The darkroom imaging chain has to be perfect in all respects and there are many places where things can go wrong. If you got a good digital print, that means the negative is fine.
The enlarger needs to be aligned properly. The neg has to be flat and that generally means a glass carrier. Negs in open carriers tend to heat pop upward putting the center out of focus. Heat absorbing glass helps. You need to use F11 or so or a good enlarging lens. The cheapos don`t work. Chemicals need to be fresh and that means the developer needs to be stored air free and diluted to working strength less than 8 hours before use. Paper needs to be fresh without fog. There is no telling how long it sits on the dealers shelf. Buy from a place where turnover is good. Paper lasted decades in the 60`s. Manufacturing is different now and it is good only for 2/3 years from date of manufacture.
Establish focus with a grain magnifier. Nobody`s eye is good enough.
There are other ways to go wrong I am not thinking of right now, but I assure you a well done wet print and well done digittal print can closely match.
It is routine in traditional darkroom work to produce gelatin-silver paper positives that show sharply defined grain all over. That's what I get in my darkroom. I'm reasonably conscientious in focussing and I use good but not special equipment. A "grain sharp" positive means every bit of available detail has been extracted from the negative and any unsharpness must have happened at the camera-work stage.
I have seen digital printouts derived from some of my negatives and the results at a glance look sharper. They have "apparent sharpness" or "eye sharpness" that comes from computer processing of edges and high spatial frequency detail. But, and it is a big but, when a loupe is dropped onto the printout the "apparent sharpness" collapses into a clutter of computer artifacts, haloes, fringing, pixel chatter and the like, none of which was in the original negative.
Computer printouts are not photographs and simulations of sharpness are not a good enough reason for me to bother looking at them.
Last edited by Maris; 10-04-2011 at 06:01 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.
A properly exposed, sharp (with a loupe) 6x6 negative, enlarged to 8x10 should be sharp as a tack. I think there's something influencing your results. Either your equipment, or technique. Are you focusing with the lens wide open (f.4), before stopping down to f.8? If so, try checking the focus, with your grain magnifier, at f.8.
Nice photo. Mallard Lake, Golden Gate Park, right? I've shot this same tree a number of times. One of my fav spots to "test" lenses.
This is the wrong forum to even think anyone would favor or be inclined towards a digital print. I know what you mean though. Most of my work is scanned on my Nikon 9000 or my LeafScan 45 and then printed on an Epson 1400 using carbon black inks on either Hahnemuhle Photo Rag or Epson Hot Press. if you look close enough the digital prints are "grainier" from the printer's dots and therefore will usually have a stronger sense of perceived sharpness (sort of like Barry Thornton's discussion in one of his books of how grainier faster films will often look sharper than slower, finer-grained films). Some like the look, some prefer the analog prints. Some use loupes and complain about how they can see the inkjet dots on digital prints, others stand at typical viewing distance and appreciate the sharpness or look of sharpness that such digital prints, when done "well" can show. As for why your analog print looks softer some good suggestions here. After you've solved any issue there might be with the traditional darkroom print you might decide it matches or exceeds what you want in your prints. Or you might like the digital one better. Either is ok.
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Ive been scanning with a HP G4050 flatbed, and I scan routinely at 2400 dpi. (I think its 4000dpi max? but never saw a difference only longer time) The film is placed in a raised carrier off the scanner glass. Vue Scan is the program used.
The resolution of 35mm and 120 film scans I get, are never as high or crisp as my prints unless I retouch them. I use a similar setup, LPL670xl, Rodagon 50/2.8 or Componon S 50/2.8 for 35mm, (new Componon S 80/4 on the way for 6x6) in the glassless carriers, on Ilford VC RC pearl mostly, at 8x10 and 11x14. I always check level for enlarger head and baseboard before sessions, and use a Mircromega grain finder for focusing. Prints are developed in dektol diluted usually 1:2, or 1:3.
From the posts so far, I think it maybe a combination of changes in post that create a more apparently sharpened image, editing tools like the sharpness slider in camera raw, or any number of filters or sharpening masks tweak the acutance. and as you said the print looked more contrasty, contrast plays a big part in perceived sharpness as well. besides printing on different grades, compare the same images on matte, semi gloss/matte/pearl, and glossy surfaces and you can see the differences clearly on how paper type can affect contrast, which affects the crispness the image looks. The images on matte paper look naturally flatter and less contrasty.
One other thing, with large blow ups, the head height and column vibration play a big part with sharpness. the slightest shake can be transmitted and create a blurry print. Even if you think its rock solid, there is still shake. wait for a few seconds after focusing and loading paper before you expose.
The problem isn't with The Analog Print itself and what it can achieve. It is with what it generally does achieve in common practice. It is with all the little details – equipment- and other-wise – that need to be paid close attention to and kept in spec. There are scores of things things that can degrade the optimum quality of an analog print. Analog printing does not forgive these things easily. Digital allows a lot of slop on the part of the user, while still giving passable results. There are things that are obstacles to obtaining maximum quality when scanning as well, but nowhere near as many, and they are easier to overcome by the average photographer.
So, in a way, I will say, "yes." It is definitely more likely for the average photographer, i.e. the photographer who doesn't dedicate a lot of time and effort to high-quality printing, to get better results from digital. But for the obsessive and skilled hobbyist or professional, there is no debate. Film looks better in every way. Maybe future generations, who are raised thinking that the "look" of digital imagery is "normal" will feel differently. But not me. I've made prints from computer files that I thought looked great, but never one that looked hands down "better" than a hand-made analog print.
So, I'd say to go with digital if you don't want to learn to get the best results from analog. If you do want to get the best results possible, stick to analog, and keep trying. It takes practice, and lots of trial and error. You can start by having your enlarger and enlarging lens professionally serviced, and then by purchasing a glass negative carrier and a high-quality easel. If you really want to be amazed, though, you have to go to at least medium format.
Here is an experiment you can try. Take your neg to a professional lab and have it printed in a glass negative carrier to three sizes: 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20. Have them do a drum scan of the same neg, and output it to digital fiber in the same three sizes. Have them do a flatbed scan, and do the same three sizes of prints. Then you can compare both of those results to the digital and analog prints you made at home, and stick with the process you think looks best.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 10-04-2011 at 10:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
the a + d results are always different.
D just magnifies what is there
A interprets what is there ..
there is a huge difference.....
if your enlarged-prints aren't sharp
there is a problem with way you are enlarging them
maybe it is the lens, maybe it is the way you are focusing
maybe it is HOW you are focusing your image ( on the same paper printed on ? )
maybe something else ...