You all might be interested in a little project that I'm working on. I've decided to print a portfolio from about the first 10 - 12 years of my large format negatives, about 3000 negs. From this I've separated about 50 or 60 negs and from this I will sort it once more for about a dozen prints. Anyway, I hadn't printed seriously in some time, so first I gave away all my graded paper collected over the years (about 30 pounds of it) and restocked in VC RC paper. Using this I made the first cut of the negatives. Then I looked for a nice fiber based paper. My photography is mostly small landscapes and abstracts. I decided I wanted a VC (for convenience) fiber paper. I like papers that don't have too much color to the base. I hoped the blacks would not have that slight green cast that I find objectionable, because I didn't want to tone them. That probably makes some of you cringe, but I find toning very time consuming and polluting. (That's a different soapbox.)
Anyway, I bought 12 different kinds of paper and printed one negative on all of them developed in Defender D-55 paper developer. I realize that this is a limited test, but it is impossible to do all the combos so I limited it here.
The twelve papers were: Agfa Classic 118, Agfa Warmtone, Arista Classic VC (probably Kentmere), Bergger NB, Bergger CB, Bergger CBS, Cachet VC FB, Cachet VC FB WA, Forte Elegance Polywarmtone, Ilford MG IV FB, Ilford Warmtone, Kodak Polymax Fine Art.
Reviewing the prints is very interesting. It is amazing how much the same they are and how different they are. All the papers made a nice print, although I found both Cachet papers too have too much tint in the paper. Some of the bases got eliminated for too much color. Some of the papers didn't resolve local contrast very well. Many had odd colors to the image and would have required toning. All had about the same Dmax, except one.
It is a very interesting test. It would be nice to do it in a class environment, so you didn't have so many bags of paper left. Obviously, different people like different things and different subject matter requires different types of emulsions. I did show the prints to several different photog friends of mine and without coaching they all thought that the one paper I selected did stand out from the group. Their impressions of the other papers were widely varied.
Reading over this, I realize if I tell you the paper I selected, it would look like an endorsement. I'll tell you later if there is interest. If you have the time and gumption, I recommend you try this test yourself. I'd be interested to know your impressions.
Maybe we should run a poll on favorite papers.
So I'm curious, What papers reacted which way, and which was the best? I use a different developer, so it may turn out different for me.
I'm with aggie on how things came out and which paper did you end up using?
Yeah, come on Loose, give us your endorsement!
For me, I started with the others, and ended up with Agfa. And then everytime I've ventured off, or worked worked places that use other papers, I end up back with Agfa. I still use Ilfords warm-tone on occasion, but quite rarely, and only for its reaction to toning.
So . . . is it agfa . . . ?
Yes, let us know what you picked. I'm sure we can all come to our own conclusions.
I've done the same kind of test and among enlarging papers (I prefer graded papers), I like the tonality of Cachet (Maco) Expo best for its ability to hold shadow detail, with Oriental Seagull also up there when I want a colder tone. I've also recently discovered Luminos Charcoal R, which is made by Kentmere, and has a place for certain types of images--a warmtone emulsion on a base that feels like watercolor paper.
For contact printing, I use Azo.
I'm in the lucky position of having to do the tests that LG has done for articles for magazines whenever new papers appear in the market place. Over the past 15 years I've used most papers available in the UK and obviously do have my favourites.
I was a great fan of Agfa and used Record Rapid and Portriga almost exclusively and then MCC when they produced that about 10 years ago. However, I have found that MCC is prone to fogging, and it is not the fault of my safelights I regularly test them. Forte is also a very nice paper but I have found it to be inconsistent. Consequently, I use Bergger, Ilford Warmtone and Oriental Seagull and have a dwindling supply of Kodak Ektalure, probably my all time favourite paper, and a few boxes of Agfa Record Rapid in the fridge.
As a matter of interest I have just completed a test on Legacy, a new paper produced by Fotospeed, a UK company. It is very nice slightly warm to neutral and not quite so high in contrast as Ilford Warmtone.
