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  1. #11
    Mark Fisher's Avatar
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    To keep everything simple, I'd definitely recommend a neutral tone variable contrast RC paper with a liquid developer. Variable contrast paper is quite good, gives you more freedom with some advanced techniques (split grade printing/burning), allows you to salvage those outlying negatives that need low or high grades and keeps your paper inventory to a minimum. Except for special circumstances where a VC equlivilent is not available, I can't imagine printing without the flexibility of VC paper. RC is just easier to get good results quickly. RC prints are said to degrade more quickly, but that is really not all that important when learning...you'll find that your early prints are not nearly as good as they are after a year or so...and then you'll want to reprint them anyway!

    The Kentmere papers are very reasonably priced (especially the Arista/Freestyle branded version) and very good. When you are learning, it is really important that you aren't worried about wasting paper. When you start, you are going to be filling the wastebasket much faster than you can imagine (I have to empty mine all the time). If you are afraid to experiment because of the cost of paper, you will not learn as quickly.

    The developer is really not nearly as critical as the paper. I use Neutol WA and Edwal (?) Ultrablack. I've used Dektol and that is a great developer too, but less convenient for the occational printer.

    Honestly, there are really no "bad" papers or developers out there. Many people will have their own favorites. I think the most important is to choose one and stick with it for at least a year.

  2. #12

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    I agree with Jim regarding RC. I use it for all my work prints, contacts, and anything I show around casually. One of the really nice things about RC is that it doesn't turn into a potato chip when it dries, and thus, it produces a result that's much easier to be proud of without resorting to some sort of mounting.

    Ann's right, if your negs are consistant, a grade 2 or 3 paper may be all you need. Many would argue that if your negs are exposed/developed correctly, a grade 2 or 3 is all you need. I can't argue with the value of keeping it simple.

    I've come to really enjoy the flexibilty of VC paper though. All my learning was on graded FB, and I adopted VC (and RC) papers a bit reluctantly.

    Barry

  3. #13
    PhotoJim's Avatar
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    There is one other good reason to learn how to use variable contrast paper. I would expect that if the silver photographic market continues to contract, graded paper may be a casualty. The market for it has been fairly small since variable contrast papers became mainstream.

    I have to admit that I have never used graded paper. I do have a couple of packages of Galerie for some as-yet-unconducted experiments...
    Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

    A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.

    Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?

  4. #14
    Xia_Ke's Avatar
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    So many choices and so many opinions/favorites. It's all rather mind blowing I almost feel like I should have a hat full of different papers and another full of different developers, then just pick one out of each and stick with it...LOL

    If I go the VC route, do all enlargers allow for filters or do I need to look for this specifically when shopping?
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    "A good photograph is one that makes the viewer so aware of the subject that they are unaware of the print."- Kodak
    "...if you find afterwards that you made a mistake, the price of the film and chemicals was...tuition!" - greybeard
    "The hard part isnít the decisive moment or anything like that Ė itís getting the film on the reel!" - John Szarkowski

  5. #15

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    I started with Ilford MG RC and Ilford Multigrade Developer (liquid). Seemed like a good place to start to me. I'm moving shortly and will have access to a real darkroom. That's when I'm going to branch out a bit into FB and lith...

  6. #16
    Anscojohn's Avatar
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    Keep it simple. One type paper, one paper developer. Recommendations about Ethol LPD are very sound. I am not as certain about recommendations for one type paper for proof sheets and another for printing, though. A proper proof sheet, exposed for minimum exposure for maximum black through clear film on your negs gives you important information not only about about your film exposure and development but also your basic print exposure times as well. My two cents.

    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA

  7. #17

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    So many choices and so many opinions/favorites
    You're lucky you don't have at least a hundred replies by now, each recommending a different combination

    I do most of my printing on Ilford MG fiber and RC, for me, they are quite consistant with each other, so proofing on RC and doing final prints on fiber works. I wouldn't recommend doing it that way mixing brands or types though.

