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  1. #1
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    35mm enlarging - who is passionate about it?

    Lately I have come to really enjoy photography through the craft of printing 35mm black and white negatives, and I'm wondering if there are others out there that would like to carry a conversation specifically about this craft.

    What makes it so interesting to me, is that all we do becomes so magnified; our process really comes under some severe scrutiny, and any mistake we make, and any flaw, is very obviously displayed at large magnification. So it sharpens our skills, and keeps us on our toes.

    At the same time I am absolutely speechless with the quality that can be achieved with the small negatives. Recently I purchased a Leitz Focomat V35 enlarger, and it wasn't until I used this enlarger that would fully realize, and appreciate, the full potential of the 35mm format.
    Print size varies from 6x8" to 13.5x18", with the bulk being 9x12", and I use Pentax KX and Spotmatic cameras to photograph. I use Fuji Neopan Acros, Kodak TMax 400, and Ilford Delta 3200. Acros / TMY developed in Xtol, and D3200 in Rodinal 1+25.

    Discovery: In the past I used a lot of FP4+ and Tri-X film, developed in Pyrocat-HD, Ilfotec DD-X, or Diafine. When I now print those negatives they start to fall apart at about 10x enlargement, or 9x12" print size. The DD-X negatives definitely hold up the very best compared to the other two.
    Comparing prints from the old negatives to prints made from the new films I use, it's like night and day. Acros negatives make for an almost grain free 16x20. TMax 400 makes incredible portraits that are close-up. They are sharp, have beautiful contrast, and grain is far from objectionable. Delta 3200 is the big surprise; its resolving power is higher than FP4+. I actually get sharper prints from D3200, and they have more detail. More grain too, obviously.

    The question that keeps popping into my mind is why I even bother with medium format at the sizes I print, which is up to 16x20 with cropped negatives.
    Don't get me wrong, I'll keep the Hasselblad around, of course. I love it, and my landscapes are square, not rectangular.
    But I'm so fascinated with the quality that can be had from 35mm. Prints that are vivid, sharp, full of life and contrast, even at 16x enlargement. I've never been able to do that before, and it is even more satisfying to see such a print emerge from the print trays than one made from a larger format.

    Anybody else out there that appreciate the 35mm format like I do?
    "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

  2. #2
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    Im not questioning you just curious.
    What do you think gives you so much better results.
    Is it the enlarging lens? (probably the better emulsions these days also)

    Older school 400 speed films did keep you in line when it came to large prints.
    I'll have to see how the Neo 400 does.
    I've only gone back to 35 recently due to the tonal gradations I can get even with 645.

    How are you liking the tonal representation from your 135 at these larger sizes?

  3. #3
    BetterSense's Avatar
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    I definitely get that "why don't I shoot more 35mm" feeling when I print some nice 35mm negatives. It's probably because I don't have any really good quality medium format cameras, whereas I can afford pro-level 35mm equipment. 35mm cameras are so much infinitely more convenient and fast to use as well. To me, photography can be grouped into "tripod photography" and "handheld photography". If the camera is on a tripod, it might as well be large format. If it's being handheld, you might as well just use 35mm. The domain of the medium format camera is in high-volume studio portraiture, which I don't do.
    f/22 and be there.

  4. #4
    ath
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    I'm a 99% 35mm guy. I have a good 645 System but most times 35mm is simply good enough. Especially with modern 100 ASA film (or the TMY-2).
    35mm makes it easier "to be there".
    Regards,
    Andreas

  5. #5
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    To Bruce.

    I attribute a lot of the results I'm getting to the enlarger. 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. You have to consider the Focomat enlarger as the Rolls Royce enlarger for 35mm, and keep in mind that Leitz (Leica) also make microscopes.

    Tonal renditions are gorgeous. Even at very large magnification, a TMax 100 or Fuji Acros negative will give incredibly smooth gradations, grayscale to grayscale, or really crisp shifts from dark to bright.

    I lack nothing in tonal gradation compared to my Hasselblad negatives, at least not in the sizes I'm printing. You can probably prove mathematically that there are differences between a 35mm negative and a 120 negative, as far as tonal gradations are concerned.
    Often when I show pictures to others, I am commended for the print quality I achieve, and I am extremely critical of the final results. Only the very best results count to me, and yet when I view prints from 120 Hasselblad and 35mm Pentax, side by side, I don't feel like anything is lacking from the 35mm prints.

    It's quite startling, to be honest. Before I got the Focomat, I would have never thought it was possible to make prints of that quality from 35mm. Not even by a long shot.
    "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. #6
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    This article does explain it extremely well:

    http://www.qpcard.se/BizPart.aspx?tabId=76

    It really digs very deeply into all of the aspects of lens design, film resolution, lens format resolution, depth of field, etc... I think it's an extremely well researched and written article.

    Most people simply doesn't want to believe that 35mm can be an extremely serious contender, even for landscapes, if all aspects of photography is applied properly and with a lot of critical thinking.
    Last edited by Thomas Bertilsson; 05-02-2011 at 11:05 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    "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

  7. #7
    puptent's Avatar
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    Thomas, thank you for the link, an article that confirms what I've thought for awhile. I've always wondered about the faster shutter speeds, or the greater range of shutter speeds, available in 35mm, and how best to utilize the relationship between film speed and exposure times. When I was young I thought everything had to be shot on tri-X, and if you weren't pushing your film you weren't a photographer (I did A LOT of motorcycle racing work at the time). Now that my subjects seldom move, I find myself attracted to the slower films, and a desire to experiment with Pyro-PMK. I am not making Ansel Adams sized enlargements, 11X14 paper is the largest I've gone in my darkroom, I have had custom labs make Kodachrome enlargements for me a little bigger, and they've been acceptable (and that film was shot 35 yrears ago with an East German camera and lens!). Over the years I've amassed a great deal of Olympus OM gear, and from time to time I find myself thinking about trading in on a 6X7 camera, but just have never been able to pull the trigger. Anyway, as long as quality film is manufactured for 35mm (God, but I miss Kodachrome, and Cibachrome!) I think that for the majority of photographer's out there, the format defininetly has a place. On my wish list is a perspective correcting lens for architectural shots, and then what would I be lacking for what I do? I think what will limit us the most is paper...
    "We often think that when we have completed our study of one we know all about two, because 'two' is 'one and one'. We forget that we have still to make a study of 'and'."
    -A. S. Eddington

  8. #8

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    Thomas, I agree...and I'd love to try that enlarger sometime ;-)

    I use an Omega D5, and am very happy with 35mm results, but everything that goes before the enlarging stage needs to be carefully looked after. No room for sloppy exposure, dev, etc. When a negative is right, it just sings in 35mm...I love when that happens!

    Also, I recommend to everyone to see some Salgado prints in person if possible...just amazing work both behind the camera and in the darkroom.

  9. #9
    Rick A's Avatar
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    I'm not just passionate about 35mm, I am passionate for printing any format. I dont have a fondness for any one in particular, they all have their special quirkiness that intrigues me. Its also not about how large you can wring out of small negatives, more about finding the right feel and look. Which paper will accentuate the mood, contrast control for mood, etc.
    Rick A
    Argentum aevum

  10. #10

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    Very interesting thread. Reinforces just how good lenses of the 70s and 80s are. But much depends on understanding of film, paper and processing - which you've accomplished.

    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?

    And, while not doubting your observations, do others (in a blind comparison) see the same level of difference?
    "Far more critical than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know." - Eric Hoffer

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