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  1. #11

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    Assuming correct alignment, and a given lens, with condenser enlarging, it is possible there could be small variations in perceived acutance depending on the enlarger. The light source, and the degree of collimation could make a print appear more or less sharp - although the differences would likely be slight. Condenser systems fall somewhere between diffusion and point source, but there is variability. However assuming no change in contrast, one would expect perceived sharpness and graininess to be a tradeoff. So I'm puzzled as to why one would observe both increased apparent sharpness and reduced graininess at the same time - unless the increased sharpness actually tends to mask the overall sense of graininess from a visual perspective. That could be the case. These things tend to be pretty subjective.
    Last edited by Michael R 1974; 05-02-2011 at 12:48 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #12
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgb74 View Post
    No doubt the optical path from negative to paper is as critical as the optical path from subject to film. I'm curious about your assessment that "Even with the same enlarging lens, my prints are better from the Focomat than from my Omega Pro-Lab. They are sharper, less grainy, and always perfectly aligned. The pictures just have better impact.".

    I get the "perfectly aligned". But what causes the prints (from the same neg and same lens) to be sharper and less grainy? I could only attribute this to the quality of light reaching the negative. Is this due to the quality of the Focomat (design, construction, materials) and/or the fact that it's 35mm only?
    I can only guess why the prints are physically better than from the Omega, but here are some thoughts perhaps worth pondering:
    1. It's a diffusion light source - this is part of the reason for the reduction in grain. One could perhaps argue that any diffusion light source would do the same, and I would have to agree. I really think it boils down to how the enlarger is designed, and how its attributes are applied.
    2. The Leitz is a real work of precision. Any other enlarger is a little rickety here, lose there, has to be aligned every now and then, etc. This thing is so solid, and so sturdy, that every time I adjust the arm I am amazed.
    3. I even don't have to spot my prints as much when I use this enlarger. That is also a big surprise. I think it all boils down to having a highly precise mechanism, that focuses absolutely perfectly on the emulsion, while most of the dust will be on the film base or at least not IN the emulsion.

    I have no proof for the above. But the Leitz just feels much more like a precision tool than the Omega every well. It's kind of like comparing the handling of a Porsche with a freight truck. One handles with precision, the other not so much.

    Either way, if 35mm enlarging appeals to you, if you can manage it, try to find a way to at least try one of these enlargers. It has profoundly changed how I work, and how I think of the 35mm format.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  3. #13
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    So I'm puzzled as to why one would observe both increased apparent sharpness and reduced graininess at the same time - unless the increased sharpness actually tends to mask the overall sense of graininess from a visual perspective.
    Believe me when I say that nobody is more surprised and puzzled than I am. But I know what I see in my own prints, and others viewing them say the same thing. I am not sure I'll ever be able to explain it.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  4. #14
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    Since getting into 8x10 I have been doing less and less 16x20 enlargements of 35mm frames. In fact, to maintain that detail I love in my prints, I'm printing almost all my 35mm as 4x6" on an 8x10 sheet of paper. I think they hold up pretty well.

    Looking back at my favorite 16x20 enlargements from hand-held 35mm, some of my best are from Ilford XP-1. It had about the same grain as T-max 100, with a 4-times-faster shutter speed. The combination lead to some great negatives for printing large.

    Nowdays I use any 35mm film I can get my hands on, new, expired, etc.

    In terms of enlargers, I understand all your statements and agree.

    I do use a 4x5 enlarger for 35mm, however, it is a dedicated unit. I use a separate, nearly identical one one for 4x5 and MF.

    The dedicated 35mm enlarger has the 35mm mixing box, a solid lens mount (no turret), the negative stage is carefully shimmed with tape. The mixing box has too much wiggle room and it is precicely held in place with tape. The mixing box, negative carrier and lens all have too much wiggle room to be perfectly centered so I created index marks for the correct orientation. The lens is centerd using the diffraction pattern from the laser. There is a false baseboard with a 4 point screw alignment to make the negative stage (non-adjustable) parallel to the baseboard. The glass 5"x5" carrier is masked to 35mm proportions.
    Last edited by ic-racer; 05-02-2011 at 01:54 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #15
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    Since getting into 8x10 I have been doing less and less 16x20 enlargements of 35mm frames. In fact, to maintain that detail I love in my prints, I'm printing almost all my 35mm as 4x6" on an 8x10 sheet of paper. I think they hold up pretty well.

    Looking back at my favorite 16x20 enlargements from hand-held 35mm, some of my best are from Ilford XP-1. It had about the same grain as T-max 100, with a 4-times-faster shutter speed. The combination lead to some great negatives for printing large.

    Nowdays I use any 35mm film I can get my hands on, new, expired, etc.

    In terms of enlargers, I understand all your statements and agree.

    I do use a 4x5 enlarger for 35mm, however, it is a dedicated unit. I use a separate, nearly identical one one for 4x5 and MF.

