You all might be interested in a little project that I'm working on. I've decided to print a portfolio from about the first 10 - 12 years of my large format negatives, about 3000 negs. From this I've separated about 50 or 60 negs and from this I will sort it once more for about a dozen prints. Anyway, I hadn't printed seriously in some time, so first I gave away all my graded paper collected over the years (about 30 pounds of it) and restocked in VC RC paper. Using this I made the first cut of the negatives. Then I looked for a nice fiber based paper. My photography is mostly small landscapes and abstracts. I decided I wanted a VC (for convenience) fiber paper. I like papers that don't have too much color to the base. I hoped the blacks would not have that slight green cast that I find objectionable, because I didn't want to tone them. That probably makes some of you cringe, but I find toning very time consuming and polluting. (That's a different soapbox.)
Anyway, I bought 12 different kinds of paper and printed one negative on all of them developed in Defender D-55 paper developer. I realize that this is a limited test, but it is impossible to do all the combos so I limited it here.
The twelve papers were: Agfa Classic 118, Agfa Warmtone, Arista Classic VC (probably Kentmere), Bergger NB, Bergger CB, Bergger CBS, Cachet VC FB, Cachet VC FB WA, Forte Elegance Polywarmtone, Ilford MG IV FB, Ilford Warmtone, Kodak Polymax Fine Art.
Reviewing the prints is very interesting. It is amazing how much the same they are and how different they are. All the papers made a nice print, although I found both Cachet papers too have too much tint in the paper. Some of the bases got eliminated for too much color. Some of the papers didn't resolve local contrast very well. Many had odd colors to the image and would have required toning. All had about the same Dmax, except one.
It is a very interesting test. It would be nice to do it in a class environment, so you didn't have so many bags of paper left. Obviously, different people like different things and different subject matter requires different types of emulsions. I did show the prints to several different photog friends of mine and without coaching they all thought that the one paper I selected did stand out from the group. Their impressions of the other papers were widely varied.
Reading over this, I realize if I tell you the paper I selected, it would look like an endorsement. I'll tell you later if there is interest. If you have the time and gumption, I recommend you try this test yourself. I'd be interested to know your impressions.
Maybe we should run a poll on favorite papers.