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Thread: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

  1. #1

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    Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    A friend brought over some inkjet B&W prints for me to look at. He used three papers that are currently touted as 'the answer to fibre B&W'. I then took the original B&W negs (8x10 and 7x17) and made contact prints on Forte Polygrade V, Azo and hand coated pt/pd using platinotype paper.

    No contest. The real thing looks nicer, sharper, cleaner and doesn't exhibit off axis viewing problems.

    The digital printing looks really good on all three but definately not the equivalent of real B&W prints on silver papers. The pt/pd is a wash visually as the digital looks so much like the original as to be easily confused with each other. The silver prints put side by side with the digital prints(on all 3 digital B&W papers) are much nicer. Sharper and cleaner looking to my eye.(and 7 other photogs eye in a blind comparison where they didn't know which was which until after they wrote down their impressions).

    Inkjet printing is getting better. The prints he brought over were also printed on the newest Canon and HPZ31oo printers in addition to the Epson 2400 and 3800 he used for his prints. Same result. Really good work from the inkjets but when displayed side by side with the real thing, just did not stack up yet.

  2. #2

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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    Were you surprised? A more realistic comparison might have been the enlargement of a 4 X 5 by 4X, rather than an 8 X 10 contact print.

    After about 50 years of printing B&W in a darkroom, I made the change to digital printing about 10 years ago and now print with an Epson 7800 on the newest Crane and Hahnemuhle papers. Working with scanned 35mm, 120 and 4 X 5 film, I'm more pleased with the current prints than I've ever been in the past.

    When you compare a contact print with an enlargement (even the "real thing,") there's bound to be a difference in all the qualities you mention, so don't rush to judgment based on your limited experiment. The best inkjet prints really do "stack up" when viewed realistically.

  3. #3

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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mahonri View Post
    He used three papers that are currently touted as 'the answer to fibre B&W'.
    Which papers are you referring to?

    Don Bryant

  4. #4

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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    First off, the issue of contact printing has already been mentioned. After having been through this before, inkjet and silver prints are two different mediums. They look different. There is a look to the silver print that the inkjet can't recreate. For inkjet, you can obtain deeper blacks and more control down to the pixel level. As well, control over the mid tones is better on the inkjet.

    That said, this is the same as the digital vs film stuff. Even if digital capture matches or exceeds that of the film used in the comparison, they will look different. I enjoy playing with these differences.

  5. #5
    Resident Heretic
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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    As has been said many times before, inkjet prints ain't wanna-be silver gelatin prints. Inkjet is it's own media with its own look and feel.

    Search the archives here. This "discussion" has been beaten to death, over and over again. Repeating it serves no useful purpose.

    Bruce Watson

  6. #6
    Mike
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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    I agree this has been discussed ad nauseum and then some. However, I would say that without pushing manufacturers further, the quality of papers may plateau along with any innovation. Look at what mp3's are doing to music! People are perfectly happy with highly-compressed, mediocre-sounding (IMO) files as opposed to full cd quality files or even high-res audio. I do think all of this pickiness does serve a useful purpose in the end.

  7. #7
    Maris Rusis's Avatar
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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    Maybe even if B&W inkjets advance to the stage where they look absolutely indistinguishable from B&W gelatin-silver photographs the reasons for looking at the two forms will be different.

    That assumes, of course, there are deep reasons for looking at a picture over and above what it looks like.
    Photography:first utterance. Sir John Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society. "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..".

  8. #8
    Photographer, Machinist, etc. Jeffrey Sipress's Avatar
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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    I just love my B&W inkjet prints. I never thought to believe that silver/darkroom imaging is some sort of standard to 'live up to'. It simply is all there was for a real long time, and all images made that way have that look (for the most part). It sure works well, but still is only one method, not better or worse than others, to get your results. I've been working on digital BW for so long, since the times when you could not get anything you wanted to show to anyone. Now I most definitely can. Besides, the control one has over the way the final print will look (contrast, masking, d & b, etc) is so far beyond anything that can be done in a darkroom. I can produce images of subjects and scenes nearly exactly as I envisioned them to be. It's here. I am there.

  9. #9

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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maris Rusis View Post
    Maybe even if B&W inkjets advance to the stage where they look absolutely indistinguishable from B&W gelatin-silver photographs the reasons for looking at the two forms will be different.

    That assumes, of course, there are deep reasons for looking at a picture over and above what it looks like.
    I don't think everyone would agree that simply making an inkjet print indistinguishable from a b&w gelatin print represents an advance. The goal is to make a b&w print that's better than a darkroom print. If I didn't know that could be done I'd still be in the darkroom.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  10. #10
    よろしくお願いします! Andrew O'Neill's Avatar
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    Re: Inkjet B&W compared to traditional B&W?

    Besides, the control one has over the way the final print will look (contrast, masking, d & b, etc) is so far beyond anything that can be done in a darkroom. I can produce images of subjects and scenes nearly exactly as I envisioned them to be. It's here. I am there.
    Still more fun to work in a darkroom, though. Traditional printing is more like printmaking for me (my background is in printmaking), and I love the process. Sitting in front of a computer is not fun.

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