Is FB Ilford Multigrade still "average"?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by kirejos, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. kirejos

    kirejos Member

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    Ten years ago I was an avid B&W darkroom printer when I was at art school. Then, there were two FB papers advanced photo-students used, without exception. Agfa Multicontrast Glossy, or Forte Polywarmtone Glossy. Agfa people preferred the Multicontrast's neutral tone, Forte people couldn't get enough of the nice white base, subtle warm tone, and rich black of the Polywarmtone. I fell into the Forte camp. Those two papers seemed to be the only two worth discussing for fine printing. We used Sprint cold-tone developer provided by the school. The Polywarmtone in Sprint was great, Agfa printers often mixed up their own Dektol. Ilford Multigrade was considered a good "beginners" FB paper, and would do in a pinch if you ran out of the good stuff (most people had a box of Ilford Multigrade with a few sheets in it buried somewhere in their locker).

    I know that both Agfa, and Forte are no longer with us, and it wasn't my intention to start a "woe is the world of B&W printing" thread. But, I recently found a spectacular community darkroom within driving distance (at Light Work in Syracuse, NY) and am itching to get back into it. My question is- How good is Ilford Multigrade these days? It seems that there are about three brands left, Ilford, Oriental, and Kentmere. I have never tried Oriental, or Kentmere, I think Oriental was around back then, but I've never heard of Kentmere. Foma, another paper I'm not familiar with seems to be a "special order" at B&H, which makes me think it may be doomed?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated, I'm looking forward to getting back into the darkroom :smile: Thanks!

    -Erik
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Erik the Ilford Multigrade Fibre base was and still is excellent.

    You are muddling taste with excellence, the reason some of us preferred Agfa RR then the Classic "Mutligrade" successor was they were warm tone papers. Forte Polywarmtone was another favourite.

    Ilford now make a Warm tone fibre based multigrade as well, at the end of the day its down to the paper base and surface as well as the tonal qualities when you choose a paper.

    Ian
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council

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    Everyone has their favourite paper-developer combinations based on all sorts of real and/or imagined reasons, so be prepared for all kinds of opinions.

    Why not get a small pack of each paper you're interested in, and test them out with your easiest to print, full scale negative? One days work will put to rest all kinds of doubts!

    Oh, and I see this is your first post...welcome aboard APUG from the north coast of BC, Canada, and have fun getting back in the dark!!!

    Murray
     
  4. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Welcome Eric, and I can only reiterate Murray's advice; try them all.
     
  5. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Makers of fibre-based photo printing papers for "fine art" printing are Ilford, Kentmere, Oriental, Efke/Adox, and Foma. All have good papers. Some of these papers (but not Ilford's) are marketed under house brands also at good prices. The people behind Adox have formed a consortium and purchased "some" equipment from the defunct Agfa/Leverkusen and along with former Agfa emulsion engineers are starting to make an Agfa-like paper most people will like very much. It is called Adox MCC-111 I think. Other Adox brand papers are made by Efke in Croatia. Bergger in France, while not actually making paper themselves, were marketing products made especially for them by Forte, and now they claim they will continue to have all the same products available from another production source (probably Efke or Foma). They offer some very fine papers.
     
  6. kirejos

    kirejos Member

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    Thanks Ian, I'm glad that Ilford has retained its fine reputation. I'm not at all averse to using it. The "professional" opinions of art school students are obviously limited.

    Here's how it went- Our instructors made us buy Ilford paper in the beginning. Why? Because it's good paper. Photo-students however, being who they are, couldn't switch to a more "advanced" paper fast enough. The whole anti-establishment "too cool for school" thing, you know :smile: Nothing more than your typical art school pretentions.

    Thank you for your endorsement, I was already leaning in that direction. I think I will do a series of tests anyway though, even if the idea of ending up with tons of oddball packs of paper lying around isn't really appealing to me. (thanks Murray, I'll have fun in the the dark :smile:)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2007
  7. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I forgot to mention in my previous post another maker of fibre-based fine art paper. Slavich in Russia. They are the only vendor making single-weight paper at this time. Of course they make double-weight also. Freestyle in the USA is the USA distributor for this brand. I really like Slavich, myself.
     
