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Thread: using an aristo vcl4500 with a beseler

  1. #1

    using an aristo vcl4500 with a beseler

    I am trying to figure out how to use my aristo vcl4500 cold light system. Aristo's instructions are of very little help. I am using a metrolux II timer, and am starting to believe that the whole system is a bit too complicated for my needs. I bought the enlarger with these two devices, mainly because I had worked with beseler 4x5's in school and prefer them. The cold light seems to be a good way to go as far as a light source, but the current interface is might be a little too fancy for me. Can anyone out there 1. explain in a simple manner how to use the vcl4500, specificaly the contrast dial (I have read that these numbers do not correspond with actual paper contrast values) and/or how to use the metrolux timer with this system (I have read about calibrations being necessary) and 2. recommend a simpler set-up I could persue with or without a coldlight for a beseler. I am a user of VC paper.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    using an aristo vcl4500 with a beseler

    You have a great system, Jonathan. You can get very good results by using the system right out of the box, without calibration. Place the Metrolux light probe on a blue tube facing the blue tube, which should give consistent and repeatable times in a specific contrast grade. Then just dial in the contrast you want on the Aristo control. The Aristo numbers donít exactly match the paper grades, but with most papers they are close. Exposure times will change in different contrast grades, so you will eventually want to calibrate your system. I personally made up a printed table of contrasts and exposure adjustments, based on info obtained by printing step tablets. Check out the Way Beyond Monochrome book by Lambrecht and Woodhouse, and the BTZS book by Phil Davis. And search the archives of this and other forums.

  3. #3
    Robert A. Zeichner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 1999
    Southfield, Michigan

    using an aristo vcl4500 with a beseler

    I'm not familiar with the Metrolux, but I've used the VCL4500 for years and it has been great. The head has two grids in it, a green and a blue. The green tube is the highlight printer and the blue is the shadow printer. There is also a switch that in the up position, will illuminate only the blue tube. When in the down position, both grids should light, but depending on the position of the contrast adjusting knob, the blue may be anywhere from off (0.0) to fully on (5.1). The green tube doesn't change. The contrast settings on any VC cold light are only going to approximate paper grades. It doesn't really matter if they don't match exactly and they won't. The big advantage is that you can dial in intermediate grades very easily. I usually start at 2.0 with an average negative and make a test print. If the highlights are correctly exposed but the shadows are too light, I might just dial in a little more blue by setting the knob to 2.2 or 2.5. If the shadows are too dense, I'll back it off a tad to 1.8 or 1.5. Small adjustments like these won't require adjustments to exposure generally. If you are way off and end up having to go from 2.0 to 3.5 for example, you will need to adjust the overall exposure time as this radical a change will impact the density of many midrange tones to a greater degree. Where this system really shines is when you want to burn in a cloud without making surrounding mountains get unnaturally dark in isolated areas. You just dial in 0.0 and burn away. Similarly, you can burn dark areas on a snowy peak without darkening the snow itself, by turning that switch to blue only. The other technique I use occassionally is split printing. I can expose the top half of a print with a 2.0 and the lower half with a 3.0. Just put a bit of tape along the edges of the easel and mark the transisiton area with a sharpie so you'll know where to move your doging card. You will come to love this once you get used to it.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    using an aristo vcl4500 with a beseler

    I used the system you have for many years (I still own it but I don't use it any more because I now print digitally). I don't think the Metrolux timer is easy to set up without the instruction manual. Do you have that manual?

    The VCL 4500 isn't very complicated to set up so I'm not sure exactly what problems you're encountering. If you bought this system new then the principal problem in setting it up is that you have to drill a hole in the VCL 4500 metal covering so that the two lines for the blue and green lights can be attached to the two glass tubes in the head. That's a little scary because one misstep and you've drilled into the glass tubes on your $1,000 head. If you bought the system used then presumably the prvious owner did this drilling for you.

    There are settings on the VCL control box for blue light only, green light only, and mixed. Unless you want to waste time doing split contrast printing (i.e. making two basic exposures, one with the blue light alone and a second with the green light alone), use the setting for mixed. With this setting the green light ouput remains constant and contrast is controlled by the blue light. The higher the number you dial in (e.g. 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, etc.) the more blue light you get and the greater the contrast.

