Using Graded paper vs VC paper

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by snay1345, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. snay1345

    snay1345 Member

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    I have been looking around and see that there are still some graded paper options out there. Since I have been printing in a darkroom I have only used VC paper. Is there any significant advantage or reason as to why switching to graded paper would be a good idea? Do you still use filters when printing on graded paper? Thanks for any input.
     
  2. K-G

    K-G Subscriber

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  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    VC/MG or graded is a matter of choice, but variable contrast papers are now so good there's little or no advantage of using fixed grades.

    An issue with graded papers is few manufactures offer a full range if grades or emulsion types. So Ilfords Premium FB paper Gallerie is now only available in grades 2 & 3 and Ilfospeed RC in 1,2 & 3.

    With a far wider range of VC/MG papers the demand for graded papers has dropped to a very low level, and VC/MG papers give far greater flexibility.

    Ian
     
  4. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    You don't use filters for graded paper. As K-G suggests, do a search on this forum for the topic and you will find numerous threads and lots of info.
     
  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    There can be a slight change in contrast with different filters and some fixed grade papers, there's at least one thread about it here on APUG.

    Ian
     
  6. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Some folks will swear that it is worth to switch to graded papers. Be that as it may, I'm not willing to give up the printing flexibility of variable-contrast papers for it. Having all grades within one sheet of paper is an unbeatable advantage and allows to make prints, you just cannot do with fixed-contrast papers.
     
  7. Rolleijoe

    Rolleijoe Member

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    No, you don't use filters, the paper is the grade it is. But for example, when living on Maui, where conditions are fairly much the same, I "dialed in" film/chemistry etc, and was printing on Agfa Brovira. NO MG/RC paper can match the look of certain graded papers, such as the old Brovira.


    I've since switched to Foma 542 for certain shots (the look is fantastic) before they changed to 542-II, and there is a surface of Foma that just rocks in LPD developer.


    Sounds as if you're just beginning. Try different things, and find what works for you. I went from Agfa RC paper to graded, then tried Ilford MC (huge let down), and am quite pleased with Foma velvet surface matte paper.


    Also the LPD brand of paper developer really brought out everything whereas the Kodak developer was only fooling me for years. I've gone back and re-printed many images. It is that good.


    Just try some 5x7 boxes from Freestyle, and judge for yourself.
     
  8. pentaxpete

    pentaxpete Subscriber

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    I bemoan the loss of Grade 5 paper --I cannot seem to get Grade 5 with Magenta filters in my LPL or Durst with the built-in filters and have tried some 'below lens' filters and they seem to have faded .
     
  9. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    I haven't used graded papers in a very long time, but some excellent ones still exist. I understand that some graded papers may respond a bit more to developer manipulation to control contrast than the VC papers, but I have no recent experience. The current VC papers are excellent and are generally at least equal to the quality of graded papers. Although I am not that great a printer, I enjoy the ability to tweak the contrast by small amounts with VC papers and also the ability to burn at a different contrast and to control local areas of contrast. You can't do that sort of thing with graded paper.
     
  10. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    If you really want to learn to shoot, use one grade of paper, and learn to expose properly for it. The old-timers didn't have the availability of MG paper, and had to learn to optimize their exposure for a single grade. St Ansel helped develope the zone system to help with that. Personally, I'm happy that VC papers exist, makes exposing for different situations much easier.
     
  11. Chris Douglas

    Chris Douglas Member

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    In Ansel's book, The Print, he wrote that he never used VC paper because the two emulsions took toner differently. I suppose that has been fixed during the last 30 years. I just got back into home photography and went directly to VC paper. It seems to tone evenly.
     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    There were issues with VC/MG papers in the 1980's with some developers having a different image colour/lone at different contrasts, that's why Ilford made Multigrade developer.

    So there's some truth in the idea, but VC/MG papers have become significantly better.

