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Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by lamda, Jul 21, 2009.
Can I use my Kodak polycontrast filters with Ilford multigrade paper?
I'm sure there will be more technical responses here to follow, but from everything I've read yes, but with varying degrees of accuracy. The Kodak and Ilford filter standards are slightly different, due to the different chemistry in their papers.
So yes, you can use a Kodak set, but no, it may not give the same results as an indenticaly numbered Ilford filter.
Personally I only have a Kodak set right now so I cannot compare. I havn't done much printing with them since I'm just now kicking off into 4x5 enlarging and prior I was (am) using a Phillips PCS 150 for 35mm which eliminates the need for any filters.
Are they polycontrast filters, or the newer polymax filters?
I've used both, and both work quite well, but there are advantages to using the polymax filters.
As PeteZ8 says, they won't give results that are identical to the Ilford filters, but that doesn't really matter unless for some reason you have to switch back and forth between them regularly.
The polycontrast filters are not as consistant with Ilford papers. I have both and use Kodak with Kodak and Ilford with Ilford for the most reliable results. I even have a set of old DuPont Varigam filters but no longer use them. Anyone remember those?
DuPont Varigram was based on the Ilford system, Kendal spent some time working for Dupont before returning to Ilford as Head of Research. Although Varigram was released before Multigrade it was in fact made under licence from Ilford. The Ilford paper was delayed slightly by the entry of the UK into WWII.
I have a set of the original Multigrade filters, the filtration was reversed with Yellow being High Contrast, Magenta - low.
An article in the Mar/Apr 2007 issue of Photo Techniques magazine addressed this very question. Kodak and Ilford VC filters were tested with Ilford Multigrade IV RC Deluxe paper. Conclusion: both covered a wide range from a grade of -1 to greater than 5. The Ilford filters made the transition from filter to filter in very even steps while the Kodak filters produced smaller increments from 1/2 to 3 with the suggestion they could be useful in making finer contrast adjustments in the mid range area. Seems to offer a case for owning both sets even with Kodak papers all but gone.
Any modern brand of variable contrast filter can be used with any modern variable contrast paper. I use Kodak filters because that's what the store had the day I bought them. My papers are usually Ilford/Kentmere.
The only concern is that you want to stay with one brand of filters. There is no real standardization between filters - a set of filters will range between low contrast and high contrast, but the actual contrast that you will get with an Ilford #3 filter will almost certainly be different that the contrast you would get on the same paper using a Kodak #3 filter.
Also, filters will fade over time. A new #3 from brand X will likely give different results than an old #3 from the same manufacturer.
What that all says is that for best results, you should stay with one set of filters. Don't try to substitute individual filters from another brand. And if something happens to a favorite filter, replace the entire set at once.
Multigrade is a system about as old as Varigram, but I believe Defender got there first. I used some of the original Multigrade (about 45 years ago), and it worked differently than Varigram. The filters were less dense, and the yellow ones were for high contrast (slightly magenta for low). Sometime in the 50s, about the time Polycontrast was introduced, Ilford switched to the current system. I think the Varigram patents expired about that time, and Ilford probably wanted to make a paper that could be used with the same filters as the others.
As for the original question, yes you can use the filters interchangeably. It is the color that counts. But be aware that different brands of paper give different contrasts with any given filter, and that the filters from one manufacturer will not give exactly the same contrast as thos from another. But they will work, and the higher numbers will give more contrast, lower numbers lower.
No Ilford didn't copy Defender/Dupont
Dupont sold Defender Varigram, it's their trade name. Renwick of Ilford got there first with Multigrade, but Renwick had spent time with Dupont in the US, there were some trade links between Ilford & Dupont in the 20's & 30's, Dupont supplied film base to Ilford. The Multigrade patent was filed by Ilford in 1938, FF Renwick had worked on sensitizing dyes since the early 20's.
Multigrade was demonstrated to the Royal Photographic Society some time before it's release, but the outbreak of WWII and the take over of Ilford by the Air Ministry delayed the launch slightly so Varigram was marketed first..
The Defender Varigram was essentially the same emulsion and wholely based on Ilford technology, presumably under license from Ilford.
My guess is that the Varigram paper you used 45 years ago was improved compared to the original 1940 product, Ilford improved their version considerably.
It is the norm that high levels of factual inaccuracy finds its way into most if not all discussions which originate online. Errors of omission or ignorance are becoming increasingly common, if not the norm. Overtime these myths have unfortunately become accepted as truths. In this one case it is quite understandable.
The role of Haloid (Now known as Xerox) in the development and advancement of VC photographic paper must not be ignored or forgotten. They were major players and had an enormous effect.
Haloid is a name that my be unknown to most involved in photography, then and now because the had the visibility of thin air, and did no advertising. Never-the-less, they were a major market and technical force since 1906. They actively did NO retail business and had no retail visibility. They only accepted bulk orders and were the power in large volume commercial, institutional, military and government photo departments, only. (somewhat like Freestyle is in the educational market today) It is easy for me to state that in the early days, Haloid made the very best photo paper products on the market. To a very large extent the advancements that Dupont and later GAF made were all the product of Haloid. It was the demise of Haloid which sparked Kodak to finally admit that there was indeed VC paper and develop their own flaccid, underwhelming, market and technological distortion, the underachiever named Polycontrast. Xerography was such an overwhelmingly total success that it eclipsed the photography origins of Haloid and as Haloid morphed in Xerox, its photographic origins were left behind.
I don't remember the flow of patents or who came first, but the nature of the photo realm at the time dictated that everybody work somewhat collectively in order to survive the overbearing power and presence of the great yellow monolith, Kodak and in some areas Agfa. Other than filling selective niches, until the Feds broke it up in the 1950's, there was no chance for any operation even as large and rich as Dupont to be able to carve out a presence in any area which was of interest to the all powerful, Kodak.
Who came first, Ilford, Dupont, Haloid, Ansco was and is, totally of no import at all. They all existed by the largess and/or acquiescence of Kodak and there was little or nothing they could do about it.
Haloid (Xerox) played a major part in making VC paper exist as a product, today.
it never ceases to amaze me that so much of what we take for granted originated in rochester ...
The Varigam I used (first in 1955), was indeed a very much improved product over the original. From what I can determine, Varigam was also introduced in 1938. New technology is often introduced at about the same time by several manufacturers. As you say, there may have been some cooperative ties. But the original Multigrade was quite different than Varigam, both in performance and operation. It produced quite good prints, but the updated product introduced in the 50s was superior. The operational differences make me think that one or the other company was trying to avoid some patent issues. Maybe someone can look up the patents.
Varigram was announced at the PSA Conference in 1940, the same year as Multigrade. Ilford research was downgraded during WWII, and Renwick died in 1943, Multigrade production ceased in 1945. When a second generation of Multigrade was introduced in 1953 it was quite a changed product.
Defender made significant improvements to Varigram a year or two later completely changing the way it was made, which is covered in a patent by Potter of Defender.
Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have mentioned DuPont. The original question has been answered but I do find the ensuing discussion interesting.