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Thread: has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2001
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    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    after my recent experiences having my LF CTs scanned and printed digitally on cr ystal archive, i am astounded at how much sharper they are than conventional pri nts directly from the CTs. has anybody done any serious BW digital printing at fairly high enlargement sizes and compared them to conventional enlargements for tonal balance and sharpness? are there any papers available for digital printi ng that rival the aesthetic, tooth, and feel of a good fiber-base paper?

  2. #2

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    Oct 2001
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    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    Pardon my naivete (I've been shooting LF for years so I'm embarassed to ask), but what's a CT

  3. #3

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    Oct 2001
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    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    CT - color transparency

  4. #4

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    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    Hi J Norman

    I have always printed B&W traditionally until fairly recently when I started to print some 13"x19" black & white prints using the Epson 1290. In comparing the digital prints with the traditional B&W prints there are no differences at this size and at normal viewing distances. If anything the digital prints may have a nicer smoothness between tones.

    I have also seen B&W digital prints done on the Epson 1160 4 colour printer using the MIS multi-tone inks and the duotone/quadtone prints are exceptional.

    I did an experiment recently asking people (non-photographers) if they could notice any difference between the digital and traditional prints and if they could, which did they prefer? From this small sampling (33 people) no one could notice any discernable difference between the prints and no preference was given for one or the other. As these are the people who are buying the prints, that is good enough for me.

    I'm sure you'll get plenty of posts from the traditionalists telling you that th e old chemical prints are still better, but in my experience with prints up to 120 x 170 cm, there is no discernable difference at normal viewing distances. I'm sure if you use a 20x loupe you will notice the differences, but who views prints like this, except photographers?

    There are a huge selection of papers for the digital printers and even traditional watercolour and general art papers can be printed on. In fact there are a number of companies now producing papers especially for their beautiful qualities when printing B&W.

    Your experience with colour transparencies will be repeated, if you print a good scanned LF black & white negative or positive and print using the latest digital printers. Even if you convert one of your colour LF transparencies to B&W through Photoshop and do the adjustments for tone and contrast, the end results will astound you - well worth a try.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------

    "If you place the imperfect next to the perfect, people will see the difference between the one and the other. But if you offer the imperfect alone, people are only too apt to be satisfied by it."

    - Alfred Stieglitz - photographer

    Kind regards

  5. #5

    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    For the last year or three, I have been exposing only 4x5 transparency film even if I plan from the outset to make b&w final image. I scan my own film and send the final file to Calypso Color in San Jose to print on their Lightjet. So far, I have many ways to enhance certain images that I could not have done in my darkroom; conversely, I know no darkroom trick of the trade that I cannot do in Photoshop. Many images could go either way, the only difference in the final print being the texture of the paper. Of course, a gelatin silver print is more permanent than a Fuji Crystal Archive print. If I live another 200 years I may regret that.

    If you know what you're doing, the basic difference is that Photoshop allows and encourages straight line incremental experimentation. After a print in framed on the wall, you can go back to the original file and burn a particular spot a little more or less, picking up right where you left off. Or you can delete (or only hide) your burn and dodge layer and start over. If on the other hand, you completely satisfied with a given print, you can reprint it exactly. In a darkroom of course you have to start over each time no matter how careful your notes are and whether or not you are satisfied with your current version.

    As far as size goes, I am able to print about as large from a given film as I could conventionally. That is often as big as 20x24. If I had a better scanner (mine is a Microteck Sacnmaker 5 @ 1000 samples per inch,) I could probably print larger.
    John Hennessy

  6. #6

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    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    You mean the best that can be said of digital is that it looks just as good as traditional? I've been getting into digital more and more, so it isn't something I dislike, but considering the cost of digital vs. the cost of traditional, I think anyone seriously into digital has a right to be very disappointed if the digital didn't look a whole lot better than the traditional. Just getting my toes wet with digital, I've spent more money than my fairly state of the art darkroom cost and the learning/frustration curve with digital has been out of sight. The darkroom has lasted for seven years just fine and I expect it to last the remainder of my life with no further equiment costs. If I stay with digital, I'll spend ten times what I've already spent on it and that's quite a lot. So I expect digital to look a whole lot better, not just as good. I'll be very disappointed if I show a traditional print and a digital print side by side and no one can tell the difference between the two.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  7. #7

    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    Brian,

    Your question "You mean the best that can be said of digital is that it looks just as good as traditional?"

    My answer "I have many ways to enhance certain images that I could not have done in my darkroom" and "Photoshop allows and encourages straight line incremental experimentation."

