest highlight and the darkest shadow that has been probed to compute its exposure. Another post said that the HS accepts probes of many spots of differing densities and then analyzes the density distribution over the entire grey-scale. Which is it?

The HS does accept probes of many spots of differing densities, but then analyzes only the extremes of what is probed, and then calculates an appropriate exposure with the assumption that the darkest probed area should land in zone 8, and the lightest probed area should land in zone 2 (approx.). It only needs two measurements, actually. The reason for the user to probe in more than the two areas of the projected image is that it is not always possible for the human eye to detect subtle differences in density in a given area of the image. As the probe unit reads densities, it beeps. Before long, it stops beeping as you pass the probe around the image because it is not detecting areas that are either brighter or darker than what is already probed. In other words, as you move the probe around, it will beep whenever it detects a brighter or darker area. From the two greatest extremes, it then calculates the exposure based on what paper you have selected. I hope this makes sense.

-- Tony Rowlett (rowlett@alaska.net), December 15, 2001.


This is a very thorough question - let me try to answer at least half of it. I recently purchased the Heiland Splitgrade after I read about it for the first time in this forum. (In your post I read about the RH for the first time... ;o)

Jürgen Heiland, the designer and seller of the Splitgrade offered a top notch customer service in letting me test a manual version of the HS for two weeks (my enlarger, a DURST M605 wouldn't allow for a dedicated Heiland Multigrade head). More so for several times during this period he was available by mail and phone for more informations on how to perfectly calibrate and use it. I simply couldn't ask for more service and gladly bought the machine in the end. I haven't regretted this ever since.

Basically you are completely right about the procedure. In fact, the light sensor has to be moved across the projected neg within the zones that you want the analizer to believe cover the whole range of densities. What the HS will automatically do is try to distribute them evenly from zone 2 to zone 8 by calculating the apropriate times of the two subsequent (#00 and #5) exposures. Thus you will achieve a print with the most and the most evenly distributed tonal information available from the neg.

As you point out rightly, this may not be your artistic intention. But you have several means of imposing your personal choice of tonal translation:
1) by avoiding extreme zones during the measuring process (on the shaddows' side as well as on the highlights', if you wish), thus sending them to black and white, respectively
2) by gradually and manually tweaking total exposure as well as gradation before starting the printing process
3) by interrupting the exposure at any given time (you may even program 8 exact intervals per print) in order to mask of parts of the neg (dodge and/or burn) - or, with the maual version, even "cheat" by selecting multigrade filters of different gradation # than what the HS believes you are using.

In short, if you really mean it, you can go as far as brain surgery. And the HS will be very helpful in the process as it is absolutely precise. On the other side you may as well let the automatism take over to help you get more than decent prints in no time. As when without any computer assisted help, it takes a bit of time to master the parameters. Once you do, you won't want to miss it. Don't forget though, that it's just a machine without the slightest idea of what you have in mind or what the neg is containing in terms different from density - that is semantically and artistically. (I doubt any machine will ever be able to go that far - but if the day should come, then we can let those machines go out taking the pics for us... ;o)

Now, somebody else take over for the RH. I'm eager to learn what that damn thang can do. Cheers.

-- Lutz Konermann (lutz@konermann.net), December 15, 2001.

I've just purchased the V35 with VC head, so my inclination is to use that head with the RH Designs (and of course save $600-$800)

Another thought, Paul: if you want to keep your VC head - $750 is just roughly the price of the manual HS, incl. shipment. So, how can you save that amount by buying the RH? Does it come for free?

-- Lutz Konermann (lutz@konermann.net), December 17, 2001.

I am a fan of the Heiland Splitgrade. The only trick is knowing where to measure the two extremes. The routine I have gotten into is to measure different gammas for a given image and make a test strip at each gamma. Usually it breakes down into gammas like 0.95, 1.00, 1.05. Then I can interpolate between the 3 to get the "perfect" image. What's nice about the HS is that it's gets you really close to the ballpark. And I guess over time you get to where you start to learn where you want to take the measurements so even that process is speeded up. FWIW, if you order straight from Juergen you get the best price I think.

-- Russell Brooks (russell@ebrooks.org), December 17, 2001.

