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Thread: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

  1. #1

    Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    Obviously a contact print should look better. Except I've never printed before so I've never seen it first hand. Does anyone have scans or a contact print vs an enlargement? I would love to size them the same on my computer and see what the differences are.

  2. #2

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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    I make 8X10 prints from 8X10 negatives (1:1) in the enlarger with a 240mm lens. There is only a subtle difference in the appearance of the enlargements and contact prints from the same negatives. I made many contact prints in the past on both AZO and Ilford VCFB. You could never see the difference in a scan of any of these prints viewed full size on a computer monitor.

    I no longer make contact prints from 8X10 negatives because it requires too much handling of the negative and it is hard to control dust and Newton rings and to dodge and burn. Once the negative is in the enlarger, I can make as many prints as I want, manipulate them easily and change print size at any time or even crop. The only reason I would consider making an 8X10 or smaller contact print today is if I wanted the look of an AZO-type paper. Most of the time from 8X10 negatives I start with an 11X14 enlargement.

  3. #3

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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    pointless if you view the prints on your monitor.

  4. #4

    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    Good to know... I've never made enlargements prints (aside from photography class in the mid-90's). I've been digital for a long time. The idea of super-sharp contact prints have had me intrigued for years. If you're saying that doesn't exist then maybe it's not worth exploring.

    Some may say it is worth it, but then you say you can't see it on a monitor. I tell you really great sharp contact prints I've seen look incredible even scanned. If that was simply the lighting then I understand. But if you really can't see a difference on a monitor, I don't believe you can truly see it in real life.

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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    If real life was 72dpi, then you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. My 8x10 contact prints blow everything else out of the water.

  6. #6

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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    I use an enlarger for my light source when I contact print 8x10. With faster modern materials, the control and repeatability of a timer and lens diaphragm is necessary. Dodging and burning is no more difficult than with an enlarged print. Generally, I decide what will be dodged and burnt before I start the process rather than when the light is on. If I need more time to work, I can stop down the lens and have more time.

    One of the points of shooting 8x10 is the 8x10 contact print. Holding one mounted on a board and at a proper distance from your face, there is nothing like it.
    If you introduce the possible reduction of quality by making a 1:1 print with an enlarger, you may as well save money and shoot 4x5.

  7. #7
    DannL's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    Quote Originally Posted by marshallarts View Post
    Good to know... I've never made enlargements prints (aside from photography class in the mid-90's). I've been digital for a long time. The idea of super-sharp contact prints have had me intrigued for years. If you're saying that doesn't exist then maybe it's not worth exploring.

    Some may say it is worth it, but then you say you can't see it on a monitor. I tell you really great sharp contact prints I've seen look incredible even scanned. If that was simply the lighting then I understand. But if you really can't see a difference on a monitor, I don't believe you can truly see it in real life.
    I think what has been said is that everything you view on a computer monitor is the same resolution. The 32" monitor I am using now can display about 50 dots per inch of display. It doesn't matter if a 4x6 image scanned in at 4000 dpi is displayed, or an 8x10 image scanned in at 4000 dpi is display. If the "whole picture" fills my monitor, both would still be displayed 50 dpi. There would be differences because of film, lens chactaristics such as contrast, color rendition, perspective, lens distortion, etc. Now, if you displayed a one inch segment of the images and compared them side-by-side expanded on a monitor, you are bound to see a differences because of resolution. But that's not how most of us view pictures. The only way I could evaluate two prints properly, and draw a conclusion as to which I prefer, would be by looking at the actual prints themselves. If that make any sense.
    "Photography is a marvelous discovery, a science that has attracted the greatest intellects, an art that excites the most astute minds and one that can be practiced by any imbecile." Nadar, 1856

  8. #8
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    I have a reduction cone for 'enlarging' lens extension on 5x7 Elwoods. It allows making a print smaller than the negative, by extending the bellows draw. Reverse macro?

    However I beleive print resolution is limited since photographic printing paper only resolves xx line pair.

    I have not tried it, maybe I will. More fun experimentally discovering empirical results.

    I wonder which paper resolves best...
    sin eater

  9. #9

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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    A very long time ago (and maybe things have changed), I made 1:1 enlargements and contact prints from my 4x5s. I could not get them to look alike. I saw enough of a difference that I have since only made contact prints. Dodging and burning is no more difficult. There is obviously an initial period of adjusting to a slightly different workflow and work methods but you adjust in a fairly straightforward manner. As far as quality goes, I think up to about a 2-3X enlargement, you can get good enlargements (I do not think they look exactly like a contact print, but they can be very good prints in their own right). Beyond that, unless you are a very careful worker, quality can start to suffer. You can generally pick out the contact print from the enlargement at about 3X - I can usually pick an 11x14 enlargement from a contact print at considerably better than chance levels. There is a quality to contact prints - some subjects show it better than others. I think it s a unique smooth but sharp look - a preservation of local contrast. When you enlarge, it is not resolution that is the issue. I think it is the fact that local contrast ends up increasing - a smooth grey tone seems to sort of break up a bit into a more textured, contrast-y look. It can even look sharper sometimes because of that. There is also the fact that contact prints tends to be longer scaled because light reflected from the paper hits silver which reflects it back onto the paper again, resulting in somewhat better highlight rendition. Finally, there is always flare in enlargers. Again, none of this is to say that one cannot make good enlargement prints - they are different from contact prints though. I cannot comment on the scanning end of things since I know nothing about that.

    Having said all that, there is more to working with a contact print mentality than print quality. I think the greatest benefit (for me) is the very direct 'seeing' - what you see on the GG is in every respect what you will see on the print - there is no voice in my head trying to assess how the image will hold up when enlarged and what the micro-contrast will look like when enlarged etc etc. It strips away most of the babble and makes for a very heightened seeing. The kinds of photographs you make might change - they did for me.

    Cheers, DJ

  10. #10
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Looking for example of quality between contact print vs enlargement

    It's not the resolution. There's a visibly richer tonal scale in original contact prints.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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