Latest Info on RC Paper Archival Rating?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by timlayton, Dec 13, 2011.

  1. timlayton

    timlayton Member

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    I am doing a lot of paper negative large format work right now and have settled on RC paper for the type of results that I am looking for.

    Before I jump off the cliff and do a lot of work I am wondering if anyone knows the latest information on how long a properly processed RC paper print/negative is rated for? The idea of properly processed and storage would be defined by the manufacturer in my mind. I've read the Ilford RC datasheet and they obviously cover the proper processing but don't make any meaningful statements on archival timelines for their RC paper. The bottom line is that I don't want to create a bunch of wonderful large format negatives on RC paper and have them not be usable.

    Any pointers to research/data on the archival permanence of RC papers would be really appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Tim
     
  2. Rich Ullsmith

    Rich Ullsmith Subscriber

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    Tim, I do not have any answers to your question, but look at it this way. Have you ever seen a properly processed and handled RC print die a natural death? I can only imagine how long it would take for background radiation to degrade the base. Probably a very long time.

    Considering the most likely causes of demise, it is arguable that an RC print is the most archival of all types of prints. Water damage during storage is probably the most common end, but at least with RC paper there's a chance you can wash it off and it's okay. Not many platinum prints make it out of a flooded basement or a leaky roof!
     
  3. NB23

    NB23 Member

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    I don'T know and I'm also interested in this question!

    I'm in a printing Marathon consisting of hundreds of prints, all on FB paper. I'd love to slack and print on RC for a change (less work) but I'm worried of having to restart it all again before I die (you know what I mean?)
    I've had some RC prints that went Bronze in record time and yet some others are fine after 10 years. I guess the trick is to keep them in boxes away from light. Blah.
     
  4. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Personally, I can't see how an RC print can be any different to a fibre print archivally.

    The emulsion is still on the outer surface, it's just on top of a polypropylene layer on an RC print.

    I know there were some problems with early RC papers but that was a long time ago. I think that has all been sorted out now.


    Steve.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2011
  5. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear Tim Layton,

    Steve Smith is correct, the monochrome emulsions are fundamentally the same in terms of archival permanence as long as they are fixed and washed properly. Some products have a carta ( or top coat ) as well but these are very neutral. Added archival longevity is given by 'toning' the print, usually with selenium.

    The issues are with the base or 'substrate'. The most stable is a Baryta Fibre Base, that obviously requiries longer washing to ensure the chemical is removed from the substrate, the adhesion between the emulsion and the base ensure very, very long life. With RC the base and the emulsion are likely to have a differential shrinkage rate, and the base of RC is likely to degrade very, very slowy over time.

    How long ? I have seen all kinds of tests, but the really telling one is actual evidence.

    I have RC prints made in the 70's that are absolutely unchanged, RC in the very early days did have some issues but that was mostly about adhesion and 'airborne' pollutants that affected the surface, causing 'bronzing' ....look at any RC prints in hairdressers from that period!.

    I have fibre prints that date to the turn of the last century 1880 to 1920 that are perfect, and they were not toned.

    I think Monochrome RC prints will last comfortably last 70 to 100+ years, we are at 40+ now
    Monochrome FB prints have already been proven to last 130+ years without any significant degradation.

    The key issue, after correct fixing and washing is storage and protection:

    To ensure your negatives and prints last you should ensure that they correctly stored and protected and that they are kept in a stable enviroment in relation to temperature and humidity. They should also be protected from direct light and therfore preferably stored in the dark. Much information on experts much more experienced than myself is avialable for you to study.

    Simon ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  6. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    With all due respect to Simon and Ilford (and I'm a staunch customer of theirs) I think there have been a number of false alarms (false positives) about the lifetime of RC prints over the years. Have a look at the relevant chapters in Ctein's book at http://ctein.com/booksmpl.htm for his experiences. There may have been some improvements since then, but at the very least I would do a thorough selenium toning or some polysulphide toning to gain a reasonable amount of protection. I use FB paper for almost everything. Even some of them can fade in less than ideal storage conditions, especially warm tone papers like the old Portriga Rapid.
     
  7. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    If a picture fades, it's the density of the emulsion fading. I can't see why this should be due to the emulsion being coated onto a plastic base... just like film is.


    Steve.
     
  8. timlayton

    timlayton Member

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    Thanks everyone for your comments and replies. It sounds like with a proper fixing and washing that I should have a usable paper negative for as long as I personally care which based on my age is about 30 to 40 years or so. Because of this being a paper negative I don't want any tonal changes (increased density, etc) so I am a little hesitate to Selenium tone for the little extra insurance. I will be properly storing them in archival holders in an archival box at a temperature of about 68 degrees. The relative humidity in my storage space runs an average of about 40% throughout the year. Based on these variables I think I should be fine.

