Printing through negative sleeves is a little like keeping a UV haze filter on your lens for protection, and there are many long threads on the pros and cons of that. FWIW, my preference is to print through the sleeve and not use a haze filter.
As stated already, keeping the negs in the sleeve means there is less danger for scratches in handling, the downsides are that the proofs are slightly soft, and the sleeve adds a little density that you will need to compensate for with exposures.
Assuming you are using thin sleeves meant for contacting; if your sandwich of sleeve, negative, paper and glass is tight, the resulting contacts will be soft, but they should not be soft to the point of being unusable.
If the prints look unusably soft and the glass is heavy enough to press the negs and paper flat, then it's likely the negatives really are soft.
My practice is to look at the neg, with a loupe if necessary, to judge sharpness, and use the contact to judge exposure and composition.
Is there any chance that you have the paper in upside down (i.e. with emulsion side down, rather than up)? The emulsion side is a bit more "shiny" when observed (briefly) under safelight, at a slight angle.
Alternatively, is there a problem with your Patterson proof printer? Does it have foam, and is it in good enough shape to ensure that when the glass is lowered, there is good firm contact between the negatives (in sleeves) and the emulsion side of the paper?
You should standardise on one developing time that is near the mid range for the developer and paper you use, and then adjust the f/stop and time of exposure to get the results you want. I usually try for something like a 10 second exposure time. It seems to me that if you are having to use f/2.8 then something isn't normal.
PS - I usually contact print through the sleeves too. When you say the contact prints are really blurry, are you saying that details like the frame numbers are blurry, or is it just the image details themselves?
That is a most interesting and excellent idea. I will most definitely do that once I have figured out how my current problem. The other difficulty is that the Fomaspeed states that it reduces exposure and development times by 50%. Well that doesn't do me much good because I don't have a basic exposure time from which to work. I tried 10 sec. then 15 sec. and then 20 sec. all with 60 sec. in the tray. Is there a 'standard' developing time somewhere out there? I couldn't find anything on the Foma site...
Originally Posted by David William White
This site indicates that the recommended development time is 60-90 seconds in Fomatol developer, and that the Foma papers are developer incorporated:
Originally Posted by MattKing
I thought the same! That I had used the wrong side of the paper too! Then I thought that I hadn't placed the paper or negs in the right direction. So I switched and that didn't do any good either. The Patterson is completely new and there is firm contact between the paper and the negs. The images themselves are blurry. By that I can make out the image but it is not sharp at all and in fact are so crappy that the contact sheet itself isn't worth what I made it for to begin with, it is pretty useless in its current form. Also, I noticed that the frame numbers are there and other times the numbers are black. So far as the 10 sec. exposure I am using Fomaspeed which should be 'faster' is it really possible to get anything good from an exposure time of anything less than 10, at least to start out with?
Thanks so much!
p.s. I chose the f/2.8 because the book that I am using, said to open the lens to its largest aperture. I will try changing that though. I assume that this is the correct bulb for the enlarger, to provide a nice light source and the lens is absolutely beautiful.
I think the reference to Fomaspeed being "faster" is actually a reference to it's speed of development. In other words, it is a paper that can develop fully in as little as 60 seconds (depending on the developer used).
With respect to how "blurry" the results are, are the frame numbers blurry too? If so, it may be a problem with your contact printing equipment or technique. If the frame numbers are sharp, and the image is blurry, than my guess is that the negatives themselves are either blurry, or heavily over-exposed or heavily over-developed, or all three.
If you just want to see what's on the negs, then I suppose you can contact print in sleeves, but if you like to look at the proof sheets with a loupe and determine how much you can enlarge your negs, then I would remove the negs and print them emulsion to emulsion directly on the paper. I never proof through sleeves.