Wet Print vs Digital Print from negative/scanned negative - Thoughts/Comments
Out of curiosity I recently made a pair of 8*10 prints (1 digital(from a scan) and 1 from the negative). The negative was a 6x6 neg (taken on a Tripod mounted Yashicamat); FP4; D76 (1+1) developed and is sharp and correctly exposed in relatively flat/low contrast light.
My goal here was to make 2 prints using each medium/process and to compare the results for tonal range, sharpness etc. The wet print was made on Ilford multigrade RC Pearl paper; the digital print was made with an Epson 4900 printer on Ilford Gold Fibre paper from a file scanned on an Epson 700 scanner.
I know others have probably done this before, and I have no desire to start a flame war - I'm just looking for a process to produce high quality prints from my film camera and have an open mind.
After looking at the prints one thing that stood out was that the digital print was much sharper than the darkroom print (BTW - Minimal sharpening was applied during digital post processing). (The softness in the darkroom print is most noticeable in the tree bark area of the attached picture)
Others who looked at the prints agreed - in fact this was the biggest clue to identifying the prints (apart from the paper surface texture). (FWIW I reprinted the darkroom print at several different contrasts to see if this made a difference). wrt other factors such as tonality etc. there was not much difference except that the digital print was also slightly more contrasty.
I'm not an expert printer and I'm sure it's possible to make a better wet print than I did - however I'm concerned about the softness of the wet print and wondered if others have had similar experiences. (FWIW I did check the focus on the enlarger with a grain magnifier and the enlarger column is stable/solid).
I'd be interested in suggestions/feedback on this experiment - especially any suggestions to improve the quality of my darkroom prints. In general case should I always expect the digital print to be sharper than it's darkroom counterpart - if so that's pretty disappointing. Am I missing something obvious here?
Welcome to APUG.
As long as we can leave the digital stuff out of the conversation this shouldn't end up as a flame war.
So tell us about your enlarger, it's light source, it's lens, how you are focusing, if there is cropping, if has been aligned, and all that jazz.
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
Agree with Mark.
How did the negative looked with a loupe? Perhaps the d***l sharpening was more than you expected. Ever though of using an unsharp mask if the negative is soft?
“I drank what?” - Socrates
If the sharpness is lost towards the center (tree bark), it's possible the heat from the enlarger lamp was causing the negative to buckle a little, thus losing that sharpness. How long were your print times?
Echoing those above, we need details about how you made the optical print! All we know is the paper and that you focused and think the column is stable... Lens, aperture, negative carrier, time, filter, etc. are required before we can offer any advice. How much experience do you have printing optically/wet?
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Thx for the APUG welcome - APUG looks like a great forum and it's always great to pick the brains of others with more experience.
Anyway to answer your questions:
- Enlarger is a Saunders with Dichroic head (Rodenstock lens (I think); No Cropping on image; Exposure was about 12 secs @f8 on grade 3 filter setting; Carrier is glassless
- I used grain magnifier for focus and I (and others) have also looked at the neg with a loupe - it's sharp.
- FWIW I too am suspecting the enlarging lens as the weak link here, but I'd like to rule out other possibilities first.
@hpulley - I spent a lot of my youth in the darkroom and only recently returned to darkroom printing so although I'm a bit rusty I do understand the print process. I've also spent a lot of time making digital prints, scanning etc in the past 4/5 years.
Last edited by PBrendanC; 09-16-2011 at 05:57 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Welcome back to analog! Why do you think your lens is the weak link? Could it contain fungus, haze, mold? Best! Andy
The first step to improving your printing skills is to be able to see how a print can be better. Now you can see a deficiency in the darkroom print and know one area for improvement.
Based on your post above I'm going to suggest making sure the lens is at the best aperture and if you don't have a glass carrier you might want to pre-heat the negative. One way to see if you need to do this is to put the negative in the carrier and focus perfectly at one point. Now keep the light on for about one minute. Now check your focus. See if you can detect a slight focus shift indicating the negative has buckled or popped.
If so, re-focus, stop down to f11 and put a lenscap on. Then out with the darkroom lights, put the paper down and set the timer, quickly turn the enlarger light off and take the cap off, pause briefly in case you bumped the enlarger taking the cap off, then start the exposure.
Last edited by ic-racer; 09-16-2011 at 06:17 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Glassless negative holder with a hot dichroic head raises alarm bells IMO. A 12 second exposure leaves ample time for "popping". There are various ways to eliminate popping including leaving the enlarger light source on before you actually make the exposure (i.e. cover up the enlarging lens so no light fogs your paper while you are getting it ready).
To the OP:
Which components of "sharpness" are most affected?
3) macro-contrast; or
If it is resolution, you have a problem in your set-up or your equipment.
If it is any of the other factors, then there are big gobs of subjective factors that may be in play here.
I'm not going to jump into any analog vs. digital fray here, except to say that if you are using the output of another process as a comparison, you need to adjust every variable to get as close a match as possible, before you make a quantitative comparison of "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