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Thread: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

  1. #21
    hacker extraordinaire
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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Define quality. I would argue that a "wet print" has an inherent quality of being a wet print that sets it apart from a digital print
    I agree, and now that digital printing has advanced in technical capability to where it is no longer at a significant disadvantage, the choice between the two media can be made on more fundamental, rather than superficial grounds. As for myself, I decided a long time ago that I don't do computer graphics; I do photography. I don't make make computer printouts, I make photographs. Digital imaging does not interest me. It's an artistic choice, not a technical one, and so nobody can really help you choose.
    Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
    --A=B by Petkovöek et. al.

  2. #22

    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    If I were working full time to produce prints or files for sale I would probably go digital, especially if it were for color prints. You might have experience(?) already in working digitally and in Photoshop. If not, then be aware of the costs, time/learning curve for your photographic requirements. Personally I would actually go Jim's route in this case. Also be reminded of the constant computer/software/operating system upgrade costs; You may already. Digital outlay doesn't seem to stop.
    Overall I enjoy shooting more then computer digital work, and my lower back aches after an hour in front of the screen.
    For b&w and depending on format, I think anything above 5x7, especially 8x10 and 4x10 etc, would be nice as contacts. Simple, fast, don't need an over-the-top darkroom.

    This btw was an interesting read. Interesting perspective although a little dated.
    http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com...otography.html
    Last edited by Wayne Crider; 28-Aug-2010 at 09:09.

  3. #23
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Wow Jim, thanks a bunch for the kind words, It should be pointed out that the prints Jim provided me were exceptional black and white prints , and I could not match the quality in areas , with my process.
    IMO some people would prefer the fibre prints and others would prefer the ink. What Jim did not say was it took me 6 months to finish his order as I had a really hard time trying to match in quality what he provided. I felt I came short, but with time and more attempts with his files I would have more confidence. Same thing happened when Ralph Baker sent me some 8x10 negs to print , I felt totally out of my element because I could not see their eyes or follow their body language when they picked up their prints.
    So please do not as Jim suggests send me files to test, the lunch bag let down is too scary for me to handle.
    We were the first shop in the Galaxy producing Lambda wet Fibre prints, years before the Johnny come lately's in London, Paris and New York. I still feel that I cannot make this paper sing, as well as a wet enlarger print. It has a different pallette that I still have to massage each and every time. Because there are not a lot of operators using this process, and we do compete , there has been little or no back and forth with this process, and basically I am on my own, to make mistakes and learn the ropes. really sucks.
    We are really hoping a University includes this wet process in their programs. This would put the process in young hands and allow for incredible variety.


    from Kens Post* I totally agree with this*
    To me, the main issue is longevity: fading and archival permanence. For permanence, it's best to avoid Silver paper in the first place, and go with the so-called "alternative" processes, like Platinum, Palladium, Carbon: those prints will last as long as the paper holds together.

    I am moving in this direction, specifically Carbon and multiple colour gum for this very reason.
    One only has to follow Sandy King and Keith Carter to see this is the way.

    From Steves Post-
    Have to agree about the subjective part, so that immediately eliminates that anyone of us will be right or wrong with our respective spin.
    Here's mine, when one has the talent / skill to consistently produce prints of the highest technical standard whether it be with the traditional wet process or the digital generated media currently available, why would one abandoned their area of expertise only to climb a new mountain which will certainly take years when the mountain you've already conquered merely provides a means to display and share your thoughts and interests, in short the art you make which is in the end all that matters!

    I currently print for others , 15 years ago I was quite happy making my silver prints and multiple masked cibachromes on enlarger.
    Then came the dreaded digital capture and ink jets... curse the bastards.
    Over night *5 years* lost all my enlarger, film process , Cibachrome business.
    50 years old and completely at a loss , luckily we regrouped, invested, and put my life on hold for 8 years and took on the digital curse. I cannot tell the hours it has taken me to learn PS , Lambda output, and as well capture back a clientelle we lost .
    So we took the stance of trying everything, including inkjet, and today I can say that we are not obliged to say one process is better than the other, in fact what we look for is the intended purpose for our clients prints and suggest the process most likely to fill their needs.

    To the OP questions about which is better.

    We tested a negative *4x5* HP5 pyro developed, three ways,
    Another printer I trust , came in and made a 30x40 Ilford MG4 print on my enlarger.
    We scanned on our Imocan in 8 bit and 16bit , and then made 30x40 prints on Harmon AR Gloss Inkjet off our Cannon Printer.

    We then showed these prints to a few large groups of photographers and asked them to tell us which print was which.
    less than 3% of the audiences could without question determine what was a wet enlarger print and what was scanned and printed by ink. We showed this to over 200 photographers and every time no one could give us an exact answer with confidence.

    All this tells me was , one, we got lucky picking a negative that worked well with both processes , and two , most people when pressed cannot tell the difference.

    Another small note , I want to buy from Lenny Eiger a brand new, Aztek drum scanner, even though I have been happy with our Imocan and supplied Tango Scans. WHY???

    Simply perception of equipment, and maybe in time I will be able to squeeze info out of originals that I cannot do with an Imocan. Will the average viewer be able to see the difference, I believe totally not, would an experienced eye be able to see the difference maybe yes / maybe no.
    But from my veiwpoint I am trying to take out all the limitations of equipment , that will then allow a sale of a show go easier with certain clients , who do believe equipment is of great importance.
    Same kind of thinking we have for the different processes.

    Please once again, do not send me work, I would prefer to not to hear about the lunch bag letdown. You can visit and stay awhile , then its easier to make good work face to face.

