A BTZS Review of Adox Premium MCC 110 VC FB

Back in 2005 I did an article for Photo Techniques magazine titled a Guide to Variable Contrast Papers. The papers I tested were all variable contrast, fiber based - glossy papers, which are the most popular among fine art photographers. Since that article, some of the papers I tested are no longer available. Most of the papers are available in sizes from 8x10 to 20x24 and some are available in rolls and even 5x7. I will also be doing a series of tests on graded papers.

A BTZS paper test when combined with a BTZS film test lets you find the best film and paper combination to make printing in the darkroom a pleasure. When you are no longer fighting the materials, your time in the darkroom can be more creative.

Surprisingly there are more papers available today than I had expected. The first paper I tested was Adox Premium MCC 110 VC FB, which I had not tested before. It is one of the newer papers, to come on the market and with everyone trying to say film is dead, it's nice to see support of analog photography.

Testing Procedure

I use the BTZS (Beyond the Zone System) paper testing procedure. It is the same one I use when I teach BTZS workshops. It has been written up in Phil Davis's book Beyond the Zone System and in his BTZS Workshop video. It is important to calibrate your light source and the paper you are printing on. Calibrating is important because the results from your darkroom: your enlarger light source, chemistry, water, temperature may not match those of the manufacturer and their calibration techniques. The light source and filters used can make a difference.

The enlarger used in this test has a dichroic head. Since this is the first paper test I will go into more detail.

ADOX Premium MCC 100 VC FB with Ilford Variable Contrast Filters

First you will learn how to test variable contrast filters to define the actual contrast range of your paper.

The BTZS paper test procedure is quite simple. You need a Stouffer 4x5 21-step steptablet. You place the step tablet in your enlarger just as you would any 4x5 negative. Next set up your enlarger for an 8x10 print. The 21-step steptablet is a negative that has a 10-1/2 stop range. Each step is 1/2 stop. If you do contact printing you use the same procedure using the steptablet as you would use a negative in contact printing.

Start with an exposure lets say 15 seconds at f/8. The chemistry I used for this test was Ilford Multigrade paper developer diluted 1+9. The stop bath was Ilford Ilfostop (odorless stop bath - a lot easier on your nose). The fixer was Ilford Hypam Fixer.

Now make your first exposure and process your paper. For the first exposure use the Grade 2 filter. After you process your first print, look to see if you have black steps that you can't see a difference and white steps that you can see a difference. I like to get tones out to about step 17. If you find you only have tones out to lets say step 12, then 17 - 12 = 5. So you are 5 steps short and since each step is 1/2 f-stop that means you need to increase you exposure by 2-1/2 stops. If you find you have tones through step 21, then you need to decrease your expose. Reduce your exposure and try again.

Once you find a good exposure, write down all the information: enlarger height, lens used, f-stop, exposure and the chemistry you used. This gives you a starting point for this and future tests. Then do the same exposure for the rest of the filters. For this test I used the Ilford variable contrast filters: grades 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 an 5. For the Ilford filters grades 4 to 5 you need to double your exposure. The prints are then washed for 5 minutes and then air dried. This test should take less than one hour from start to clean up.

First you need to give the WinPlotter program a reference by entering the densities (transmission densitometer) of each step of your step tablet. Now we measure each step on our test prints using a reflection densitometer and this information is entered into WinPlotter.

The first screenshot shows the data from both the steptablet and the test prints. The first column on the left is the step number, the second column is the transmission densities of the steptablet, followed by the density readings of the filters from grade 00 to 5. As you can see it has very good whites to very good blacks.

The WinPlotter program plots the paper curve and calculates the paper grade for each paper test. The next screenshot shows the family of paper curves. It shows the filter grades and the actual grades of the paper. Interestingly it goes from a grade 0 for the 00 filter to a grade 4 for the grade 5 filter. One of the advantages of using the WinPlotter program is that it shows you the actual grade for each filter.

The following shows the paper curve for the grade 2 filter.

The next screenshot shows the paper grades plotted for each filter. The range of paper grades for this paper is more than enough for any printing. The grade five filter just misses being a grade 5 by a very small amount. Most of the filters are slightly hard for the actual paper grade, such a the grade 2 filter is a very soft grade 3 and the grade 3 filter is a hard grade 3. You will notice the term ES/Paper Grades. ES refers to exposure scale. Exposure scale refers to the range of exposing light intensities, exposure times, or some combination of both required to produce the density range. The ES is different for each paper grade. A short ES implies a hard, contrasty paper; a long ES indicates a soft, low-contrast paper. The ES for a grade 2 paper is from .95 to 1.15.

Knowing what each filter does you can more precisely match your negative to your paper.

Now that we know the characteristics of our enlarger and paper we will proceed to the BTZS film test. In the next installment we will cover the BTZS film testing procedure, so you can see how you can calculate your development time to best match your selected paper.

For a complete set of graphs for all the paper grades or the orginal BTZS Plotter file for those that have the program please email me.

The View Camera Store offers a BTZS film and paper testing service.