Paper Size History. Logical or not?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Paul Verizzo, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

    Messages:
    1,261
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Speaking only for this side of the pond.

    How is it we have two paper size families?

    One is 3 1/2 x 5, 5x7, and 11x14. Not perfect multiples, but very close.

    The other is 4x6, 8x10, and 16x20. Perfect multiples.

    How did this come about? And other than 4x6, none are a perfect match for 35mm, around since the 30's.

    And now comes printing on inkjets and we have 8 1/2 x 11 to throw another spanner in the logic. Obviously that comes from letter size paper tradition, and one can easily do an 8 x 10 on that format. Ilford makes a Multigrade IV RC in that size.......

    I remember Freestyle selling 8x12 a lot of years ago, I think East German. They used to have a lot of weird emulsions and sizes on the cheap. I miss those days!

    So now I have another thing to keep me awake along with the price of oil, gold, the subprime mortgage mess, the dollar going down, the Iraq occupation, and foreclosures. But THIS is important! :D

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

    Messages:
    4,679
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Location:
    Italia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Use roll paper.

    Or start worrying about metric sizes to -)

    What's 4x6 a perfect multiple of?

    Unless you're contact printing none of this matters. Cropping in the enlarger is common.

    None of those are perfect matches for 6x9 which is pretty old. 6x7 is okay on 8x10.

    Of course 8x10 is fine on 8x10. 5x7 on 5x7. 11x14 on 11x14. 3.5x5 is a split back for 5x7 camera. Paper sizes must be older then enlarging -)
     
  3. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,203
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Paul Interesting thoughts. There have been similar threads in the past which I don't think took us any further forward. Most sizes seem to have been a historical accidents and the position seem to be that because of different neg sizes any consolidation is futile. It had always struck me as strange that there should be a 5x7 paper size and not 5 x 7.5 which fits a 35mm neg exactly. OK 5 x 7.5 may not fit other neg sizes but I bet most 35mm users who are the bulk of film users would prefer 5 x 7.5 paper to match.

    OK you can cut 8x10 into 2 5x8s and then cut to 2 5 x 7.5s but I don't think I'd bother if 5 x 7.5 paper existed and if you're a mini lab user for prints you don't have the choice.

    Then there are the square users who might like 10 x10 paper or any other square sizes. Agfa used to do 10x10. I think things could be better if there was a will but that's the key. If most are happy with current sizes then of course the need to change isn't there and that's where we came in.

    pentaxuser
     
  4. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    2,385
    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2006
    Location:
    Cleveland, O
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As near as I could ascertain there are multiple historical reasons. Two are from the 1800's hardware store:

    The size of the standard sheet of tin-plate. This set the size for tintypes
    and daguerreotypes - half-plate, quarter-plate etc.;

    The size of both a standard sheet of glass and the size of common window panes - my house's windows are made from 5x7" panes, though glass comes in 20x24"-type multiples. This set the sizes for glass-plate negatives, which then set the sizes for sheet film.

    The size of a standard sheet of artists' paper fits the common print sizes. Artists' paper comes in both an 11x14 and an 8x10 (16 x 20, 20 x 24, 42 x 30) series [along with lots of other odd sizes].

    The size of glass panes having nothing at all to do with paper sizes is most likely the reason 5x7 is the odd man out. Ditto the perforation spacing and frame size of 35mm movie film not having much to do with anything else is the reason for 24x36mm not fitting any paper.

    Then I imagine there are the sizes that are 'just because', and have no reason at all.
     
  5. Mateo

    Mateo Subscriber

    Messages:
    500
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Hollister, C
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Ummm...maybe it has to do with historical things like the golden section. For example 11x14 is pretty close to half of 14x22.65 which is a golden rectangle. 8x10 is half of 10x16.18 etc etc. I think paper making in the broader sense influenced photo paper formats maybe more than did film formats that the paper was meant to match.
     