The following is strictly my two-bit opinion. It doesn't mean much. It is just what I like and no one is paying me to say it. Opinions are based on the comparison of only one print per paper using one negative. All the papers were developed in Defender D-55, which has a little more HQ and more bromide than Dektol. It is noted for yielding brown-blacks with most papers. Prints were not toned. Prints were viewed under 60W tungsten lamp. By warm, I mean browns, by cool I mean blue or violet, not neutral.
Agfa Classic 118 Can't find that sample. Sorry. As I recall, nice color and contrast.
Agfa Warmtone Matte finish with a texture. Creme paper color. Good contrast. Good brown-black image color.
Arista Classic VC, White paper color, good separation, warm blacks uniform in color from highs to shadows. A good paper.
Bergger VC CB Glossy. White paper, slightly warm image. Image color seems fainter in highlights, but a nice warmth develops in shadows.
Maximum black seem blacker than other papers.
Bergger VC CB Style SemiMatte, Creme color paper. May have the slightest red cast. Warm brown-black image color. Good contrast throughout.
Bergger VC NB Glossy, White paper color. Image is only slightly brown-black, but uniform. Contrast good throughout scale.
Cachet VC FB, Glossy. White paper color. Image tone is neutral to cool, with good contrast throughout the scale.
Cachet VC FB W, Matte. Unusual paper color, carmel (?) colored. Hard to tell what color the blacks are as they seem overpowered by paper color.
Poor local contrast. Maybe okay for portraits if you like the color, but I can't get past the odd color.
Forte Elegance Polywarmtone, Matte. Off white paper color. Warm brown-black image tone. Good contrast.
Ilford MG IV FB, Glossy. A good neutral colored paper, good separation of detail. Color of blacks seems indefinite to me, highlights looking
cool, shadows warm.
Ilford Warmtone, Matte. A creme paper color, maybe with the slightest red. Image is nice brown-blacks. Separation is good, but not as good as other papers. Probably a great
paper for portraits.
Kodak Polymax Fine Art, Glossy. Paper color creme, the most creme of all these papers. The Cachet is darker in color, but not to be called cream. Blacks warm, good seperation of fine detail. Better than I had expected. A nice paper.
When it was all done, I was amazed how 12 different papers could look so much the same and at the same time look so different. The Cachet paper color is so bizarrae that I don't think I would ever use this paper again. You can't see the photograph for the paper color. Very distracting. The rest of the papers are very usable. The warmtone papers have less of what I call local contrast, i.e. they didn't render fine textures or detail as well. These I might use for portraits or 'softer' subjects. I don't have a reflection densitometer, but I felt they all had about the same maximum black density, except the Bergger CB, which I felt went blacker. As it went blacker, the dark brown-black went towards just black, a quality that I like. With the Bergger CB, I also like the glossy surface, the heavy stock, and the white paper color. When all 12 prints sit on the table, the Bergger CB stands out. Bergger CB was my choice. After a couple hundred sheets, I still like it.
Obviously, this test was done without regard to cost. The Bergger CB paper is not cheap and is not available in larger quantity packages. A sampler package is available, which is what I started with and that was nice. I suppose the best deal in papers in this list is the Arista, which is the house brand from Freestyle Sales Co. It is may be a Kentmere product.
As already pointed out, the obvious paper missing from this group is Oriental. I started using Oriental papers in the early '70s, when it was first imported by Freestyle. It was a lucky choice and a very good paper. However, since I wanted a paper that would generate a brown-black tone without toning and Oriental paper is notoriously cold in tone, I didn't even try it. I also felt I had enough papers to try. The final straw was that Oriental had come and gone and is coming back. For this I will not soon forgive them. I realize some of these other papers may do the same, certainly some have been hard to get at times, and pollution concerns have caused many reformulations, but so it goes. After all, this is just my two-bit opinion, remember.
Excellent discussion Loose, thanks for posting. Many of these papers are not readily available here in W Australia, heck, I been waiting two weeks now for an order for 20"x24" Agfa Classic 118. It is not stocked in the west, and (or so I've been told) it is no longer available in the box of 50 sheets. (??) I have many packs of ten on the way this time, but I feel I will be bypassing the local suppliers in future.
Again, very interesting!