B&W paper 101

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by hanaa, Sep 20, 2005.

  1. hanaa

    hanaa Member

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    I just purchase my first enlarger and setting up a darkroom. i started to look into papers and chemistry to purchase. the chemistry seemed self-explanitory. but the paper, there are so many choices. for now i just want the basic paper (low cost too) because i'm just going to be playing around with it, learning... What should i look for.

    These are just a few choice i can across and i don't know what any of this means: variable contrast fiber based paper, variable contrast resin coated paper, chromogenic b&w, graded fiber, graded resin... which is good for what?
     
  2. josephaustin

    josephaustin Member

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    I am also new to the darkroom, I've had mine less then a year. I like the Arista papers at Freestyle, they are very cheap purchased 100 at a time. I just finished off a pack of the Arista RC Pearl Multigrade and it was fine for my purposes, its not museum quality stuff but neither is my work so it does just fine for me.
     
  3. jim appleyard

    jim appleyard Member

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    There's also Adorama in NYC. They make the least expensive RC paper I've seen. However, you're in CA and the shipping from Freestyle might make that paper the best buy.
     
  4. jim appleyard

    jim appleyard Member

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    I forgot to add, that being a beginner, it's easy to go thru lots of paper while getting the hang of things. Therefore, the cheaper, the better.
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    You asked some very valid questions. First the matter of variable contrast paper (resin and fiber), variable contrast paper has two emulsions that are affected by different colors of light. Blue light filtration will expose one emulsion while green light filtration will expose the other emulsion layer. By altering the ratio of one to the other varying exposures of the two emulsions occur and therefore varying grades of contrast are achieved.

    I would recommend staying with the lower coast resin coated paper for your initial darkroom efforts. Fiber paper is considered to produce longer lasting images.

    Chromogenic black and white applies to film. Normal black and white film as opposed to chromogenic requires different chemistry. Chromogenic film is developed in C 41 chemistry which is actually a color negative process.

    There is no graded resin coated paper to my knowledge.

    Graded fiber paper will typically produce a somewhat richer print...by that I mean that graded fiber papers will usually produce a greater dmax (darker black).

    What is good for what?

    Chromogenic film is good if you don't want to develop film yourself and have a color lab nearby.

    As I mentioned, resin coated paper is good for proofing and learning.

    Fiber paper (variable contrast and graded) is good for exhibition quality prints.

    Good luck.
     
  6. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    I would recommend Ilford MG VC RC in dektol 1:1 to start. Why get a cheap paper that will give nominal results, along with the frustrations, then have to do everything over when you switch papers. If things just don't seem to please you when printing, be willing to look at an adjustment to exposure and development. There are many insitefull threads here to guide you. When you are comfortable then get a little more exotic. Printing is real easy to do the fundamentals, printing well is a lifetime pursuit.
     
  7. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    Any cheap RC paper and any cheap chems are what you need for learning. Agfa RC - Ilford MG - expired paper from e-bay. Probably the cheapest developer for paper is Agfa MC developer. A gallon will last years and I think it cost $15. Of - course my first choice of developer is home made with vitamin C - since I am soaking my hands in it. But to start - if they have Dektol or some kind of clone nearby - that will do. Practice making your negatives to print on grade 2 or 3 (3 is preferred for 35mm -so-I-have-been-told) Without a MC filter - MC papers print around grade 2 - I think maybe lower. Practice making good negs - then refine your print making ability. When you get good at making negs you can put them on a proof sheet and they are all the same exposure. I print a lot of FB paper. It is in many ways a different set of skills. After you master RC papers - you may find FB papers to be more pleasing. They certainly last longer. If it is an image I care about - it goes on fiber.
     
  8. sunnyroller

    sunnyroller Member

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    Place to get inexpensive Ilford MG IV RC

    I ordered 2 boxes of 8 x 10 Ilford MG IV RC paper from William Paul and Associates in New York for the price of 1 box anywhere else. They buy in bulk from Ilford and repackage it. I was skeptical at first, but I tested it against the "real" Ilford paper I already had and could not see a difference. Their website is www.wmpaulstore.com . They don't list everything they carry on the site, if you want something specific they probably have it you will just have to email or call them to find out. Two boxes plus shipping was like $47.00. There phone number is 914 761 0010.

