I print optically and digitally on a Lambda 76, RA4 , Cibachrome, B&W Fibre, and as well digitally with Epson.
At our shop it is a 50-50 split optically to digitally.
Colour it is more like a 85-15 split with the emphasis on digital.
Coming from an unique perspective I will say the following.
a very good negative, a very good digital capture/process, a very good scan, will in turn produce a very good print, if you do all the right things.
Someone mentioned practice, practice , practice, I would like to add to that sentiment.*garbage in garbage out*
Each process has its different characteristics / look /temperment / and value .
I don't think that one can tell the difference between a optical print and a Lambda/Lightjet/Chromira print all things being equal.
The difference is in the technician rather than the processes.
We are testing the differences betwee optical, film DSLR, Phase and those big betterlight backs and will be in a position to have a apples to apples dead nuts comparison, but the organizing a fair comparison is a big undertaking as well as considering the different approaches to the end result it is daunting.
Each process will have its rightful place , as an output choice and photographers will be able to select a process that meets their particular vision.
Is one better than the other , I guess it will depend upon your likes/dislikes.
I embarked on this digital Lambda ordeal about 4 years ago, after 22years of analoge only printing, first on a sister labs unit until we could buy one ourselves. It is a very long, long learning curve and I will admit I do not use digital cameras,*yet* I love enlarger prints for fibre,lith, and solarization, but I have to say I prefer lambda prints for colour for reasons that may not be obvious.
In my past , and I am sure a lot of you will remember , masking colour prints, ciba and colour neg, Do you remember the pain envoled???
We could only go so far enchancing or correcting colours or contrast. Now those tools are in our hands and most of my digital work is concentrating on working with complimentary colour pallets to make a colour image sing.
I find this very satisfying and am glad that the digital revolution came soon enough for me to apply what I knew in my heart was possible but just outside of the reach of my skills.
I now have the best of worlds, a fully equiped darkroom as well as digital skills to make prints on our Lambda.
I really thing the dig/trad argument is silly, as the best work being produced today, is by people that work hard on their process and practice , practice , practice as srs5694 says.
A voice of reason.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
To some extent, these could be considered somewhat different media, and saying one is better than another is a bit akin to saying that a watercolor is better than an oil painting ......
Apart from esthetics, one consideration, if selling your prints, is longevity. Here again, it's up to the photographer to choose, and be forthright with buyers. What is an "archival" color print when comparing to a traditional archival toned silver black and white print? How do the various color media compare for potential longevity?
I recently did a show where a couple came in, and told me of buying a fine art color print back in the 80's. After a few years of display (under glass), it was faded and beyond redemption. They were clearly unhappy with the experience, and I wonder if they will ever buy a color "fine art" print again.
Just to say that there are many factors to assess when choosing your medium.
As a professional printer since the mid seventies, I will concur with Bob Carnie. We went from totally analogue now we're totally digital. I'm printing on a Durst Lambda using Fuji RA4 colour papers, and the quality is extremely good, no injet system is nearly as good as this, at least nothing that I've seen.
The best thing is the flexibilty we now have to fix problems, although one still can't make a silk purse from a cow's ear!
I had a number of masking tricks that I accumulated over the years that I used to use solve problems for my customers. Some were to decrease contrast(especially Ilforchrome, nee Ciba), others to increase contrast, to compensate for faded out trannies, and even to correct for cross-curved negs due to miss processing, and a few others. All these worked to some extent or another, sometimes very well, but often my best results fell short of the ideal, so now we can do much more and easier.
That all said, for a while I had the opourtunity to do optical and and digital enlargments side by side, and if you have that "perfect" neg, the optical print will look as good, or better than the Lambda print. In particular sharpness would suffer as the scanning process would introduce a bit of "generational loss", but not as much a full optical system would, it seemed worse with small fornat originals. At the time we had the option of either a high resolution Kodak Photo CD scan, or the Howtek drum scanner. The Photo CD was remarkably close to the the Howtek in quality, but not quite. So the scans we were able to do were very good.