  8. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    In regards to Ilford made paper, when I was doing a lot of b/w "art" printing about a decade ago, one of the finest papers I used was the Ilford "galerie". Don't know if it is the same now, though.
     
  9. kirejos

    kirejos Member

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    Thank you for the tips Phototone, it'll broaden my research. Now that you've mentioned them I'm particularly curious about Efke/Adox, and Slavich. I'll add them to my list. I'll have to check out what Freestyle has too, I was a little discouraged to see how limited B&H's selection is. Do you think any of B&H's Forte stock is still good? I have a box of Polywarmtone left over from years ago, but I don't know how well the stuff "keeps".

    -Erik
     
  10. Fotohuis

    Fotohuis Restricted Access

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    Forte ceased production in the beginning of this year. So the latest PWT production run will last for some years. (If not sold out).
    The consortium Bergger (France), Moersch (Germany) and Fotohuis (the Netherlands) have discussed at the Foma factory the possibility to make the Forte PWT paper again at the Foma coating and photo paper factory in Hradec Kralové. Their R&D dpt. is just busy to check how far they can go with a modified Fomatone MG classic 131 paper to reach the same characteristics with succes. (So also suitable for Lith printing).

    About Fomabrom Variant 111 is already very similar like the old Agfa MCC 111 because it has been made on Schöller (Germany) base baryta bought in Leverkusen when Agfa Photo went down (end 2005). Rollei/Maco has the same paper under their Rollei Vintage 111 brand, made in Czech Republic, selected and packed in Germany, also in non standard Foma sizes.

    Further IMPEX/Adox started a project to copy the Agfa MCC paper on their own coating line.

    All kind of efforts to continue a nice assortment of classical photo papers.

    Best regards,

    Robert

    (Dutch Foma distributor)
     
  11. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Most photopapers are good for a decade or more. I recently printed thru a couple of boxes of Agfa papers from the 1970's with good success. Freestyle still has some of their own private label stock of Polywarmtone available at good prices. Same paper as Forte, just private packaging for Freestyle.
     
  12. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Hi Eric: welcome aboard... You may know Kentmere under the Luminos brand name. The paper was sold under that name for many years in the US but now sells under its own name. Kentmere have been making photographic papers for just over a hundred years in the UK - with a slight diversion into damson jam making during WWI when paper supplies were restricted :wink: .

    Have fun, Bob.
     
  13. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    Ilford Multigrade IV fiber has always been a top ranked paper. It's Dmax is high and allows one to print lighter tones easier than other papers used. Image tone is a matter of taste and not a quality issue. The contrast of your negative must match the paper contrast to record rich images. MGIV is a long scale paper vs Agfa 111. My older negatives toned for a condenser enlarger never printed well on MGIV. My new Tri-X negatives rated at 200 and developed slightly longer now fit MGIV's contrast. After the tweeks, my prints looks great on MGIV.
     
  14. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    Since you liked the Polywarmtone, I think you might like the Ilford Multigrade FB Warmtone, instead of the Multigrade IV.
     
  15. mcfactor

    mcfactor Member

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    I agree with you, kirejos. I have found multigrade IV to be an average paper. Ilford gallerie is far superior. it has a depth and sharpness to it that i cant replicate with multigrade IV (or any other paper for that matter).
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Again a glib comment.

    Both papers are capable of superb results, I've used Gallerie & Multigrade 4 FB, but they are quite different.

    As it happens neither are to my personal taste for my own work, but I can produce excellent prints on both if or when I want to, but more importantly I've seen superb prints from a wide variety of photographers on both papers and never heard a bad word about the multigrade FB paper since its launch over 20+ years ago.

    Ian

     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    This paper is very good IMO , I use is as a mainstay as well as Ilford WT. Very consistant batch to batch , tones beautifuly , as nice a paper as any out there.
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    It is; if not better. The response curve is quite different from any variable-grade paper, and it seems to suit my negatives much better.
     