    Ian
     
  13. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    I remember when I started printing (in the 70s) accidentally buying a box of Agfa Grade 6 because it was reduced. I was very very inexperienced. Imagine my horror at the soot and whitewash images it produced. My own personal take on the VC/Graded question is that unless a graded paper has a characteristic that you find essential to your print making I can't see an advantage in using it. I know that lovers of the truly cold image go wild about Slavich bromide papers. I don't know of many truly cold tone VC papers.
     
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  15. ROL

    ROL Member

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    You might try FomaBrom Hard (4-5). These neutral-toned Czech papers are very conservatively graded, at least when developed in Dektol, IMO.

    I much prefer graded papers, but it seems they are becoming more difficult to find. Slavich and Foma (Freestyle) have taken up some of the slack.
     
  16. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Yes, the Slavich UniBrom's are quite nice cold-tone papers. The double weight paper is somewhat thinner than claimed. They are 2 -3 stops slower than most other papers. I tested the paper and found the warnings to use only with red safety lights to be unnecessary – they exhibit the same safety characteristics of other papers under amber light.
     
  17. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    I find it easier to "land" a print on a graded paper, and seldom wish for a half grade or the need to switch to Selectol to achieve that.

    Still, I tend to print on one paper type for a few months, and lately it has been Varycon.

    Many good choices out there help keep the darkroom work exciting over the years.
     
  18. Existing Light

    Existing Light Member

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    I've been using graded paper (Slavich Unibrom grade 2 and grade 3) for what little printing I've been doing lately. I dont use graded because I think there's some greater (actual or percieved) quality that VC papers dont have. I use it to tighten my exposure and development process. I feel like, for me, having a multitude of grades in one paper makes me stop worrying about perfect exposure and developing technique since I can fix anything but the most serious of exposure or development screw-ups. Some people see that as a good thing, which is fine. I prefer to be kept alert and on my toes through the whole process

    Use whatever you prefer. I think you'll be happy either way with the quality of papers out there. :smile:
     
  19. K-G

    K-G Subscriber

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    I haven't seen anyone mention what I think is the absolutely best graded paper today, Ilford Galerie .
    Only grades 2 and 3 are available today, but if your negative isn't to extreme and doesn't require to much split grade printing, the print quality is superior to the VC papers I have used. The difference is small, but it is there. My personal ideal combination today is Adox MCC 110 for negatives that require a greater contrast range and Ilford Galerie , both grade 2 and 3 , for the well behaving negatives.
    Don't forget that there are other methods to alter contrast on graded papers such as preflashing, high and low contrast developer, water bath development and a number of combinations of developer concentration, print exposure and time in developer. Both VC and graded papers have their own advantages.

    Karl-Gustaf
     
  20. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    One advantage of graded papers lies in the way they handle stained negatives. The stain increases contrast on graded papers, but lowers it on VC papers.
     
  21. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I've not noticed that in practice, my Pryocat HD negative print on the same MG settings as similar negatives processed in Rodinal and Xtol.

    Ian
     
  22. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    I find that a two-bath developer workflow gives me enough flexibility to handle my disparate negatives with just 2 grades of paper. Many of my negs are high contrast and benefit from Moersch Separol Soft. But some benefit from a brief dip in Separol HE, while others I may just use the HE. For papers I use Emaks & Kentmere Bromide ( as well as Lodima & Fomalux for contact printing).
     
  23. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Some thoughts on the subject.

    First, there is a characteristic of many VC papers to merge mid-tones at one point in the curve when used at low-medium contrast.

    See here: http://www.google.at/url?sa=t&sourc...04T9BA&usg=AFQjCNFlPTzBZHQpSs0KP-KK3oxSdSie6g

    This alone is enough for me to use graded paper as much as I can, especially for low and medium contrast grades. I print primarily on graded paper and keep VC around for some prints that need it (e.g., if I need a lot of contrast or to split-contrast print).