  6. mikez

    mikez Member

    Messages:
    69
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Location:
    New Jersey,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I've thought about this too from time to time, but if I absolutely can't crop an image, I will print it larger or smaller on a different size paper.
     
  7. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

    Messages:
    1,261
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Oops. Meant 4x5

    Darned defective abacus.

    I can't remember ever seeing 4x6, er, when I was young. It seems to have been an outcome of 35mmm becoming popular maybe 25 years ago.
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,206
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2003
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I hope I'm not being negative when I say - don't worry about it. I just print everything on 8x10 paper, up to about 6x8 print size, then I move up to 11x14 to print for instance 8x12 from 35mm. I always leave plenty of border as it makes the print easier to handle.

    But I don't want to be a party pooper. I think there are many reasons why we shouldn't waste as I do.

    Counter question - why do you have to fill the paper with the print to exactly fit the format you're shooting? I crop about 90% of my prints anyway.

    Thanks for a very interesting thread!

    - Thomas
     
  9. mikez

    mikez Member

    Messages:
    69
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2008
    Location:
    New Jersey,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Thomas that's exactly what I do too, we are wasters I suppose, but I like the look. Especially if I am contact printing 4x5 on 8x10 or 8x10 on 11x14.
     
  10. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

    Messages:
    1,261
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Bad humor?

     
  11. Absinthe

    Absinthe Member

    Messages:
    236
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    How about if we go with the golden ratio then you could have something like this:
    Aren't these supposed to be the perfect ratio for beauty and such?

    1 1.61803399 1 0.618033988
    2 3.23606798 2 1.236067977
    3 4.85410197 3 1.854101965
    4 6.47213596 4 2.472135953
    5 8.09016995 5 3.090169941
    6 9.70820394 6 3.70820393
    7 11.32623793 7 4.326237918
    8 12.94427192 8 4.944271906
    9 14.56230591 9 5.562305894
    10 16.1803399 10 6.180339883
    11 17.79837389 11 6.798373871
    12 19.41640788 12 7.416407859
    13 21.03444187 13 8.034441848
    14 22.65247586 14 8.652475836
    15 24.27050985 15 9.270509824
    16 25.88854384 16 9.888543812
    17 27.50657783 17 10.5065778
    18 29.12461182 18 11.12461179
    19 30.74264581 19 11.74264578
    20 32.3606798 20 12.36067977
    21 33.97871379 21 12.97871375
    22 35.59674778 22 13.59674774
    23 37.21478177 23 14.21478173
    24 38.83281576 24 14.83281572
    25 40.45084975 25 15.45084971
    26 42.06888374 26 16.0688837
    27 43.68691773 27 16.68691768
    28 45.30495172 28 17.30495167
    29 46.92298571 29 17.92298566
    30 48.5410197 30 18.54101965
    31 50.15905369 31 19.15905364
    32 51.77708768 32 19.77708762
    33 53.39512167 33 20.39512161
    34 55.01315566 34 21.0131556
    35 56.63118965 35 21.63118959
    36 58.24922364 36 22.24922358
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2008
  12. Absinthe

    Absinthe Member

    Messages:
    236
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Maybe this is more like, why are manhole covers round? Because manholes are round :smile: (and yes I know round is the shape that can't call in it's own hole)

    All the frames and mats are cut for 5x6 and 8x10 and such :smile:

    I assume that photo labs don't have cut sheets, but actual roles of one width or the other and the get cut as it goes.
     
  13. Absinthe

    Absinthe Member

    Messages:
    236
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Wow, that looked all pretty when I pasted it.. I wonder if I have access to [pre] or tags...
     
  14. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

    Messages:
    1,261
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    IIRC, the Golden Ratio is about 1.67:1, isn't it?

    If so, isn't it interesting how close that is to the 1.5:1 of a 35mm frame?
     
