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

  1. #31

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

    So, I also find 4x5 contacts a bit too small for my liking. 5x7 however is a really, really nice size.

    4x5 will be easier to enlarge as those enlargers are all over the place and easy to find. 5x7 will require an enlarger designed for 5x7 or 8x10. Either way, it will be huge. and expensive. and more likely, very rare.

    Either will scan fine, and I use a sheet of AN glass to keep the neg flat. That method does introduce four more sides to attract dust, but the upside, for me, is a very flat negative.

    Scanning will be the easiest path and allow you to scan up to 8x10, presuming you get at least a v700. Contact prints may be more rewarding, if you like the idea of craft.
    notch codes ? I only use one film...

  2. #32

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

    I think everyone should start with contact print proofs of negatives. It teaches one to better control the original exposure of the film, consistency. If you can find an enlarger that takes filters or has a colorhead, use this for a light source to control contrast and exposure of your contact prints.
    Use RC paper, keep it simple. A contact print is amazing.
    Some of the most important photos (Lewis Hine's child labor photos ) were (are) modest sized small very well executed contact prints.

    I have fancy old school dedicated contact printer machines, I never use, I just use an enlarger with contrast filters. A proper album of 4x5 and 5x7 contact prints is a joy to behold.
    MHOFWIW, Best Regards Mike

  3. #33

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

    It seems to me that there is some circular logic here. Contact printing is the best way to evaluate a negative, but unless you are Edward Weston with a glass sheet and a light bulb, you would make contact prints using an enlarger and timer as the light source. And if you need an enlarger, you have gone directly to the OP's "enlarger" option. An enlarger which can handle 4x5 negatives for enlargement is a large beast, and space becomes a consideration. (I've been using a 4x5 enlarger for at least 40+ years, but then I have had darkrooms - at least 3 - for close to 50 years, so I had the space; not sure the OP does).

    My vote for a beginner is a scanner. As mentioned you scan the negatives in a plastic holder; my Epson 4990 takes two at a time in the supplied holder, or 4 at a time if you put them in PrintFile sheets and scan the whole sheet. The amount of work you do on the scan in PhotoShop or similar is up to you. You can simply send the scan of 2 or 4 negatives to any desktop printer to get the equivalent of a "contact print." The file doesn't "know" the size of the output, i.e. the same file can be printed in whatever size you want.

    The difficulties as I see them are the learning curve to be really good at PhotoShop (as in most things, it is easy to be mediocre, but takes time and effort to be good), and if you want good quality prints, you need not only the scanner but a real photo-grade printer. And even there, the top-notch printers of digital prints have extra software and ink sets, i.e. even more technology.

    My own approach, is to tray develop my negatives, scan them in PrintFile sheets and print the entire sheet on my desktop printer so that I have a "contact sheet" to file with the negatives. The images that I think are worth the effort are then enlarged and printed in the darkroom. I will avoid the arguments about the "quality" of a digital print versus a darkroom print by simply saying that I am a pretty good darkroom printer, and have never made the effort to develop equivalent skill with scanning, PhotoShop, and digital printing. I also enjoy the tactile process of darkroom printing. (As an aside, many of us work in large format not so much for the "quality," what we enjoy most is the process. If it were only quality, we could be like almost every professional photographer and use digital cameras.)

  4. #34

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

    MHO is that if any free enlarger, ( i.e. Bogen, Vivitar etc.) and they still are plentiful. Can be used as a light source, with contrast filters, and a timer, to produce contact prints. Repeatable and easy. Almost free.

    I would start simple and learn the craft.

    You can scan the contact prints if you want to put them on the web.

  5. #35
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lewin View Post
    It seems to me that there is some circular logic here. Contact printing is the best way to evaluate a negative, but unless you are Edward Weston with a glass sheet and a light bulb, you would make contact prints using an enlarger and timer as the light source. And if you need an enlarger, you have gone directly to the OP's "enlarger" option. An enlarger which can handle 4x5 negatives for enlargement is a large beast, and space becomes a consideration. (I've been using a 4x5 enlarger for at least 40+ years, but then I have had darkrooms - at least 3 - for close to 50 years, so I had the space; not sure the OP does).
    But if you're going to use the enlarger solely as a light source, you don't need a 4x5 enlarger. The dinkiest small-format enlarger will do.

    My bias: I adore contact prints, of any size. Most recently I've been contact-printing 3 1/4 x 4 1/4" negatives, and even a few medium format negatives. As final prints, not for proofing purposes.

    I'm fortunate to have an LPL 4500II, which I use for enlarging roll film negatives as well as contact printing sheet film negatives. But if I had to, I could happily make do with a very small enlarger as a light source. And if I were really pressed for darkroom space, I could get by with a minimal dark space for the enlarger, where I could make the exposure and then stuff the paper into a small drum for processing on a roller base wherever a sink is available.

  6. #36

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Lewin View Post
    It seems to me that there is some circular logic here. Contact printing is the best way to evaluate a negative, but unless you are Edward Weston with a glass sheet and a light bulb, you would make contact prints using an enlarger and timer as the light source. And if you need an enlarger, you have gone directly to the OP's "enlarger" option. An enlarger which can handle 4x5 negatives for enlargement is a large beast, and space becomes a consideration. (I've been using a 4x5 enlarger for at least 40+ years, but then I have had darkrooms - at least 3 - for close to 50 years, so I had the space; not sure the OP does).

