35mm Print Quality, Etc.

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by jmal, Dec 10, 2007.

  1. jmal

    jmal Member

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    Hello all,

    I just finished printing and while in the darkroom came across an old negative that I had never printed. I enlarged it to roughly 8X12 (a little larger actually) on 11x14 paper. I was stunned with the tonality and the composition in general. It was one of just a few negatives I've made that have a LF kind of feel, rather than my usual street/documentary 35mm feel. It really got me thinking about how much can be done with 35mm. I am usually fairly cavalier about my exposure and development with the 35mm because I am usually after a grittier look and I know that I can manage with the latitude of BW film. However, I feel like I should begin working to see how fine a print I can consistently obtain with my 35mm camera. Anyone else here work really hard at fine prints from 35mm? Any tips? Any published photographers out there that have worked with this? Ulimately, I guess I am referring to prints that have a longer tonal scale and a delicacy not usually associated with 35mm negatives. Of course, we have all seen people like Salgado obtain very dramatic results with 35mm, but they stil have a "heaviness" that seems different from what I experienced tonight. Let's hear your thoughts.

    Jmal
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Jmal, with optimum exposure and good processing 35mm is capable of superb tonality, fine grain & sharpness particularly with films like APX100 & Tmax100. Some of the best 35mm images I've seen were shot on APX100 and processed in Rodinal, and I used this combination or Tmax100 + Rodinal myself for many years.

    It is particularly important to pay attention to the temperatures of all the processing stages as there is a phenomenon called micro-reticulation which causes clumping of the silver grains causing negatives to be grainier than they should be.

    Also remember that for tonality many photographers will have done Zone System or BTZ film/developer tests and have found their own ideal ISO setting for the film/dev, in my case that is 50 ISO for Tmax100 and 100 ISO for APX100.

    Ian
     
  3. j4425

    j4425 Member

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    I'm just getting into b/w printing and was also pondering the same question a couple months ago until I started to experiment. I found that a 16X20 is definitely more than possible with 400ISO 35mm that is exposed and developed correctly. This print below is an example. Yes, a tad grainy up close but gorgeous 2 feet away with excellent midtones. T-max 400 (400) HC-110 (B) Ilford warmtone developer +paper (pearl finish)
     

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  4. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I've made several beautiful 11x14s from 35mm. Of course, you can get even better tonality from larger formats, but good technique, decent optics, good film and proper processing will do a lot to carry you far.
     
  5. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Regardless of format. :wink:

    There's nothing wrong with 35mm, it's just small. Use that to your advantage in shooting, and don't try to print "too" big, and there you are.

    Not to mention that you can get a nearly indestructable body, decent metering, and 2 or 3 top quality lenses for very few dollars. :D
     
  6. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    I have some pretty nice prints from 35mm using T-Max 100 and HC-110 dil (h) between enlargements of 8x10 and 11x14 in dektol; pretty basic materials.

    Just an aside:
    This reminds me of the documentary I saw about war photographer James Nachtway (used a 35mm canon). He had a printer doing all of his prints and there was a brief segment in the documentary of his printer working in the darkroom. Some of the prints were very large, but the enlargement, as best I can describe was by projection like you would see from slide projector, at least that's what it looked like. Imagine placing one of your negatives in a slide projector and exposing a very large piece of paper mounted to the wall, the film sprocket of the film looked like as big as a baseball. That's what it looked like. I was blown away as to how those very large prints from 35mm film looked, amazing. I know that's not what you inquired about, but interesting nontheless.

    Chuck
     
  7. radiantdarkroom

    radiantdarkroom Member

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    With APX100 I was able to make a stunning 18x24 print. So you can go pretty far with 35mm, a good lens, good film, excellent enlarger and great paper.
     
  8. jmal

    jmal Member

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    j4425--Nice looking print from what I can see.

    As for the Nachtwey documentary, I completely agree. Those projecton prints look great. However, the print I made last night had a different quality to it. As crazy as this may sound, it looks very close in tonality to some Atget prints I have seen. The question is how to replicate the look. The Atget prints I have seen in person, not in a book. I learned that there is a huge difference with Atget. Some photos look just as good in books, but Atget, who I had never thought much about, blew my mind when I saw his prints in front of me. Anyhow, I plan to start working toward getting the most out of 35mm. I usually think in terms of subject matter and quality prints, but I want to see just how far I can push the quality. I used to shoot people on the street primarily, so there was always a little compromise with the finer details. In that kind of situation you simply cannot concentrate on the details all the time. I no longer live near any densely populated areas, so I now have to shoot other things. This allows me more time to really LOOK, and, subsequently, plan my photos.
     
  9. Jadedoto

    Jadedoto Member

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    Reminds me, when I first started developing myself about three years ago, I bought two 100' rolls of APX100. After buying Ilfosol S, learning how to shoot and process it... I've never produced images like that again.

    I would almost kill to have APX again. I enlarged those negatives to 11x14 with just an inkling of nice, smooth grain!
     
  10. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    IIRC, Ansel Adams averred that a totally acceptable (to him) 8x10 print could be made from a fine grained 35mm film like Panatomic X, develped in a soft-working developer like D23. A lot of things have improved since then--but as others have stated, 35 mm is capable of exceptional image quality--but it does not suffer sloppy technique gladly.
    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
     
  11. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Most of my work is in 35mm for various practical and aesthetic reasons, but I've been consistently impressed by Tri-X in XTOL 1+1 enlarged at 11x14. I did a little bit of testing, and got a good EI/dev combo that gives me rich tones and not too much contrast. You want a negative with detail (proper EI), but not too contrasty either (not too much development)--you get the contrast right by changing paper grades, then dodging and burning.