    According to the Kodak data sheet on toning black and white papers and what little relevant info I found in other sources I am going to run a couple tests this week with a Selenium tone at 1:20 for 5 minutes. My plan is to expose two sheets of RC paper at the same time and then process one normally and the other with Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner as mentioned above. I will scan each print and look at the histogram and see if there is much difference. I expect there to be some type of difference because I don't think two prints are the same with or without toning. I will circle back after my testing.

    Tim
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    they say that sistan ( now called AG STAB ) is a toner that helps
    keep rc prints to live a long life ...

    ( and it isn't nearly as toxic as selenium toner )
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2011
  10. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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    This is an interesting thread. I have often wondered how RC or in fact any of the newer emulsions will hold up in time.

    My old RC prints from the 70s have a mixed bag of results. Some have yellow stains n blotches, probably due to improper washing and some are just as stunning as the day I made them.

    Same is true for my old prints on Portriga and Record Rapid although I have less probematic prints on FB based papers.

    That being said; I think based on my experiances, RCs proabably required more careful washing, now realizing this 40 some years later. Otherwise image quality hasn't changed. I still prefer the look of FB over RC but this is personal preference, not a technical issue.

    Now back to my concern... I am not concerened with the substrate longevity but more the new emullsions. Paper emulsions have changed considerably with echo friendly efforts to ban certain chemicals, now including developer layers n dyes in VC papers. How well will these images hold up in time? Do paper companies have any testing data on this or is it a "we'll see" atitude with photo paper manufacturers?

    I once sent a letter, at the dawn of digital, to the editor of a photo magazine Bruce Barnbaum was writing for, asking this same question. The responce I got.... "I'm sure it'll outlast you" which seemed to say nothing, I lost all respect for new technology of the "I don't care disposable generation." Since digital it seems archival properties have gone the way side to imediate satisfaction for the ADDAH.

    Just my 2ยข

    .
     
  11. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I've got RC prints from 20+ years ago that have been displayed continuously most of their life and are looking great. Mostly Ilford, some Kodak.

    I have one with a yellow spot on it, probably improper washing or fixing, rather than improper material.

    I've got others that went into a photo paper box and were stored in my garage for ten years with no special environmental cares. They are fine too.

    Good washing doesn't mean lengthy washing; too long a wash with RC and your finished print will curl after it's matted and be difficult to flatten. Good washing is <10 minutes and not stacked/overlapping in a manner where water is obstructed from reaching the emulsion.
     
  12. Jojje

    Jojje Member

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  13. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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  15. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Ilford post-card paper has given me recent bronzing problems - the cards were printed about 7 years ago. I have had lots of mid 90's RC prints that have gotten very bronzed indeed; interestingly they were all mounted and framed and there have been no problems with loose prints made in the same darkroom sessions. The bronzed prints were all selenium toned, so it seems Se won't guard against bronzing. One of the bronzed prints had been hanging in my bedroom for 15 years, not an area of heavy pollution. I haven't had any crackling problems (famous last words).

    It can take 10-20 or more years for problems to show up and so all long-term longevity data is going to be from prints made in the 80's and 90's. Obviously there isn't any data on how current papers will look in the year 2021.

    I have had customers return some of the bronzing RCs - I replaced them with FB. Unfortunately there are bronzed RC prints out there with my name on them - I guess that's what really annoys me about the whole issue.

    I no longer sell or give away anything on RC paper, not even Xmas cards. I am stuck with RC for post-cards, though.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2011
  16. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I have prints made on GAF RC prints from 72 or 73 that are quite faded, prints made on Kodak paper at the same time are unchanged, could have been printed this morning. I also have family photos from early 1900s that are unfaded, some were on display in my parents home in poor conditions for 60 or 70 years, I doubt at the time the prints were made anyone had any idea what arichival means. Most folks seem to think fiber will outlast RC, only time will tell. For most commerical work, I would use RC, 2 bath fix, and washed as recommended.
     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I agree with Nicholas, I have not printed on RC other than contact sheets.

     
  18. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening,

    All my contact sheets, dating back to the mid-70's, are on RC paper, almost exclusively Kodabrome RC until it no longer was available. None of them shows any sign of deterioration. I did process carefully, even when I started doing darkroom work, but did not use any selenium toner on contact sheets until recent years.

    Konical
     
  19. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I only use RC for contacts, too. I have many going back to the seventies and eighties. There are some which have deteriorated, although my printing methods were always consistent. I never liked the look of RC, and do believe if a negative is worth printing, It's worth printing on fiber paper.
     
