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Thread: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

  1. #1

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    Dec 2019
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    Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Hi all,

    WARNING: You are about to read a line of rookie questions!!! Get ready....

    Happy holidays! I recently posted a question in the Camera section of the forum. I got great feedback from a lot of folks. Basically, I have not started in LF photography, but looking into what involved. I understand the front end of the process reasonably well, right up to "click" of the shutter. Then what?

    I was asked in the thread, what was I planning to do, "scanner, enlarger, or contact printer?" In large part, that's what I'm trying to understand better. I don't quite understand the details of any of these methods, the pros and cons and the cost involved.

    I'm ok with re-learning the developing part of the process that yields a negative, but then what?

    Can anyone share their suggestions on each of these post processing methods and what's involved as well as the cost?

    If you can point me to a good source of reading material too!

    Many thanks.
    Adam

  2. #2
    Foamer
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Scanner: easiest and quickest. Requires least space.

    Contacts: needs dark work area, supplies & some equipment, still need to scan print to put on internet. A 4x5 contact is very small for landscapes.

    Enlarger: fairly big equipment, needs supplies and dark work area, starting to get into some time and money.

    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  3. #3
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Contact prints are easiest, cheapest and possible to do in a tiny space

    If desired Ilford PQ can develop film and paper, stop is plain water or for paper citric acid food grade, very cheap, I use the least smelly fixer and most modern, TF5.

    RC paper washes is a couple minutes and dries flat.

    If I use X-Ray film cut to anysize, it becomes way cheaper and faster than a DSLR, computer, scanner and inkjet printer

    Yes there are automated camera printer combos. But Polaroid started all that with chemical printing...
    sin eater

  4. #4
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    I must add, that most cell phones are overkill for a quick copy of any film or print when used for internet viewing.

    I make special website digi images all the time, they look great!
    sin eater

  5. #5

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    Oct 2015
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    In order of cost: contact printing, scanning, enlarging. As already mentioned, both contact printing and enlarging will require a dark area, though enlarging will require a larger dark area. Yes, 4x5 contacts are generally too small for a lot of landscape subjects, but can be jewel-like and quite exquisite depending on the subject. Personally, if I were just starting out today I’d do contact printing.

  6. #6
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Someone who is already equipped for developing film needs little more for contact printing. I don't regret enlarging since the 1960s. The cost of several enlargers and a few darkrooms used since then and spread out over that many years is modest. However, modern scanners, editing programs, and printers would make scanning logical if I hadn't shifted to digital capture. Digital editing and printing are far more efficient than doing it in the darkroom when many prints are sometimes needed. My most popular darkroom print for years required half an hour of spotting each print. After converting it to a digital file, a better job of spotting was faster and only had to be done once. A few of the thousands of digital prints I've sold or given away over the years may mean less to the owners than darkroom prints. Most others don't care. Each of us has to consider our resources and what we want to produce.

    Advice on this forum can help others make good technical and economical decisions. The more precise the question, the more accurate tha answer.

  7. #7

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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    One of each!

  8. #8
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Depends on what the intended end purpose of the photograph is.

    If it's for me to learn and try things and share on the Internet, I scan. This also creates a backup of the negative. It does not match the quality of the original negative, but it's good enough for modest digital prints and uses should something happen to the actual negative.

    If the purpose is to make an alt process print, it gets contact printed such as cyanotype. Then I have a print to scan and then give away or share or hang up.

    If the purpose is to make a B&W print for display, contact print or darkroom print is what I prefer. I do soft focus photos which don't enlarge well and these make for great contact prints. 8x10 is great for contact prints of sharp or soft photos.

    If you are coming to film photography without any film photography experience, I'd definitely suggest at least being skilled in basic contact prints, so you can make negatives that are printable even if you currently intend to scan. Scanning has some flexibility in covering up errors in exposure and development.

  9. #9

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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    A scanner is the simplest these days, and will also allow you to post photos on the internet. However, I find there is something awe inspiring about creating silver gelatin prints and watching them appear in a darkroom, so I will always prefer enlarged photos and contact prints. For 4x5, I enlarge my negatives. For the landscapes I shoot, I find 4x5 inches too small of a print to really appreciate the detail in them. For my 8x10, I do contact prints only because my 8x10 enlarger is still needing some work before it is operational. Since you are just starting with large format, I would recommend staying with 4x5 until you are sure you will continue with it. Staying with 4x5 will also allow you to do bigger prints than an 8x10 contact print, as 4x5 enlargers are very common compared to 8x10 ones.

  10. #10

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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Ok....I think I have a pretty good picture now of the three options.

    Here's the deal....for me the entire purpose of wanting to shoot large format is to end up with an enlarged print. Having the ability to share it on the internet is a side bonus. In practice, I'd imagine in 20 or 30 shots, I might find one or two worthy of enlargement.

    To me, the entire contact printing process makes sense especially if an enlargement is the end game, BUT, I don't think I want to even entertain that option at this time.

    To me scanning is a more logical first step. BUT, I'm not clear on the purpose of scanning and what I'd do with the output (digital file if a negative).

    So, can someone please elaborate on the scanning process that starts right after I developed the negative? Then what, how to do it and what I do with it for the purpose of eventually printing the good ones. I think I know the answer.....

    Is it that the scanner replaces to contact printing output with a digital file? Seems like you'd need software to convert a negative scan to a digital "print". THEN, you'd have the "contact" on the computer. At that point you'd say, enlargement that "one", and send it off to a lab for 11x14 or something crazy like 30x40 or whatever works.

    Is that correct?

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