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View Full Version : Evaluation and questions from first contact print (Retropan 320, Fomalux)



Jockos
20-Sep-2015, 04:02
My sister is getting married next month, and I'm forced to take her wedding pictures. In order to make it special, I wanted to make some contact prints for her, to compliment the small format shots.

My 4x5 workflow this far has been hybrid wet/digital, so I've never done this kind of printing before, only enlarging small format negs. But in order to get a hum about what I'm doing before going on to the actual important shots, I wanted to try it out some beforehand.
After getting all the gear needed for the 5x7, I finally set out for making a contact print last week.

I've got some remarks and questions (underlined), and would love to get some advice in these matters. I've no formal education in photography, and never had anyone except the Internet to teach me about darkroom work. But unfortunately information online about Fomalux and Retropan in particular is quite sparse.

The first problem I encountered was when stack developing the film in a tray; I didn't pre-soak, and had two negatives stick really hard together. I also got some scratches and emulsion damage.
Will probably develop singles sheets in the future, or get a tank. Will the pre-soak increase development time as well?
The Foma Retropan 320 will need far more developing than the times I got from Foma.

Thank you for your inquiry as for the Fomadon Excel.

Let us recommend you to use the developing time of 7 minutes (El 320), eventually 9:20 minutes (El 640) corresponding to the temperature of 24 C.

Hope you find it helpful.

Best regards,

This was for dilution 1+1.
I went with ISO 200 (incident metering) at 320 times, and got clear negatives in the shadows. Will prolong development in my next test.
Would the bellows extension on a 270mm lens need compensation for a shot at this distance (see example)? I don't know when to compensate, since it's a tele lens.
I will not develop the wedding negatives until I get my test negs good, but it'd be nice to know if I need to increase the exposure even more.

On to the printing, I had some Rollei print developer lying around, mixed it up to normal contrast dilution, to compensate for the Fomalux being soft graded. I've only printed split grade before.
I had a hard time getting proper black without ruining the whites. My solution was to lower exposure and increase the time in the developer with 100% from recommended developing time. Like pushing film to increase contrast. Is this a good way to increase the contrast, or am I doing it all backwards?
I'm still not quite happy about the blacks, maybe I'll get a better tonal separation from the prolonged negative development though.

Another thing I noticed, was that I need to have the lens in the enlarger to get more even illumination (the print got lots of vignetting), and to prolong the exposure time. Will the contrast change because of reciprocity when I prolong the exposure?

The paper also got mild sepia tones, which got worse in the selenium I dipped the print in today, would a different developer give neutral tones? The Rollei dev is neutral.


Lot's of questions, and I'll surely come up with more after my next test, but I'm thankful for any and all help I can get!

Cheers

Joachim

139853

mdarnton
20-Sep-2015, 05:44
It would be nice to see the negative, maybe hanging from a hand in a normal background for comparison. Yours looks either underexposed or underdeveloped, or both.

Printing paper doesn't have reciprocity in the time range you will be using.

The strange image tone might be from too fast development of the paper. Your exposure should be such that you can leave the print in the developer for a couple of minutes, development having essentially stopped. If you have to pull any print out because it's getting too dark, ever, you've overexposed the print.

koraks
20-Sep-2015, 05:52
* pre soak will not change the development time of negatives. If you insist on compensating anything, you could take something like 15 scones off the development time. I personally don't bother.

* take some measurement on the bellows extension for infinity focus vs. the distance you used for this shot and determine the bellows correction factor. Intuitively I'd say it's less than a stop in this case.

* you generally won't get more than one grade more or less contrast by adjusting development of paper. You didn't mention what paper you're using, or I've missed it. If you're using VC paper and an enlarger with a color head, it's pretty easy to just move up to a higher grade. It's what I'd try in any case.

* as long as you stay under a minute, reciprocity is generally not an issue with exposing paper. Longer times are impractical and I see no need for them with normal photo paper.

* it would help if we knew what paper you're using. But yes, you could use a neutral developer, develop longer and/or tone differently for more neutral colors. Most importantly, you could try a different (more neutral) paper.