    Others on this forum who are more experienced in such matters may wish to chime in on the merits of buying photo paper this way--I guess it depends on how well it has been handled in the repackaging process.

    Sunny
     
  9. ContaxGman

    ContaxGman Member

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    Sounds like good advice so far. You definitely want variable contrast, or multigrade as some manufacturers call it since it allows you to tweak the contrast of the print to match that of the negative. And if your enlarger is a condensor one without a color head with built-in filtration, you will need the variable contrast filters. I've long used Ilford Multigrade with Ilford filters (well I have a color head now). The filters come in 1/2 grade increments from 00 (very very soft contrast) to 5 (very harsh contrast), with most prints looking their best in the 1 1/2 to 3 1/3 range. Also you definitely want to start with RC - resin coated. Wash times are minimal and the plastic coating is tougher to scratch or damage than fiber prints. True, to most (including me) it doesn't have the presence that fiber prints do, but it is a lot easier to deal with as the plastic coating keeps chemical from soaking into the paper - and there saves you lots of washing time. I mean lots of washing time. You probably don't want glossy in RC though because it is, well, too glossy. Ilford's Multigrade RC comes in pearl (which is glossy enough) and satin (which is more matte). Something no one has mentioned is the size of paper. The smaller your prints, the easier it is to get high quality. Big prints often require a lot of dodging and burning to keep the tonality right, and while you will need to get into that someday, now is probably not the time. Working with 5x7 paper will make getting good technical quality easier, and I would recommend against using anything bigger than 8x10 until you get some prints you like under your belt. And have fun!
     
  10. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    On cost and range of size grounds, it is usually cheaper to buy a box of 8x10 than two boxes of 5x7. You need a trimmer of course but cutting a sheet of 8x10 into two 5x8 allows trimmming to 5x7.5 which is the same ratio as the 35mm neg. The safelight levels for B&W is easily good enough to do this accurately if simple guides are made on the trimmer. I just use a piece of tape against which I line up the 8x10 to cut it into two equal parts.It also allows for printing at 8x10 when desired.

    Pentaxuser
     
  11. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    The terms "resin coated" and "fiber base" refer to the type of paper base used to support the sensitized coating applied to it. Resin coated papers are plastic coated. Because of this development times are generally shorter and wash times are dramatically shorter. It is not uncommon for resin coated papers to be completely washed in as little as 5 minutes as opposed to the 1 hour typically required to accomplish the same thing with fiber based papers. Resin coated papers are quite popular with students, and with home workers for casual work because of their generally lower cost and ease of handling. I'm also not convinced that these papers have a short lifespan. I have a number of 20 year old prints made on RC paper that are holding up quite well. They may not last 100 years, but do you really care about that at this stage of your career?

    "Graded" and "variable contrast" refer to the contrast characteristics of the emulsion. These emulsions can be coated on either a fiber based or resin coated paper. Graded papers offer a fixed contrast grade. Grade 1 would be a low contrast emulsion, suitable for printing negatives of high contrast. Grade 2 is considered "normal," whild grades 3 and 4 are used for low contrast negatives. Variable contrast emulsions offer a lot more flexibility. By controlling the color of the light projected onto the paper with appropriate filters you can acheive contrast grades of 0 (very soft) through 5 (very hard.) Modern versions of these papers are quite good. I like them a lot since it saves me from stocking paper grades that I'd rarely use, yet allows me to print difficult negatives well. Kodak, until recently, manufactured Kodabrome II RC, a graded RC paper in contrast grades 1 through 5. Supplies of the stuff might still be available and other manufacturers might be offering similar products.

    Chromogenic B&W films simply refer to a monochome film that is processed in conventional C-41 (color negative) chemistry. All of them to my knowledge are ISO 400 films. Kodak's offerings of this type all have the orange base color so familiar in color negatives. Because of this, they are difficult to print onto conventional B&W papers but are very good for scanning and for printing onto RA-4 (color print) papers. In the hands of your local 1 hour minilab, results often range from barely acceptable to downright horrible. In the hands of a competent printer though, they can be very good. Iflord's XP2 Super lacks the orange colored backing and can be printed onto conventional B&W papers, though you'll probably need something in the range of grade 3 or 4 to get a good snappy print.

