digital vs. wet printing 4x5 negative
First off, I am new to large format and digital printing, but not new to pinhole photography and traditional processes. I can't see contact printing my 4x5 pinhole photos since that size, for me, would be too small. I have the choice to enlarge to 11x14 with my enlarger or go digital. That would mean scanning and printing via photoshop.
This is where I am ignorant. How many of you, who care to reply, print the old way in the darkroom and how many of you scan and print digitally. Are digital prints comparable in quality to wet prints? How costly are digital prints? Can decent inkjet printers at home print decent quality prints on inkjet photo paper? A lot of question, my apologies. Even a few answers would help my decision making.
Who says 4X5 is too small? I struggled with the same question when I started doing P/P printing. My choices for a negative was to either do a digital negative or an enlarged negative from an inner positive with Ortho. After experimenting with enlarged negatives I did some contact prints with the 4X5's and was surprised at how much I enjoyed these small images. Much more personal and felt really drawn into them. Using at least a 3 to 4 inch over mat made them even better. Also, don't be afraid to make paper negatives with some inexpensive RC paper in whatever size you want. I've also been very pleased with the results from these as well. Especially with pinhole images. You can always work the backs of the negatives and positives with a graphite pencil over a light table to enhance detail. Play around and see what you get. I've thought about getting some things printed digitally. Also thought about sky diving, but at my age probably won't.
I agree that 4X5 pinhole contacts are great at 4X5, and they present well on an 8X10 black matboard.
Consider making wet contact prints, then if you want to digitally enlarge you can digitize on a flatbed scanner. I'm sure that scanners that take 4X5 negs are priced accordingly, as are dye sublimation printers that go to 11X14.
I am not familiar with "an enlarged negative from an inner positive with Ortho". What exactly is that process? I also just found out about high contrast positive printout paper. Guess that is an option.
Both ways now
You did not ask how many of us does both, wet and dry. I do both. You can get pleasant results from inkjet although I find the colors are off. There are no international standards as to how long inkjet prints will last and we know wet darkroom prints can last 100 to 200 years, at least. And the lasting quality of digital media if iffy. I have 200 negatives of the Beatles taken in 1964, including some 4x5 negs. Many, including the 4x5s, have never been shown. I want my negatives and prints to last so I only use digital and inkjet for fluff.
As a dude who did some skydiving, sometimes with camera in hand, before 1960, I have a suggestion. If you jump with a 4x5 Speed Graphic, do not forget to pull the dark slide and the ripcord.
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Let's see if we can thread the needle and stay on-topic...I agree with RPippin that 4x5 is reasonable for contact printing: I can see six photos from here that are printed at that size or smaller, and they wouldn't sell so many 3.5x5 frames if people didn't want to see things that size! But you said "for me" and you presumably know your own taste better than the rest of us do.
"Digital print" covers a lot of ground; at a bare minimum it encompasses scanning and printing steps, but probably some manipulation in between as well, and all of those steps are so variable as to be impossible to generalize. There are some typical tradeoffs: A contact print can definitely capture detail that a good flatbed scan will miss (a professional drum scan would do better), for instance; contrast adjustments in digital-land are drastically more flexible than typical controls in wet printing (although a really good printer will be able to get to about the same place in the end).
I've had good professional scan-and-print work done from LF slides, and been very impressed with the results. But at the price of those setups, the results had better be impressive; that's not something a reasonable home user can duplicate.
This being APUG, and since it sounds like you already have a 4x5 enlarger, the natural advice is "mess around with the wet prints and see if you like what you get". The worst that could happen is you throw away some prints, right?
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Some of the home printers are capable of high quality and long lasting prints that come close enough in photographic quality to darkroom prints to please most viewers. Good 4x5 negative scanners are more expensive. As Rich says, we can always make one good contact print, then scan, edit, and print that on a digital printer. I've made thousands of digital prints and very few darkroom prints over the past several years.
I've never done it, but it stands to reason you could contact print onto film to make a positive. Then you could either enlarge that onto another piece of film to make a larger negative that you can contact print. OR I suppose you could contact print the film positive onto more film to make a 4X5 negative, which you can then use in your enlarger to your liking.
i do both, although the lj/ij i dont print myself...
a lab does it for me. just had large prints of what used to be
4x5 or smaller cyanotypes / bleached and hand colored
yesterday / tuesday and they look beautiful ...
but like everything
it is all dependent on the skill and competence of the printer
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wet contact print. Those you like, scan on a flat-bed to a high resolution. Upload to Ilford Photo Labs (also in US http://www.ilfordlab-us.com/) pay a few ££$$. They will expose onto (nearly) ordinary RC paper using a lightjet and make a wet print to any size you want.
I say forget inkjet prints. Why bother.