1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Which enlarger - colour or B/W?

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by nicbards, Mar 16, 2003.

  1. nicbards

    nicbards New Member

    I am considering setting up a traditional darkroom. I've only used black and white enlargers before. Is there any disadvantage to using colour enlarger heads for black and white printing? A salesman in a photo store recommended this since, as well as giving you colour capability, the filters needed for VC paper are included in the enlarger head.
    Thanks for any advice,


    Colour would certainly be preferable for the infinite variety of Variable Contrast settings available with a dial-in head. If the colour filtration is by drop-in filter drawer then there is little difference.

  3. Simon E.

    Simon E. Well-Known Member

    A colour head can make life easier partly because you can mix the filters, though in truth the half grade steps of Multigrade and other VC filters are accurate enough.

    A bigger benefit is if you want to use more than one contrast grade on a print - either split-grade printing or just to burn in a specific area. Then you can twiddle the controls instead of removing a filter.

    The biggest difference is the type of illumination. B&W heads are usually condensers, which give more contrasty illumination. You can develop a film for less time than with a colour (diffuser) head for the same result. However, I prefer a colour head because it will not show up scratches, dust and other marks anything like as easily.

    The short answer is: if you can stretch to one with a colour head it would be advisable.

  4. BigWill

    BigWill Gorgeous oversensitive Nikon-loving cream puff

    Re: Which enlarger - color or B/W?

    Yep, agree with Simon and John, go for the color head model. That way you will have the best of both worlds, color and monochrome. Monochrome purists will tell you that a condenser light source is superior to the diffused light source in color enlargers but in the real world the difference is negligible.


    <font color=blue>I'm sailing like a driftwood on a windy bay!<font color=black>
  5. Simon E.

    Simon E. Well-Known Member

    Re: Which enlarger - color or B/W?

    The difference isn't worth talking about, though I'm sure people have reasons for their choice.

    Purists? Pah, ignore 'em. Like so many "experts" they're full of s**t.

  6. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Re: Which enlarger - color or B/W?

    Hell, I think the difference is worth talking about - although not for long. Condenser enlargers give much more contrast, diffusers are much easier to print with. Which is best? For most people, a diffuser one. For those who really want to master printing (read "purists"), a condenser. For me, a scanner 'cos I'm a hopeless printer, but if I ever did go back to it, diffuser is the path I would take.

    Nick BSRIPN
  7. enpee

    enpee Member

    Re: Which enlarger - colour or B/W

    Dear Nick,
    From a purely personal point of view, if you're going to make B W prints, use a condenser head. I switched from a colour head (diffuse light source) many years ago. The difference between prints made by each system is considerable. As for ease of use, using a filter drawer (as opposed to "dialing in" the filtration on a colour head) is simplicity itself. And where this ludicrous idea of "purist" comes from, I've no idea. Anyway, what the hell! be a purist! there's precious few of them around. A condenser head will enable you produce prints with bitingly sharp detail and beautiful tonal rendition. A colour enlarger is really a compromise. One last point; with the slow but inexorable demise of home colour printing and colour enlargers going for a song, is it any wonder the salesman wanted to sell you one. Stick with condensers.
    regards, Enpee.
  8. Larry Shone

    Larry Shone Well-Known Member

    Re: Which enlarger - color or B/W?

    isnt there a difference in that one takes longer to reach optimum light level and heat up and also one is more contrasty whereas the other is softer?
    We use LPL colour heads at college with 3 wheels to dial in the filtration, piece of cake!And if you don;t have a color head how you going to alter the contrast grade?

    Larry's Photo site
  9. enpee

    enpee Member

    Re: Which enlarger - color or B/W?

    It is true, condenser systems are inherently more contrasty, but detail appears sharper, less soft. As a consequence, films don't need pushing at the development stage to produce contrasty negs (as you would need with a diffuse light source), the result being negatives that are less grainy. Most if not all recent B W enlargers have a filter drawer which accept multigade filters. As the name suggests, it is possible to print from grade oo up to grade 5 (using Ilford Multigrade filters) with half grades in between. It is
    a VERY easy, straightforward way to make top notch prints. Basic manipulations such as split-grade printing are easy to achieve. I'd be interested to know exactly what problems the other contributors to this thread have encountered when using condensor systems.


    Re: Which enlarger - color or B/W?

    You need a very well designed condenser model to get overall illuminatiion corner to corner. Many that I have used fail in this respect. They are a compromise up to 6x6, but the Durst bent light path type, M670 etc. help even out the corners. A 100 watt bulb in a big globe directly over the condensers is probably the most difficult arrangement to balance, but only if you try to push it to the limits. My old 5x4 MPP just about covers 5x4 negs but the corners do fall off, whereas it can handle 120 and 35mm easily. Choice of lens is equally important and it would be nice if they were all slighly wider than the standard 80mm or 50mm.

    Best of all is DeVere 504 Cold Cathode head - if you have the space for it!

  11. stan

    stan Well-Known Member

    All you have to watch is the exposure index. Take note of the developing times for gbar 0.7 for diffusers. STAN
  12. stan

    stan Well-Known Member

    Re: Which enlarger - color or B/W?

    Don`t be a silly billy Larry. Never heard of filter drawers for above lens filtration. Ilfords attachment for below lens filtration.

Share This Page