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Thread: using enlarger for contact printing

  1. #1

    using enlarger for contact printing

    I recently moved up from 35mm to lf with an 8x10 field camera and 5x7 reducing b ack. I contact print both formats on a C700 condenser enlarger with 35mm neg car rier in place, sandwiching neg and enlarging paper between plate glass and foam pad. So far, results aren't bad, but a major problem is the short exposure time , e.g. 6 seconds for polycontrast III RC with the head at maximum height and my 50/4 enlarging lens stopped all the way down to f/16, making dodging and burning difficult, if not impossible. I don't want to detach the base because I still n eed the enlarger for 35mm. Because I like the controls the enlarger makes possib le, I'm not ready for a light bulb either. Slower papers, Azo and POP's, to judg e form previous postings, aren't going to allow the same range of choices as do enlarging papers. For money reasons, a bigger enlarger is out of the question. So I'm trying to make do with my little Omega. Is there such a thing as a ND f ilter for the filter drawer? I'm thinking about a lens with a smaller minimum a perture, say f/32, but this idea has got me wondering about the effects, if any, of printing with the lens stopped all the way down. I could use some help here. And while I'm at it, a couple of related questions. Do the much discussed lim itations of condenser (vs. diffusion) enlargers (esp. increased contrast and Cal lier effect) apply when contact printing on an enlarger? Also, Ansel says (Prin t, pp. 68-69) to set the lens focus *forward* from the position that produces sh arp edges of the negative carrier, so that the "image" of the enlarger's diffusi ng screen, or dust on the condenser, will not be projected on the paper ... esp. when the lens is stopped down. Which direction is forward? In any case, here s topping down does seem to bear on image quality. Thanks in advance for any help with these issues.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 1998

    using enlarger for contact printing

    Extend the lens cone downwards, you might need to remove the film carrier too. Then try putting some diffusion material (like tracing paper) below the lens. You can add layers to get more density.

  3. #3

    using enlarger for contact printing

    You could choose a cokin ND filter or some other brand to add density in order to increase the exposure time.

    But you might want to find some gel sample packages that can do the job.

    I guess that I should explain what I mean by gel samples. Although the brand name escapes me at present there are companies that make gels for filtering lights - most often for movies. They sample these gels in little packs, kind of like paint swatches. One company makes these swatches in about 2 1/2" squares and there must be close to a hundred different types including colour correction and neutral density ones, in a pack.

    Now you may not want to use these non optically corrected filters on your camera - although I did some colour copying, needed the blue filter to compensate for the incandescent lights, and got excellent results. In any event the way that you are planning on using the filters then optical excellence is moot, and you won't get them any cheaper.

  4. #4

    using enlarger for contact printing

    You can adjust the focus to spread light over a larger area (move towards the negative carrier). This will reduce the intensity somewhat.

    You could make a large ND filter to fit your largest negative carrier by exposing your 5x7 film to a completely smooth surface (make the image out of focus in the camera to make it completely smooth). You could use 35mm to make a small ND filter this way. Best to use a film with a clear or neutral tint base. The steps for your film speed test would probably suffice.

    I am astounded at your printing time. Does a 35mm negative blown up to 8x10 print as fast with this paper? Maybe you just need a slower paper?

    The Callier does not apply to contact printing in this fashion.

  5. #5
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    using enlarger for contact printing

    I'm also pretty surprised by your exposure times. Presuming you've got the correct bulb in the enlarger, and you're not developing in straight Dektol, maybe your negatives are thin. Ask someone experienced and known to be a good printer if you can compare negs sometime.

    Try Azo--you might like it. I do. Multicontrast filters are handy, but you can adjust the contrast in other ways.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon and Austria

    using enlarger for contact printing

    Optical sharpness from the lens is not an issue here, only the evenness of the illumination. Opal glass, tracing paper and anything else that is translucent but not uneven in texture will work as a diffusing/light attenuating material. You must have a hell of a bright light source to get such short printing times though, maybe a change of bulb is in order as well. Regards, ;^D)

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    using enlarger for contact printing

    This sounds very strange. I sometimes contact print 8x10 negatives using my enlarger, which has an Aristo 4500 VCL head which I set at a contrast of 2.0 (on a scale of 5.1, 5.1 being the brightest). I set the head at 13" and remove the lens and negative carrier. With all of that, I still get exposure times with enlarging paper in the 15- 45 second range and when I switch to Azo I get times so slow (60 - 90 seconds) that I switch to a light bulb for Azo. Maybe you just have a very bright light source, or maybe as someone else suggested your negatives are on the thin side. FWIW, stopping the enlarger lens all the way down will have no adverse effect when contact printing because you're not really using the lens for anything. I doubt that the Callier effect is relevant when contact printing either but since I use a cold light I don't know much about it.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  8. #8

    using enlarger for contact printing

    Thanks to all for your replies and good suggestions. I went with a Kodak Wratten neutral density gelatin 0.90 three-stop filter. The 75mm x 75 mm size just fits the filter drawer on my enlarger. The eight times longer exposure now gives more latitude for error and ability to dodge and burn.

  9. #9

    Re: using enlarger for contact printing

    I believe the best way to make a contact print is like this:
    Before you do anything in the darkroom, obtain the necessary simple equipment. You will need a simple sheet of glass. The glass should be about an inch larger than the negative; for a 5 x 7 this will be about 6 x 8. I prefer to use heavy commercial "float glass" for the contact glass, but about any sheet of defect-free and ripple-free glass will do. Any commercial glass supplier can supply this, be sure to ask to have the edges sanded or ground. You may substitute a commercial contact printing frame or contact printing easel if you have it.
    In the darkroom, proceed as follows:
    1. Adjust the condenser lenses to the size of the largest negative carrier you have and place that carrier in the holder.
    2. Insert the lens appropriate to the carrier and open it to its largest aperture.
    3. Set the enlarger to illuminate an area on the baseboard somewhat larger than the print to be made. Mark the top and side edges of this area with some pair of small objects, or make marks directly on the baseboard.
    4. Place a sheet of the same paper you are going to make your print with on the baseboard. Any old print, face down, will do.
    5. Focus the silhouette of the negative carrier on the paper; if necessary, readjust the area of illumination and refocus.
    6. Stop the lens down to a mid-range value.
    7. Place the paper and the negative (emulsions together, negative on top) on the baseboard next to the marks and place the sheet of glass over them. This requires some care; it seems to work best if one edge of the glass is set on the baseboard and the glass is lowered, like a trap door closing, on the negative.
    8. Make your exposure and develop the print. You will be amazed at how sharp the print is.
    9. Once you have a satisfactory print, record the enlarger height, exposure time, lens focal length and aperture, condenser setting, negative carrier size, and filters if used. This will save you a lot of time and trouble later.

  10. #10
    ic-racer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Re: using enlarger for contact printing

    1)Stop all the way down
    2)Put the head all the way up
    3)Put inexpensive ND filter gel in the filter holder

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