Zone VI VC 8x10 enlarger

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by jason l., Dec 1, 2000.

  1. Hi all.

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    The next toy on my list for 2001 is the Zone VI 8X10 VC enlarger by Calumet. I'm curious about the accuracy of some of the claims Calumet makes about the enlarger.

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    I emailed Ilford to ask them and they have not responded. It's not that I don't believe Calumet's claims about the structure of VC paper emulsions; I'm just curious about their claims regarding the effectiveness of their dual cold light grid.

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    Anyway, here's what Calumet says on their web page. If anyone has practical experience with this enlarger or the general design; your input is most appreciated.

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    "Here’s how it works. Variable contrast papers are made up of two different emulsion layers: a low, or soft contrast layer sensitive to green light, and a high, or hard layer sensitive to blue light. The variable contrast head features two light grids, one green and one blue, each with its own rheostat. Print contrast is controlled by varying the intensity of these “soft” and “hard” grids. This system allows the ability to adjust contrast within the high and low values independently, and in one exposure. Because there are two different tubes projecting two different spectrums of light, it’s like making two exposures in one, each hitting and effecting the two layers in the paper’s emulsion."
     
  2. Jason,

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    I have the 5x7 version. The 8x10 uses the same frame and concept.
    Which part of Calumet's claim do you think is in question? Have you
    ever tied "split printing" with your current system? This is the
    same concept. It does work. I am not sure that I get the same
    contrast range as I did with filter system, but that has not been a
    problem for me. I do think that you need to calibrate the system
    with your papers and developers to get the full benefit.
     
  3. I had the 5x7 version, and the dual-grid head worked flawlessly. You
    probably loose a half or whole grade at each end, but if your
    negatives are that bad, perhaps you shouldn't print them? You could
    use separate filters for those grades anyhow, if you had to. I never
    missed them.

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    The heads have no "normal contrast" reference, so you can't rely on a
    fixed starting point. I just switched to using equal blue & green
    (hard & soft) for my starting point, and added/subtracted if I had
    too much or too little contrast. It was easier than calibrating since
    I was printing mostly new negatives, not ones that already had a
    printing formula.

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    This said, I sold the enlarger and bought a Sauders/LPL to replace
    it. My difficulties with the Zone VI were these:

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    1. It was extremely difficult for me to print from smaller format
    negatives. While being an excellent 5x7 and 4x5 enlarger, it was a
    mediocre 2-1/4 enlarger, and a downright poor 35mm enlarger. (With 35
    mm you were wasting 95% of the light illuminating the negative
    carrier, not the negative. Focusing & composition was near impossible
    for me, and printing times were incredibly long.And the lens bellows
    didn't like being compressed that much, so the rack & pinion slipped.)

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    2. Focusing and composition were difficult even at 4x5.The eye is
    most sensitive to yellow light, and there is no yellow in green nor
    in blue.

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    In short, the claims Calumet makes for the light source are accurate.
    The claims they make about this being the best enlarger regardless of
    format size, I take strong issue with. I've come to the conclusion
    that 1 enlarger really can't effectively cope with all formats from
    35mm to 8x10.

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    For your use (8x10), I doubt you would have any complaints at all.
    But I strongly encourage you to actually use one of these before you
    spend 3 to 4 thousand. If you are in the US, I'd even recommend
    flying to a Calumet site to check it out, or ask them for a local
    reference.
     
  4. I have the Type I Zone VI enlarger. As I understand it from Calumet,
    the Type I is brighter, probably because the transformers are in the
    control panel, versus in the head. The control panel is large and
    heavy, suggesting that the transformers are heavy duty.

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    As for small negatives on a Zone VI Type I or II, by purchasing the
    Zone VI Beseler adaptor (e.g. intended for the Beseler color head),
    it's very easy to adapt an Omega D2V condenser head to this enlarger.
    It's a matter of gluing a long 3/8" thick, 1/2" wide piece of rubber
    around the metal housing for the condenser so that the head can be
    raised to insert the negative carriers. It works perfectly, using the
    arm that raises the normal Zone VI head. Atleast, this solution works
    for me, because for smaller negatives, I prefer condenser enlargement.

    While I've not tried it, there may still be the option of getting an
    Arista high intensity head for diffusion enlargement of smaller
    negatives. If this works, it would require the Arista Beseler
    adaptor, in addition to the Zone VI Beseler adaptor. Circular color
    VC filters could be inserted above the diffuser by lifting the head
    out of the housing. Again, I've not tried this.

