Small print looks focused - enlarged one doesn't. What am I doing wrong?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by ted_smith, Jul 8, 2010.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Hi

    Have taken a photo using Fuji Acros 100. Was developed by a lab, and 6x4 prints produced.

    The 6x4 print looks (to my eye) sharp and focused.

    When I attempt a 10 x 8 print myself, I can't get the faces to look pin sharp, even when using a focus finder. I adjust the focus until the grain pops into view (hard with Acros), and then develop. In the examples below I used 30 seconds exposure, normal contrast, and then developed for 1 minute.

    I don't know if it's because the 6x4 is small and therefore you don't notice the slight out of focus whereas, when enlarged, you do, or if it's my printing technique.

    I can't remember what f stop I used, but I think it was around 5.6 using a Nikon 50mm lens and yellow Lee polyester filter. I seem to remember focusing off the face, but I may have used her hand, which might explain the slight focus issue if I used a wider f stop.

    OK, so below we have the 6x4 from the lab, followed by my 10x8 attempt. If you zoom into the face area, you'll see what I mean. Remember these are scans from prints, not negatives.

    http://www.tedsmithphotography.com/temp/6x4.jpg

    http://www.tedsmithphotography.com/temp/10x8.jpg
     
  2. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    I think it will be exactly that.
     
  3. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Yes, for sure, a small print will look sharp when an enlargement of the same picture won't, as QG says.

    However, it's really strange that the 6x4 scan would be sharper when indeed that scan is actually bigger. Hmmm.... that blows my mind at the present moment....

    Does the 8x10 print result in a significantly longer exposure time?? Perhaps more vibration with the enlarger or something like that.

    But as far as I can reason, a 2"x3" print and a 20'x30' print (ridiculous/stupid dimensions, just an example) should look the same if scanned and reduced to the same size. Right?
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Now you do! :wink:
     
  5. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    It could be a lot of things.... For one, with small prints, things such as out-of-focus negatives, misaligned enlargers, and not-so-great lenses don't show as much as it would larger prints would. Looking at your 8x10 prints, it appears forward part of the bench and even concrete is in better focus than the subject's face.

    It could mean you front focused a bit when taking the photo, or your enlarger is misaligned so that even when middle part is focused (where you put your grain focuser), top part wouldn't be in focus.

    I think, you might want to look at your negatives under magnification and make sure it's ok.

    By the way, I mention enlarger misalignment because I'm having heck of time correcting mine that I just refurbished.... it's pain!
     
  6. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Me too. The scans you posted look identical to me. Neither is super-sharp. What was your shutter speed?
     
  7. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Question. Where was the "yellow Lee polyester filter" in relation to the lens. above or below it?
     
  8. tlitody

    tlitody Member

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    could be a lot of things. If you focussed on face then it won't be enlarger alignment because the face should be the only bit in focus if alignment is out.
    So it then comes down to enlarger lens, focus finder or the neg which is out of focus.

    Check that focus finder is set properly. If its the cheap paterson one, then adjust it so that the copper wire is sharp. Also enlarger lens aperture can make a big difference. Make the same print at different apertures and find the aperture which gives sharpest print. This is something you should test at least once if you want really sharp prints. Stick with sharpest aperture for all prints. If neither of the above two solve problem, then its your negative which is out of focus.
    Oh, it could also be that the focus finder is missing its base so is set to wrong height but if it looks Ok then it probably is but if somebody has stuck anything to its base then take it off.
     
  9. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Could also be because the bellows of your enlarger remains in the "contracted" position.
     
  10. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I do see a noticeable difference between those two prints. For those who don't, check the bride's hairpiece. There are bits in it that show substantially more detail in the scan from the 4x6 print than from the 8x10 print. Of course, there could be some weird scanning artifact going on, but if Ted says the scans reflect what he sees with prints in hand, I tend to believe it.

