I am using Ilford MG Warmtone and I feel that I have tweaked as much as I can from it. The results have been pleasing, but of course I want a little more. The way this paper treats zones 2 thru 6 is beautiful. I am after a paper that tones much the same way, only with just a little more punch in the highlights. I currently tone the paper so that the highlights are unaffected by the toner, but lend dimension to the mid tones. I like to think there is a paper other than neutral or cool tone that has sparkling whites, but tones like only a chlorobromide can.
I haven't tried another paper other than Ilford MG IV, (neutral doesn't tone like I want), and am looking at J and C Polywarmtone or Forte Elegance Polywarmtone plus.
I use JandC Polywarmtone and it is truly a beautiful paper. Very nice tonal presence and the guts to print a black. It tones nicely. As a neutral paper I find that Seagull VCFB is a wonderful paper as well. It tones very nicely.
Additionally not knowing what film/developer combination that you use, I have found in my experience that JandC Classic 200 in combination with Pyrocat developer does a wonderful job of highlight tonal separation.
I use Agfa Neutol plus with my warmtone paper and Agfa Neutol WA with my MG IV paper.
I see alot of posts here with Pyrocat developer, and I must admit, I am unfamiliar with it.
I am familiar with your posts on the J AND C polywarmtone, and they have played a large part in my interest in it.
I am using Efke 25 and Ilford panF with rodinal.
I may very well be that you would realize an improvement in your prints by switching to a pyro based developer. I would encourage you to read the article that Sandy King wrote on the subject. This article is located at www.unblinkingeye.com
The reports that I hear on Efke film is that it works wonderfully with Pyrocat. George Provost is doing some really nice work with that combination. I imagine that there are others as well.
I mix this developer from the individual ingredients. However Artcraft and Formulary both sell kits of the proper proportions of the individual ingredients. It is a very economical developer. It proportionally stains the negative without providing a great deal of general stain. Additionally the stain is not counterproductive to VC filtration if you happen to be enlarging your film.
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I'm a big user of Multigrade warmtone and like it very much, but like you wish the highlight contrast was higher. The old MG III had great contrasty highlights although with a neutral tone (I like the color of Multigrade warmtone much better, but the curve shape of the old MG III much better).
When MG III went away, I did a lot of testing of papers and the only FB VC papers I could find with higher highlight contrast were made by Forte. These were the old versions of their neutral and warm VC papers. I know they changed the forumlation since I did my testing and don't know how the new papers compare. The Forte papers tone way more easily than Multigrade warmtone. I had some difficulty getting an image color I liked with Forte so I never tried the new stuff and generally struggle to get snap in the highlights on Multigrade warmtone. I'm about ready to give the new Forte stuff a try again.
Because of the way VC papers work, the highlight contrast is pretty much constant reguardless of filter used. You can get more highlight contrast relative to the overall contrast by printing from more contrasty negatives and using lower paper grades. Graded papers work differently and generally have higher highlight contrast with higher paper grades. Graded paper might be an alternative for existing negatives.
Similarily, you may be able to find a film/developer combination that has higher highlight contrast. Unlike some of the earlier postings, I don't think a pyro developer is what you want. Pyro developers generally produce a yellowish or greenish stain that is
strongest in the highlights. With VC papers, this stain means that the highlights are printed with a lower contrast than the rest of the image. This is great for fitting really long scale negatives onto the paper (for example very bright, contrasty clouds over a darker landscape), but do so at the expense of sparkle in normal negatives. Tmax developer and HC110 generally give increased highlight contrast especially with a film with straight or upswept curve shape like FP4+, Tmax 400 or Fuji Acros. 320 Tri-x in HC110 is probably the ultimate in high highlight contrast, but you probably won't like the low shadow contrast unless you really overexpose (I used to use it at 125).
I agree that yellow or green stain from some pyro developers (PMK and in some instances ABC formulation) is a detriment to VC materials. The matter of yellowish or greenish stain is not a factor with Pyrocat developer. Pyrocat produces a tan or brown stain with most films. I have found that ABC pyro is far and away better then HC110 ( I used HC 110 for over 15 years) and that Pyrocat is a far superior formulation to HC 110 from the standpoint of not only better highlight separation but most importantly increased sharpness. I don't have much favorable experience with PMK but some folks use it and like it.
Originally Posted by John Sparks
However "your mileage may vary"
I am sorry if I misled you...I am referring to the color of the baryta base when I am talking about "punch" in my whites. I have a multicontrast enlarger which does everything I could ever want in contrast control.
The color of the base is certainly a consideration. My thoughts and experience are that to gain contrast within the highlight regions two primary factors play a part. The first being the negative from which we are printing. That involves the films characteristic curve and where the highlights fall on that curve. If the highlight densities fall on the films shoulder they will not be separated as well as if they were to fall more on the straight line portion of the curve.
Originally Posted by Scott Edwards
Coupled with this on the film are the choice of developer. Developer choice and dilution can alter the slope of the curve. A pyro developer will afford staining (additional density) that is proportional to the silver density. This proportional stain thus affects the highlight density region to a much greater extent then the shadow region. Certain pyro developers stain with different color. PMK will normally stain a yellow-greenish stain, ABC will be more black in color but it can go green if the B (sodium sulfite) solution gets several weeks age to it. Pyrocat will give a tan to brown stain. The reason that the color of stain is important is that with VC materials the green componant of stain will work as soft contrast filtration in the highlight regions. Thus the place that we want separation of tonal values is compromised by the effects of softer filtration from the stain color. In my experience Pyrocat does not suffer from this malady.
The other factor that then is involved is the characteristic curve of the paper and where the negative highlight densities fall on that curve. If they are placed on the toe they will not separate as well as if they are placed higher on the curve.
My point is that there are several considerations apart from the paper that may be involved in your search for what you want. I have no axe to grind in this regard because what you and I want in a print may be different. Good luck in your efforts.
I am going to give JandC a try.
I will read the article on pyrocat as well.