    Ctein noted that some VC papers have a sharpness problem caused by the near ultra-violet part of the image focusing at a slightly different plane than the green part. This seems to be an issue with enlarging lenses and, as far as I know, most modern, quality enlarging lenses focus the UV and visual parts of the spectrum at the same plane. Nevertheless, when I read that, I was happy I didn't have to test my enlarging lenses...

    On to what Vlad mentioned: With stained negatives, especially those developed in pyrogallol (less so with pyrocat negs - See Sandy Kings articles on UnblinkingEye.com), the stain increases contrast and separation on graded (blue-sensitive) papers, but acts as a progressive "soft-filter" on VC papers. This means that a pyro neg will print significantly differently on graded paper than on VC. There is no implicit advantage in either one, rather another option for getting a great print. If I need a lot of highlight separation in my print from a PMK neg, you bet I'll be using graded paper. If, on the other hand, I want to soften the highlights and keep shadow separation, I might try the print on VC paper.

    Since I am dialed in with graded papers from pyro negs, I don't really want to switch. I tend to keep some VC around, but use it only rarely

    Fortunately, there are a lot of good graded papers still available. I prefer white, not warm paper bases and papers that tone to just a hint of eggplant in selenium.

    The aforementioned Slavich is one of my favorites. Lately I have been loving the look and surface and depth of image I get from Adox Nuance papers - really beautiful, and nice subtle tone changes in very dilute selenium toner.

    I use Oriental G papers as well, but like them less since the reformulation since they do not tone as well as the old papers did.

    The Foma graded papers are also very good; a bit warmer base, but still very clean. Gallerie is nice, but I haven't used it lately.

    There are others as well. A look at the Freestyle website will give you an idea. Other dealers have some others. Graded paper is far from dead.

    However, dealing with intermediate contrast is more difficult with graded papers (you need to split-develop, etc. instead of just changing the settings on the dichro head...) and there is no possibility at all for split-grade printing. And, one needs to keep a rather larger stock of paper on hand, at least two grades and usually a couple of different brands where with VC you could get by with just a couple boxes.

    So, I'm not going to tell you that graded paper is better than VC ... it's just different. For me, especially due to the possible mid-tone mergers and the way VC responds to pyro negs, I'm going to stick with graded papers. Mostly because that's what I've tailored my negatives for, and I'm getting good results.

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  24. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    Ian, I'm not talking about overall contrast. Of course, if you develop your Pyrocat negatives to the same CI as your Rodinal ones, you'll print them all with the same VC filter.
    I was talking about something else. Most papers have a toe and a shoulder. The toe means that contrast in the highlights is lower than in the midtones, and that's regardless of the contrast filter (or paper grade) used.
    The stain filters blue light, and its density is proportional to silver density, which means that on a paper that's mostly sensitive to blue and much less to other colors it increases local contrast slightly. Because the stain is denser in the highlights, its effect is to counteract the paper's toe to some extent.
    On VC papers the stain favours green over blue light, so local contrast in the highlights is lowered. Not only doesn't the stain counteract the toe, but it actually adds to it.

    The effect is subtle, and only noticeable with certain subjects. Most negatives, be they stained or not, would probably print exactly the same on both kinds of papers. But when you happen to have an image with difficult highlights, where you struggle to retain fine detail in the highlights while at the same time keeping them as white as possible without blowing them out, then you might be able to do it a bit easier on graded paper. A good printer could probably get the same result on VC paper, but it would take more time and work.
     
  25. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I see no reason why this should be the case.
     
  26. Vlad Soare

    Vlad Soare Member

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    Ralph, I've stated the reasoning above. :smile:
    The brown/green/orange stain blocks blue light to some extent, and its density is proportional to silver density. The more silver there is in the negative, the more blue light is blocked in addition to that blocked by the silver itself. This, on a paper sensitive only (or mostly) to blue, increases the contrast. The effect is stronger in the highlights, where it's most needed (because the stain is denser there). On a VC paper the stain, by blocking blue light, acts as a sort of variable yellow filter, decreasing the contrast in proportion to its density. More stain equals less blue light, which on VC paper means less contrast.
     
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