View Full Version : Sharpness of paper negatives

Ian Greenhalgh
4-Jan-2014, 14:00
Hi folks

I've been shooting paper negatives using Agfa Brovira Speed paper and I'm disappointed by the sharpness, or rather the lack of it.

Is this to be expected from paper? The resolution looks to be no more than 30-40% of a film like fp4.

Michael Alpert
4-Jan-2014, 15:58

I have never seen a print from a paper negative that seemed even close to sharp. Early in the history of photography, the move from paper negatives to glass plates was a major improvement. Now, I have not ever actually made a paper negative; but I would venture to say that people who like to make them, do so because they want prints that are NOT sharp.

Ian Greenhalgh
4-Jan-2014, 16:12
This is the sharpest I have got, two I made today came out so soft I threw them away and it definitely isn't shake or any other error.


Jim Jones
4-Jan-2014, 19:44
Here is one discussion of the resolution of photo papers: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?8375-Resolution-of-photopaper. The problem may be in focusing with white light, while the paper is blue sensitive. Matthew Brady is said to have used blue glasses to avoid this. The lack of sharpness in the corners of the image suggests a lens that may also suffer from chromatic aberration. Also, photo paper may not remain as flat in a film holder as film.

4-Jan-2014, 21:01
Just stating the obvious here, but if a paper is capable of being made into a sharp print, then it is capable of being made into a sharp negative. I did not have any sharpness issues when I made a few, a couple years ago. I had a lot of other issues, but sharpness wasn't one.

4-Jan-2014, 21:36
Out of curiosity are you using a regular printing frame, or a method that applies enough pressure to the paper-negative/photo-paper sandwich? I'm not familiar Agfa Brovira Speed, but from what I just read elsewhere on the net that paper may be somewhat stiff and difficult to work with. For my own paper negatives a nice flat smooth-surfaced paper has usually worked well.

5-Jan-2014, 06:12
And you are copying emulsion to emulsion?

5-Jan-2014, 06:31
I haven't done many paper negatives, just a few 8x10's which turned out ok, contact printed.

Paper can't be as sharp as film, because there can't be an anti halation layer- unless you're shooting something like Ilfochrome which solves the problem in another way.
The light is going to reflect back off the base and diffuse sideways through the emulsion layer.

The only solution I can think of would be to shoot bigger negatives...

10-Mar-2014, 05:26
It is possible to make sharp paper negatives but to get that in print you must have a good contact frame. What kind of contact frame are you using?




10-Mar-2014, 09:52
To the OP, you also posted your image in the paper negative forum:


You mentioned it was taken with a Century Graphic 23 and a Pullin London Pulnar 2.8/100mm lens. I'm guessing the negative is medium format size and the image was enlarged for posting. Also, what kind of lens is the Pulnar? Is it a medium format lens, or a telephoto for 35mm? I'm guessing the unsharpness might be caused by enlarging a small image on a paper negative, and the lens may not be well suited for the format.

I've made several dozen paper negatives in 8X10 format, and they have much finer detail than can be seen by the naked eye at a normal viewing distance.

Edit to add:

OK, found out a little more about the lens:


It's apparently a projection lens.