View Full Version : Wet contact print from Digital Negative or Dry Inkjet print from scanned 5x7 Negative

Ed Bray
26-Sep-2012, 08:46
What would give me the best end result, a 12x16 contact print (on silver based paper) from a 12x16 digital negative after being scanned from a 5x7 (2400dpi) negative or a 12x16 dry print straight from photoshop after being scanned at the same resolution as the previos 5x7 negative?

26-Sep-2012, 08:54
I have a hard time to believe any inkjet printer can beat a contact print on Lodima/AZO. Michael A. Smith once told me it is also much harder to get it right on an inkjet, and much more expensive. So I will go for the digital negative route printing on Lodima :)

Ken Lee
26-Sep-2012, 09:02
The same inkjet printer is used to make both images. The contact print is made with a vacuum frame. The only difference between the 2 digital prints is that one is a negative onto transparency material, while the other is a positive onto the final paper.

One image - the positive - is made directly onto paper. End of story. The other image is a negative that is subsequently re-printed via contact.

Since every subsequent transfer is "destructive" to some extent (no matter how small) then the image printed only once should be better.

Whether a human can discern the difference is another matter.

This presumes that the inkjet paper is like the photo paper: so smooth that resolution is not an issue. If the inkjet paper has "tooth" or texture which limits resolution, then that's another matter.

26-Sep-2012, 09:07
It would save a lot of effort, time and cost, to just enlarge the negative in a darkroom.


Ken Lee
26-Sep-2012, 09:12
You may be right, but each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

Effort, time and cost are not the only factors.

The list of of other factors is rather long and has been the subject of considerable... discussion :)

bob carnie
26-Sep-2012, 10:19
Human perception or ability to tell the generation loss is an interesting component.
I am sure there are some of us who believe they are better than others at that, I have heard of a worker here who has colour memory which is amazing if it is true.

We have made silver prints from Inkjet negs and from Silver negs off a Lambda.

Our test included the following.

4x5 image enlarged onto Ilford Warmtone silver paper -20 x24 print
same 4x5 image scanned and outputted onto pictorico inkjet, and Rollie Ortho 25 via Lambda laser exposure at 400ppi both negs to 20 x24.

Both alternative negatives contacted onto Ilford Warmtone silver paper. We did our best to make a negative that when contacted matched the enlarger print.. A bit of futzing required but really only a matter of contrast control with curves in PS.


Inkjet contact print did not stand up to critical viewing.
Ortho 25 negative print was for all intents identical to the enlarged silver print.

We are moving into this direction of making silver negatives due to this test.

I believe if the final support was art paper much like that used in PTPD or other alt processes the inkjet negative works very well.

For what its worth we did the a similar test 6 years ago and showed over 300 photographers.

we made a 30 x40 print on a enlarger on Ilford MG4
we then scanned the same negative and using glossy bartya inkjet made a print.
we also printed the same file on our digital fibre wet paper.

we encouraged the photographers to tell us which print was which, we even had one person bring out a loupe during the presentation to
tell us which one was the enlarger, and which ones were the digital print.
less than 5% of the viewers were able to tell the difference.This was very surprising to me and was a lesson well learned.

{Whether a human can discern the difference is another matter.)
I tend to believe we are at the point with our print output that we cannot in all honesty tell the difference if the workflow is good.

26-Sep-2012, 11:21
"best end result" isn't very objective....

Personally I'd prefer a silver print as a final result because I know it will hold up better than an inkjet in case it gets wet, even if they were both matching in tones and pixel peeping.

26-Sep-2012, 11:32
I am going to mention something that may not be as self-evident to others as to me. Making high quality digital negatives with inkjet printers that are capable of making sharp prints with no dithering pattern, and that capture the full range of tones of the original image file, is no small matter. Even people who have been doing this for years using different methodologies (PDN, QTR with Epson inks, QTR with Piezography, etc.) don't always agree on which method gives the best print.

But one thing is sure. If you want the best possible results in the final print, however you define the word, the method must be perfectly calibrated with the final printing process in terms of negative density range and curve type, and with the desired outcome.


Lenny Eiger
26-Sep-2012, 11:49
I am in agreement with Sandy here, who certainly knows his stuff. I will add one more observation, however. There are many here who do not make prints that are "perfect" prints, by traditional standards, but are perfect for them. There are many alternative processes that yield all kinds of different results, as well as endless variations doing things to an image in photoshop, and printing it on different papers, matte or glossy, or with different inksets.

