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Thread: B&W paper 101

  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by hanaa
    I just purchase my first enlarger and setting up a darkroom. i started to look into papers and chemistry to purchase. the chemistry seemed self-explanitory. but the paper, there are so many choices. for now i just want the basic paper (low cost too) because i'm just going to be playing around with it, learning... What should i look for.

    These are just a few choice i can across and i don't know what any of this means: variable contrast fiber based paper, variable contrast resin coated paper, chromogenic b&w, graded fiber, graded resin... which is good for what?
    The terms "resin coated" and "fiber base" refer to the type of paper base used to support the sensitized coating applied to it. Resin coated papers are plastic coated. Because of this development times are generally shorter and wash times are dramatically shorter. It is not uncommon for resin coated papers to be completely washed in as little as 5 minutes as opposed to the 1 hour typically required to accomplish the same thing with fiber based papers. Resin coated papers are quite popular with students, and with home workers for casual work because of their generally lower cost and ease of handling. I'm also not convinced that these papers have a short lifespan. I have a number of 20 year old prints made on RC paper that are holding up quite well. They may not last 100 years, but do you really care about that at this stage of your career?

    "Graded" and "variable contrast" refer to the contrast characteristics of the emulsion. These emulsions can be coated on either a fiber based or resin coated paper. Graded papers offer a fixed contrast grade. Grade 1 would be a low contrast emulsion, suitable for printing negatives of high contrast. Grade 2 is considered "normal," whild grades 3 and 4 are used for low contrast negatives. Variable contrast emulsions offer a lot more flexibility. By controlling the color of the light projected onto the paper with appropriate filters you can acheive contrast grades of 0 (very soft) through 5 (very hard.) Modern versions of these papers are quite good. I like them a lot since it saves me from stocking paper grades that I'd rarely use, yet allows me to print difficult negatives well. Kodak, until recently, manufactured Kodabrome II RC, a graded RC paper in contrast grades 1 through 5. Supplies of the stuff might still be available and other manufacturers might be offering similar products.

    Chromogenic B&W films simply refer to a monochome film that is processed in conventional C-41 (color negative) chemistry. All of them to my knowledge are ISO 400 films. Kodak's offerings of this type all have the orange base color so familiar in color negatives. Because of this, they are difficult to print onto conventional B&W papers but are very good for scanning and for printing onto RA-4 (color print) papers. In the hands of your local 1 hour minilab, results often range from barely acceptable to downright horrible. In the hands of a competent printer though, they can be very good. Iflord's XP2 Super lacks the orange colored backing and can be printed onto conventional B&W papers, though you'll probably need something in the range of grade 3 or 4 to get a good snappy print.

    Both Adorama in NY and Freestyle in LA offer budget priced resin coated, variable contrast papers. Since I'm in NY, I use the Adorama papers for a lot of my work. It's the cheapest stuff out there and for the money it can't be beat. Agfa's offerings are also very good, though a little more expensive.

    Dry chemistry often represents a much better value than liquid concentrates. I'd suggest Kodak's D-76 or XTOL as very good, all around film developers in this category. Others prefer HC-110, which is a liquid concentrate but one with a very good shelf life. I'd stay away from Rodinal, another liquid concentrate film developer with an extremely long shelf life, at this point. It works, but I don't think it's really the best match for many of today's films. There are a lot of different paper developers out there as well. My preference here is Dektol. Again, it's cheap and lasts a long time. I've kept partially used working solution for up to a week and reused it with good results on the Adorama papers. It might not work as well for some other papers, but in this application it's fine. You can stretch it out a bit too by diluting stock solution 1+3 instead of the usual 1+2 dilution for a working solution. At a higher dilution of 1+4, you can get some decidedly warmish tones with some papers after you've run a few prints through a litre of the stuff.

    If you plan to use a conventional acid fixer, be it the standard sodium thiosulfate based type or the rapid ammonium thiosulfate type, don't skip the acid stop bath. Your fixing bath will last longer and you run less risk of producing prints with developer stains on them.

    Have fun!

  2. #12
    Bob F.'s Avatar
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    All good adice. You are really going to need a book or two. However, there are a few online sources of info, start here: http://www.ilford.com/html/us_english/bw.html - Scroll down and in the PROCESSING section there is a PDF document called PROCESSING B&W RC PAPERS

    Cheers, Bob.

  3. #13

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    thank you so much. everyone's info cleared up a lot of things. I understand now. goody!

  4. #14

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    Kodak Kodabromide is still avilable in graded RC, but not for long, I bought a couple of 25 sheet packs of grade 3 last week still in date. Graded paper will get harder and harder to get so I recommended working with VC papers.

  5. #15
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Hey! Wait a minute! *I* would recommend Rodinal without reservation.
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  6. #16
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Freestyle is offering graded RC paper under their Arista label. Since Arista papers are rebranded, there are likely other sources for the same paper under other brands.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  7. #17

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    Others have covered most of the important points of fact. One's slipped through, though (or perhaps I missed it): In addition to chromogenic B&W film, there's also chromogenic B&W paper. B&H, for one, has a page devoted to these papers, with offerings from Kodak and Oriental Seagull. These papers must be processed in RA-4 color paper chemistry. I honestly don't know who uses these papers or what sort of results they produce, but for beginning B&W work, I'd give them a miss; there's just more selection and online forum expertise in conventional B&W papers, and the chromogenic papers are rather pricey, too.

    FWIW, I've only been printing for a few months, so I can speak from a near-beginner's perspective. I've mostly used Agfa MCP310RC, which is a variable contrast resin-coated paper, but I've also tried a few sheets of the Arista.EDU Ultra (I didn't like it; it produced brownish tones that don't work well with most of my subjects) and Adorama's house brand (that was much more like the Agfa). I'm basically satisfied with the Agfa for the moment, but I'm sure I'll try others in the future. If nothing else, I want to find out what all the fuss is about concerning fiber-based paper.

  8. #18
    gnashings's Avatar
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    I don't know if this is a matter of taste - but I found that gloss papers are easier for the beginner... Just something about the sheen that makes them seem more lustrous after the efforts of a rank beginner like I was.
    I found the AGFA MC RC already mentioned to be great stuff.

  9. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by srs5694
    Others have covered most of the important points of fact. One's slipped through, though (or perhaps I missed it): In addition to chromogenic B&W film, there's also chromogenic B&W paper. B&H, for one, has a page devoted to these papers, with offerings from Kodak and Oriental Seagull. These papers must be processed in RA-4 color paper chemistry. I honestly don't know who uses these papers or what sort of results they produce, but for beginning B&W work, I'd give them a miss; there's just more selection and online forum expertise in conventional B&W papers, and the chromogenic papers are rather pricey, too.
    Good point. Yes, compared to conventional B&W papers they are a bit pricey, about twice the cost of color RA-4 papers. I looked at these items in the B&H online catalog and then referred to Kodak's website for more information. From what I've gathered, the Portra B&W papers are no longer being made. That's too bad really, because it would be a good substitute for Panalure, a conventional B&W paper with panchromatic sensitivity. The reputation of conventional Oriental Seagull papers is pretty good, so maybe their offering in the monochrome RA-4 paper market would be good too. Comes in sepia and B&W tones. Information is here:

    http://www.orientalphotousa.com/hyperseagull.htm

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