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  1. #91

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    Alternatives to Azo/Amidol

    In this day and age it really does not matter what paper, film or developer you find is truly representative of your "Vision and Craft".

    But the reality of the situation is that if you are buying your materials a box at a time then you are at significant "artistic" risk in this game. Some people have no problem with it as they actually look forward to experimenting with materials and what it produces. Fortunately, I am up the curve a bit and no longer want to waste time in further iterations.

    The continued recalibration of the infrastructure of the analog photographic industry is adjusting to new numbers of sales moving forward and the deck is being shuffled. Expect this to continue a bit into the future so this should really not be a surprise to anyone.

    My advice is when you find your harmonic frequency in your photographic prints, dial up your inventory to create enough personal elasticity to the day markets and get back to making photographs and stop worrying. Where there is a will, there is a way. Get creative and do some part time work if you need to to accomplish your objective.

    When a replacement for Azo becomes available I encourage many of you to reach a bit deeper into your wallets to support this product.

    The simplicity in printing with silver chloride paper is the main reasons that I have resisted the alt processes up to this point. While I have many years Azo in stock it is not an infinite supply so I will be purchasing years more when the new paper becomes available. The best defense is a good offense.

    Cheers!

  2. #92
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Alex Hawley
    Iím writing this as I look at a half-dozen prints. These prints have made over several months in my attempt to settle in on a paper/developer combination that is a good alternative to Azo developed in Amidol. This last eighteen months has been a difficult period for those of us who contact print. With the withdrawal of Kodak from the B&W paper market, we lost Azo which was the only silver chloride contact printing paper on the market (US market). We are left with silver gelatin projection enlargement papers; but in the last year, weíve also lost Agfa and now Forte, both makers of highly revered papers. Some are lamenting these losses to infinitum. Some are worrying about their artistic vision having to be changed. I say its time to move on.

    Azo was a beautiful paper. Developed in amidol, it became regarded as the gold standard in terms of beauty. Iím thankful to have learned contact printing on it and enjoyed it while it was there. But itís gone and wonít return (well, maybe not quite; more on this later). If someone does bring a silver chloride contact printing paper to market, it wonít be an exact duplicate of Azo. Thatís impossible for several technical reasons. Even Kodak had some large deviations in its characteristics over the years. My belief is there are paper and developer combinations available that will make prints that I like just as well as my Azo/Amidol prints. And itís necessary that these alternatives be ones that will stay available for the future.

    Perhaps the largest detriment to the Azo/Amidol combination was its cost. Azo was running about $1 USD per sheet while still in production. In recent auctions, itís been going for $3 USD per sheet. Normal price for Amidol is $50 USD per 100 grams. If you were lucky to get in on the Chinese Amidol deal last year, it went for about $50 per US pound.

    From my Azo experience, Iíve become a great believer in using one particular type of paper and learning how to use it well. With all the losses of suppliers weíve seen recently, I also want a paper thatís secure in the market; one thatís going to be available for many years. I donít want to have to change papers again for a long while.

    My thoughts on developers are along the same lines. I want one thatís close to Amidol; one that provides excellent contrast control, with water bath capability, without having to tailor the developer to each individual print. It would also be nice to have a developer that lasts a long time in both stock and mixed form. There was never any problem with exhaustion using Amidol, it had to be mixed right at the start of the developing session and its life was only about twenty-four hours. Twelve to twenty-four keeper prints is about the best I can do in twenty-four hours. Then that high-priced amidol goes down the drain. Hard for this olí farmboy to take. Iíve gotten to where I hoard my amidol for the really ďgood stuffĒ. Donít want to do that anymore.

    Looking at the prints I have made, Iím quite convinced they look just as good as the one made from the same negative and printed on Azo/Amidol. They are not exactly the same; they canít be. But I like them just as well. Thatís the important thing. Here are my alternatives.

    Developers:
    First, thereís Pyro Plus Paper Developer, or PPPD, which was developed by APUG member Donald Miller. The active ingredients are phenidone, catechol, and pyrogallol. Itís a very active developer, active enough to use the water bath for contrast control. In its standard formulation, the pyrogallol gives a good Warmtone. It can be made colder or warmer by varying the ratio of pyrogallol and catechol. I like this developer a lot. Everyone I know who has used it likes it. Itís not available on the market so it must be mixed from the raw chemicals. Hereís a link to the latest formulation.

    The downside of PPPD is that it is short-lived like Amidol. Pyrogallol oxidizes fairly rapidly. Extended life can be gained by decreasing the pyrogallol and increasing the catechol; using catechol only, Iíve had it last about a week after mixing.

    Ansco 130: This is an old standby developer, one that Iíve been wanting to try for a long time. It has not been made for a long time so it must be mixed from the dry chemicals. Pre-measured kits are available from the Formulary as PF 130. Tried for the first time yesterday; it rocks! Not quite as active as Amidol, but I could get the water bath to work with it in both 1:1 and 1:2 dilutions. It stayed active in the water bath for 30-45 seconds, which is the same as PPPD and another old favorite, Agfa Neutol (also no longer with us). The tone is neutral. The shelf life in both stock and mixed form is said to be several months, probably as good as it gets for a paper developer. Iím a newly-converted PF 130 fan and itís now my standard developer.