    Many, if not most enlargers have some sort of arrangement for slide in filters above the negative, with the possible exception of some with color heads, in which case it's irrelevant anyway. If you somehow end up with one that doesn't, then Ilford MG filters are available that go below the lens and come with a holder that fits onto the lens mount. I would stick to enlargers by Omega, Beseler, Durst, or perhaps Saunders/LPL, although I'm leaving out many other good candidates, and I'm not listing them in any particular order. Of those, Omega and Beseler are the easiest to find on this side of the pond, Beseler 23C's practically fall out of the sky.
    Durst never sold their products here on a consistent basis, thus aren't as common, but they are generally excellent, and would be my first choice for doing MF in a temporary darkroom.

    Keep an eye on Craigs list or do a wanted ad there, and an enlarger will probably fall in your direction. eBay is a possibility too, but you'll likely do better with Craigs list, the apug classifieds are a good source too. Look at ebay completed auctions to get an idea of pricing, but factor in shipping. On ebay watch in particular for items that require local pick up, there aren't so many of those here in the Northeast, but they occur. Shipping on enlargers is steep, because they require pretty large boxes, and the baseboards are always heavy. The local pickup required auctions eliminate most of the competition however, so the prices are much lower and you don't contend with shipping costs.

    barry
    Last edited by bdial; 01-06-2008 at 07:24 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #18
    Xia_Ke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anscojohn View Post
    My two cents.
    Everyone's two cents are GREATLY appreciated! My photography wouldn't be anywhere near where it is today if it wasn't for all the cents collected online Not saying it's any good now but, it has come a LONG way over the past year...LOL

    Barry, you're not kidding about the 23C's! I see those everywhere. Those and Omega D2's. Part of me wants to look at 4x5 enlargers as well as I would like to eventually go LF but, not sure I have the size for one right now. I imagine a 4x5 enlarger would be pretty large
    flickr

    "A good photograph is one that makes the viewer so aware of the subject that they are unaware of the print."- Kodak
    "...if you find afterwards that you made a mistake, the price of the film and chemicals was...tuition!" - greybeard
    "The hard part isnít the decisive moment or anything like that Ė itís getting the film on the reel!" - John Szarkowski

  9. #19
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Aaron:

    All of the suggestions here make sense. The differences are more differences of style and personal preference than differences of necessity.

    If you are the type of person who likes to start out with a material that is more demanding, but leads to subtly better results once mastered, you should consider starting out with graded FB paper.

    I wouldn't start there, myself.

    I'd use easily obtained, widely available RC papers that are Variable Contrast, such as Ilford MGIV RC. I'd use Dektol, or something similar from Ilford. If I needed to save money at first, I'd print more 5x7 or 5x8 at first, rather than 8x10 (a paper cutter is a great money saver).

    For the cost of either a set of VC filters or a dichroic head (on ebay or craigslist) the extra flexibility you gain from VC is really useful when you are starting out.

    Matt

  10. #20

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    My twopeneth would be to get the cheapest box of 250 sheets of 8x10 VC RC paper you can find. Doesn't matter which. Doesn't matter what you develop it in.

    Big and cheap because if you are just starting half of those sheets are going to be in the trash before you've even bothered to rinse them: there are that many stupid mistakes you can make in a darkroom, and you are going to make them all.

    Big and cheap so that you have no qualms about just trying it again a little bit darker or lighter or dodged here or what if I just back off the contrast a little? Like most things in life practice and experience and failures are needed to learn and to improve.

    8x10 because it's just easier to print than 5x7. At small sizes burning and dodging, two techniques that you'll need to master, become just so delicate and difficult.

    RC because it is quick. A lot quicker. So much quicker. And there's next to no washing. First experiences in the darkroom shouldn't be about washing.

    VC because there's a reason most people use it most of the time. You are are going to be mighty upset if you buy a box of Grade 2 only to find that all your negs print nicely at Grade 3. Or, worse, that you are happy with Grade 2 never having known how much better they'd look at Grade 3.

    Once you've got through that first box of 250 just start trying other papers. Packs of 25. What you think you'll like first. I think, reading your post, you fancy Graded Glossy FB, so try it, you'll never be happy until you do, but try some VC as well, and some matt. Perhaps you'll hate them, perhaps you'll discover that what you thought you'd like isn't what you like.

    I did.

    And most importantly I discovered that I just love the darkroom so don't worry about it overly, jump in, get going and have some fun.

    Hywel

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