I am aware that I am slightly out of my depth technically but I have some experience of both systems so thought I would chip in. I use the RH analyser which is c. £240 here in the UK. Apart from the apparantly low build quality of the probe I have nothing but praise for it. It should be pointed out that the 2 systems work differently (which people may or may not already realise, so I'll spell it out (sorry if this is obvious))- the analyser, at it's most simple, requires the user to choose a highlight point (from which it determines exposure) and then a shadow point to read from. The shadow point will then "fall" somewhere along a grey scale and will move as you select a grade to use. In other words, at it's simplest, you take a highlight reading, then a shadow reading, then adjust contrast to get the shadow reading to fall on a black tone just containing detail and away you go - exposing at one exposure and at one grade. The Heiland is a split grade device which, when used correctly, gives the advantages of split grade printing with VC contrast - i.e. 2 seperate exposures (one at a very soft grade and one at a hard contrast). Now, it is possible, of course, to use the RH analyser in a more complex, subtle way - as has been said above, one may take up to 8 readings; all of which are placed along the grey scale. (You can also use the projected neg to measure relative density - useful for film speed and dev. tests (a quasi densitometer, in effect). Similarly, the system allows for calculation of burn-in times (at different grades if required) where you can see the shift in the tone achieved by watching the grey scale. All of this is quite hard to explain but fairly straightforward to do. The great attraction of the Splitgrade machine, for me, is that it obviates the need for scratched and irritating under-the-lens filters, and that by using the splitgrade technique, it gives you access to grades such as 2.3 (instead of just half grades.). However, you already have a vc head so... In the end, the RH analyser is capable of doing everything that the Heiland does (even split grade printing - see rhdesigns web site) but in a considerably less convenient way than the splitgrade. To put it another way, if you're after quick, high quality results the Heiland is excellent: if you really will use the RH analyser to calculate your multiple burn in times at different grades, your pre-flash times etc this is the way to go. To be honest, I use it to give me a "ball park" which I then fiddle with, and at the time, I couldn''t stump up the extra £400+ for the more snazzy machine. After 2 years of use, I've only just started to do split grade with it (after seeing results with a friend's Heiland Splitgrade) and I've fallen back in to it. The story continues...

-- steve (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), December 17, 2001.

Just to update what's above, Chris Woodhouse (designer of the Analyser - and someone who is willing to give exceptional customer support) assures me that a straight print using the split grade technique and one made using a single, equivalent grade and exposure, will be identical. There seems a certain amount of mythology and confusion around this (at least in my mind...) but he has done the appropriate tests and concludes as above. The split grade method may, however, enable easier/more convenient burning and dodging to facilitate local contrast control. Hope this does more than merely confuse. Steve

-- steve (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), December 17, 2001.


And here's my update...;o) I went checking for the RH on the net in the meantime - your post and Steve's contribution made me curious. Jürgen Heiland is distributing the Analyzer Pro in Germany(!) and the exact prices on his site compare like this: 457 Euro (420 USD) for the Analyzer Pro vs. 710 Euro (650 USD) for the manual Splitgrade, add shipment in both cases. So you can save roughly 230 USD.

A look at the specs sheet indicates, that provided you already have a Multigrade head and want to keep and use it, the Analyzer Pro can do more or less as much for you as the Splitgrade. And it has a nice design and interface, too, goes with just one exposure and offers that grey scale which looks really neat. It seems more straight forward than the Splitgrade, which has a lot under the hood, but is basically meant for controlling its own dedicated Multigrade heads. If I had known of the Analyzer Pro before, I might have considered it, too.

-- Lutz Konermann (lutz@konermann.net), December 17, 2001.

I use the HS, and whilst I am interested in the technicalities of the subject, this only stems from an interest in understanding how to obtain a satisfactory quality. I no longer care about zones......For me with 'experience' with how to probe and an offset based upon my own preferences, and the dodging and burning facility it is very easy to get excellent prints very quickly. If you have a predominantly white or black print, the HS will determine that you have a very poor contrast negative and suggest a hard grade, you just get to know when to pull rank so to speak.

-- Richard (richard@designblue.co.uk), December 18, 2001.

I have never used either the Heiland Splitgrade or the RH designs Analyzer Pro.

It is true that split-grade printing is no magic bullet. It is no different from a straight exposure at some precise, intermediate grade. However,

1. Splitgrade printing, even of the conventional sort, offers a systematic, intelligent way to approach print contrast and paper grades. So it results in a) less wasted paper and b) a more intelligent, repeatable, approach to choice of paper grade and exposure by the user.

2. The Heiland Splitgrade offers further labour savings in that

a) it has its own motorized calibrated heads, matched precisely and repeatably to the sensor/exposure circuit

b) the calibration circuitry has test information on a wide variety of papers in the market and

c) most importantly, paper grade and exposure are determined in a single pre-exposure measuring step offering even greater labour savings over the manual two test print splitgrade method.

-- Mani Sitaraman (bindumani@pacific.net.sg), December 18, 2001.

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