    Some of my thoughts on the issue:

    • Find out how your lab-made prints were done. They might have been done optically using a higher-quality lens than you've got, or they might have been done digitally with some digital sharpening step.
    • Try another lens on your enlarger. Yours could be bad (an element knocked out of alignment, defective from the manufacturer, etc.).
    • Try making prints with a variety of f-stops. With some lenses, results are noticeably worse with some apertures than with others.
    • Try focusing with white light (no filtration) or green light (green filter). Patrick Gainer published some research in Photo Techniques a few years ago in which he found that white (unfiltered) and green light produced the most accurate focus. Red and blue filtration tended to produce noticeably poorer results. I don't recall his testing yellow filtration, which you mentioned you used, so I don't know what effect it would have.
    • Check for sources of vibration and try to control them.
    • Try adjusting your grain focuser. Yours might have gone out of alignment, in which case it would be giving you incorrect focus.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I too see a difference in sharpness - in particular in the bouquet of flowers on the bench.

    Have you tried to do a 6 x 4 print, and compared the two?

    Try focusing first without the focus aid, and then see if the results using the focus aid result in the image on the easel looking less sharp.

    Are you focusing with the enlarger lens wide open, and then stopping down? For most lenses, that is the best method. For a very few lenses, however, you need to check that focus at the same aperture you are using for the exposure.
     
  12. tlitody

    tlitody Member

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    This is a very good point as most labs scan to print these days.
     
  13. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    Something that no one has mentioned is the cement, the near part of the bench, and the groom's right hand, they all appear sharper than the faces. the 4X6 scan looks a little sharper to me, but the crack in the cement and grass in the foreground in the 10X8 looks great, but they are not in the 4X6 so I can't really be sure. My guess is that you are the victim of depth of field issues, I can't be sure without a jewelers loop and the prints, I would bet that if you look with a magnifier you will be able to find the focus plane someplace just in front of the faces,
     
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  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    That would be the "victim" (self inflicted, really) of focusing issues, not depth of field issues. Hopefully one does not routinely focus on that which he/she does not want sharpest, and then count on depth of field to get that which he/she wants sharpest to be sharp. :wink:
     
  16. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I would guess you are not using a glass carrier and the neg is popping on you during exposure.
     
  17. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Hi gents. Thanks for the info so far, and so to answer some of the questions raised to date :

    Grain Finder : I bought it from secondhandarkroom.co.uk - I'm not overly sure how it adjusts to be honest. I made the assumption that they are fixed? I will look into this - how does one know when it it aligned correctly or incorrectly though? It is a Paterson one.
    Shutter Speed - Cannot remember, but with shots like this I always try to make sure it's 1/50th sec+. It was also tripod mounted.
    Position of Lee Filter : It was in a Lee Filter holder, in the first run as close to the lens as it could go.
    Lens : It's a 50mm Rodesntock Apo-Rodagon which, I am assured, are one of the best such lenses available.
    Enlarger : Durst 'chassis' with Ilfospeed Multigrade 400HS head

    My negative carrier is far from ideal - I need to replace it really. The framing sliders wobble (one of them, at least) and the left hand lever is broke so it doesn't lift up and down without finger interference.

    This whole 'self-printing' is shocking difficult. Before I embarked on this adventure a couple of years ago a few folk who used to do it said to me "Oh yeah, it's a piece of cake. Not rocket science" yet all I have discovered since are issues with scientifically accurate alignment of everything, dob on precise requirements in every way. It's totally difficult! I'm not surprised traditional printers can command the prices that they do. It's certainly a fine craft, once you know how to do it, which I'm still a long way off being!
     
  18. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    There have been a few threads here lately on enlarger alignment you might want to read. But before I went that far, I would check the negative to see if it looks sharp. Also, I would check to see if the grain is sharp in the print. Remember you are checking for two different focusing operations; first the camera (negative) and then the print (positive). If the first is out, the second won't be better.
     
  19. tlitody

    tlitody Member

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    below the eyepiece of paterson grain finder there is a little screw lock sticking out. Loosen it and slide the whole eyepiece up and down whilst looking through it. There is a copper wire you can see which should be really sharp. Adjust and relock screw.

    Alignment is something which should be checked but once its done its done. BUt I don't think its the cause of this problem if you are focussing on face.