    Tektol: Two new developers from Silver Grain are Tektol Standard and Tektol Neutral. The standard form is a warm tone; the neutral is a neutral tone. They are very similar to PF 130. Different chemistry, but the results are nearly the same. Advantage is that they come in liquid concentrate form so there is no dry chemical mixing necessary. Good stuff that merits a try.

    Papers
    I still believe that graded papers have a slight edge over variable contrast (VC) papers. That assertion is probably infinitely debatable, but lets donít go there right now. Plus, after Azo, I still like varying contrast between grades using the water bath and developer dilution. It just seems to achieve a finer degree of control than swapping filters in the enlarger.

    Nuance: Very good paper, but I just couldnít get it to look like I wanted it to. Just didnít quite have the look I want. Other people are very happy with it. Itís made in Croatia and reportedly unaffected by the Forte closure. Itís becoming more widely available.

    Kentmere Bromide: Excellent all around I think. Relatively neutral toned, I like the look of it. Available in grades 2, 3, and 4.

    Kentmere Kentona: Excellent, with a slightly warm tone. One grade only which seems to be Grade 3.

    Slavich Unibrom: New on the market from Freestyle, made in Russia; grades 2, 3,and 4. For Azo lovers, all grades and sizes are available in single weight, and double weight too.

    Kentona and Slavich seem very close in characteristics. Paper speed is about the same with Slavich being just slightly slower. They are both very responsive to selenium toning. Slavich tones fairly rapidly. I found that both papers became quite red-toned while wet and in the toner, but after drying, the tone reverts back considerably.

    I only tested the Slavich in grade 3, and with one negative. But donít discount it for one minute. I think it may have real possibilities.

    A Silver Chloride Paper: Silver chloride contact printing paper is not quite extinct yet. If you want to coat your own paper, it can still be done. Ron Mowrey, known here on APUG as Photo Engineer, has developed a home-brew silver chloride emulsion that can be made in the home and hand coated on just about any base you want to coat it on. It works and works well. Hereís a thread I previously wrote about it.

    In the bottom line, I'm liking the prints I made with the materials described above, as much as the Azo/Amidol print of the same negative, and comparing them all side-by-side. As the old saying goes, your mileage may vary. Azo is gone just like high octane ethyl gasoline. It was fun while it lasted but now its time to move ahead. Find a combination you like. Maybe its one of the above, maybe not. But the important thing I believe, is to find a combination that works for you and keep photographing.



    Obsess over subject matter and light instead of a paper & developer combination.
    If one had a bounty of beautiful, well seen work , the negatives would print well on most over- the -counter papers in todays market.

    This is on the verge of camera club dialogue.

    There's an incredible world to be seen out there folks ! Get over the Azo ...grab your camera , some film and .........

    Do you think photographers doing important work today worry about stuff like this ? I don't think so.
    I saw some of Nick Nixon's new work printed on Agfa and it looks great ! Just as good as his Azo prints. Why ? Not because of the Agfa- its because the images are so moving.
    I've given Emmet Gowin some of my Azo 4 in the past......he's moved on, and he never printed on just Azo to begin with.

    Myself, I've been an Azo user since the early 80's. I've known Smith for 2 decades, and frankly......Michael's work is the only imagery I can think of that benefits from the scale of Azo. So if you want to emulate him....then you're SOL.

    I still have a lot of old Azo from the 70's & 80's ,and from what I've seen as far as market demand....I could make a killing selling it .
    Almost all my work is non- Azo these days, but its going to a good home when I decide.

    J....F.......P.......... !

    [QUOTE]Michael's work is the only imagery I can think of that benefits from the scale of AZO. So if you want to emulate him....then you're shit out of luck.[/QUOTE]

    Dear Mr. Fish,
    Im not an emulator and Im not shit out of luck. I don't think a lot of members here are shit out of luck either. The thread is ALTERNATIVES TO AZO/AMIDOL.

    It's not about how to emulate Michael Smith, this is the most insulting comment I have read to date. I don't know what or who you are talking about but photography is not an Azo/Amidol exclusive medium.
    Everytime I find a film or paper that I like, they discontinue it. - Paul Strand - Aperture monograph on Strand

  3. #93
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swordfish View Post
    Obsess over subject matter and light instead of a paper & developer combination.
    If one had a bounty of beautiful, well seen work , the negatives would print well on most over- the -counter papers in todays market.

    This is on the verge of camera club dialogue.

    There's an incredible world to be seen out there folks ! Get over the Azo ...grab your camera , some film and .........

    Do you think photographers doing important work today worry about stuff like this ? I don't think so.
    I saw some of Nick Nixon's new work printed on Agfa and it looks great ! Just as good as his Azo prints. Why ? Not because of the Agfa- its because the images are so moving.
    I've given Emmet Gowin some of my Azo 4 in the past......he's moved on, and he never printed on just Azo to begin with.

