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Thread: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

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  1. #1

    Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    I'm going to chuck this one out their just to see if I hook a good well-balanced response.

    I've always liked the idea of contact printing - done properly of course on an Azo-like paper, etc., etc. That, and the fact that silver, or whatever, prints still have commercial value over inkjet prints in the gallery. Unfortunately, the sizes I would like to use, essentially Ultra LF, aren't particularly practicable for the images I envisage, i.e., landscapes.

    One way around this is to enlarge your 4x5 or 5x7 negative and print it out on film via inkjet (a digital negative) and then using that as your contact negative. Now, I gather these only produce an image that is around 100 lp/inch (or maybe more with ever-improving printer technology?) so nothing like what the original negative can produce. The final print, of course, will only be as good as the negative used and I know they will be inherently poorer than a contact print made from the original negative, but by how much? I'm not keen on following this course but have no firm reasons.

    I have no experience of digital negatives so I would like to know if these are worth the effort, and to what extent they differ in their characteristics (if any). Do they still retain that depth, tonal range, etc., so often seen with contacts?

    Cheers,
    Steve.

  2. #2

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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    Quote Originally Posted by duff photographer View Post
    I'm going to chuck this one out their just to see if I hook a good well-balanced response.

    I've always liked the idea of contact printing - done properly of course on an Azo-like paper, etc., etc. That, and the fact that silver, or whatever, prints still have commercial value over inkjet prints in the gallery. Unfortunately, the sizes I would like to use, essentially Ultra LF, aren't particularly practicable for the images I envisage, i.e., landscapes.

    One way around this is to enlarge your 4x5 or 5x7 negative and print it out on film via inkjet (a digital negative) and then using that as your contact negative. Now, I gather these only produce an image that is around 100 lp/inch (or maybe more with ever-improving printer technology?) so nothing like what the original negative can produce. The final print, of course, will only be as good as the negative used and I know they will be inherently poorer than a contact print made from the original neg. (but by how much?). I'm not keen on following this course but have no firm reasons.

    I have no experience of digital negatives so I would like to know if these are worth the effort, and to what extent they differ in there characteristics (if any). Do they still retain that depth, tonal range, etc., so often seen with contacts?

    Cheers,
    Steve.
    I think you'll find that plenty of people use such enlarged digital negs on a regular basis now, and that it is more than fine for contact printing and not "inherently poorer"

  3. #3

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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    I've made many contact prints from 8x10 in-camera negatives. I haven't made any from digital negatives but I've seen quite a few that others have made and they looked as good to me as the contact prints I've made. Of course this wasn't a side-by-side comparison, perhaps that would show a bigger difference that I could see just from looking at the prints from digital negatives. But many very fine photographers/printers are making contact prints from digital negatives these days. So while I could believe the in-camera negative might be somewhat better in some minor respects, I'd be surprised if your statement that they're "nothing like what the original negative can produce" is correct.

    As an aside, I've seen no evidence that silver prints have commercial value over ink jet prints "in the gallery."
    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.

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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    I thought the consesus was DN are good enough for Alt Process but not for "regular" Silver Gelatin prints. My own experience supports this- mind you my printer (Epson R2400) is probably now considered ancient.

  5. #5
    Richard M. Coda
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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    It's all a personal decision. My personal decision aligns with domaz. EXCEPT for LVT negatives, which are every bit as good as in-camera and are good enough for silver. I know Bob Carney is playing around with running litho film through a Durst and developing so the neg can be used for silver.
    Photographs by Richard M. Coda
    my blog
    Primordial: 2010 - Photographs of the Arizona Monsoon
    "Speak softly and carry an 8x10"
    "I shoot a HYBRID - Arca/Canham 11x14"

  6. #6
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    Richard

    Not playing around any more, Rollie Ortho25 imaged on the lambda then contact printed on Ilford Warmtone, I can officially say that it works 100% to my satisfaction, in fact the test we recently did was enough for me to order some Azo from MAS to try different papers.
    I am really happy about this, as it opens quite a few doors for my small little business .
    The trick is to keep the large film clean, keeping detail in the highlights and detail in the shadows. The first tests I tried I used a neg prepped originally for pt pd so I had to drop the contrast on my light source to 1/2 filter , the next film I dropped the curve shape to be a softer neg and I am really excited.