Btw, just my 2cts, I'm not an expert or anything. Just regurgitating what I've found/experienced and read myself about darkroom printing. Many here wil have better answers.

Jockos
20-Sep-2015, 06:53
It would be nice to see the negative, maybe hanging from a hand in a normal background for comparison. Yours looks either underexposed or underdeveloped, or both.
Of course, please see attached!




The strange image tone might be from too fast development of the paper. Your exposure should be such that you can leave the print in the developer for a couple of minutes, development having essentially stopped. If you have to pull any print out because it's getting too dark, ever, you've overexposed the print.
Thanks, this helps quite a lot actually. It will be much easier to control the exposure with the lens attached, Now I was down to ~5 seconds (using a enlarger timer).

Jockos
20-Sep-2015, 06:57
\...\

Thanks!
It's Fomalux 111 paper, it's Fomas fibre based contact paper.

mdarnton
20-Sep-2015, 08:45
Yes, that neg looks both underexposed and underdeveloped to me. For ME, there should only be the tiniest area of clear film, certainly not in anything you'd call subject matter (if a background is really supposed to be clear black, then maybe clear is OK there). Again, for ME, on a LF neg I would surely want to see a difference in tone between the masked part of the negative where the rails hold it in the holder and the image area, and expect something in the way of density virtually everywhere, not those vast clear areas you have. And the bright areas should have some good solid density. The old rule used to be that you should just be able to read a newspaper through your negs, but I like a bit more than that. Certainly you can't print what isn't in the negative, so having more than you need is always better than having less than you need. Worry less about the bright areas--they can stand quite a bit of overexposure before they clog up, though it may be more difficult to print. Film can contain at least a 16-stop range of subject brightness, but at the low end, clear is just clear.

In this case, I'd add at least one stop of exposure, maybe more, and 30% more developing time, as a conservative starting point. (I'm not really conservative: I'd try two stops more exposure, then the developing time MIGHT be sufficient, but I'm thinking no).

Here's one of my 35mm negs, scanned, of one of our Chicago Large Format group outings. You can see that there's even a bit of detail in the head under the dark cloth behind the camera, and I wouldn't mind having more. The sky looks like too much, but detail is there, and it would be printable. With a negative like this, you get to choose how much black you want in the print--none will be forced on you by blank places on the neg. If you want to pursue this way of thinking about it, David Vestal's book "The Craft of Photography" is great for developing a personal system without getting into all of the arcane stuff of the zone system.

Saying this as kindly as possible, it looks to me like you are far from having any idea at all what you are doing. It might be helpful for you to hook up with someone near you who's an experienced photographer to help you through this.

http://i4.minus.com/jbrOyQf6Y1OIhL.jpg

Man, excess compression by me and then by minus.com, sure killed that one's sharpness!

tih
20-Sep-2015, 08:51
I went with ISO 200 (incident metering) at 320 times, and got clear negatives in the shadows. Will prolong development in my next test.

I don't feel competent to comment on the rest of your problems, but I have to say: no, you will not achieve shadow detail by prolonging development. If you're getting clear shadow areas, you're underexposing. If you think you're exposing FomaPAN Retro 320 at 200ASA, with said shadow areas in zone II (three stops below meter reading) or better, you're doing something wrong, and you need to find out what it is.

mdarnton
20-Sep-2015, 09:26
By the way, regarding the transition from film/digital to film/wet print: I can get a whole lot more out of a scanned bad negative than I could ever get from the same in the darkroom, and much easier. And digital is much better for dealing with really awful negatives. You may be finding that what was good enough for digital just won't do the job for wet printing, and your whole package of results from film will be much better in the future if you can work out those problems now.

Jockos
20-Sep-2015, 09:32
If you think you're exposing FomaPAN Retro 320 at 200ASA, with said shadow areas in zone II (three stops below meter reading) or better, you're doing something wrong, and you need to find out what it is.
http://www.foma.cz/en/catalogue-retropan-320-soft-detail-1767
Retropan that is.
Well, I do realize something is off, as I wrote, I got the times from Foma - I sure hope they didn't send them out of spite :)
This is the only film I have density problems with, the TMY2 negatives out of my M3, taken at the same time, measured with the same meter, have a good density. Developed in the same batch of W27 to boot!