    The numbers on the control unit don't correspond to paper grades. FWIW I found that the starting point with a "normal" negative varies depending on the paper you're using. When I used Ilform Multigrade IV FB starting at 2.7 produced a "normal" print. When I switched to Kodak Polymax Fine Art 2.0 produced a "normal" print.

    You will also find that changing the numbers doesn't necessarily produce linear changes in contrast. With my VCL4500 and Kodak Polymax Fine Art paper, a setting of 1.0 is the approximate equivalent of a nominal very low Grade 1 paper (almost Grade 0), 1.5 is the approximate equivalent of a nominal high Grade 1 (almost Grade 2) paper (i.e. moving by only .5 units produces a change of almost one full paper grade), 2.0 is the equivalent of a middle Grade 2 paper, 2.5 produces almost no change from 2.0, 3.0 is the approximate equivalent of a nominal low Grade 3 paper, 3.5 is the approximate equivalent of a middle Grade 3 paper, 4.0 is the equivalent of a very high nominal Grade 3 paper (almost Grade 4), and 4.5 is the equivalent of a middle Grade 4 paper. All of this is based on testing done with the assistance of Phil Davis at one of his workshops.

    The principal point here is to note that moving from 1.0 to 1.5 produced a change of almost one full nominal paper grade while moving from 2.0 to 2.5 produced almost no change in contrast and even moving from 2.0 to 3.0 produced only about half a grade difference in contrast rather than the full grade you might expect. This may sound complicated but in fact once you start printing you'll start to see what changes the numbers you dial in produce without necessarily doing any testing. However, even if you don't do this kind of testing you should at least make a series of exposures of a 21 step wedge starting with say .5 and going up to 5.0 in increments of .5 units. If you do this you can easily see what each increase in contrast does to the highlights, midtones, and shadows and you'll find that very useful in your printing.

    The big advantage of using variable contrast papers is the ability to burn in different areas of the print at different contrasts, as Robert discusses. The big advantage of the VCL4500 is that it makes doing this very easy. Plus the ability to move in increments as small as .1 units is nice. The big avantage of using the Metrolux timer in conjunction with the VCL4500 is that it is a compensating timer, which means that it automatically adjusts the time for different contrasts without your having to figure out what change is needed and then to reset the timer. For example, perhaps you've found that a time of 30 seconds produces a print with acceptable midtones and hightlight but the shadows are weak so you want to increase the blue light from say 3.0 to 3.5 . When you move from 3.0 to 3.5 more light is being put out so that your exposure time must be decreased to take the additional light output into account. The Metrolux in theory makes this change for you by reducing the actual exposure time by the necessary amount without your having to figure out how much to reduce it by and then changing the time on the timer. Frankly I didn't find this to work too well in practice, I usually ended up making some adjustment to the time myself when I changed the settings on the control box but that's how it's supposed to work IIRC.

    You have an excellent system and I'd suggest not abandoning it so quickly. When I had questions I called Aristo and the person I spoke with was very helpful. For the Metrolux timer you need to get an instruction manual if you don't already have one.
    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.

  5. #5
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    using an aristo vcl4500 with a beseler

    The Metrolux can only control one tube (green or blue) at a time. Because of this, it is best to do split printing with the VCL-type light sources and use the lamps at full intensity. Some printers manage to use the Metrolux with the light blended, but I don't think this is optimum. If you don't have a manual for Metrolux, it is available at this website:
    my picture blog

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    using an aristo vcl4500 with a beseler

    I've got mine set up with the sensor on the blue tube at a slight angle facing out towards the green tube.... It works okay--not great across the whole spread of the output of the mixed tubes, but good enough in the middle ranges where most of my negs print.

    The downside is that for the ends of the scale, -the timer runs fast or slow, which is normally that big of a deal, but when you switch to the full blue or green output for split printing or burning down detail etc? Well, then at the Lux 1setting where my mixed calibration is, the timer runs pretty fast for the blue and slow as molasses for the green. What I did here was to calbrate the Lux 2 channel for the blue tube only. I was able to get a more even response this way out of the speed of the timer more or less. I probably need to go back and reposition the sensor, but I've been using it like this for about ten years now and I've gotten used to it and frankly I'm too lazy to take it apart and start over again....

    I used the VCL4500 without the metrolux for a year or two and never had a problem to be honest. I mainly went with the metrolux for the closed-loop application with the on-easel probe, but the probe is real buggy and can be pretty frustrating to use definitely need the manual though. good luck all the same.

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