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    With these adaptations, the only thing that's not possible with the
    Zone VI is 5x7 color enlarging. But other than this, I've found the
    Zone VI to be a very good general purpose enlarger.
     
  5. Hi
    I also have a Zone VI 5x7 VC enlarger. I bought the original type I
    and then upgraded the light source to the newer type II. I agree with
    the previous comments regarding enlarging smaller negatives, I
    believe that this enlarger was primarily designed for 4x5. The VC
    head is very nice to use but the claims about independent control
    over shadow and highlight values is somewhat misleading. If you make
    an adjustment to either the blue light or the green light it does
    have an impact on both the highlights and the shadows, and you will
    have to adjust the exposure time I assure you. This is due to the
    nature of VC paper, and you cannot get away from it. For marketing
    purposes it sounds great but it does not work that way in reality. It
    is a great head for doing spit filter printing as it is very easy to
    turn off either the blue or green light and expose with the other.
    I wish you good luck with your decision.
     
  6. Dear Jason,

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    II own the Zone VI Enlarger 5x7 with VC head version II. and I
    think this is a brilliant enlarger apart from the method adopted to
    stabilise the light output. This question is much less problematic
    than the version II I owned before but its still there.
    There is a green LED in the VC head that tell us when the light
    output is stabilised. Most of times we use the "hard" and "soft"
    tubes with different intensities so they do not have synchronised
    stabilisation and the integrated method to evaluate the light
    output doesn’t work in terms of maintaining the same contrast
    print after print unless you make a " dry" exposure after the LED
    turned on permitting both tubes to stabilise completely.

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    In first promotional leaflet released by Calumet to advertise this
    enlarger (versionII) they announced that the VC head would
    have two individual cells for each tube but I was informed
    directly from them that they abandoned this approach after
    some problems in testing.
    It would be interesting if someone could give some more
    information about this matter.
     
  7. Mr. Teireixa's comments are interesting. I'd always thought that they
    had independent controls on both the green and blue. Frankly, it
    would be better to leave off the control altogether (except for the
    sensor) and get the compensating timer. I think that this would help
    to compensate for the change in intensity as one adjusts contrast.
     
  8. Calumet is incorrect when they talk about "layers" of blue and green
    sensitive materials. There are no such "layers" in VC paper. It's
    this kind of misinformation that leads people to waste a lot of time
    with split printing, i.e. thinking they can accomplish something
    different by making two exposures, one with blue light only to expose
    the blue "layer," another with green light only to expose the
    green "layer." In fact the blue and green sensitive materials are
    mixed together in the paper (i.e. there are no layers) and both are
    sensitive to both blue and green light, just in different
    proportions.
     
  9. Thanks very much to all.
    Ilford did get back to me and I have attached the technician's
    response below. Note that it confirms what Brian posted with regard
    to the mixed emulsion as opposed to the layered structure. The
    technician does indicate that the dual grid (blue/green) should be
    effective in contrast control.

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    I had copied Calumet's description of the design of the Zone VI
    enlarger head and Calumet's description of vc paper emulsion which
    they say is layered (Green/Blue) sensitive.

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    From Ilford:
    " While this description of Multigrade paper is not technically fully
    accurate (our paper has 3 emulsions, and they are mixed, not layered),
    it is close enough to describe the process. The type of head you
    describe should give excellent results, although you may have to
    experiment some to find the proper contrast settings. Some cold
    light heads have a problem reaching the lowest contrast grades,
    but having a green light source should for the most part eliminate
    that problem. "
     
  10. I used the Zone VI 5x7 for almost a year. I found it to be a fairly
    good enlarger. My only complaint was that it would go out of
    alignment almost monthly. I used a laser alignment device, would get
    perfect alignment at any one point along the column. It was however,
    impossible to get perfect alignment at both the top and bottom of the
    column simultaneously.

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    For the type of work I do, I could not accept this condition.

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    The cold light control panel was nice to use, although I found that
    the contrast range was a bit limited.

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    I sold the Zone VI 5x7 and bought a Durst Multigraphy 1200. My range
    of printable contrast is now increased, my enlarger does not need
    alignment. It is perhaps one of the finest enlargers I have ever used.
     

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