Jockos
20-Sep-2015, 09:47
By the way, regarding the transition from film/digital to film/wet print: I can get a whole lot more out of a scanned bad negative than I could ever get from the same in the darkroom, and much easier. And digital is much better for dealing with really awful negatives. You may be finding that what was good enough for digital just won't do the job for wet printing, and your whole package of results from film will be much better in the future if you can work out those problems now.
Well, except for this negative - with a film I've never tried before - I don't really have any problems with my negatives. They do get good density, like I wrote in my reply to mr. Tih, above. I'll figure out how to tame this film as well, please don't worry about that.

The printing side of the problem on the other hand, is where I lack experience, but I think the comment about me overexposing the paper will help a lot. Will try to darken the hallway again this week, with a thicker negative. Finding time, however, is always an issue.

tih
20-Sep-2015, 10:18
Retropan that is.

Oops - I got the name all swapped around. :) Anyway, Retropan 320 is a traditional film with lots of latitude, and if you're rating it 2/3 stop slower than Foma says, and developing according to their suggestion, and you're not getting the shadow detail you expect, then you're somehow underexposing it. Maybe you're expecting too much? If you're using incident meter readings in very high contrast situations, you may simply have shadow regions that your eyes have no problems with, but that the film just can't see?

Last weekend, I did a sensitometer based analysis of this particular film, in 4x5" sheet format, using Kodak HC-110 developer, and found that it responds very well to changes in development time: the contrast index changes pretty much as expected, with just a slight change in film speed. Details recorded here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?122162-New-RETROPAN-320-soft&p=1275160&viewfull=1#post1275160

koraks
20-Sep-2015, 11:04
I think you're making things unnecessarily complicated by limiting yourself to a paper that comes in just one grade. I would recommend trying first with some variable contrast paper (which works just fine for contact printing as well!) so you have a lot more options for dealing with difficult negatives.

I also second the remark that it's much easier to get the most out of very thin negatives in a digital work flow (not so much with very bullet proof ones though), but that would depart from your wish to make contact prints from digital negatives. In my opinion, VC paper is at this point your quickest route to a satisfying result.

Doremus Scudder
21-Sep-2015, 02:02
...
I've got some remarks and questions (underlined), and would love to get some advice in these matters. I've no formal education in photography, and never had anyone except the Internet to teach me about darkroom work. But unfortunately information online about Fomalux and Retropan in particular is quite sparse.

The first problem I encountered was when stack developing the film in a tray; I didn't pre-soak, and had two negatives stick really hard together. I also got some scratches and emulsion damage.

You answered your own question here. Pre-soak if you tray-develop in batches. I have a tray of water, fan out the 6 or so sheets I'm going to develop in my hand like a hand of cards, and pick them one-at-a-time from one side. I immerse them in the water, count 10 seconds, then immerse another, keeping it from touching the previous sheet for 10 seconds or so. I then drop it on the top of the sheet(s) below and repeat the process till I have all the sheets in the water bath. I then shuffle through the stack three or four times before going to the developer.




Will probably develop singles sheets in the future, or get a tank. Will the pre-soak increase development time as well?

In contrast to what Korak says, I think a pre-soak increases development time slightly. But only slightly. I'd maybe add 5% for starters and test, or just use your (tested) times and adjust if contrast suffers a bit.


The Foma Retropan 320 will need far more developing than the times I got from Foma.
This was for dilution 1+1.
I went with ISO 200 (incident metering) at 320 times, and got clear negatives in the shadows. Will prolong development in my next test.

If your shadows are blank, you are underexposing, for whatever reason. No amount of increased development will get lost shadow detail back. Some slight increase in film speed is possible with some developers and with increased development, but that might get you 1/3 to 1/2 a stop of shadows back... not nearly enough for the negative you show. You need to increase exposure by quite a bit. Check meter, shutter, bellows extension (more later) etc., etc. to make sure you're not making an exposure error there.