  20. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Many things have been postulated as causes for RC bronzing, among them:

    1) RC manufacturing process that promotes bronzing
    2) Sunlight
    3) Sulfur containing gases
    4) Print under glass

    It is probable that more than one factor is required.
     
  21. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    I'm following this thread closely as I too print on fiber for most work, but would like to get back to using RC for more work prints and less than special prints. I think RC is great for contact sheets and also for first time prints with exploring a new negative. Looking at an RC work prints lets me look at cropping, contrast, dodging and burning etc and if I decide the image is worthy it goes to FB. I feel RC is great for 5x7 and 8x10 work. Anything larger seems as someone here once stated "is like printing on a place mat." Large FB is great to print on and hold in hand when finished. I have a few RC prints framed up hanging in my house, exposed to light all day and I've seen no deterioration. They are only about 4 years old though. I know Ralph Lambrecht did an experiment on RC longevity in the first edition Way Beyond Monochrome. I'll be interested to hear his results years from now.
     
  22. mdarnton

    mdarnton Member

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    I jumped on the RC bandwagon as soon as it came out, and all of my prints from then are just the same now as they were then. My advice would be to not develop longer than specs say use fresh fix and don't fix overly long, and wash at least twice as long as recommended, but not more than that. Any problems I had along the way came from getting sloppy in those three categories, and showed up nearly immediately.

    When I followed the rules, which I did at the beginning when I was paying more attention, no problems developed. The most irritating problem I had was curled edges from too much wet time during a period where I was storing everything in a water bath and washing all the prints together every couple of hours during the day.
     
  23. timlayton

    timlayton Member

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    Paper Negatives vs. Film?

    I recently posted a thread asking about the archival information on RC paper and received a lot of great information. I had another thought that I wanted to toss out to the group here to get your input and comments on. I saw on the Badger Graphic site that Kodak has discontinued Tri-X in 8x10, although when I google it I can't find any official statement from Kodak and it seems to be readily available to order from the normal suppliers. That got me to thinking about my paper negative work where I am using RC paper and having to test and establish new processes for an 8x10 film.

    Long story short I would like to know what you think are the pros and cons of using RC paper as a negative vs. Film when the plan is to scan it?

    Tim
     
  24. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    RC paper negatives will have a different spectral response compared to normal film. It's not good or bad, just different. Of course it will be a lot slower too in terms of exposure.

    There are plenty of film choices remaining that you don't have to convert to RC paper. Ilford, Foma, Arista, xray film, etc... Unless money is the reason, you can order a bunch of tri-x 8x10 while you can and freeze it. After that, availability depends on Canham creating enough volume for an occasional batch order, and/or turmoil at Kodak.
     
  25. OzJohn

    OzJohn Member

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    Like mdarnton I have used RC paper since it first appeared - the first one I ever used was the German brand Tura and it was a few years until Kodak, Ilford and Agfa brought out similar papers. In a nutshell the Tura stuff ended up with surface crazing within a few years and was not a great paper anyway in terms of image quality but I've used the other three over many years without significant problems. At one time Agfa RC paper was developer incorporated and if it was stored for a few years before exposure, the base paper layer took on a decided beige to brown tone. This was eventually corrected and up until the time of AgfaPhoto's demise I used their MC RC paper in preference to all others.
    Others have mentioned the critical importance of washing RC paper properly. It does not have to be washed for long but it has to be washed well. An improperly washed RC print will stain more quickly than a poorly washed fibre print. Washing well means flowing water over the print for the entire washing period and not allowing prints to touch each other. Chucking a number of prints in a tray and letting a bit of water flow in will not cut it. The most efficient way I've found to wash RC prints is in a roller processor with two wash tanks plumbed counter-currently but since not many folk have these machines and the washing time is so short anyway, do them one by one in a tray with running water if longevity is important to you. Incidentally, the same washing issues apply equally to colour papers - they are all RC. If you want to see your RA4 prints discolour quickly, just go easy on the water (although unlike B&W, colour can be stabilised instead of washed but that alternative is rapidly being withdrawn on account of toxicity concerns).

    Who knows how long RC prints will last - unlike fibre prints they have not been around long enough to provide concrete evidence of their longevity. But let's remember, the majority of fibre prints that have been made in the last century or so were imperfectly fixed and washed and it is rare to find a hundred year old print that is in anything like original condition or completely without silvering. OzJohn
     
  26. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I have many hundred Kodak RC prints from 1972-1975 that were hastily processed and stored in the original cardboard boxes. They have survived in good condition. So have RC prints displayed under glass. Prints displayed without progective glass sometimes developed bronzing.