    I suspect the suggestion that neg is not sharp and lab used sharpening after scan for print, is the reason the lab print is sharper but checking alignment is a must even if to just put your mind at rest.

    Printing is quite straight forward but there is a learning curve and once you are getting consistently good negatives then printing becomes easier. And the more often you print the more intuitive it becomes.
     
  20. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I can't see how it is enlarger alignment, there would need to be at least one are sharp if this is the issue, if you think about it.

    I will go back to negative popping during exposure, or bellows drop at the lens stage, sometime these suckers are very loose and will drop from their focus position.

    Eyeballing would be sharper than the image Ted shows.

    Something is moving , between time of focus, puttting paper in easal and exposure time.
     
  21. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Ted

    I just looked at the jpegs on the other thread, does your carrier have glass top and bottom when you put in the neg??
     
  22. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    If your grain focus finder is not adjusted to your individual eyesight, chances are it is giving you a focus error. You need to see the reference line and grain in focus at the same time for it to be accurate.

    Jon
     
  23. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    i'm still wondering whether when you printed your less sharp results, you were still wondering what the bellows on your enlarger was for.
     
  24. tlitody

    tlitody Member

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    I just looked at your "What are enlarger bellows for" thread and the images.

    the bellows are to stop light flooding out but also they allow for focussing. i.e. movement of lens up and down relative to the film plane which is why they are flexible.

    N.B. Very Important:

    Enlargers which can print bigger format negatives and hence use longer focal lenses, can also be used for small format negatives such as 35mm. But with 35 you usually use a 50mm lens which focusses a lot closer to the negative. This results in having to compress the bellows right up when focussing. Infact they can be so compressed that they are effectively spring loaded and are trying to force the lens stage back down. This can move the focus a tad after you let go of the focus knob unless your focus adjust is very tight which makes focussing difficult.
    The easy solution to this is to use a Durst SIRIOTUB which is a recessed lens panel and allows for less bellows compression when using a 50mm lens. I think you may need one of these. It's cheap. Nova darkroom had some a little while ago. You need to check that your Ilford head accepts durst lens panels which are a standard fit so it probably does but check first.

    Also note that durst also made VEGATUB which extends the range of the bellows. But a VEGATUB is NOT what you want for a 50mm lens on your setup. I mention this just in case they say we have a VEGATUB.
     
  25. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I'm not sure what this means, but it sounds like you're talking about an under-the-lens filter. If so, it could be degrading the image quality a bit. It's best to use an enlarger that's designed with filters in mind, with either a built-in filter drawer or a set of built-in filters (either placed between the light source and the lens).

    Certainly the name is good, but even the best lenses can go bad. If you got it used, there's no telling what's happened to it. It could have been dropped, submerged in scummy water, used as a hockey puck, or whatever.

    It sounds like your enlarger has filters built into it, so there's no need to use a separate yellow filter. Use the yellow filter built into the head. Also, as I noted earlier, do not focus with the filter in place; focus with white (unfiltered) light.

    Any "slop" in the enlarger can certainly affect focus. It's conceivable that when you focus, you put pressure on parts that slightly shifts the position of the negative. When you let go of the focusing knob, that pressure is released, the negative shifts position, and the focus changes.

    IMHO, it shouldn't be difficult per se, although as others have said, there is a learning curve. If you're running into constant and serious problems, it could be that you're working with substandard equipment (maybe not bad to begin with, but abused) or are otherwise handicapping yourself in some way.
     
  26. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Durst's can have an issue with slipping when older, they creep up the column, it's a very simple adjustment.

    There's 2 or 4 (depends on the model) plastic pressure/friction pads that need adjusting by tightening slightly, too much means you cant raise or lower the head, so you tighten to that point then just back off. They are under the cover on both sides on the height adjustment bit by the handle.

    Also there's a felt pressure pad that does the same for the focusing rails.

    These things wear over time with constant use.

    In this case though I suspect there's no sharp detail in the image to focus on making it much harder anyway.

    Ian