    Myself, I've been an Azo user since the early 80's. I've known Smith for 2 decades, and frankly......Michael's work is the only imagery I can think of that benefits from the scale of Azo. So if you want to emulate him....then you're SOL.

    I still have a lot of old Azo from the 70's & 80's ,and from what I've seen as far as market demand....I could make a killing selling it .
    Almost all my work is non- Azo these days, but its going to a good home when I decide.

    J....F.......P.......... !

    Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I think this is a little misplaced considering the forum and thread.

    Reminds me of a Digihead telling me to move on from film.

  4. #94
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt View Post
    So is AZO paper better with Amidol or can I use Ansco 130 and still get accptable results? I've also heard that Konvecko is as good with Amidol too. It's of course rebranded contact paper still available in some parts of the world.
    Over on the Azo forum at michaelandpaula.com, Sandy King did this test, and demonstrated that you can get the same results with normal development using Ansco 130 or amidol, but amidol lets you use waterbath development to reduce contrast, which doesn't work as well with Ansco 130.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  5. #95
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    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb View Post
    Over on the Azo forum at michaelandpaula.com, Sandy King did this test, and demonstrated that you can get the same results with normal development using Ansco 130 or amidol, but amidol lets you use waterbath development to reduce contrast, which doesn't work as well with Ansco 130.
    In the absence of AZO, I have been split grade printing VC paper (particularly ADOX and polywarmtone) with 130 to good effect, and with a couple of negatives, believe I have pulled a few prints that are close to the limit of what the paper can give. I do not believe that amidol offers any advantage with this methodology, and so opt for the convenience and keeping of the 130.

    I fell that 130 truly shines with vc paper and split grade. I simply use my color enlarger as the light source for my contact printing, which allows me tremendous control over exposure, and of course, the split filtering

  6. #96
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Miller View Post
    Which of the two options do you think that this indicates?
    I'm not sure what two options you are referencing, Don. I was simply trying to lighten the mood as this tread was kinda going off a bit. If I was taken too seriously, I apologize.

    However, since you asked: I think that photographers doing "important work" do worry about their materials. Now that DOES NOT have any other implications and I AM NOT stating any opinion about Azo, Amidol, or anything else. None-the-less, I wonder (if not "worry") about whether or not a different film/paper/developer/working method might not make a difference in what I'm able to do. I mean, don't we all want to do the best we can with the best materials?

    As always, I could be wrong ...
    David
    Taking pictures is easy. Making photographs is hard.

    http://www.behance.net/silverdarkroom

  7. #97

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Brown View Post
    However, since you asked: I think that photographers doing "important work" do worry about their materials. Now that DOES NOT have any other implications and I AM NOT stating any opinion about Azo, Amidol, or anything else. None-the-less, I wonder (if not "worry") about whether or not a different film/paper/developer/working method might not make a difference in what I'm able to do. I mean, don't we all want to do the best we can with the best materials?

    As always, I could be wrong ...
    I don't think you are wrong at all. I would bet a lot of money that John Sexton has a freezer or two loaded with his favorite films and papers. People who spend much of their lives learning to control their process get nuances from their materials that are difficult to replicate with other materials. And they ususally don't move around from one paper or developer to another. They learn what works for them, and then concentrate on making art.

    Some artists never recover from the loss of their favorite materials. One famous English photograpaher gave up photograpy when factory platinum coated papers disappeared from the market. I know another photographer who quite printing silver and switched to pt./pd. when Agfa Portriga 118 disappeared.

    Sandy King

  8. #98

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Brown View Post
    I'm not sure what two options you are referencing, Don. I was simply trying to lighten the mood as this tread was kinda going off a bit. If I was taken too seriously, I apologize.

    However, since you asked: I think that photographers doing "important work" do worry about their materials. Now that DOES NOT have any other implications and I AM NOT stating any opinion about Azo, Amidol, or anything else. None-the-less, I wonder (if not "worry") about whether or not a different film/paper/developer/working method might not make a difference in what I'm able to do. I mean, don't we all want to do the best we can with the best materials?

    As always, I could be wrong ...
    David, I understood the basis of your post and I was only trying to further the levity that you were interjecting.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  9. #99
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Miller View Post
    David, I understood the basis of your post and I was only trying to further the levity that you were interjecting.
    Opps! Dang. Sorry. Glad to know that you understand I'm rarely to be taken seriously. Too bad I didn't get your subtlety.
    David
    Taking pictures is easy. Making photographs is hard.

    http://www.behance.net/silverdarkroom

  10. #100

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    Well, I wish I were ahead of the curve on azo earlier and as such would have really stocked up, but this was not the case. So, I will stock up on Lodima when it becomes available. In the meantime, I appreciate the 'helpful' posts as to alternative papers, developers and such. And yes, I have been able to make nice prints with other paper....and can also print scale to match AZO, btw....

    I have heard slavich paper is a nice alternative and will try it as well and post findings.

    Please keep reporting your findings as this is helpful.

    BTW, Paula Chamlee makes some pretty darn good AZO prints too! She is a fantastic photographer along with Michael.....

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