Should I Make the Move to Graded Fiber Paper?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by kristopher_lawrence, Mar 16, 2008.

  1. kristopher_lawrence

    kristopher_lawrence Member

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    Hi everyone,

    I need some advice. I have been doing darkroom work extensively for about 8 months.

    I used mostly Ilford and Agfa (my favorite!) resin coated variable contrast papers. I was really pleased with the results. However, I just tried a sample of old (prob 20 years +) agfa grade 3 fiber paper. I was stunned with the results.

    I found that the gradation between shadows and highlights to be absolutely lovely. I my eye, they seem better than using multicontrast papers/filters. I found that the hightlights are more difficult to block (in a condenser enlarger) too.

    First, is my perception pretty common, or am I completely crazy?

    Second, is this lovely tonal range due to the fact that the paper is graded or that it is fiber?

    I will definitely make the move to fiber and/or graded papers, but what sould I look for? Will multicontrast fiber paper give me these results or I should go for graded?

    I would also have impressions on fiber papers, I don't like glossy finish, I prefer semi-matt. But since a lot of graded fb papers seem to be glossy, I am wondering is the glossy finish is the same as resin-coated ones.

    Going back in the darkroom,

    Thanks for your answers to this bunch of newbie interrogations,

    Kris
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It's both because it's fiber and because it's graded, and probably you've got a good stash of an older paper like Brovira.

    I like graded fiber papers (current favorite is Emaks and if it wasn't around, I'd probably use Oriental Seagull), but really it's all a matter of taste. Slavich makes a nice graded paper, and of course there's Ilford Galerie (which has the whitest base of anything out there, if that's of interest). Your best bet is to buy some packets of 8x10" of several of the current papers available and make the best print you can on each paper with one negative so you can compare, and then keep the prints in a file for future reference. Try making sets of reference prints with a couple of different negs, like a portrait where you can look at skin tones and a landscape where you can see how each paper handles a wide range of tones and textures. This will tell you a thousand times more than what anyone can tell you on an internet forum.
     
  3. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    I think most of the differences you are seeing is the difference between FB and RC papers.

    Most glossy surface FB papers are more akin to the semi-mat surface in RC. I've never seen a FB surface as glossy as the RC glossy unless it was ferrotyped.

    I suggest getting a 25 sheet package of a good variable contrast FB paper. Try that first then reevaluate whether to go with graded or not. Fact is, most VC papers do just as good as graded. No one can tell the difference when looking at the prints.
     
  4. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    I think you've discovered the advantage of fiber paper... rich tones, great shadows, blacks.... a bit higher skill level is needed though.

    My self I happen to use only graded papers but that's because of the type of enlarger I use... I think you'll find great results with most of the fiber papers whether they're graded or MC.

    RC coated is still a fine product though... many people use them regularly for contact sheets and file shots.

    -Rob
     
  5. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

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    Using graded papers is going to require a higher skill of exposure and development control of your negatives. You also have to keep a greater stock of graded papers at one time. And you can't do things like split grade printing.

    I personally find the advantages that VC papers offer greatly outweighs using graded papers. I too agree that you're seeing the differences between RC and FB papers. Fiber base glossy papers are not like RC glossy papers. I like Ilfords pearl finish in RC paper and glossy in fiber base paper. Fiber base paper does require a lot longer final wash but the results are stunning. I also recommend that you try a pack of 25 sheets of 8x10 Ilford MGIV paper, whether warmtone or not. It's great stuff.
     
  6. Removed Account

    Removed Account Member

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    I don't have much experience with graded paper save some Kentmere Bromide Gr 2, but I have fallen in love with fiber in general. Mostly because it's such a pleasure to handle, in addition to the image quality (though that may be a placebo effect). I'll second that fiber base glossy is much closer to semi-matte RC, not the polished glass shiny of glossy RC. I will caution that while I do enjoy the semi-matte Ilford MGFB Warmtone, the standard multigrade fiber in matte is EXTREMELY matte. I had a hard time telling which side was the base and which side the emulsion! I'm smitten with the tone of the Ilford warmtone, and can't wait to try it in Formulary 130 developer (which I think is the same as Ansco 130). That won't stop me from trying some more graded paper on the side though :tongue:

    - Justin
     
  7. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    With Graded you'll enjoy a much more well
    lite darkroom. Graded is blue only sensitive.
    A bright yellow or orange-ish safelighting
    can be used. Dan
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Modern VC fibre papers are so good it shouldn't really matter whether VC or fixed grade.