    I tested various print developers and found out that Ansco 130 gave me a little something more. I also tone in selenium anything that gets shown, whether it is RC or FB. It removes the colour cast and gives a little contrast edge.

    All these little things eventually stack up and instead of having prints that look like soot and chalk, you can get very good looking results. And then you see the work of a 35mm photographer at 16x20 that just blows your mind, and you feel like you have to start all over again...
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Isn't Rollei Retro just rebranded APX from the final production run? It's still available in 100-foot rolls of ISO 100 and ISO 400 from Freestyle. There are also plans afoot to resurrect it in smaller production runs, although I gather they won't be getting to the films until after the papers are in production. If the papers aren't successful, the films might not go into production.
     
  13. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You can make exceptional prints from 35mm. The crux, from my experience is that the margin for error, in all phases of the process is smaller.

    Master 35mm, and larger formats in many respects become that much easier, if your a mind to deal with the drawbacks, that come with the advantages. There is no free lunch.
     
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  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    "Master 35mm, and larger formats in many respects become that much easier" Thats very well put Mr Brunner :D

    When I made a conscious change in direction about 20 years ago that's exactly what I did, return to 35mm tighten up my techniques & processing then switch cutting out MF for my personal work & only using 35mm & 5x4. It does mean you also tighten up your LF techniques as well and get optimal quality.

    Ian
     
  16. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    After a medium format calamity right before departure on a vacation this summer, I put some Plus-X through my Canon A-1 on the trip. Souped it in straight D-76 and was quite pleased with the results. Printed one shot of a waterfall at 11x14 -- something I haven't attempted in eons. I thought the tonality was excellent, the main difference I noticed was a bit of softness relative to similar efforts in medium format. In an art show of diverse media it got an honorable mention, so it wasn't just me that liked it. (As one might expect, the dig**** shot of the print does not do it justice but gives a hint of the presentation.)

    I used D-76 because it was the only thing I had personal data for with 35mm Plus X and I had no time to test with HC110 Dilution H (my current preferred 120 developer) before I left.

    DaveT
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The biggest challenge I find with moving back and forth from MF to 35mm is that 35mm spoils you with respect to depth of field. I expect those who shoot even smaller format di***al suffer even more with this.

    Matt
     
  18. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    35mm, PanF, ELFK 25, Delta or Tmax 100 developed in Rodinal, DK 50, 777, or Edwal 12 can produce 16X20 with ease. I usally develop 35mm in Edwal 12 as my standard developer but as I am using my old stock I stumbled on ELFK 25 and DK 50, full film speed and excellent tones, tight grain. But then again a 6X9 ELFK 25 negative, looks as good as most 4X5.
     
  19. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    EFKE not ELFK sorry for the mistake.
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have had 35mm C-41 printed to 24" X 36" if the exposure is [insert "blah, blad, blah, ..." here]. But that is really seems to be the limit because I can begin to see the grain when I stand fairly close, although I have not tried to have larger made.

    YMMV.

    Steve
     
  21. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    35mm image quality

    I use LF/MF/35mm usually in that order. Each has their place, 35mm cannot be beat for ease of setup and handiness especially in rapidly changing light: note I have not used the standard "its good for quick shooting like street photography". Its good for all serious image making. I find myself wondering why being able to make large prints means something is good. I personally enjoy making 5X7's from my 35's.
     
  22. Sportera

    Sportera Member

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    I print 35mm at 12x18. My negs vary from fine grained film to hp5.

    I think the best advice I ever recieved was to let go of my hatred of grain and embrace it.

    I use 35mm for the ease and freedom it affords, but also for the effect it allows in the final print. Grain is not an enemy, it adds so much atmosphere and reality.

    Choose the tool that best suits the subject, and conditions.
     
  23. j4425

    j4425 Member

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    I agree completely. I mean, isn't films grain structure the reason why we shoot film ?
     
  24. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    I agree and I come from a background of fighting grain for decades. All my exhibition prints are 16x20s and many are from ISO 400 film. If I reject a picture, it's highly unlikely that it will have anything to do with grain. Usually it's rejected for being a piss-poor composition, not in sharp focus, under exposed, over exposed, glare, etc, etc.

    Now, I actually think about how grain can enhance my pictures and I experiment with how to make the grain look like I want it to look. I feel like you in that it's opened a whole new world to me, like a kid with a new toy. :smile:
     
  25. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I declined to provide 30x40 inch prints from 35mm for a friend's restaurant because the grain from 35mm T-Max 100 and Tech Pan would have been objectionable. Sho opted for another photographer's 35mm Kodak High Speed Infrared 30x40 prints. The grain is little more conspicuous than the pointilism in Seurat's La Grande Jatte, and that painting is much admired. Standards in art are often mere proclamations by uncreative critics and pedagogues. We're each entitled to our own preferences.
     
  26. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    It's true that I don't do traditional large format landscapes, so my thinking may be skewed. To someone who has spent a lifetime squeezing the best performance out of a view camera, 35mm might constitute an unbearble eyesore for a large size print. :D I just think that grain can, at times, actually be an asset.