    I don't see a major cost issue either. I bought a scanner and Photoshop only. I already had a computer. Scanners are better now but that is not important for my present needs. An Epson medium sized printer (e.g., a 1280) is not too expensive compared to LF gear. You really don't need a printer anyhow. My important prints come from a Lightjet which is far less expensive than, say, an Ilfochrome print or doing Ilfochrome myself.

    I am certainly keeping my darkroom because I believe there is a future in making film negatives on an Epson and then contact printing to silver paper. Then you get the best of both.
    John Hennessy

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 1999
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    184

    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    I have been using a digital platform to print from 4x5 black and white negatives for about nine months now.

    Most of the negatives are TMax 100 / Delta 100 / Fuji emulsions developed in either Rodinal or Pyro, or occasionally DiXactol.

    The main digital expenses were Photoshop (#550), an Agfa Duoscan HiD (ebay, #500), and an Epson 1160 (#200).

    I tried piezography, and found it a poor quality, poor value, waste of time - its claims appear to suffer from over-inflated marketing hype and a lack of technical support. Don't go down this road.

    The Agfa scanner produces a 290mb file from a 4x5 negative, and to my eye this is sufficient for very high quality output, although I would like to see some comparisons with a much higher quality scanner.

    I particularly like the Lyson quadblack cool inkset, and also their soft fine art paper, which is a heavy matte white textured paper. Other papers from Hahnemuhle and Somerset are also really excellent, and there is no direct comparison with conventional photographic print paper. I'm sitting in my office surrounded by about 12 large prints, which is absolutely great! I can now think seriously about producing a monograph in book form, on paper of my choice. I haven't been able to make comparisons with conventional fibre prints - and I would like to - but I am more than happy with what I am able to produce at present. There is a learning curve which can be quite frustrating at times, but I think that this also applies to a wet darkroom.


  9. #9

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    May 2001
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    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    Brian, as you were obviously referring to my post, here is my response;

    [snip]> You mean the best that can be said of digital is that it looks just as good as traditional?> [snip]

    Well, actually I think digital prints are better than traditional prints but tha t is purely a subjective thing. Just like some people say there's no difference between German or Japanese glass. Does that mean we don't buy German lenses anymore, just because they are the same as the Japanese lenses but cost three times as much?

    There is much more to digital printing than just getting it as good or better than a tradtional print. I disagree with your comment that digital printing is more expensive than traditional printing. Have you done a side by side costing, comparing apples with apples. I have, and the digital print cost is by far the cheaper way, not to mention that it can be done entirely in daylight (no darkroom costs) it is more environmentally friendly (no special disposal needed) and it is far quicker.

    Being faster means a lot to the working professional where time is money. Being able to tweak an image easily and duplicate it perfectly over and over is a godsend in professional work. I'm sure, even as a weekend printer, the advantages of easy dupilication of prints and quicker printing would be an advantage, not to mention less waste and cheaper print costs.

    Photoshop is not that difficult to learn in my experience, but everyone is different, some people find riding a bike difficult.

    I'd suggest that you stick with your traditional darkroom printing if it has bee n working perfectly for the last seven years and is causing you less trouble than the digital printing.

    There are those who are happy to continue to use old technology and there are those who wish to progress with the new technology. I'm sure if you are happy getting good prints with your traditional methods there is absolutely no reason for you to change.

    For my own work the digital printing workflow is easier, faster, more controllable , less expensive and time consuming and the results are just as good, perhaps even better, but now we're getting subjective again.

    Best of luck with your tradtional printing.

    ---

    "If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is STILL a foolish thing" - Bertrand Russell

    With respect,

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
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    has anybody done any serious BW digital printing?

    Obviously cost is a matter of how much anyone wishes to spend. Here are my approximate equipment costs so far for digital: Photoshop 4, about $500; Photoshop 6, about $250; dedicated computer (HP Pavillion) - about $2,000 plus $300 to upgrade the memory to handle Photoshop; first scanner (a basic HP 35 mm film scanner - $350; second scanner, Heidelberg Linoscan 1400 flat bed, doesn't work, I'm returning it to B& H but what a pain it's been - $900; first printer - an HP something - about $300; second printer - an Epson 1160 - about $300. I think that adds up to about $4,900, approximately $2,000 more than I spent on my darkroom equipment. And of course the big difference isn't just in the initial digital outlay, it's in the constant upgrades and replacements with digital as time goes on and the older stuff becomes obsolete (which is why I've had two scanners and two printers). And of course this is a pretty basic home hobby system. My traditional darkroom is pretty much the equal of a small black and white commercial lab, but for me to try to even come close to the really good digital stuff that service bureaus use, I'd be talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. So sure, I'm absolutely certain that for me, even on my fairly basic level, digital is and will continue to be vastly more expensive than a tradional darkroom. So yes, it better be a whole lot better than a traditional darkroom, not just as good.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

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