Just thinking out loud...because there is no way an Epson flatbed scanner is pulling all the detail out of that film. If you like the digital print "better" now, then just imagine what you could be getting with a drum scan! I think we've all done some of each (analog and digital printing) at this point, and we can be big boys and girls and discuss this without turning into a flame war.
Some thoughts: could the digital paper for the Epson printer be brighter base than the darkroom paper you're using? The printer driver will usually apply some sharpness and/or pixel interpolation of its own depending on the dpi of your file, so you are quite possibly getting more sharpness in the digital print that what you even see from viewing the film scan on the screen. Resize the file in Photoshop to the print size @ 300dpi, and view it on the screen at 33% magnification. This is pretty much what the print should look like. Hold the print up next to the screen. If what you see on the paper is sharper than what you see on the screen, then the printer driver is working some magic behind the scenes.
Not sure, but you may have to try this on a glossy paper to get better sharpness as well. (This is just my personal *opinion* but I was not overly impressed with Ilford Pearl when I used it; I preferred the Adox MCP 310 / 312 RC paper when it came out.)
What paper developer are you using? Is it warm tone or cool tone at all? Is it new (i.e. good strength?) Are you leaving the paper in long enough to get blackest blacks (try like 2 to 3 minutes) or pulling it out after more like 1 minute? Lastly, theoretical "potential" sharpness will actually go down as you raise the fstop of the lens. Your enlarging lens will have a sweet spot, but I don't know what it is on that model. What is the minimum fstop of the enlarging lens? If I remember correctly, usually one or two fstops up from that will be the sharpest. What about printing for say, 6 secs at f5.6 and see if that helps?
Just some ideas...
Thx to all who have responded so far and the various constructive suggestions - hopefully this can be a useful learning process for others. In response to some of the follow up questions:
Unfortunately you cannot view either the original negative or the prints I've made - however I belong to a communal lab and I've shown the prints and negs to some of the old hands around me - no one seems very surprised at my results. (Maybe my expectations are unrealistic here, but I'm not giving up yet).
What I'm still wondering about (and no one has commented on this so far) is whether others have seen similar differences in their own wet vs digital print tests.
@mattking - not sure how to differentiate here re the 4 variables you listed - I will say that I see detail with a loupe on the negative that I do not see on the print -something I've observed on other prints/negs as well. FWIW If we ignore the digital comparison completely I'd have to say that the print is disappointingly soft - as stated earlier this can be seen in the (lack of) sharpness in the tree bark.
@Jedidiah - agree that the drum scans could provide much more detail (at significant cost)- however I used the equipment readily available to me and for now I'd be happy if I could match the Epson scan results in the darkroom. I'll definitely try some of the suggestions here (yours and others) next time I print. Also at this point my focus is on improving the darkroom print and seeing how much better I can make it. (FYI min lens stop is f4; I printed @f8) - so I think I'm using the sweet spot of the lens; I also develop my prints for over 2 mins which should be adequate for RC paper AFAIK).
Visit a good analogue printer and see how good a print she/he can get from your neg using his/her darkroom. You can use APUG to find all manner of experts or near you.
You have to get a "best possible" darkroom print in your hands; that will show you what to aim for.
There are any number of reasons why your analogue workflow may not be optimal, but it is well worth the time to refine it and get it right.
Originally Posted by PBrendanC
If there is a loss of detail, that is a problem with resolution and therefore involves a problem with your equipment, or your procedure, or both.
If it is a difference in "sharpness" or "softness" than all the other factors are most likely the culprit - acutance and micro-contrast tend to have the greatest influence on the highly subjective phenomena that is perceived "sharpness".
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I have always like wet photograpy to digital.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
FP4+ in Rodinal, 3200 dpi crop of an epson scanner vs ~2500 dpi of real detail (directly digitally aquired from the neg, not a wet print). Your scanner can't see the detail on the neg. You need a professional/dedicated/etc scanner for that. The real detail from the Epson Scanner is around 26 lp/mm.
Therefore there is serious problem is with your process and/or setup for wet printing for a low-resolving setup to best a potentially high-resolving setup.
Assuming the 56mm is stretched across the 10 inches, and there is some cropping on the other edge, then you could be getting 5-6 lp/mm on the digital print. Which still satisfies a sharp print (and the "~300 dpi" criteria in the digital world).
I would like to ask you to scan both prints on your Epson @ 600 dpi with sharpening off of course, a crop of the same area, and a 3200 dpi crop (sharpening off) of the neg in the same area, to really see if there is a lack of resolution in the wet print or other issues.
Last edited by Athiril; 09-17-2011 at 04:31 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Sure, digital and hybrid results are different, but are we talking about personality or quality?
Originally Posted by PBrendanC
It is very possible to get great results either way.
If it's about the personality of the medium, it is a lot like asking whether oils or watercolors are better. There's nothing wrong with liking or discussing the digital/hybrid look over pure analog, but it is outside the scope of APUG.
On the other hand when I have a quality issue it is typically driven by my failings, my mistakes, my choices, my ignorance, and my processes.
As an example of a counter intuitive choice consider that HP5 or Tri-X (ISO 400) may appear to print sharper on occasion than FP4 or Plus-X (ISO 125) might.
When grain prints sharp it can trick us into believing the image is actually shaper than it is. HP5's and Tri-X's grain is more prominent so even though FP4 and Plus-X are capable of finer detail, a grainier shot may actually appear sharper in a certain situation.
In fact grain actually gives us a tool to check ourselves with.
Regardless of the film you have look at the grain pattern in the print, is it sharp?
Can't see the grain? Enlarge more.
Is the grain fuzzy in the print? Something is wrong at the enlarger. It's wiggling, out of focus, heat is affecting the negative, whatever.
Is the grain sharp, just the picture isn't? Then there's a problem at the camera. I have lots of shots that look fine through a loupe but are less than stellar in print.
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
The only comparison I've done is with Kodak's new Portra 400 35mm film. Scans from the film were done by the minilab at 1500x3000. Wet prints were done on a Durst 4x5 with an almost brand new Componon-S 50 f2.8. The prints done in my darkroom are "sharper" than the scans and have more detail. If that enlarger lens is a few years old, I would think it might have some haze in it which can kill the apparent sharpness on a print, not to mention the negative warping during the exposure. I use either full or half glass carriers for 35mm, 645 and 6x6 negs, as I hate watching the image go out of focus due to warping as I try to focus it.
I cleaned two Componons from the early 1960s that had some haze. The difference was night and day. It brought the older 50mm lens' print quality almost up the new Componon-S, you needed a 10x loupe to see the difference in resolution on prints that were done at 16x magnification.
Edit: I thought both older lenses were pretty sharp before I cleaned them.
If you want to come down Hwy 1, you can bring your neg and prints here to look at under a 30x microscope.
You can use my DII with cold light to make 11x14 FB prints on Galerie. My 75mm Componar is nothing special, so if you get better results here it won't be because your lens was bad.
Digital prints from the same digital file are all the same. A traditional hand printed silver gelatin prints from the same neg printed optically are slightly different from each other. I think this gives each print a personality all their own. That's my 2 cents worth.