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Thread: contact printing -what is the best color paper?

  1. #1

    contact printing -what is the best color paper?

    I am very curious about contact printing paper sharpness. Since I do mostly 35mm work and know some limitations of paper sharpness, I assume there are preferred papers for contact printing to obtain the sharpness benefits of large format. I see posts that seem to say there are obvious print quality advantages to an 8x10 contact vs a 4x5 enlarged to 8x10. With slow emulsions grain should not be an issue - so I'm trying to figure what the differences are. Could it be that thinner paper emultions do better? When I last used my 4x5 some years ago I processed B&W although much of it was Kodalith or Kodak line copy 6573. Just before I put my 4x5 away I started doing more "normal" landscapes etc. and I enlarged 2x3 sections of the negative - the largest my enlarger would handle. My 35mm work is only color and occationally I would like to shoot again with color in the 4x5.

  2. #2

    contact printing -what is the best color paper?

    Color papers are all similar. Konica, Kodak, and Fuji are available in different saturation levels.

    I use the Fuji because of better light fading resistance. Besides I`m down on Kodak completely since their CEO announced their objective is to stop the analog photography business. This would include chemicals, film, paper. Black and white paper is gone after a long slide started in 1980 or so.

    There is not a sharpness difference in contact and enlarging paper, only a contrast scale and or perhaps a response curve shape difference. They can be made from a different silver halide resulting in a different emulsion color. I agree about not seeing much difference between a modest enlargement, 2 or 3 x, and a contact print.

    Processing 4x5 color is hard to get done unless you live in a large city or are willing to mail film.
    I use a Jobo and ten sheet expert drum with Tetenal Press Pack chemicals. Results are very close to Kodak C41. Beware of other color neg chemicals as some produce very contrasty and color saturated negatives. I had some sucess with diluting Unicolor K2, but why bother?

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    contact printing -what is the best color paper?

    Dear Rerence,

    You may want to read "Is Your Print Paper Sharp Enough?" in the March/April 2002 issue of Photo Technicuqes. The author "Ctein" concluded that essentially all modern b&w and color papers produce all the detail the unaided human eye can see.

  4. #4

    contact printing -what is the best color paper?

    I've seen soft contact prints. I think sharpness is 95% technique - making sure you do everything cautiously. I would think in theory that a 1:1 projection would be sharper given a perfect lens and vibration free enlarger/easel. I say this because you could focus exactly on the emulsion of the paper vs. a contact print that is essentially a shadow cast by the film ever so slightly above the emulsion of the paper. For the same reason, I would think glossy paper would be a teeeensy bit sharper than luster or matte for contact printing.

    Fuji crystal archive will last a long, long time. Kodak has a new archival paper out, but I forget the name...

  5. #5

    contact printing -what is the best color paper?

    Thanks for the replies. Neil- I'm going to read that Photo Techniques article next time I get to the library. Ronald- Yes I've always processed my own non-35mm film (and a lot of 35mm) both color and B&W but I've never processed film in my drum, only paper. Used trays for film and had good results -but that brings issues for another thread.

    The reason I actually started this question is because of another post: "8x10 vs 4x5 "
    as I had previously supposed that the only reason for 8x10 was very extreme enlargements, process graphic-arts/ink printing or else E6 transparencies for direct public display. But the 8x10 vs 4x5 post seems to imply that there is a sharpness from 8x10 contacts that can be superior to enlargements. In particular this quote of a quote from that thread:

    "That aside, I quote Carl Weese in his article Really Big Cameras:
    A couple of years ago PT contributor Oren Grad was engaged in a series of tests to see just how much technical quality he could wring out of modestly enlarged medium format and 4x5 inch negatives. One day a print arrived in the mail at my studio with an inscription on the back, “Finally figured out how to make an 8x10 that looks like a contact print.” Of course, what he’d sent me was an 8x10 contact print.
    --Ken Lee, 2005-09-14 09:09:08 "

    That is what got me wondering, having seen many sharp 8x10 enlargements - some of them mine, what I was missing. Having said that I might add that I am nearsighted and without glasses I get my face very close to prints and the imperfections seem to jump out at me and I always thought glossy prints could be even sharper (not more contrasty).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    contact printing -what is the best color paper?

    Terence -

    My comment to Carl was based on tests with B&W negatives, not color. I don't have any experience with printing color, although I'd guess that there will still be something distinctive about a color contact print compared to a color enlargement.

    In B&W, I think that maximum fidelity to the information in the original negative is obtained with a contact print on glossy RC paper. I suspect that a glossy surface will be best in that respect for color as well.

    Per Ctein's research, assuming you are working with a contact print setup that maintains adequate pressure on the film/paper sandwich - a big if, not to be taken for granted - I would be surprised if you could see any difference in detail rendering between the different glossy-surfaced color papers available today, although contrast and color variations among papers may affect subjectively perceived "sharpness" and will certainly affect the overall look of the print.

    The only way to tell for sure whether you're "missing" anything is to try it and see for yourself.

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