    It's the fibre base that makes the difference.

    Ian
     
  9. kristopher_lawrence

    kristopher_lawrence Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your answers,

    I just found what kind of paper I used. It was old Agfa Portega Rapid. Do someone know what would be a good replacement?

    I will definetely move to Fiber paper, I just made my first 16x20 print and I am still stunned. I will probablely try both MC and graded papers.

    I went from far... 1 and half year ago, I was shooting only Digital SLR, Then came the Rolleiflex (still my favorite camera), then a scanner, then the darkroom, then a Leica, then a Minox... and soon the fiber paper! I am thinking of doing glass plates too! Do someone want a DSLR? I don't use it anymore, and don't plan too. I simply ruined myself in aquering what I need for analogue photography and I am a student (in political science), but it is so satisfying!

    Thanks a lot!

    Kris
     
  10. kristopher_lawrence

    kristopher_lawrence Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your answers,

    I just found what kind of paper I used. It was old Agfa Portega Rapid. Do someone know what would be a good replacement?

    I will definetely move to Fiber paper, I just made my first 16x20 print and I am still stunned. I will probablely try both MC and graded papers.

    I went from far... 1 and half year ago, I was shooting only Digital SLR, Then came the Rolleiflex (still my favorite camera), then a scanner, then the darkroom, then a Leica, then a Minox... and soon the fiber paper! I am thinking of doing glass plates too! Do someone want a DSLR? I don't use it anymore, and don't plan too. I simply ruined myself in aquering what I need for analogue photography and I am a student (in political science), but it is so satisfying!

    Thanks a lot!

    Kris
     
  11. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I used to use the Portriga and I haven't found a graded paper to replace it. I tried the Kentona and it was much more contrasty in my system and it is more brightened. the Emak is closer in contrast and perhaps you should give that a go as it is relatively inexpensive. But I come closest to the look of the old Portriga with Oriental VC WT FB processed in Ansco 130. You could also give Ilford WT VC FB a try. I still have a lot of the old portriga prints to compare my new prints to.
     
  12. Rolleijoe

    Rolleijoe Member

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    That older Agfa paper was magic (which is why we all screamed & hollered when Agfa film/paper went under).

    When living on Maui for 3 years I used Agfa Brovira grade 3 because the light is practically constant on the island, so I knew what my negatives would look like.

    As long as you can control the light to give consistent results, then graded fiber is the way to go.

    Rolleijoe
     
  13. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    As for me, I find it much easier to get excellent prints on graded paper. I like Slavich, Kentmere, and Ilford.
     
  14. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Gee, I haven't used graded papers in a long, long time, and maybe it's time I tried some. Most everything I shoot wants to print at around grade 2 or 3 anyway, so stocking paper won't be that much of a burden. I doubt that I'd ever truly give up on variable contrast papers though. The ability to fine tune the contrast using the yellow/magenta filters on my color head makes any perceived inferiority trivial by comparison.

    Should you make the move to graded papers? By all means try them out. You may like it, or you may not. Only you'll be able to decide.
     
  15. kristopher_lawrence

    kristopher_lawrence Member

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    Hi everyone,

    After reviewing about 100 prints, I think I will go for graded paper. 90% of the time I have used a contrast filter between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 for printing on RC VC paper. The only exceptions are where I screwed the exposure. (I make a point of guessing it with my Rolleiflex...). So here's my question:

    Is grade 3 FB paper roughly equivalent to 3 contrast filter on MC?

    If, so, since my negatives seems to be constitent, I think that graded paper won't be to hard to use. I still can stock up a pack of Fiber VC just for exceptional cases where I need a higher or lower contrast.

    Thanks for your advice,

    Kris
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Paper grades aren't terribly uniform. Emaks middle grade (3 from Freestyle) is about 2-1/2 compared to MGFB IV. Oriental G2 is closer to MGFB IV grade 2.
     
  17. Trey

    Trey Member

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    Wow, you lucked into some Portriga? Lucky! :smile:
     
  18. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Going with graded fibre, or any other graded paper is simple.