  4. #24
    pramm
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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Quote Originally Posted by jim kitchen View Post
    Dear Brent,

    I can tell you that I gave up the darkroom a few years ago, to produce images that are digitally produced with my scanned 8X10 black and white negatives, after I have my images scanned with a drum scanner and, or the simple Epson 750, and I have never looked back at all to the wet darkroom.

    jim k
    I am just starting to use 8 x 10 sheets after many years of digital imaging (nonphotographic). While I admire the skill needed to print photographs, I always did hate the dark room and I lack any sort of printing talent. I will scan and print digitally.

    I will be interested to see for myself how the latest flat beds compare with drums for prints up to about 16 x 20.

    Jim, I note you are in Calgary. Who does your drum scans in Canada? Without solid manufacturer's support I don't really want to go back to using that technology on my own. I am hoping the flat bed will be fine for all but the special images - should I ever succeed in making one.

    The rest of this post is my opinionated mumble.

    The critical difference between film and paper lies in the ways we accomodate to dynamic range compression. It is a cliche, but true. Film and paper are inherently nonlinear media. Digital images are inherently linear. That difference has a variety of psychophysical consequences that we see as the analog and digital "looks".

    No particular mysteries there and I am confident one could tease out major factors underlying the two looks. No one bothers as, from what I can see, the science of not of interest to anyone. We simply print analog or digital without understanding what it is that discriminates the two. While probably in the digital camp, I am particularly happy to see that there remain skilled printers with a sense of history.

    I guess I can look forward to developing a look that pleases me.

  5. #25

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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Drew,
    I wish it were true that serious darkroom equipment is cheap. I just checked B&H's new enlarger section, where 4x5 enlargers are going for anywhere from $1600 and some change up to more than $2,500. Those prices are still out of my league.

  6. #26
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Calwell View Post
    Drew,
    I wish it were true that serious darkroom equipment is cheap. I just checked B&H's new enlarger section, where 4x5 enlargers are going for anywhere from $1600 and some change up to more than $2,500. Those prices are still out of my league.
    You can get top of the line enlargers for free or pennies-on-the-dollar.

    Even then, if those prices quoted above were for digital hardware (which will be obsolete in 5 minutes), no one would complain.

  7. #27

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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Quote Originally Posted by vinny View Post
    What is often left out of these discussions is the fact that scanners can't record nearly as much of a negs detail as an enlarger paper, especially high contrast negs that weren't made with scanning in mind. Just my experience using epsons, drum scanners and enlargers. I have lots of negs that I'd love to make prints of but they've got either scratches, tons of dust, or blemishes. Scanners just can't get the high and low density details. Am I wrong?
    That said I've seen some really nice prints made both ways but never two of the same neg side by side.
    Yes, Vinny, you're wrong on this one... The tonal range of a silver print is a fraction of a scanners range (and inkjet print). They are matched closer to a platinum print, even longer than that.. as it were. I have made comparisons with the same print and it isn't pretty. But as someone else, that's old news..

    Thankfully, everybody gets to do what they want...

    Lenny
    EigerStudios
    Museum Quality Drum Scanning and Printing

  8. #28

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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Quote Originally Posted by Lenny Eiger View Post
    Yes, Vinny, you're wrong on this one... The tonal range of a silver print is a fraction of a scanners range (and inkjet print). They are matched closer to a platinum print, even longer than that.. as it were. I have made comparisons with the same print and it isn't pretty. But as someone else, that's old news..

    Thankfully, everybody gets to do what they want...

    Lenny
    Lenny, I think you read me wrong. I'm talking about a scanners ability to capture detail vs. The enlargers ability to put that detail on paper.

  9. #29

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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    Quote Originally Posted by vinny View Post
    Lenny, I think you read me wrong. I'm talking about a scanners ability to capture detail vs. The enlargers ability to put that detail on paper.
    When you talk about a contact print, its very hard to beat. However, if you talk about enlarging, you are going thru another lens and you are dispersing the light across the surface. Hopefully with a enlarger that's level... and a good neg, good paper and developers, proper washing, etc.

    In a drum scanner, the tolerances are quite small. The sample apertures are measured in microns, and the photo multiplier tubes are so sensitive they can detect a few photons bouncing around in the black box. The enlarger (and silver paper) is no match for for a drum scanner in capturing shadow detail, or highlight detail, for that matter. A drum scanner is capable of exceptional sharpness, and getting everything off the neg that's there.

    One also has to define what "detail" is. In most of these conversations we are talking about resolution. I find this interesting, but also annoying. I don't care about critical sharpness. Personally, I would rather have depth of field than critical sharpness. That's my bias. That said, I am more interesting in tonal reproduction. A platinum print, or a scanned neg and inkjet w/b&w inks, can reproduce more approximately double the tonal range that a silver print can. Silver negs are approx 1.0 in max density, while alternative process and scanned negs go to 1.8-2.0. This doubles the amount of tonal separation that's available to the process. It's the same scale, but there are more steps in between that are possible.

    I value this tonal reproduction highly. I if ever stop printing with an inkjet - I wouldn't return to silver paper. I might go back to platinum, or to carbon and/or gravure... I have no interest in dissing silver prints, I have seen some amazing ones, even made some. However, the technical argument is really over, as Ken indicated. The truth is that some folks like the look and feel of silver prints and they should be happy to print in that medium, pull out everything it has to offer, etc. Inkjet with great inks is something different. Its close, and the aesthetics are quite similar in the way people look at them, but its just different. All the technical arguments fall apart when someone likes a certain look.... either way.

    Lenny
    EigerStudios
    Museum Quality Drum Scanning and Printing

  10. #30

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    Re: wet darkroom vs. inkjet

    I meant to say, I first admire photographs for the uniqueness of the photographer's vision and then secondly I take a closer look at the print quality. I agree with Bob Carne on second read that you can get your best results sticking with the process that you have already spent a mountain of time learning. And admire him for striking out on a second climb.

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