A common misconception. Modern RA4 papers being "optimized" for digital laser printing does not in any manner make them less suitable for
direct optical printing. In fact, they've been simultaneously improved in this respect too. The relevant spectral peaks are identical in either
application. I won't go into the details, but I routinely print these kinds of papers in my own optical darkroom, and the results are superb.
For lack of (Portra) Endura sheets, I've found the Aristacolor paper to be pretty good for optical enlargements. I haven't done side-by-side comparisons, but I've found it a bit easier to print with than FCA. I suspect it is Supra Endura but don't know for sure.
Polyglot, what you say about Aristacolor intrigues me. I have not used it but I'll definitely try it out per your recommendation. I'd be shocked if it were the same as the old Supra Endura as that emulsion disappeared four years ago. Who do you suspect is manufacturing this paper?
Their was hope post-supra and post-original fuji CA with the DNP stock a few years back (which was eerily similar to Supra Endura but with a thinner base). But they only had one distributer in the states and it vanished just as quickly as it arrived.
Mr. WILEY, maybe you haven't heard of them, but do you consider world-class labs, like Duggal, Lamont, LTI, Color Services and modern age, "mom and pop shops"? Do you really think that the many world-renowned photographers who work one on one with their printers at these labs to painstakingly tweak their images and who sell these prints to museums and to the most discerning collectors in the world are actually rubes who can't tell the difference between a good print and a bad one? Actually, never mind... I already know what your response will be.
As someone who used to get paid very handsomely to work one on one making c-prints for name brand artists I can tell you that since 2010 even the most recalcitrant of analogue snobs have moved to making digital c's as it's the only viable way to get the kind of color fidelity they expect out of the current crop of professional RA papers.
Keep in mind I have zero concrete information regarding the source of Aristacolor, other than that I vaguely recall it says "Made in USA" on it. Could be wrong even on that. And I'm not exactly an old hand at the RA4 thing.
My guess is that they're buying rolls from Kodak (or someone else, who knows?) and cutting it down to sheets. Endura is definitely still available, just not as cut-sheet; you need to buy a few hundred feet on a roll if you want it. That makes total sense of course, considering that 99.99% of the RA4 paper market is roll-fed minilab processors. Aristacolor could be Edge for all I know, since I never tried to buy and use Edge.
Conversely, all the Endura I've seen from our local digital lab has "Kodak Professional Endura" or something like that printed on the back whereas the Aristacolor that I have has no back-printing.
Anyway, give the Aristacolor a try if you want to print RA4 optically. It's a tiny bit cheaper than FCA and (IMHO) slightly better for analogue printers; certainly no worse. Could be that FCA has better longevity, but longevity is irrelevant until you can get a good print!
Edit: I just emailed Freestyle to ask 'em who makes Aristacolor. Not much point speculatin' when we can just ask them. PS their website says "Made in USA"; hopefully that doesn't just mean "cut to sheets in USA" ;)
Endura Premiere is nowhere near the same animal as Supra Endura. It too suffers from egregious crossover and Ultra endura-like saturation and contrast.
I very much doubt that Freestyle, notorious for their huge mark-ups on kodak products, would be cutting, branding and packaging Endura Premiere, kodak's current professional ra-4 paper, only to sell it for a fraction of the price of what they charge for the fuji paper. My guess is that it's kodak edge, which is only marginally better than the lousy fuji cut-sheet product. How does the thickness of the paper compare to the fuji ca ii?
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Hogwash. My incidences of crossover with Crystal Archive amounts to 0%. If someone is having this problem, it's not the fault of the paper.
Do your homework. Even the mfg literature has now been revised to alleviate the misunderstanding about the suitabilty of these products for
optical printing. I don't need to ask labowner's about it. I am a world-class printmaker. And if I did want to get a second opinion, I almost
daily talk with people who own multimillion dollar labs doing both optical and digital printing. In fact, one of them is asking me to take over
their business now that they're nearing retirement - but I'm simply not interested in printing other people's work. I'll bet the alleged crossover
issues are due to incorrect exposure or color balancing of the color negs in the first place, or scanner issues where that has been introduced
into the workflow. And frankly, Mr Frotog, I use higher quality light control in my enlargers than any commercial lab in the world. So I understand the distinctions here. You can either take my advice of leave it ... I really don't care. But maybe someone is tuning in who would like to get involved in their own color printing will appreciate some straight information that has been thoroughly tested in ways you don't even know how to articulate! So stop discouraging them with empty rumors and accusations of flaky product quality. Crystal Archive papers
will make a wonderful marriage with optical enlargers, but not with incompetence or mis-informed preconceptions!
I've got three different types of CAII in my lab right now, up to 40-inch wide rolls. All of them are within 5 cc's of green balance of the older
Super C. Otherwise, they differ only in surface sheen and contrast characteristics. I have no interest in getting in a food fight over this, but
I thought the idea of APUG was to encourage the use of analog products, not discourage. For some strange reason, I just happen to believe
that professional Fuji and Kodak engineers actually know what they're doing, and might be a little more dependable than some web rant.
The quality of these papers are superb and predictable. And yes, if you have a reasonably good colorhead, a simple drum processor, fresh
ra4 chem, and enough common sense to wear gloves and have good ventilation, you can make excellent prints in a home darkroom. And I would seriously question the competence of any alleged pro printer who can't figure out Crystal Archive. The remaining big pro labs in this
area use exactly the same paper under their enlargers as in their Lightjets and Chromiras. And yes, I do have a slight edge with my fancy
custom additive enlargers, but I also still have an old conventional Chromega colorhead that would provide suitable results. In some ways
color neg printing is even easier in a darkroom than black and white printing, and is generally less expensive. Don't be intimidated by it.