Another poster commented on the consistency of the colour papers, yes they are way better, and the chemistry is much more stable as well.
But getting back to the OP's question, its' really a combination of technological advances that has made it so easy to get decent prints, not spectacular, but good ones, most of the time. The spectacular ones still need that special combination of a good original, and top notch printing skills, whether or not it is done totally analogue, or a hybrid system such as the Lambda, or even full digital. The "vision" of person creating the print, is just as important as the tools they use to do it.
The colour stability of the new papers is much better now than in the eighties, or even the nineties, for that matter, but of course Ciba/Ilfochrome has always been the king for display longevity.
But I still have my home darkroom, and I am doing more traditional B&W printing at home than ever before, on fibre and RC. I don't really ever want to stop making enlargments from my enlarger!!
What a lot of people don't get is that digital capture (DSLR) technology is not the same as digital printing. They hear the word "digital" and go ballistic. I've used the Chromira/Fuji Crystal Archive route for sometime and I am quite happy with it. However, as much as I like this process, I haven't seen anything to touch Bob Carnie's Lambda/Ilfochrome prints.
Originally Posted by filmnut
Maybe I can put together some prints from your files for Arts Liems deal in Conneticut in Jan and possibly for foto3 .
I would like to make some lambda cibas and lamda flex prints off the same files to show the dead nuts comparisons.
BTW the difference is subtle between the two materials, but to a good eye you will immediately see the difference.
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This has been a very enlightening thread. Over the years, I've mainly shot color - almost exclusively slides (good old Kodachrome) in the past - more and more color negative nowadays.
When I only shot slides I was content to just project them to view (although in years past I did have a couple of favorites printed at a pro lab). Nowadays, whether slides or negatives, I've been scanning all my shots (usually in RAW/NEF but more and more in TIFF for ease of sharing).
While my main intention is to start displaying them on an HDTV-type monitor - I'd like to try my hand at (dare I say it) digital printing. The problem is, quite frankly, I fear the obsolesence factor. I'd be more than willing to drop a couple of kilobucks on a quality printer - but fear that six or twelve months later I'll wind up with an out-of-date boat anchor. But I'm open to suggestions anyway about a good printer.
That would be great. I just provided my New Zealand photo of Lake Pukaki for Fuji UK if you are interested in using it.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Wow - lots of well thought info. I think I need a stiff drink, and some time to back up & think about the direction my printing should go. I like Bob's comment regarding likes & dislikes. It comes down to doing things that produce a result that >I< like. Since few others will ever see my work, it makes some sense to please the bloke that will view the majority of it - me.
The fact that the folks I give prints to (and for the few I have sold) are pretty happy with my output is just gravy.
Thanks for the input, I am continually amazed by the knowledge & sharing on this site.
Rum anyone? I hear the Captain calling....
Those who don't think Photographers have the skills of REAL artists such as painters obviously have not had to spot my prints.
ra4 in the darkroom rocks, i get stunning 20x16 prints from 35mm film using a pentax 28mm f3.5.
i rate printing difficulty like this
rc black and white is the easiest to do in a darkroom
then colour ra4, it really is that easy
then fibre black and white
i dont know why people make a fuss over it, it takes me 20 min per 20x16 print and the cost 1 euro each in materials
no 20 grand lay out on digi rubbish, i personally think inkjets are for printing text, everything else they suck at
get a grip and buy some colour paper before they discontinue it
save RA4, as it is getting very close to extinction
I personally can't say I have ever printed color by darkroom myself (yet), but I have sent some negs off to have analog prints made from them and there was a world of a diffrence! People couldn't believe what they saw. The 400 speed film was a little to grainy, but the colors were just beautiful. It makes me want to never have a digital print again.
Helping to save analog photography one exposure at a time