Graded paper and Variable Contrast Paper..same quality?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by PHOTOTONE, Jan 28, 2007.

  1. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Of the currently available enlarging papers..is there a "quality" difference, in regards to image tone and depth between traditional graded papers and the various Multicontrast type of papers? I got my start in photography back in the 1960's, when the overwhelming majority of what I could purchase were "graded" papers, and I recently have been printing on some graded Portriga Rapid and Brovira and Ilford Gallerie from the late 1970's up into the 1980's and am very satisfied with the images...but I will run out of these, and it seems that today there are far more choices available in Multicontrast type papers. So what is the general consensus about this comparison? Not considering the "convenience" of Multigrade type papers, but just considering the "look" of the final print.
     
  2. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I think if you're doing only a straight print from an ordinary negative, with little manipulations, you might not see the difference. It's really when you want to go further that either paper starts to become more characterized. I don't think you will find anymore a lot of people arguing that graded papers are categorically superior over VC papers (Picker characterized them as "Polycontrastless..."). So in terms of quality as "goodness" both should be close enough; in terms of quality as "qualitative differences" then it is safe to say that the fine printer could find aspects of each to use to his advantage.

    Personally, I've just started using graded papers because I thought Why not, and I print from 35mm negatives. In my situation, I can't be exactly sure whether the differences I get between VC and graded (both on FB) are due to brand-specific characteristics, or to the graded/vc fact. Given that my negatives print on a G2.5-3 on VC paper 90% of the time, I decided that I might as well standardized on graded paper and be gone with the filter sandwich.

    Of course, there are purely practical reasons to prefer one over the other: with VC you can do split-filtering; with graded you can print more easily pyro negs (or so I'm told). VC paper can work as a decent ortho-look paper negative. Graded papers allow you to use a brighter safelight (more yellow). Graded papers are less sensitive to variations in light color temperature; vc papers allow you to use a color head for continuous contrast adjustement.
     
  3. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Some VC papers have very poor or 'kinked' curves which give odd tone scales to some prints. The article by Dickerson and Zawadski says it all. Photo Techniques about 1 year ago.

    PE
     
  4. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I should add, or re-emphasize that I am asking in reference to what I can purchase today in current double weight fibre paper stocks. As a side question, if I like what I am getting from Ilford Gallerie paper purchased in the 1980's, would I still recognize the current fresh Ilford Gallerie paper as being the same?
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    In general, graded papers have a more even tone scale than VC papers. The ones in the article look rather poor. I wish Dick and Sylvia had given the names of the mfgrs, but that would have been poor form. So, I have to agree that what they did was right.

    PE
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I still prefer graded papers for most things. Every once in a while I have something that I want to burn or dodge one area at a different filtration than another area, and I use MGIV FB, and I have some on hand for convenience or if there's a neg that doesn't quite fit on one of the graded papers I use, but I don't find myself using it that much.
     
  7. Photo Engineer

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    I agree with David. For that purpose, I keep graded and VC papers on RC and FB support.

    PE
     
  8. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    I agree with the reasons mentioned in favor of graded papers.

    Also, with graded papers you can adjust contrast with the color of light you project through the negative. I have two theatre gels, one a deep sky blue and one a medium green that I use above the negative to effect a color shift in the light source. When using the deep blue for overall or even selective manipulation you can increase contrast by about 1/3 of a grade. Likewise, with the green filter you can lessen contrast nearly ½ grade with pure green light.

    Not to worry about increasing your printing times as these filters are additive in nature rather than subtractive, as is the case with multicontrast filters. I’d say about 25% more exposure should compensate for added density. Filters are made by Rosco and are very inexpensive.

    Cheers
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I do like graded papers, but I think that the new VC papers totally blow away the graded papers in their ability to split contrast print and isolate tonalitys.
    I come from the graded paper only background and would like to see some of the papers back with the cadium still in them, otherwise I will continue with Ilford Warmtone VC and split print.
    I use graded papers for certain Lith applications , but always defer to VC when making traditional prints.
     
