In the process of switching to a nearly entirely analog workflow from almost entirely digital, I find contacts a lot more useful. I didn't anticipate this was the case, but with the current job I'm working, a commitment ceremony, I find that the index prints from the lab aren't useful for frame numbers, since they differ about 80% of the time, and aren't useful for knowing how to treat the negs in the darkroom.

I think I'm pretty close to being able to ballpark my first print exposure by looking at the neg, certainly I can judge fine focus a lot better under a lupe with the neg than the contact print, but I'm not yet able to dissern the nuances of facial expression from the neg as well as on a contact. Also, I figure a contact justifies its time and expense any time I'm able to avoid touching the neg/page of negs for something other than printing them.

Right now, my workflow is to proof negs on Azo, and use that for my first run of go/nogo as well as any kind of review of the job that doesn't involve putting the neg in a carrier. I use Ilford Multigrade for enlargements, but Azo for contact prints. Since the latter has a much longer tonal scale, I'm able to get better images from images that are a stop or so in variance from the rest of the roll. The first time I print from that job, I can use that print as a metric from which to determine the settings for the remainder of the job.

The maddening thing for me is that I can't find anywhere in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that still does so-called enlarged contacts. I want someone to stick my photo-file page in a 10x10 enlarger and give me what amounts to a 16x20 enlarged contact sheet. No one seems to do that anymore. Even the lab that I thought was the good old analog standby in this area does next to no analog work anymore. I just don't have the room in my current residential darkroom for a 10x10 enlarger just to do these contacts. Maybe years down the road, but I wouldn't have thought such a thing would be so hard to find a source for.