Survey: Which is Easier for 12x20

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by Francesco, Jan 5, 2004.

  1. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    I am interested in AZO contact printing of 12x20 negatives. What are your experiences and which is easier, using digitally enlarged negatives (i.e. purchasing and using software, printers, pigments, etc. etc.) or simply buying a 12x20 camera and doing it the old fashioned way? Pros and cons of each.
     
  2. bmac

    bmac Member

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    You arent going to get near the sharpness and quality from an enlarged negative as you would from a "real" 12x20 negative. They are two different beasts. In my opinion, each has its place.
     
  3. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Digital negatives have some clear advantages over original camera negatives. They can be adjusted in Photoshop to give exactly the tonal range desired and any corrections, burning and dodging that is needed can be done on screen so that in effect you have negative that will print perfectly every time. Another consideration is that since you are adjusting the on-screen image to give exactly what you want to see on the print exposure times and contrast will be virtually identical for every negative. Always scan at a minimum of 360dpi at the final print size. For example, if you plan to make a 15X21" digital negative from a 5X7, which amounts to a 3X enlargement of the original you should scan the original at a minimum of 1080dp. Also, to avoid posterization always scan in 16 bits and keep the file in 16 bits in Photoshop all the way to final output. Since many of the tools are not useful in 16 bit in older version of Photoshop you will need th latest version of Photoshop, known as Photoshop CS or Photoshop 8, to get maximum image quality as it pertains to tonality.

    The question most people have is how digital negatives from inkjet printers compare to those from in-camera originals. The answer is very well indeed. In fact I would go so far as to say that in many ways the prints I make from digital negatives are better than the ones I make from in-camera originals. This is due to the fact that I am able to adjust the tonal values of the digital negative to exactly what I want and can also enhance the apparent sharpness of the negative with the unsharp mask option.

    Opinions will vary on this but bear in mind that my views on the subject are based on extensive printing with several alternative processes using both large format and ULF negatives, including 12X20, as well as enlarged digital negatives. In my own work I find that 13X19” prints made from digital negatives of scanned 5X7” originals are of virtually identical quality to prints made from original in-camera negatives of 12X20” in size. Please note that my reference is carbon, kallitype and palladium prints on art papers where the texture of the paper is the limiting factor in sharpness, not the negative. What you find is that with digital negatives you are limited by both the paper surface and the resolution of Pictorico film to a maximum resolution of somewhere between 300-360lpi (or about 14lpm). Since a diamter of 1/100 of an inch, or about 5lpm, is generally accepted as the largest circle that will appear as a point at normal viewing distance the practical resolution of digital inkjet negatives is two to three times greater than necessary.

    If the final print is to be made on AZO I am of the opinion that an original in-camera negative would give slightly superior results on the final print than an inkjet negative because with a very smooth paper the resolution of the negative is the controlling factor in apparent sharpness, not the paper.

    The disadvantage of working with digial negatives is that you will have to spend a fair piece of change on computer equipment and software, plus a good scanner and printer. And if you don't already know how to work with Phtoshop there will be a learning curve involved. And finally, you will have to spend a great deal of time at the computer.

    Sandy King
     
  4. bmac

    bmac Member

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    My comment were based on Silver Geletin prints. I agree with Sandy about the paper being the limiting factor for sharpness with AP prints.
     
  5. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Have you enlarged any negatives from high resolution (i.e. 3800 dpi) drum scans which were subsequently output from an imagesetter?
     
  6. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Sandy, I have tried printing digital negatives on Pictorico OHP and I can easily see a "texture" to the negative that is not there on paper or the white film. This carries over to the print when using silver gelatine prints. I have also seen some of Jorge's platinum prints and I beleive that the texture would also be visible in these. Do you see the "texture", for lack of a better word, in your negatives made on OHP with the 2200? I would love to make platinum prints as fine as Jorge's but I doubt it will work with OHP - am I wrong?

    I have made fine digital negatives with the pictorico white film for silver printing.
     
  7. sanking

    sanking Member

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  8. sanking

    sanking Member

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    "

    The white Pictorico film does not work for palladium printing as it blocks UV light like mad.

    Sandy King
     
  9. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Sandy, I know the white film does not work. I was not clear enough in my question I guess. What I want to know is do you see a "texture" on OHP, or am I doing something wrong when printing on OHP with my Epson 2200. I don't see how the negatives I am getting would be acceptable compared to a film negative.
     
  10. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Don't underestimate how time consuming making digital negatives can be. You will spend alot of time calibrating your equipment, and in this case you will also have to maintain a darkroom.
    I would venture to say that you would get a superior result (at least with silver prints) if you use the traditional process.
    You may want to start with 4x5 or 8x10, 12x20 is an expensive format to learn with.
     
  11. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    I have been using an 8x10 for the last 10 years and exclusively contact printing for the last year. I would like to have the option to have bigger pictures for those scenes that feel special. I prefer to maximise my time outdoors and to minimise my time indoors - contact printing allows me this. From what I gather, it also seems cheaper to get a 12x20 camera and associated peripherals, at least in the short to medium term.
     
  12. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Sorry, I mean to address this issue in my previous message but for some reason only half of my response went through.

    Yes, I can see a dithering pattern on the OHP itself when I look at it through a 5-10X loupe. However, this pattern does not reproduce on the print in palladium when using art or drawing paper. I suspect that it would be visible with a process where the final image is on a very smooth paper surface, as would be true with silver gelatin printing, including AZO.

    One of the keys to making good prints with the Epson printers on OHP material is to fool the printer into using the highest resolution possible. You do thi by selecting glossy or semi-lustre paper as your media. This willl enable maximum resolution and turn off high speed printing. If you select OHP the printer will use a maximum resolution of 360dpi and high speed printing, both of which will degrade resolution.

