does dmax really matter in prints?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by darinwc, Mar 10, 2006.

  1. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    I've seen quite a few people talk about AZO and it's higher dmax.
    But does it really make a difference?

    Maybee if you were comparing prints side-by-side, one could see the difference. But the minds' eye adjusts to diffent conditions.
    ive seen some nice prints on standard paper, I dont think a blacker black would make a bit of difference.

    What are your opinions?
     
  2. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    I don't think it's quite correct to say Azo has higher Dmax or anything like that.

    The absolute value of Dmax is mostly limited by the paper surface. Glossy surface is the best in terms of Dmax, but in reality not everyone likes glossy, especially in RC.

    The Dmax is not very useful measure of the deepness of the black, unless you are making the print all black. Instead, the shape of the shoulder is important. Paper with a rather abrupt transition from straight line to Dmax tends to give most crisp shadow. One reason for this is obvious, because of increased shadow contrast. But reduced exposure required to reach Dmax in abrupt shoulder emulsion is also helpful in reducing the flare in the other parts of the image.

    But that is mostly of some academic interest. In real pictorial image, you rarely need to use the entire desntiy scale of the paper, and it's unnecessary to worry about reaching or utilizing the Dmax.
     
  3. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    One of the best ways to reduce your print quality is to print with youe blacks overly strong...goodbye shadow detai,l hello coalbin blacks. Having a high dmax does nothing more than providie more options while printing.
     
  4. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The most convincing black I've seen is on Bergger Silver Supreme, a matte paper with a "velvety" surface. The Dmax is far lower than from a glossy RC paper, yet the shadows look a lot deeper.

    I also find that warmtone papers tend to give better definition in the shadow areas, despite their much lower Dmax.

    So in my opinion, Dmax is overrated as a "quality index" for printing papers. I'd almost say "utterly useless", but I think I will antagonise enough people without going that far :D
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I agree that dmax is simply one measurement of a paper's characteristics. However, I will go on to say, that having printed on Kentmere Fineprint VC (a paper that has a dmax of 1.87 by my measurements) it is extremely difficult to arrive at a print that I appreciate with that limitation. I can tell that without comparing prints side by side.

    There are several good papers on the market. Azo was one of them. Nuance is a very good paper in my experience. I have heard good things about Kentmere Bromide...but then I have heard the same things about Kentmere Fineprint VC at one time.

    Oriental has a good dmax but it does not have the rest of the curve that other papers have.
     
  6. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    What's good paper or bad paper depends hugely on the kind of negative film, developer, viewing condition, etc. and it's hard to make one dimensional evaluation. Also, desirable shadow contrast is hugely dependent on the viewing condition. If you view the print with rather dim gallery lighting condition, you'll have better luck with lower shadow contrast with paper with shoulder. But more crisp version will look better if the viewing light level is higher. Of course, a good printer should have a standard viewing light adjusted for average gallery condition to evaluate test prints while in the darkroom. (Unfortunately, gallery condition also varies a lot, but you'll have to set a standard somewhere.)

    Then another concern is print drydown. Most modern papers don't show as much drydown, but prints toned in brown toner (polysulfide) or selenium sometimes quite pronounced density increase in a day after drying. This should be factored in when printing...

    By now the topic digressed but then none of the related considerations would support the view that Dmax is that important...
     
  7. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Dmax is a technical measurment, but it is also a subjective, aesthetic quality. And it is relative. Pt./Pd. prints with Dmax of maximum of 1.5 or so have very convincing black if viewed by themselves. Put them next to a glossy silver gelatin print with Dmax of 2.10 the blacks of the Pt./Pd. don't look so black. But there are no rules that say, this print is better because it has deeper Dmax, or this process is better because it is capable of deeper Dmax.

    On the other hand, I do believe it is good practice to get all of the Dmax you can out of a process, in most circumstances. For example, since it is possible to get a Dmax of 1.50 or higher from Pt./Pd., accepting 1.2 or 1.3 is not working to the h ighest standard, in my opinion, unless one has a valid aesthetic reason for doing so.

    Sandy


     
  8. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

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    I agree with Sandy, in conclusion, but I have a different reasoning.

    The reason why I said Dmax itself is unimportant is because it's rarely used or reached in pictorial images. With my process, if I use glossy surface Dmax of 2.3 to 2.4 is possible but in most images much of important shadow has density of 1.6 or so, and anything beyond that is extra. If the Dmax of the material were significantly lower than 1.6 range, I'd say the image would lack punch because of limited range of tonal expression and/or because an unacceptably low contrast must be used to accomodate the important tonal range to the density range. Users of other processes with inherently lower Dmax may find my view biased or unfair, though...

    I have a curve for Velour Black from 1930s in front of me now, but the Dmax is about 1.7. The paper was still considered very good.
     
  9. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    OK, so the general consensus of the replies tells me:

    >having the BEST dmax is not necesary, so long as you do have an acceptable dmax.

    >the film curve has alot to do with how a paper prints.

    >there are many variables that affect the total viewer experience.

    Thank you for your responses. If anyone has more to add, please feel free.
     
  10. ChuckP

    ChuckP Subscriber

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    The higher the Dmax the higher the density of your possible detailed shadows. This should result in a greater range of detailed density in the print. A paper with poor Dmax cannot produce the same high density shadow details.
     
  11. sanking

    sanking Member

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    That is about it.

    One more thing. Mention has been made that in practice we do not often utilize all of the maximum density of our processes. There are several reasons for this, but the most important is that the combination of film toe and paper shoulder often make it necessary to use only about 90% of Dmax, assuming of course that the goal is to make a print with a full range of tones all of the way from the shadows to the highlights.

    With films that have a very straight line curve, such as Tmax 100 and 400, and processes that are very straight line, such as carbon, it is possible to obtain a higher percentage of the total process density. With well-made digital negatives you can use virtually 100% of total process density. For example, in printing with one of my favorite carbon tissues I can get a maximum density of only about 1.55 with in-camera negatives, while the use of digital negatives allows densities on the print of over 1.70.

    Sandy