  19. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    It would be nice to stock dozens of papers to squeeze the best possible image from each negative. Learning the characteristics of many papers can be expensive and time consuming. It may be more practical to select one or a very few papers and master them completely. This may mean bypassing some shots for which our chosen papers aren't suitable. However, many of us aready bypass shots because of money, time, or equipment limitations. One more restriction shouldn't be too much of a handicap.
     
  20. aldevo

    aldevo Member

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    Multigrade IV easily has the widest contrast range of any VC paper I have tried (a list that inluces Agfa MCC/MCP, Kodak Polycontrast III and IV and Polymax II, Kentmere Fineprint, and Forte Polygrade V). And more remarkable still is that the changes in contrast with changes in filter number are quite consistent.

    I find that the paper base is quite robust (it will tolerate some mishandling in a community darkroom) and it is quite resistant to discoloration when chemical cross contamination occurrs. And I have never had any issues with defects in the paper base or emulsion (Ilford's films are a bit of another matter for me).

    But like everything else there are trade-offs and the apparent price for all the above virtues is that the paper exhibits little color shift in sepia or selenium and I find the blacks (even with the FB) to be subjectively quite weak - though a reflection densitometer may say otherwise. And that broad and even contrast range seems to oblige me to do a bit more split-filtering than I might otherwise with other VC papers that have closer spacings in their contrast range when working from the No. 2 - No. 3 1/2 filters that my negs usually print on.

    Now that I finally have my own darkroom some of the aforementioned virtues no longer apply and since most of my shooting allows me to carefully reckon my exposures, Multigrade just isn't the right paper for me.

    But let it be said that if you can't print it on Multigrade IV - you simply can't print it. I certainly understand why a lot of pros use this paper
     
  21. mcfactor

    mcfactor Member

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    Ian, I wasnt being glib. The person asked for our opinions of the paper and i gave him mine. Simply because you disagree with me doesnt mean my comments were superficial in any way. Ive thought about this a lot and printed a number of the same images on each paper to compare them side by side. The ones printed on gallerie have always looked better. Thats not to say that multigrade IV is a bad paper (i did not say that), i just think that gallerie is better. The question was not "can you make a good print from multigrade?" it was "how good is ilford multigrade...?" And in my opinion, although good prints can be made from either, ilford gallerie is sharper and more luminous than multigrade.
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    We all have our favorite papers. Ilford MGIV both in neutral tone and warmtone have 'wrapped thier arms around me'. I love them for their consistency, the great results I get with my Ansco 130 developer, and the incredibly long tonal range.
    I have standardized on these papers along with Fotokemika Emaks / Varycon for all my standard b&w printing needs. I simply cannot see myself needing anything else.
    For what it's worth, I have printed a lot on Agfa MCC too, but I never got around to using Forte, so I don't have an opinion of it. Agfa was awesome, things just fell into place during printing somehow. I tested the new Adox MCC111, which is the new replica of that paper and emulsion. With a whiter and slightly crisper paper base, it is otherwise very similar to the Agfa paper. Very good paper in its own right. I found it rather punchy with good rich fat blacks and nice separation in both mid tones and highs.
    If you test the Ilford, give it a good go. It's great paper and you may find yourself surprised if you give it a chance.
    - Thomas
     
  23. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Apples/Oranges... Galerie is a graded paper and graded papers do not have the limitations inherent in the use of the multiple emulsions required to cover the whole gamut of grades 00 to 5 on one sheet of paper. These multiple emulsions distort the curve shape, so it is not that surprising that, given a suitable negative, Galerie will outperform MGIV in many people's eyes. A difficult negative however may well look better on MGIV as you can take advantage of burning and dodging with different grades.

    Back in the multigrade world, you will be pushed to find a paper with the Dmin & Dmax, contrast range and stability from batch to batch available from MGIV. Possibly Kodak paper did, but sadly that is no longer with us.

    Bob.