I have recently made a print through an inkjet printer that is indistinguishable from a platinum print. The hybrid workflow combining film and digital printing has been proven to be excellent, especially with the precise control one has in Photoshop for making corrections to the image.

What's missing from the question is what you are trying to accomplish (in a print). The "best end result" is unknown to us. While some here wouldn't consider printing on glossy, others wouldn't consider printing on matte, for example. I find contrast range to be quite important. Much of the difficulty is in retaining the smooth transitions I grew to love doing platinum printing - that's my bias. Contrasty printing is not so difficult (technologically speaking). I think you could elaborate on your question a bit and the answers might be a little clearer. After all, the best end result is all in your aesthetic, and not necessarily anyone else here...

Good luck,


26-Sep-2012, 11:52
I will stress the point of the possibility when contact printing to use Lodima, which is something very different from a VC paper. The paper is just better in every aspect than any VC paper I have used, and I have tried most of them. It is made for contact printing. Developed in Amidol it is just faboulus. I switched to contact printing because of this paper alone.

26-Sep-2012, 16:35
The conclusion I have come to for myself anyway, is that it is very difficult to better a straight inkjet print with a digital negative. It can be done but its not as simple as pushing the print button. I decided to get a very good b&w inkset for my printer and to make inkjet prints from scans and contacts from camera negatives. the return on time invested in learning how to make an inkjet print is much better than in making digital negatives. An inkjet from a LF negative looks like a LF print and cleans up compared to my 10mp digital anyway, even at 5x7. The easy way of doing it would be to spend some money and dedicate a printer to a cone digital negative inkset, but are the resulting prints better than straight inkjet prints? Not in my opinion, unless your print process offers something unique that inkjet prints cant.

26-Sep-2012, 18:38
I have recently made a print through an inkjet printer that is indistinguishable from a platinum print. The hybrid workflow combining film and digital printing has been proven to be excellent, especially with the precise control one has in Photoshop for making corrections to the image.

Hi Lenny, of course I'd be very interested to hear more specifics about how you achieved such a satisfying result...what printer, what paper, etc

Ed Bray
27-Sep-2012, 01:41
Thanks Gents for your replies, I have found them very useful.

Let me explain my situation.

i am about to embark on a submission for a recognised photographic qualification. This requires a number mounted images to be submitted. Obviously I am interested in providing the highest quality images and to this end was curious about Digital Negatives after reading Barry Thornton's book 'Elements of Transition'. As Barry's book was written some time ago, I asked the question on here as I accept that the quality and knowledge available from the majority of members on this forum is second to none.

Now for some explanation of my situation.

Firstly, I live in the UK, we have not got the large following on Large Format exponents that the US has so equipment is commonly more rare and more expensive.

i also live in Plymouth which is the largest city in the true SW of England and would be reckoned by some to be in the backwoods compred to the oher cities in he UK, and I am unaware of anywhere that has a enlarger capable of enlarging a 5x7 negative.

The cost of an enlarger capable of enlarging a 5x7 negative is out of my reach at the present time, not to mention that I do not have the space in my darkroom to put one.

If a Digitally Produced negative would have provided a decent 12x16 negative for contact printing then I could have used my LPL7700 as. Light source to prouce the timed exposure required for the contact print.

My apologies forthe delays in responding to my threads, I am currently on vacation in Egypt and limited to 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins in the evening due to the exorbitant internet costs at the hotel.

Thank again for the replies.

27-Sep-2012, 02:28
Now you've explained the reasons behind your questions I'd suggest another route.

If you have to use a hybrid throughput and have a printer good enough for digital negatives why not make your prints straight from the scans printing on Ilford/Harman Fibre based Garyta inkjet paper. It's not cheap but the quality is superb.

About 18 months ago I began Platinum printing and for the first time make high quality negative scans followed by digital negatives and Platinum/Palladium contact prints, later I made conventional darkroom prints and later Inkjet prints from the same negatives. Most people wouldn't know which are the conventional darkroom print and which are inkjet, only the Platinum prints look significantly different.

The panel your presenting work to are interested in the quality of the final printed images, both aesthetic and technical, how you make them is up to you.