Would the bellows extension on a 270mm lens need compensation for a shot at this distance (see example)? I don't know when to compensate, since it's a tele lens.

Quite possibly. Even with a tele lens, all you need to do is measure the difference from the infinity position to the position with the lens focused on the subject to see if you need bellows extension. A down-and-dirty way of figuring this out: If your extension difference (from infinity) is equal to your lens' focal length, you need to add two stops, if it's 2/3-3/4 of your focal length (in your case 270 * ~.7 = 190mm) then add 1 2/3 stops, if it's half the focal length (i.e., 135mm in your case), add one stop extra and, if it's a quarter of the focal length, add 2/3 stop. When in doubt, err on the side of overexposure. Half to a whole stop over isn't going to harm your LF neg one little bit. If you still get underexposed negs (i.e., no shadow detail) after compensating for bellows extension, look elsewhere or simply expose more.

...



On to the printing, I had some Rollei print developer lying around, mixed it up to normal contrast dilution, to compensate for the Fomalux being soft graded. I've only printed split grade before.
I had a hard time getting proper black without ruining the whites.

Typical for underexposed negs. Getting a correct exposure will solve 90% of your printing problems! Go back to that before tinkering too much with print contrast etc. However, to get a decent print from an underexposed neg, you need HIGH contrast paper.



My solution was to lower exposure and increase the time in the developer with 100% from recommended developing time. Like pushing film to increase contrast. Is this a good way to increase the contrast, or am I doing it all backwards?
I'm still not quite happy about the blacks, maybe I'll get a better tonal separation from the prolonged negative development though.

In principle, your reasoning is sound. It's just that paper doesn't react like film to changes in development. Older papers used to give you about a contrast-grade more contrast with increased development. Modern papers usually don't; extending development time is essentially the same as adding more print exposure time (FWIW, I use this fact to tweak print exposure rather than changing print time for very small changes). Again, get your negative exposure and development worked out, and you'll have a much better printing experience.




Another thing I noticed, was that I need to have the lens in the enlarger to get more even illumination (the print got lots of vignetting), and to prolong the exposure time. Will the contrast change because of reciprocity when I prolong the exposure?

Don't worry about long print exposure times. Even at really long times, where there is a bit of reciprocity failure, the print contrast will not change. I've made print exposures up to 2 minutes or so sometimes; no problem. (I like print exposures of around 20-30 seconds though.)




The paper also got mild sepia tones, which got worse in the selenium I dipped the print in today, would a different developer give neutral tones? The Rollei dev is neutral.

Getting a brown/sepia image tone on neutral-tone paper comes either from a too-short development time (as noted above) or exhausted developer. How old is your developer? If it's oxidized too much, you'll not only get brown tones, you won't get any contrast either! You can use regular VC paper with filters for more contrast control, or at least a paper with more than one contrast grade for contact prints under an enlarger. Just stop down the lens to get a workable print exposure time. With papers like Fomalux, Lodima and old Kodak Azo, you really need to tailor your negative to the paper, which takes testing and expertise.

Summary: If you get your negative exposure problem worked out and get some more flexibility in your choice of contrast grades for paper, then you should have much more success getting what you want.



Lot's of questions, and I'll surely come up with more after my next test, but I'm thankful for any and all help I can get!

Cheers

Joachim



Keep asking! And keep reading, experimenting etc. BTW, I have had no "formal" education in photography either. Everything I know is from reading and personal experience. Don't sell self-teaching short.

Best,

Doremus

Jockos
21-Sep-2015, 02:43
Oops - I got the name all swapped around. :) Anyway, Retropan 320 is a traditional film with lots of latitude, and if you're rating it 2/3 stop slower than Foma says, and developing according to their suggestion, and you're not getting the shadow detail you expect, then you're somehow underexposing it. Maybe you're expecting too much? If you're using incident meter readings in very high contrast situations, you may simply have shadow regions that your eyes have no problems with, but that the film just can't see? To clarify, I shot the same scene with a different film, which had no problems.. Will try to give it a bit more exposure on my next trial.
This image was taken with a strong tungsten light, maybe it'll do better in daylight. If I remember correctly, this one is less sensitive to red compared to other Foma films.
Will also try with another shutter, to rule out this factor.