  10. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    How do you explain that behaviour? I know that contrast manipulation in VC paper is possible because of the two-plus emulsion layers that have different inherent contrast and different spectral sensitivity, but why does it work too on graded paper? I thought graded papers only had one characteristic curve, and that development was the only way to alter it.
     
  11. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I believe that PE stated that graded papers use a "blend" of two emulsions to achieve the different grades. Now if these emulsions are equally responsive to the color of light hitting the paper, then no variation other than exposure should be noticed when printing with various papers, on the other hand, if these two emulsions had different responses to light, then you have Variable Contrast Paper.
     
  12. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Ah, but that is the problem.

    In graded papers, the papers have two contrasts, but the same spectral sensitivity, but in VC papers, they have two contrasts and different spectral sensitivities.

    So, this cannot explain the actual results posted.

    PE
     
  13. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I believe it was PE that said that Single Grade photo papers were made up of a "BLEND" of two emulsions (hard and soft) to achieve a specific grade. Now if both of these emulsions were equally responsive to the light, then using color filters would only affect exposure time, however if the emulsions each had a different response to light color, then you have Variable Contrast Paper. Perhaps there is some "minor" color sensitivity difference in the emulsions coated on single-grade paper that can be taken advantage of?
     
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  15. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I am getting the impression that the consensus here is that "if your negative can be printed on single grade paper" then that is what is preferred.
     
  16. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    I can't give you a scientific answer why this happens, I just know that there are a number of tricks that can effect contrast either up or down. This is just one of them. If different chemistry can effect different levels of contrast than it doesn't seem impossible that different light sources could produce differences in contrast. Just the same as the shorter the time spent in developer will usually add warmth to the same paper, all other things remaining constant. These are subtle changes I am speaking of nevertheless they are tools we can take advantage of.

    The simple beauty of the black and white wet process lies in discovery.
     
  17. Photo Engineer

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    Steve, I've given this some thought. Could it be that there is a contrast reciprocity failure in here somewhere if the exposure times vary over a broad range?

    PE
     
  18. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Compare the cost difference between Graded and VC papers.
     
  19. matti

    matti Member

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    What would happen if I used a negative with Yellow stain like from Pyrocat-HD and used the filters on graded paper?
    /matti
     
  20. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Matti, in my experience you get extremely high contrast with stained negatives and graded paper. One reason why I rarely use staining developers...
     
  21. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    This is as viable an answer as I can think of.

    The more I think about this, I remember that most of the contrast gain or lose is in the shadow values, the high values seem to remain the same.

    Don't discount staining developers, there are many more tricks to lessen contrast than there are to increase it.
     
  22. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    I think it gets back to the individual paper which is then dependent on the developer. IMO, the Forte/J&C Polywarmtone VC paper is one of the all-time greats. To my eye, it is clearly above every other VC paper I've ever used and is equal to any of the graded papers I've used. Now that its production has apparently ended, it will be sorely missed.

    I haven't used Ilford WT for a few years but I believe it is outstanding too.

    Nothing on the market today matched Azo though. Even though it was a contact printing paper, its emulsion was defineatly on the "old" side of "old school". I recently tested some paper coated with Photo Engineer's contact printing emulsion, which is a relatively simple one that can be made in the private home. It was outstanding.

    My answer is yes, there are one or two VC papers that are outstanding, but I believe the old-style graded papers are more capable; overall better tonality and longer scale.
     
  23. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    I used graded paper for all of my serious work until I discovered Polywarmtone. I, too, found it equal to graded papers. I will miss it.

    I've also found that with some papers contrast can be reduced by reducing the amount of agitation while the print is in the developer. Finding the "enough" point is the key.
    juan
     
  24. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    I have worked some wonders by using stand development for some prints (and of course overexposure).

    Patrick
     
  25. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    Without getting into a long explanation pro or con, stand development can have a greater effect on the paper's perceived contrast than any one single function. Grade 2 paper can be made to appear grade 4 paper just because of stand development and edge effects.
     
  26. laverdure

    laverdure Member

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    Huh. I'd always read that VC as a rule caught up with graded in the 90s. As usual, some people were quite vehement about it. I've been curious about graded for a while though- and with all you behind it, I think I'll give it a go. Good timing. I'm just about out of paper.