    You will decide which paper is the best for you, then you will empirically alter your film development and/or exposure, so that you get negatives that print perfectly (or nearly so) on your chosen stock.

    Mick.
     
  19. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    First, you're not crazy. The old Agfa graded papers were excellent. Their RC stock was also several cuts above average. The problem will be to find something reasonably good in comparison. That might be either RC or FB, graded or multigrade. It's not a simple choice of graded FB versus something else. The RC and mutigrade papers are quite competitive with graded FB papers these days. As for the look of FB glossy paper, it is different than RC glossy. When air dried it has somewhat less surface luster than RC glossy, but more than luster or semi-matte paper.
     
  20. edtbjon

    edtbjon Member

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    High quality fiberbased papers are still around because of what you and others have found out, i.e. it's worth the extra time and effort in exchange for picture quality. You can (with processing machines) get a dried RC print in some 90 seconds or so. This compared to FB where the wet part often counts hours. Drying, flattening, mounting ... say a couple of days or so... :smile:
    As you keep learning you may find that one type of paper isn't the best match for all your pictures. You may need a different tone or a different curve (simplified: shadow OR highlight contrast). Then there's the whole new concept of split-grade printing...
    The Portega Rapid papers were famous for their qualities. They havn't been around for a long time, which could also be said for a great number of other good papers. I don't want to rub it in, but when you're out of the stock of Portega Rapid you will probably have a hard time to find a good substitute. Some will say Forte PolyWarmTone, by the way no they won't, as Forte doesn't exists anymore either... and the story goes on and on and on... Btw, Fotoimpex in Germany (http://fotoimpex.de) still have some Polywarmtone left.
    The big problem is that several plants (film & paper) have closed down due to the digital revolution. The market value is down to a few percents of what is was say some 10 years ago.

    Personally I love the old type of paper. RC paper is good for the first working copy to see what the picture looks like, but then I change to fiber, graded or multigrade. Most of my old favourites are not available any more and Bergger is very expensive...

    //Björn
     
  21. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear All,

    No surprise, my favourite paper is ILFORD Galerie FB.....although I also use variable contrast FB, especially if my neg is a bit wayward, using graded paper definitely ensures you pay good attention to your developing regime.....I also used to Love AGFA Record Rapid.

    Simon : ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  22. Matthew Gorringe

    Matthew Gorringe Member

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    I use Galerie as my standard paper and think that's it's actually easier to produce a really stunning print using Galerie than it is with a VC paper (I've tried Ilford FB, Berrger graded and VC, Kentmere VC, Foma VC; the new Adox MCC111 comes very close.).

    As long as your neg has enough contrast for your enlarger it's very easy to use one of the two grades at their maximum contrast in Dektol (or similar) 1:1. If your neg doesn't have enough contrast you can run into trouble but selenium toning the neg can often help you get an acceptable print on grade 3 Galerie.

    It's quite easy to reduce the contrast of the paper using selectol-soft and/or reducing the development time and/or changing the developer dilution. My own opinion is that using these methods to change the contrast of the paper leads to "better" results than simply changing filters. Why, I don't knoow and I find it hard to explain what better is, but Galerie really can look exceptional under a range of conditions.
     
  23. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    There isn't one. Long story but the "heavy metals" used to produce this fine paper were harmful to the environment and there went the paper.

    Closest current paper is either Ilford Multi-contrast Warm tone or Bergger warm tone.

    Enjoy what supply you have left.
     
  24. mikez

    mikez Member

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    Oh my god you are so lucky... :surprised:

    In an old Portriga thread here, I once (I was a lurker for a long time) saw someone talking about having the "emulsion formula" for portriga rapid, was that ever elaborated on?
     
  25. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    Some things are just too difficult to explain - like AZO contact prints. But I shoot for graded paper - to look good on grade 2 and maybe better on grade 3. Glossy fiber is my choice. I now have a big drum dryer so I can actually get the gloss finish but with or without are both very good. Ferro typed glossy FB paper has a 3d look to it that is amazing. Like a great paint job on a car, you feel like you can look into the image. I have also found that graded papers often have a slightly different color which I find very satisfying - as well as how they look toned. My favorite is now as extinct as a t-rex so I have a box of Seagull that I will try. I absolutely have VC paper on hand so when I SCREW UP - I can still salvage an image. I must say that those boxes last a long time now (not like when I started)