  15. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    9,281
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Bergen, Norw
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    It's 1.618:1, which is the same as 1:0.618. :wink:

    The metric "A" serie for typing paper etcetera is defined as A0=1 square meter, A1=1/2 of that and so on, with the proportions such that each halving retains the rame proportions. That gives a ratio of 1: sqrt(2).

    But those are logical, which the photo paper sizes are not. Even in Europe the paper sizes are illogical - and what's worse, we get two sets of them:

    9x12cm, 10x12cm (4x5"), 10x15cm, then 5x7" and 13x18cm are the same. The next one is 8x10" (imperial) or 18x24cm (metric). Then comes the purely metric 24x30cm, next 11x14", 30x40cm and so on ad nauseam.

    Looking at glass plate era cameras it's obvious that these were standard plate sizes, which implies that the standard paper sizes have been made to fit the plates.
     
  16. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

    Messages:
    1,261
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks for the correction.


    OK, I was off by 7%. :mad:

    Good observation about the old glass plates. Now, of course, the question is how did that size originate? Letter paper of the era?

    And whatever happened to 4x5, handily contact printing all those Speed Graphic negatives? I presume the need went the way of the Speed Graphic and 4x5 view camera users just aren't a big enough market.
     
  17. Absinthe

    Absinthe Member

    Messages:
    236
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    While we are at it, what ever happened to 10x13 I seem to remember that years ago, but have not seen it at all lately...
     
  18. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,203
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Does A4 wet darkroom paper owe its existence to the arrival of inkjet printers? When did it start? I can't think why there should be a connection but it just seems quite a coincidence. Maybe it was produced to rival what is the common size for inkjet printing? It's still a size that isn't common and I suspect isn't used a lot. Ilford do some A4. Compared to the usual price of 8x10 you'd need to like it a lot to buy it as it is much more expensive than 8x10 proportionally speaking. The one big advantage I can think of is that it allows for two 5x7.5 prints with borders which 8 x10 doesn't.

    pentaxuser
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,829
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am starting to see more and more frames that are designed for 8.5" x 11" (digital) photos. I would expect that if A4 (digital) prints are the UK or European equivalent to 8.5" x 11", then you might see the same effect there. Paper sizes may very well follow the display and presentation sizes, as they change.

    Matt
     
  20. Mateo

    Mateo Subscriber

    Messages:
    500
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Hollister, C
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Manhole covers are round for a very good reason: so that it's physically impossible for them to fall in the holes they cover. A square cover could fall in on the diagonal.

    OOPS! I got lost by the typo "can't FALL in it's own hole"
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2008
  21. Absinthe

    Absinthe Member

    Messages:
    236
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    damn typos!!!
     
  22. greybeard

    greybeard Member

    Messages:
    377
    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Location:
    Northern Cal
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Well, there was at least one semi-modern example of film and paper being matched size-wise: 10" x 10" contact-speed paper made for printing 9" x 9" aerial-camera negatives of WWII vintage. (I once had a few boxes of this, made by Haloid in pre-Xerox days.)

    Now the question is: which was the limiting dimension, the camera or the paper. Since the paper was larger than standard typing paper (file folders, etc.) my guess would be that the 9x9 image size was due to the limits of lens coverage, size and weight of cameras and magazines, or something like that.

    If memory serves, when the Graflex XL press camera was in ads in the mid-1960s, one of the selling points was its 6x7 format which supposedly would print without waste onto 8x10. When I do the math, it seems that 2mm of lost area on each side of the negative would make the aspect ratio exactly 8:10 (with no borders!). This may have worked for wedding photographers, but all the newspaper pictures that I ever saw were cropped to odd formats (on full sheets of paper, usually) to suit the layout of the paper anyway, so the "economy" issue was mostly just marketing.
     
  23. RobC

    RobC Member

    Messages:
    3,911
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    16x12 is the perfect size for 35mm negs as you print with a two inch border all round which gives a 12x8 image.

    11x14 with 1 inch border is 12x9 which damn near the same aspect ratio of the actual useable area of a 4x5 neg