    My vote for a beginner is a scanner. As mentioned you scan the negatives in a plastic holder; my Epson 4990 takes two at a time in the supplied holder, or 4 at a time if you put them in PrintFile sheets and scan the whole sheet. The amount of work you do on the scan in PhotoShop or similar is up to you. You can simply send the scan of 2 or 4 negatives to any desktop printer to get the equivalent of a "contact print." The file doesn't "know" the size of the output, i.e. the same file can be printed in whatever size you want.

    The difficulties as I see them are the learning curve to be really good at PhotoShop (as in most things, it is easy to be mediocre, but takes time and effort to be good), and if you want good quality prints, you need not only the scanner but a real photo-grade printer. And even there, the top-notch printers of digital prints have extra software and ink sets, i.e. even more technology.

    My own approach, is to tray develop my negatives, scan them in PrintFile sheets and print the entire sheet on my desktop printer so that I have a "contact sheet" to file with the negatives. The images that I think are worth the effort are then enlarged and printed in the darkroom. I will avoid the arguments about the "quality" of a digital print versus a darkroom print by simply saying that I am a pretty good darkroom printer, and have never made the effort to develop equivalent skill with scanning, PhotoShop, and digital printing. I also enjoy the tactile process of darkroom printing. (As an aside, many of us work in large format not so much for the "quality," what we enjoy most is the process. If it were only quality, we could be like almost every professional photographer and use digital cameras.)
    This entire post is worth quoting....

    Thank you for your insight. This makes sense and brings me to my next conclusion....

    Get a camera, any camera, just get a camera and shoot.
    Get a scanner, preferably the v700
    Learn how to shoot
    Learn how to scan and evaluate
    If I stick with it and I enjoy the hobby and results, branching out into the world of contact printing will just happen when it happens.

    I am starting to see a plan come together!!

  7. #37

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    But if you're going to use the enlarger solely as a light source, you don't need a 4x5 enlarger. The dinkiest small-format enlarger will do.

    My bias: I adore contact prints, of any size. Most recently I've been contact-printing 3 1/4 x 4 1/4" negatives, and even a few medium format negatives. As final prints, not for proofing purposes.

    I'm fortunate to have an LPL 4500II, which I use for enlarging roll film negatives as well as contact printing sheet film negatives. But if I had to, I could happily make do with a very small enlarger as a light source. And if I were really pressed for darkroom space, I could get by with a minimal dark space for the enlarger, where I could make the exposure and then stuff the paper into a small drum for processing on a roller base wherever a sink is available.
    I'm like you. I'm lucky to have all the equipment. But if I was forced to do without, I would grab my Crown Graphic, and find a tiny little enlarger with some Ilford filters. Get 3 Paterson trays and a small proofing glass printer.

    Get a little bottle of Selenium toner

    The good, pure analog experience at it's best.

  8. #38

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

    Quote Originally Posted by AdamD View Post
    This entire post is worth quoting....

    Thank you for your insight. This makes sense and brings me to my next conclusion....

    Get a camera, any camera, just get a camera and shoot.
    Get a scanner, preferably the v700
    Learn how to shoot
    Learn how to scan and evaluate
    If I stick with it and I enjoy the hobby and results, branching out into the world of contact printing will just happen when it happens.

    I am starting to see a plan come together!!
    Personally I like your plan, but then I kind of suggested it

    So here is what I would do:
    1. Get the camera equipment of your choice.
    2. Get one of the two current developing tanks for 4x5, either the Spearman SP-445 or the Paterson 4x5 tank and reel. (There are other options, but they are either more expensive, or you have to find used versions because they are no longer produced.) You can look them up on B&H, they are both just under $100. You can load them in a dark closet or bathroom, and then process in daylight, so no need for a darkroom. The only chemicals you need are developer and fixer. You will get various opinions on whether you need a dedicated stop bath or can get away with plain water.
    3. Look for a used or refurbished Epson V700, which should cost around $600. Epson’s own site does not show any V700s refurbished, you will have to hunt around. I was lucky, I got my discontinued 4990 refurbed from Epson direct.
    4. Use whatever multi-purposed printer you already have connected to your computer to print. No additional purchases needed (assuming you have some kind of image processing software on your computer; you download the scanner driver from Epson.)
    That will give you all you need to get started.

  9. #39

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

    We all have our biases. My bias says to start with analog - enlarging then adding contact printing. (why in this order? So that you can learn to create a truly sharp negative). Live and breathe this process until you know how to control it. Then add scanning and learn it well enough to know if it will enhance your desired results in any meaningful way. I get the results that are meaningful to me - without scanning. So I don't go there.

    Then again...scanning can be such a good tool in its own right (logistics wise), but I'm assuming here that this isn't about that.

    Edit: just reread your original post to notice that you'd asked about cost. Be very careful about this. Do what you can to acquire tools and materials that are good enough so that your learning process can be meaningful. In other words, so that when you screw up, you know that you have yourself to blame and not your equipment/materials.

  10. #40
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Scanner, enlarger, or contact printer? Which one and why???

    Photoshop 'Spot Healing Brush Tool' is a very important digi tool for me.

    'Out Damn Spot' for one

    Drag it down an edge to fix an entire line

    Adjustable in many ways

    Remove small objects from a photo
    sin eater

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