Is FB Ilford Multigrade still "average"?
Ten years ago I was an avid B&W darkroom printer when I was at art school. Then, there were two FB papers advanced photo-students used, without exception. Agfa Multicontrast Glossy, or Forte Polywarmtone Glossy. Agfa people preferred the Multicontrast's neutral tone, Forte people couldn't get enough of the nice white base, subtle warm tone, and rich black of the Polywarmtone. I fell into the Forte camp. Those two papers seemed to be the only two worth discussing for fine printing. We used Sprint cold-tone developer provided by the school. The Polywarmtone in Sprint was great, Agfa printers often mixed up their own Dektol. Ilford Multigrade was considered a good "beginners" FB paper, and would do in a pinch if you ran out of the good stuff (most people had a box of Ilford Multigrade with a few sheets in it buried somewhere in their locker).
I know that both Agfa, and Forte are no longer with us, and it wasn't my intention to start a "woe is the world of B&W printing" thread. But, I recently found a spectacular community darkroom within driving distance (at Light Work in Syracuse, NY) and am itching to get back into it. My question is- How good is Ilford Multigrade these days? It seems that there are about three brands left, Ilford, Oriental, and Kentmere. I have never tried Oriental, or Kentmere, I think Oriental was around back then, but I've never heard of Kentmere. Foma, another paper I'm not familiar with seems to be a "special order" at B&H, which makes me think it may be doomed?
Any input would be greatly appreciated, I'm looking forward to getting back into the darkroom Thanks!
Erik the Ilford Multigrade Fibre base was and still is excellent.
You are muddling taste with excellence, the reason some of us preferred Agfa RR then the Classic "Mutligrade" successor was they were warm tone papers. Forte Polywarmtone was another favourite.
Ilford now make a Warm tone fibre based multigrade as well, at the end of the day its down to the paper base and surface as well as the tonal qualities when you choose a paper.
Everyone has their favourite paper-developer combinations based on all sorts of real and/or imagined reasons, so be prepared for all kinds of opinions.
Why not get a small pack of each paper you're interested in, and test them out with your easiest to print, full scale negative? One days work will put to rest all kinds of doubts!
Oh, and I see this is your first post...welcome aboard APUG from the north coast of BC, Canada, and have fun getting back in the dark!!!
Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.
Welcome Eric, and I can only reiterate Murray's advice; try them all.
Makers of fibre-based photo printing papers for "fine art" printing are Ilford, Kentmere, Oriental, Efke/Adox, and Foma. All have good papers. Some of these papers (but not Ilford's) are marketed under house brands also at good prices. The people behind Adox have formed a consortium and purchased "some" equipment from the defunct Agfa/Leverkusen and along with former Agfa emulsion engineers are starting to make an Agfa-like paper most people will like very much. It is called Adox MCC-111 I think. Other Adox brand papers are made by Efke in Croatia. Bergger in France, while not actually making paper themselves, were marketing products made especially for them by Forte, and now they claim they will continue to have all the same products available from another production source (probably Efke or Foma). They offer some very fine papers.
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Thanks Ian, I'm glad that Ilford has retained its fine reputation. I'm not at all averse to using it. The "professional" opinions of art school students are obviously limited.
Here's how it went- Our instructors made us buy Ilford paper in the beginning. Why? Because it's good paper. Photo-students however, being who they are, couldn't switch to a more "advanced" paper fast enough. The whole anti-establishment "too cool for school" thing, you know Nothing more than your typical art school pretentions.
Thank you for your endorsement, I was already leaning in that direction. I think I will do a series of tests anyway though, even if the idea of ending up with tons of oddball packs of paper lying around isn't really appealing to me. (thanks Murray, I'll have fun in the the dark )
Last edited by kirejos; 09-22-2007 at 01:24 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I forgot to mention in my previous post another maker of fibre-based fine art paper. Slavich in Russia. They are the only vendor making single-weight paper at this time. Of course they make double-weight also. Freestyle in the USA is the USA distributor for this brand. I really like Slavich, myself.
In regards to Ilford made paper, when I was doing a lot of b/w "art" printing about a decade ago, one of the finest papers I used was the Ilford "galerie". Don't know if it is the same now, though.
Thank you for the tips Phototone, it'll broaden my research. Now that you've mentioned them I'm particularly curious about Efke/Adox, and Slavich. I'll add them to my list. I'll have to check out what Freestyle has too, I was a little discouraged to see how limited B&H's selection is. Do you think any of B&H's Forte stock is still good? I have a box of Polywarmtone left over from years ago, but I don't know how well the stuff "keeps".
Forte ceased production in the beginning of this year. So the latest PWT production run will last for some years. (If not sold out).
The consortium Bergger (France), Moersch (Germany) and Fotohuis (the Netherlands) have discussed at the Foma factory the possibility to make the Forte PWT paper again at the Foma coating and photo paper factory in Hradec Kralové. Their R&D dpt. is just busy to check how far they can go with a modified Fomatone MG classic 131 paper to reach the same characteristics with succes. (So also suitable for Lith printing).
About Fomabrom Variant 111 is already very similar like the old Agfa MCC 111 because it has been made on Schöller (Germany) base baryta bought in Leverkusen when Agfa Photo went down (end 2005). Rollei/Maco has the same paper under their Rollei Vintage 111 brand, made in Czech Republic, selected and packed in Germany, also in non standard Foma sizes.
Further IMPEX/Adox started a project to copy the Agfa MCC paper on their own coating line.
All kind of efforts to continue a nice assortment of classical photo papers.
(Dutch Foma distributor)