    The dedicated 35mm enlarger has the 35mm mixing box, a solid lens mount (no turret), the negative stage is carefully shimmed with tape. The mixing box has too much wiggle room and it is precicely held in place with tape. The mixing box, negative carrier and lens all have too much wiggle room to be perfectly centered so I created index marks for the correct orientation. The lens is centerd using the diffraction pattern from the laser. There is a false baseboard with a 4 point screw alignment to make the negative stage (non-adjustable) parallel to the baseboard. The glass 5"x5" carrier is masked to 35mm proportions.
    I love to look at small prints too; they can be such jewels, and I can understand why someone wouldn't want to make prints larger than that.
    One thing I'm running into is problems with print storage once they are done. I only have room for so many portfolio boxes, and the problem gets worse the bigger the prints are.

    What I am completely and utterly surprised by, however, is just how good 35mm can be compared to 4x5 and 120. Then, of course, we can each decide what we wish to do with all of that potential.

    I really hope more people can have this experience, and not just use 35mm because it's a 'convenient' camera that is easy to carry around, but to see it for the absolutely competent system it is for picture making of extremely high quality.
    It takes a fair bit of experimentation to get the most out of the film, I have discovered, and it isn't always straightforward. But once the process is firmly under control, a staggering amount of detail can be had from that tiny little negative, in prints larger than most would think possible.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  6. #16

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    Just load your 35mm camera with a slow speed film. And then you can play with DOF, optimize the film-developer combination. Try for example a real Ultra Fine Grain developer and then you can see how much information a simple 35mm negative can be.

    I am talking about: Kodak Tech Pan or ATP1.1, Efke 25, Pan 25, Pan F+ or any Ortho 25 film.

    One of my favorite combinations: Efke 25 and Beutler A+B.
    Here an example of this film in 35mm: M7+Summarit 2,5/75mm

    My favorite store: http://www.fotohuisrovo.nl

  7. #17
    jp498's Avatar
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    I have a wide variety of tastes, as does everybody, and 35mm is more useful than ever with the good quality films and developers we have, as you have stated. It's good quality doesn't prevent me to enjoying the other formats though, which also benefit from the advances in film and developer, and can also be printed with good darkroom equipment and lenses.

    I've got some nice 35mm prints and it's a good achievement. They are worth doing. People's taste as far as detail go can vary quite a bit and can also vary tremendously by subject. I am happy with TMY2 35mm printed up to 8x10". Beyond that, I'm wishing for MF or LF. I don't like my 35mm scans though - that's not for this forum. Big film scans nice. I don't do too many big prints, though I print a lot of 6x6 MF stuff at 11x11 which I consider sometimes too big for some subjects in 35mm. I like the square shape too.

    I have Nikon film slr, dslrs, Yashica and Rollei MF TLRs, Graflex 4x5, and B&J 8x10 gear. 8x10 is basically a bigger hammer than necessary for quality overkill, but makes nice negatives for contact printing or scanning. 4x5 makes flawless prints and scans of any size that's practical; It's my preferred size for tripod use. I can also do soft focus with it easily and use lenses from more than a century ago. It's not all about quality, though it excels at that. MF is really nice for people pics. Even in environmental portraits, I can have smooth&sharp non-grainy eyelashes with the subject 4-5 feet away on 120 TMY2 film. MF is not practical for fast moving stuff though, and doesn't have the detail I like for some woods scenes where I want texture and tonality in the bark of a small tree 20-30 feet away. 35mm is nice to burn through for event photography and fast moving kids, and low light where I can use 1.4 or f2 lens or supertelephoto lenses. I stick with tmy2/xtol or pmk. MF or LF would be an unsuitable tool.

  8. #18
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    Over the past twenty years I have used most methods including and between 35mm through 8x10 contact printing. My passion is with 35mm—it gives me energy to do the work. I just love it.

    I mainly print to 6x9 on 8x10-inch paper.

    I print with a Valoy II enlarger, and a Beseler V-XL, which does a good job now that I have aligned it using the Versalab alignment laser. The prints do look different coming from each enlarger, and I suppose the difference is in the condenser.

    Actually, when focusing the image on the Valoy II, a grain focuser is almost redundant, as the snapping into focus is readily visible with the naked eye. And this enlarger is aligned by design.

  9. #19
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jp498 View Post
    I am happy with TMY2 35mm printed up to 8x10". Beyond that, I'm wishing for MF or LF.
    May I ask what it is you feel is lacking in your prints beyond 8x10?
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  10. #20
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmcd View Post
    Over the past twenty years I have used most methods including and between 35mm through 8x10 contact printing. My passion is with 35mm—it gives me energy to do the work. I just love it.

    I mainly print to 6x9 on 8x10-inch paper.

    I print with a Valoy II enlarger, and a Beseler V-XL, which does a good job now that I have aligned it using the Versalab alignment laser. The prints do look different coming from each enlarger, and I suppose the difference is in the condenser.

    Actually, when focusing the image on the Valoy II, a grain focuser is almost redundant, as the snapping into focus is readily visible with the naked eye. And this enlarger is aligned by design.
    The Valoy is an also a brilliant enlarger, capable of results just as good as the V35. Some even call it superior.

    With the V35, however, I need the grain focuser.

    I'm glad you're enjoying 35mm, and having fun with it!
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

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