    Both Adorama in NY and Freestyle in LA offer budget priced resin coated, variable contrast papers. Since I'm in NY, I use the Adorama papers for a lot of my work. It's the cheapest stuff out there and for the money it can't be beat. Agfa's offerings are also very good, though a little more expensive.

    Dry chemistry often represents a much better value than liquid concentrates. I'd suggest Kodak's D-76 or XTOL as very good, all around film developers in this category. Others prefer HC-110, which is a liquid concentrate but one with a very good shelf life. I'd stay away from Rodinal, another liquid concentrate film developer with an extremely long shelf life, at this point. It works, but I don't think it's really the best match for many of today's films. There are a lot of different paper developers out there as well. My preference here is Dektol. Again, it's cheap and lasts a long time. I've kept partially used working solution for up to a week and reused it with good results on the Adorama papers. It might not work as well for some other papers, but in this application it's fine. You can stretch it out a bit too by diluting stock solution 1+3 instead of the usual 1+2 dilution for a working solution. At a higher dilution of 1+4, you can get some decidedly warmish tones with some papers after you've run a few prints through a litre of the stuff.

    If you plan to use a conventional acid fixer, be it the standard sodium thiosulfate based type or the rapid ammonium thiosulfate type, don't skip the acid stop bath. Your fixing bath will last longer and you run less risk of producing prints with developer stains on them.

    Have fun!
     
  12. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    All good adice. You are really going to need a book or two. However, there are a few online sources of info, start here: http://www.ilford.com/html/us_english/bw.html - Scroll down and in the PROCESSING section there is a PDF document called PROCESSING B&W RC PAPERS

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  13. hanaa

    hanaa Member

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    thank you so much. everyone's info cleared up a lot of things. I understand now. :smile: goody!
     
  14. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Kodak Kodabromide is still avilable in graded RC, but not for long, I bought a couple of 25 sheet packs of grade 3 last week still in date. Graded paper will get harder and harder to get so I recommended working with VC papers.
     
  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Hey! Wait a minute! *I* would recommend Rodinal without reservation.
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Freestyle is offering graded RC paper under their Arista label. Since Arista papers are rebranded, there are likely other sources for the same paper under other brands.
     
  17. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Others have covered most of the important points of fact. One's slipped through, though (or perhaps I missed it): In addition to chromogenic B&W film, there's also chromogenic B&W paper. B&H, for one, has a page devoted to these papers, with offerings from Kodak and Oriental Seagull. These papers must be processed in RA-4 color paper chemistry. I honestly don't know who uses these papers or what sort of results they produce, but for beginning B&W work, I'd give them a miss; there's just more selection and online forum expertise in conventional B&W papers, and the chromogenic papers are rather pricey, too.

    FWIW, I've only been printing for a few months, so I can speak from a near-beginner's perspective. I've mostly used Agfa MCP310RC, which is a variable contrast resin-coated paper, but I've also tried a few sheets of the Arista.EDU Ultra (I didn't like it; it produced brownish tones that don't work well with most of my subjects) and Adorama's house brand (that was much more like the Agfa). I'm basically satisfied with the Agfa for the moment, but I'm sure I'll try others in the future. If nothing else, I want to find out what all the fuss is about concerning fiber-based paper. :wink:
     
  18. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    I don't know if this is a matter of taste - but I found that gloss papers are easier for the beginner... Just something about the sheen that makes them seem more lustrous after the efforts of a rank beginner like I was.
    I found the AGFA MC RC already mentioned to be great stuff.
     
  19. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Good point. Yes, compared to conventional B&W papers they are a bit pricey, about twice the cost of color RA-4 papers. I looked at these items in the B&H online catalog and then referred to Kodak's website for more information. From what I've gathered, the Portra B&W papers are no longer being made. That's too bad really, because it would be a good substitute for Panalure, a conventional B&W paper with panchromatic sensitivity. The reputation of conventional Oriental Seagull papers is pretty good, so maybe their offering in the monochrome RA-4 paper market would be good too. Comes in sepia and B&W tones. Information is here:

    http://www.orientalphotousa.com/hyperseagull.htm