In my experience it all has to do with the size of the negative that determines the paper. I like contact printing because my negatives are quite large, my smallest is 8x10. I am able to limit the need for a fully equipped darkroom. I used to have an 8x10 enlarger and it was a pain to live with. I doubt I would be considering using AZO if I was shooting 35mm or even up to 6x9. For me it is just not big enough. I will be ordering one box of each grade in 8x10 because I do not think it is expensive for all that it could potentially give me. Not the least of which is convenience. And I do like the Bergger paper too but I need something to compare it by in order to frame a more educated opinion.
Originally Posted by EricR
You are correct that there are many good papers available and there is a great deal in the way of printing techniques available. In fact I use a couple of papers other then Azo in my efforts.
So why would I use Azo if I am able to get good results with other papers? Simply because the quality is far and away better. No, the need for pre-flashing, split contrast printing, masking, etc does not exist with Azo. The printing with Azo involves burning, dodging, and occasional water bath development...That is as difficult as it gets. Azo is a longer scale material and it will carry more information over a greater contrast range.
I have no axe to grind here. I already know how to do the manipulations that other printers use and a few others that they haven't figured out yet.
Let's face it carrying a 4X5 is a small matter compared to carrying an 8X10 or 12X20. 4X5 is a heck of a lot less work then exposing the big negatives, it costs a whole lot less, and I find that the results are an indication of the effort and money saved. Azo is a contact printing paper...that means exposing big negatives. How many of these other great photographers/printers shoot anything larger then 5X7?. Most of them, I have found, shoot 4X5. That may be the single greatest reason that most of the other "great" printers do not use Azo.
"If AZO was so great all the best printers would be using it."
Using Azo means making contact prints. I am assuming that the "best printers" you are referring to are making enlargements. Azo is not realistically an option for enlarging, at this time.
THE best printers are using Azo. That would be Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee. Their prints are the best I have seen, ever, and I've seen prints by most of the "big names."
However, I don't believe that any negative will print better on Azo. One of the reasons for the print quality of Michael and Paula is their negatives; it's not just the Azo. And of course their experience and taste.
I've been using Azo for about a year now (though I had been making contact prints for 15 years) and learned how to use it from the information available free on Michael and Paula's web site. My prints are significantly better thanks to switching.
There are some of my negatives that still benefit from the local contrast contral that split-printing permits, and this can't be done with Azo, since it is a graded paper (or at least not in the same way). And I still enlarge onto other papers. But for contact printing Azo is clearly superior to enlarging papers, for most negatives, in my opinion.
Yes, Sean, you should be able to use a pulse xenon light source to print on Azo. I have seen it done by someone who makes huge enlargements on Azo. (Not the fellow who is inventing the new light source.)
Kodak is committed to continuing to make Azo. They are currently making a new run of both Grade 2 and Grade 3. So it looks like, for a few years in any case, we don't have to worry. It does not hurt us to stay vigilant, however.
As others have stated, Eric, and you can believe it or not--all of that flashing (though very occasionally still do that even with Azo), selective contrast control, bleaching, and masking, are simply not necessarty with Azo. Water bath development is often used. But nothing gets easier than doing that.
And also as stated, those you call the "best" silver printers generally do not make contact prints.
In his book, Examples, when discussing the photograph, Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain, Ansel Adams wrote, "Many years ago I made a print of this negative on a contact paper that, when fully toned in selenium, had a marvelous color. It is one of the most satisfactory prints I have ever made, and I have not been able to duplicate it with contemporary enlarging papers. The paper I used might have been Agfa Convira or Kodak Azo. Both were coated with silver-chloride emulsions, which tone faster and give more color than the predominant bromide or chloro-bromide emulsions of today." These statements make me wonder why Adams didn’t use Azo more often. Surely he saw that it was a finer paper than the enlarging papers he was using.
Both Edward and Brett Weston printed on exclusively on contact printing paper. Brett, until the 1970s, used Azo. When he started using small negatives and enlarginghe did switch. I could never understand. All connisseurs of the fine print prefer his contact prints.
Bottom line is tha you do not have to believe me or what anyone else says about this. But if you really care about quality, and if you make contact prints, it would seem to me that you are shortchanging yourself if you don't at least try printing on Azo.
After watching Art Wright's DVD on Brett Weston, the answer as to why he switched from large to medium format ( & from contact printing to enlarging) was his subject matter - close-ups that were more conveniently done in medium format ( Nancy Newhall's conclusion in audio portion of DVD). I, too, like his subject material, and find the 4X5 a convenient size ( & alot less strain on my back).
For those like myself who don't shoot 8X10 or larger, yet who appreciate the results of an Azo print, enlarged negatives either via digital route or internegatives may be an answer. Ed Buffaloe's site has a good article on internegatives http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/NbyR/nbyr.html For those like the original poster who already have the 8X10s, Azo is worth the investment for the almost 3D quality & tonal range of the print.
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But Michael, if Adams had stayed with contact prints he wouldn't have been able to justify that huge 8x10 horizontal enlarger, reportedly built as part of a government contract. What a toy it must have been!
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
Lest folks think big negatives are required for contact printing on Azo, I've begun contact printing negatives I make with my 2-1/4x3-1/4 Speed Graphic. They can be very nice if put in a place where close viewing is possible.
And thanks to JandC for importing sheet film for this camera again.
Paula has been talking about wanting a Hasselblad (good luck) and making only contact prints with it. This coming weekend she will be borrowing a friend's camera and using it for the next month while we are in Europe printing our books.
And just last night we received an email from a fellow who uses 35mm and makes digital negatives. He was making Piezo's and tried to print on Azo. His comment: "After seeing one of my photos printing on Azo in Amidol I can see why you love it. Absolutely gorgeous. Much better than Piezo. I've just
ordered 6 more image setter negs."
So, yes, Azo is not only for those who use very large cameras.
"shooting with a large camera might become a very hard sell"
unless you are adamant that the 'final image' is not 'all that matters', and you do not want the soul of your image destroyed by interpolation and other photoshop nasties
Yeah Sean... Explain! hehe