    Remember I am imaging at print size , no small for enlarger so my negs are slated for contact only.

    Bob

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard M. Coda View Post
    It's all a personal decision. My personal decision aligns with domaz. EXCEPT for LVT negatives, which are every bit as good as in-camera and are good enough for silver. I know Bob Carney is playing around with running litho film through a Durst and developing so the neg can be used for silver.

  7. #7
    Richard M. Coda
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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    Quote Originally Posted by bob carnie View Post
    Richard

    Not playing around any more, Rollie Ortho25 imaged on the lambda then contact printed on Ilford Warmtone, I can officially say that it works 100% to my satisfaction, in fact the test we recently did was enough for me to order some Azo from MAS to try different papers.
    I am really happy about this, as it opens quite a few doors for my small little business .
    The trick is to keep the large film clean, keeping detail in the highlights and detail in the shadows. The first tests I tried I used a neg prepped originally for pt pd so I had to drop the contrast on my light source to 1/2 filter , the next film I dropped the curve shape to be a softer neg and I am really excited.

    Remember I am imaging at print size , no small for enlarger so my negs are slated for contact only.

    Bob
    Great news Bob. I never got around to sending you a test file... oh well...
    Photographs by Richard M. Coda
    my blog
    Primordial: 2010 - Photographs of the Arizona Monsoon
    "Speak softly and carry an 8x10"
    "I shoot a HYBRID - Arca/Canham 11x14"

  8. #8

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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    Hi Steve,

    There is more than one kind of digital negative, and the printing qualities of each are bound to differ to some degree. The best prints I've seen from digital negatives are carbon transfer prints made from imagesetter negatives. If I could produce prints as good with any kind of negatives, I'd be very happy. I asked the person who made the carbon prints about inkjet printed negatives, and he said they didn't yet meet his standards. He said that getting good separation in the high values is difficult because of the size of the ink spots. While this person is an acknowledged master printer, with no reason to intentionally mislead me, there remains a shadow of a doubt in my mind that his assessment is globally accurate.

    As an aside, I believe the future of printing is digital. Some of the world's top carbon transfer printers have turned their attention to digital printing, they claim because they can get results with a digital printer they can't get with any analog printing process. The printers they're using are made/heavily modified by them, and their process is anything but standard, but such is the leading edge. With 3D printing (evolving at a blistering pace), even the relief of a carbon print is possible in a digital print.

    The above is not meant to discourage you from pursuing digital negatives, but to suggest any technical shortcomings that might remain are probably nearing resolution, and to my admittedly novice mind, if a printer is good enough to print a negative from which to make a print, it's probably good enough to make the print, too.

  9. #9
    8x10, 4x5, ..., Tessina
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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    Just a personal opinion...

    I've purchased a few silver b&w prints made from digital negatives by professional photographers for whom this is a standard product.
    These are generally 11x14 in the $50 to $100 range, some matted, some not.

    I find the tonal range and overall quality to be quite good, but not what I would expect from a full analog rendering of the same scene.

    It's amazing how digital imaging has degraded our definition of quality and reduced our expectations.

    - Leigh

  10. #10
    Richard M. Coda
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    Re: Digital negatives - what's the verdict on their use

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    Just a personal opinion...

    I've purchased a few silver b&w prints made from digital negatives by professional photographers for whom this is a standard product.
    These are generally 11x14 in the $50 to $100 range, some matted, some not.

    I find the tonal range and overall quality to be quite good, but not what I would expect from a full analog rendering of the same scene.

    It's amazing how digital imaging has degraded our definition of quality and reduced our expectations.

    - Leigh
    It's not just photography... it is almost every facet of life... the bar has been/is being lowered...
    Photographs by Richard M. Coda
    my blog
    Primordial: 2010 - Photographs of the Arizona Monsoon
    "Speak softly and carry an 8x10"
    "I shoot a HYBRID - Arca/Canham 11x14"

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