Last weekend, I did a sensitometer based analysis of this particular film, in 4x5" sheet format, using Kodak HC-110 developer, and found that it responds very well to changes in development time: the contrast index changes pretty much as expected, with just a slight change in film speed. Details recorded here: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?122162-New-RETROPAN-320-soft&p=1275160&viewfull=1#post1275160
Would you mind posting a picture of your negatives, so we can see the density in HC-110? I doubt that it'd give more speed than diluted XTOL.

Jockos
21-Sep-2015, 02:43
I think you're making things unnecessarily complicated by limiting yourself to a paper that comes in just one grade. I would recommend trying first with some variable contrast paper (which works just fine for contact printing as well!) so you have a lot more options for dealing with difficult negatives.

I also second the remark that it's much easier to get the most out of very thin negatives in a digital work flow (not so much with very bullet proof ones though), but that would depart from your wish to make contact prints from digital negatives. In my opinion, VC paper is at this point your quickest route to a satisfying result.Yes, this is probably right. However, I bought 50 sheets already, and it'd be a shame to let them go to waste :)

Jockos
21-Sep-2015, 03:12
You answered your own question here. Pre-soak if you tray-develop in batches. I have a tray of water, fan out the 6 or so sheets I'm going to develop in my hand like a hand of cards, and pick them one-at-a-time from one side. I immerse them in the water, count 10 seconds, then immerse another, keeping it from touching the previous sheet for 10 seconds or so. I then drop it on the top of the sheet(s) below and repeat the process till I have all the sheets in the water bath. I then shuffle through the stack three or four times before going to the developer.
Will definately try this out with some test negatives, but I'm still a bit scared to scratch the wedding shots - especially with Fomas reputation for soft emulsions..


In contrast to what Korak says, I think a pre-soak increases development time slightly. But only slightly. I'd maybe add 5% for starters and test, or just use your (tested) times and adjust if contrast suffers a bit.
Will do. I never pre-soak unless the process specifically requires it.




Quite possibly. Even with a tele lens, all you need to do is measure the difference from the infinity position to the position with the lens focused on the subject to see if you need bellows extension. A down-and-dirty way of figuring this out: If your extension difference (from infinity) is equal to your lens' focal length, you need to add two stops, if it's 2/3-3/4 of your focal length (in your case 270 * ~.7 = 190mm) then add 1 2/3 stops, if it's half the focal length (i.e., 135mm in your case), add one stop extra and, if it's a quarter of the focal length, add 2/3 stop. When in doubt, err on the side of overexposure. Half to a whole stop over isn't going to harm your LF neg one little bit. If you still get underexposed negs (i.e., no shadow detail) after compensating for bellows extension, look elsewhere or simply expose more.
Will take out the ruler tonigt. I can approximate the position of the camera quite well, since I was squeezed between it and my wardrobe, and I haven't gained to much weight the last week :)



Getting a brown/sepia image tone on neutral-tone paper comes either from a too-short development time (as noted above) or exhausted developer. How old is your developer? If it's oxidized too much, you'll not only get brown tones, you won't get any contrast either! You can use regular VC paper with filters for more contrast control, or at least a paper with more than one contrast grade for contact prints under an enlarger. Just stop down the lens to get a workable print exposure time. With papers like Fomalux, Lodima and old Kodak Azo, you really need to tailor your negative to the paper, which takes testing and expertise.
The developer is actually quite old and had a brownish tint!

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this message, it has been immensely helpful!

koraks
21-Sep-2015, 05:01
If you want to stick with this paper, the only way is to get matching negatives. That means more exposure and possibly more development, but get the exposure right first.