    Sandy
     
  13. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    My recommendation is to go the traditional way.

    More time in the field. Less at a computer screen.

    Cost: once you have traditional stuff, you have it forever. With digital, it is a virtually endless spiral of purchases and upgrades.

    I do not understand the digital thing. Huge learning curve, expensive. Printing on Azo is so easy, why complicate it?
     
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  15. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    I have to add that AZO contact printing can be expensive too. It is so addicting, easy (and fun!) that I end up emptying a box in no time at all. By the way, how does one get 12x20 AZO (assuming no light tight room available)?
     
  16. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    50 or 100$ for an imagesetter negative is not cheap.. and it is easy for you or the imagesetter operator to screw it up. I would recommend Dan Burkholder's book on digital negatives, it will give you a good overview of what it takes to do this.

    I went through the same mental gymnastics myself and decided that the traditional approach would be easier for me.
    If you are really into computers and manipulating images the digital way would probably suite you better. I use computers for a living and I would rather stick a pin in my eye than go home and spend more time on one.

    You can get 12x20 azo by cutting 20x24 in half.
     
  17. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    And you can cut the Azo under a safelight.
     
  18. kitewgn

    kitewgn Member

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    I say stick with the traditional, the digital route is like 'Hotel California', "...you can check in any time you like but can never leave...". Michael is right, with all the endless upgrades (hardware, inks, media, software)and their respective learning curves who has time to master but one? . In fairness though, I have never had the know-how to output anything from my 2200 that resembled even a mediocre b&w print, so I am still struggling to imagine a contact print from a negative version of this output. Perhaps it all just a little too clever for me. Does one lose as much in translation up-sizing a negative digitally as one does projecting an analog(non-11001010001110...) version? Today,only $50,000- DCS players can rival vinyl, and this has taken over 20 years.
    I do admire Mr. Focos' work a great deal, his images are sublime, he has made good use of available technology but I wonder how aaccessibleto his results are and at what cost. Its like comparing apples to Apple macs.
    I do ,however value the limitations of only being able to have 4-6 exposures available to me when I set out with my camera. As far as transportability goes any argument here bebetweenx5 and 20x24 would surely invite amused bewilderment from the MF forum next door.
     
  19. lee

    lee Member

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    Kitewgn,

    here is a link to Mr. Fokos's new gallery in San Diego. I has his latest show on line there.

    www.no4gallery.com

    As you have said, he has made good use of the available technology. I don't understand your comment about how "accessible his results are and at what cost".

    lee\c
     
  20. kitewgn

    kitewgn Member

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    I do not know if he is flat bed or drum scanning or how he is output-ing
    I do not know what the various costs of these steps would be, locally or in some place like N.Y. or L.A.. I had the pleasure of viewing his work at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles. Like I said before I liked what I saw, however the images appeared digitally groomed but also appeared to be printed on 'real' photographic paper. I have no idea if this indeed was the case.
    I also do not know what the cost to the craft of traditional printmaking would be in terms artisanal skills in the long run. Part of the pleasure I derive from printmaking comes directly from the intimacy with the processes, the materials themselves and their idiosyncrasies. I enjoy the alchemy of the darkroom as I enjoy the alchemy of the kitchen.
     
  21. lee

    lee Member

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    Ok, I just did not understand. Let me help you as best I can understand his process as I understand it. I have had the pleasure of having dinner with him several times and we are on a list together called the zoners. He starts with an analog (8x10) black and white image and scans that into his mac via a Howetec drum scanner. He uses a ND filter to make the water that smooth and sometimes he records the amount of traffic that wanders thru the scene while he is making the 30 minute exposure. I know he was trying to sell the scanner a while back and don't know if he still uses it or got another scanner but that was how he used to do it. He combines a lot of images (sometimes) and generally cleans up the image or file. The image is then taken to a commerical printer or output house and output on to Fuji Chrystal via a Lightjet. That process is where he is able to create the tone of the print and of course the size. He was a platinum printer for many years before he got off on this methodology.

    lee\c
     
  22. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    Well - I am brand new to AZO and my first 4x5 contact prints (in Amidol - thanks Michael) have completely captivated my interest. They are unlike any other silver gelitin print I have ever seen. It is wierd - I see it instantly but I don't think any of my friends or family sees it. The range of tonality, the density of black - the whole look of it. For alternative process prints - I can see that shooting 4x5 and using inkjet negs will work fine - But for AZO ... well. My 8x10 camera will get here on Monday and my 210mm Fujinon SW will be here tomorrow. I got 50sheets of TRI-X yesterday ... and you can see where this is all going. All from a 4x5 contact print. The hook is really set. I just sold off all my 35mm gear to pay for it. I just get a rebel for family action shots.
     
  23. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    Frank,

    There is one other point that has not been brought up here. I like to call it the WOW factor. There is nothing like seeing those big negatives for the first time hanging after they are processed.

    I know some people make beautiful images with the digitally output negatives. But I don't think I could give up that WOW feeling just for the ease of use in the field. When you see the negatives for the first time and make prints from them, it makes all the struggle in the field worth it.
     
  24. Ray Bidegain

    Ray Bidegain Member

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    It is my feeling that photography does not need to get "easier"

    Ray Bidegain
     
  25. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    I on the other hand prefer to have it "easier", especially when the negative size is 12x20. If my procedures are giving me difficulty I find myself spending more time away from the field, away from seeing things and making better photographs. "Easier" for me means the ability to focus on my vision, my composition because I have mastered my technique, my materials. I take pictures outside of my home and I strive to spend more time away from the darkroom.
     
  26. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Try 400Tmax, Frank. I used Tri-X and HP-5 for years and I much prefer TMax.