You may find that when using tungsten lights, old fashioned films that are less sensitive to red light (maybe your particular film stock matches that description, I don't know), you may have to expose up to a stop more than your meter reading and bellows correction factor suggests. With exposures over a second, also keep the reciprocity failure of your film in mind.

tih
21-Sep-2015, 06:20
Would you mind posting a picture of your negatives, so we can see the density in HC-110? I doubt that it'd give more speed than diluted XTOL.

That wouldn't really help you much - these negatives are just grey scales from the sensitometer. They have a relative log density ranging from film base plus fog (0.15) up to a maximum of about 1.25 about nine stops up the exposure scale. (This is with normal processing; 8 minutes in dilution E at 20 deg C.)

Doremus Scudder
21-Sep-2015, 08:48
Will definitely try this out with some test negatives, but I'm still a bit scared to scratch the wedding shots - especially with Fomas reputation for soft emulsions.. ...
The developer is actually quite old and had a brownish tint!

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this message, it has been immensely helpful!

Glad to be of help. Two things: first, practice shuffling negatives with scrap sheets, first with the lights on and then with the lights off (or eyes closed :) ). It takes some skill to shuffle well without scratching. If you don't have the time to learn, develop one-at-a-time till you do.

And, it sounds to me like your developer might be bad. I'd try new; developer is cheap.

Best,

Doremus

Jockos
21-Sep-2015, 10:03
Quite possibly. Even with a tele lens, all you need to do is measure the difference from the infinity position to the position with the lens focused on the subject to see if you need bellows extension. A down-and-dirty way of figuring this out: If your extension difference (from infinity) is equal to your lens' focal length, you need to add two stops, if it's 2/3-3/4 of your focal length (in your case 270 * ~.7 = 190mm) then add 1 2/3 stops, if it's half the focal length (i.e., 135mm in your case), add one stop extra and, if it's a quarter of the focal length, add 2/3 stop. When in doubt, err on the side of overexposure. Half to a whole stop over isn't going to harm your LF neg one little bit. If you still get underexposed negs (i.e., no shadow detail) after compensating for bellows extension, look elsewhere or simply expose more.
FL = 270
Inf. = 155
Extension = 200

Could I count this as an effective bellows of 315mm (270+200-155)? If so, the compensation would be .44 stops according to the exposure calculator (http://www.cookseytalbottgallery.com/bellows_compensation.php). Assuming that the film is lacking in tungsten light, it could account for the missing shadows!

I'll try to get ahold of some fresh paper developer as well. It's a shame though, since there's some 3L concentrate left...

Doremus Scudder
22-Sep-2015, 02:32
FL = 270
Inf. = 155
Extension = 200

Could I count this as an effective bellows of 315mm (270+200-155)? If so, the compensation would be .44 stops according to the exposure calculator (http://www.cookseytalbottgallery.com/bellows_compensation.php). Assuming that the film is lacking in tungsten light, it could account for the missing shadows!

I'll try to get ahold of some fresh paper developer as well. It's a shame though, since there's some 3L concentrate left...

No, no...

With telephoto lenses, the "real" extension is measured from the lens nodal point, which is some distance in front of the actual lens. That's why I gave you a method based simply on the difference between infinity positions and the focused position of the lens (eliminating the need to measure the entire length of the bellows) and proportions (fractions of the lens focal length). This alternate method works for regular lenses too, but other methods are cumbersome with telephotos.

So, your example would be:

Infinity position = 155
Extension when focused = 200
Difference = 45mm

45mm is 1/6 of 270mm (270/6=45). At this extension, you only really need to give about an extra 1/3 stop. Many would not give any extra.

And yes, depending on the spectral response of your film, tungsten lighting will result in a slower film speed, which could result in underexposure. Films used to have info sheets with both speeds...

As far as your paper developer goes. Get some fresh and use both old and new side-by-side. If the results are the same, you won't have to toss the old.

Best,

Doremus

tih
26-Sep-2015, 12:55
Will the classic "measure a known size object on the ground glass" method work with a telephoto lens, or will the result be off?
See, for instance, http://www.salzgeber.at/disc/index.html (the one I use is by Ralph W. Lambrecht, but www.darkroomagic.com seems to be down).