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Thread: Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

  1. #1

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    During the past year I have been gaining in both knowledge and interest in regards to the Platinum / Palladium printing process. In addition to this fact, a few of you who are regular visitors to this site have been so kind as to write me with helpful information, suggestions and guidelines on how I might begin and I thank-you. With all of this information I feel quite close to perhaps buying the appropriate chemicals and papers and attempting to create a few 4x5 prints.

    This is I feel, a fine start to the process but of course I expect that I shall soon wish to go to 8x10 and perhaps even larger with Pt/Pd. I have given careful consideration towards the acquisition of an 8x10 camera and thus the ability to make 8x10 negatives in the process. The actual contentious point that is stopping me from proceeding along this line is the cost of 8x10 negatives. At this stage of my skill level I am still shooting too many 4x5 negatives in order to achieve a good one but at least at the 4x5 level the cost is tolerable.

    So I now am asking you where from and approximately how much are you 8x10 shooters spending on your negative material?

    My second request, although not specifically a direct question has to be about the creation of 8x10 digital negatives from 4x5 originals. I have bought and now read most of the book (a few times) written by Dan Burkholder on this subject but feel somewhat in the dark on the overall process. I am wondering if not someone who has created digital negatives with good success might consider writing an article for Tuanís site to help the rest of us get over the hump on the learning curve.

    I also see many benefits from such an article as it should lead to an increase in the population of the Pt/Pd user community which by pure economics would mean a larger buying base for the necessary materials and chemicals involved. As perhaps an added bonus this article may encourage more folks to buy Azo paper which in itself would also be considered a good thing in keeping Azo alive.

    So do you think that I am just an exception and that digitally enlarging negatives is straightforward and quite simple or am I in a group of interested photographers that needs the additional help to get started?

    Kind Regards,

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    I have a degree in Physics, and over 50 years of practical darkroom experience (including 4-color dye transfer), and the Burkholder book is completely unintelligible to me.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    In response to your query on the cost of 8X10 negative material. I buy 100 sheets of ISO 125 film (supposedly FP4 in private label) from Photo Warehouse for around $125.00. Other films will be more costly.

    I went through some of your questioning period awhile back myself. I finally opted to shoot a big negative as opposed to enlarging smaller negatives. When one factors in the cost of the initial 4X5 film, processing, then the time spent enlarging it to a larger negative with the cost of that material, processing etc. the answer became clear to me. I found that shooting a bigger negative will cause one to slow down and become a better photographer much the same as when I moved up to medium format and then to 4X5. I now shoot both 8X10 and 12X20 and almost no 4X5.

    Hope that this is of some help to you. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    I suppose I shoot fewer sheets of 8x10" and do it more carefully than 4x5", mainly because it's harder to carry as much film as it gets bigger, and that does something to keep the cost in check. If someone comes up with an 8x10" Grafmatic, that could be dangerous to my wallet.

    Bear in mind that you can also create enlarged negatives by conventional methods with an enlarger.

  5. #5

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    James, in "The New Platinum Print" by Weese& Sullivan David Fokos describes a workflow for making negs for pt/pd. I beleive Bostick&Sullivan also has an article in their web site.

    ALternatively if you dont want to mess with Service Beaureaus you might like to learn how to make enlarged negatives with ortho lith film developed in Pyrocat HD. There are a couple of good articles in Unblinkingeye about making enlarged negatives. The one person I know who is making both enlarged negatives and digital ones is Michael Kravit, lets hope he sees this thread and pitches in.

    I use 400 TMY for the 8x10 and it is $175 for a 50 sheet box from Badger Graphics. I like this film for the speed and reciprocity but if you want to save money the Photowarehouse film is great (is what I use for the 12x20) and also you might want to give a try to J and C, the have I belive efke in all sizes you might want. Both are cheap alternatives, but that does not mean they are bad films, they are actually pretty good.

    Good luck..

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Kalamazoo, MI

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    In the long-run it may be cheaper to get an 8X10 camera. Costs of enlarging from 4X5 include: good drum-scan $5-15, Imagesetter service bureau enlargement of digital file to 8X10 negative $15-20.
    Benefits of digital negatives include what Photoshop can do for your image, and lighter weight of 4X5 camera(which appeals to me at my age).

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    South Carolina

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    Personally I find Dan Burkholder's book on making digital negatives very readable and straightforward, and if you follow the instructions you will be able to make very good digital negatives for Pt/Pd printing.

    Basically the procedure can be outlined in the following steps.

    1. You calibrate your monitor so that what you see on screen is what your print.

    2. You adjust the image on screen in Photoshop with tonal corrections, dodging, burning,etc. as necessary.

    3. A curve is loaded into Photoshop from one of the ones supplied on the CD that accompanies Burkholder's book. The curve is different according to process and whether negative output is to be Imagesetter or desktop printer.

    4. If output is by Imagesetter you send the file off to a Servicebureau. If by desktop printer (Epson inkjet printers are the most popular for this) you print the negative on a suitable OHP material. Pictorico is very popular for this application.

    When printing Pt/Pd on art papers (drawing or watercolor), the paper itself becomes the limiting factor in sharpness so there will be little if any difference between a Pt/Pd print made from an Imagesetter negative and one made an inkjet negative on Pictorico. If you are making digital negatives for processes that use very smooth papers (silver gelatin, albumen, POP, etc.) you will get slightly better quality from an Imagesetter negative.
    For discussion and information about carbon transfer please visit the carbon group at

  8. #8

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    One cheap and cheerful, but surprising good quality alternative route is to make paper negatives from an enlarged positive print. Single weight paper (if you can find any) is best, but I have had some quite successful results from using glossy plastic paper (i.e. resin coated). Enlarge to the size you want, make the best quality print you can, perhaps a little on the soft side. Use this print to make a contact print onto the paper that will become the negative, under glass is best. Hey presto, a paper negative that will print quite successfully in contact with any paper or film base you want.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Apr 2000

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    Contact printing from direct in-camera negatives is simple and the results can't be matched by enlarging. For Pt/Pd where you must make the print by contact, I find the process of making enlarged negatives (either traditional darkroom or digital) to be complex, annoying, and no fun at all. So for me at least, it's vastly preferable to work with a big camera and print directly from the negatives. At 12x20 the film gets expensive, but so are enlarged negatives. If you feel that a big camera will hamper your working style for the kind of pictures you want to make, then making enlarged negatives from 4x5 originals could be worth while. If you find that working with "rilly big cameras" is rewarding in itself, then direct contact prints are the ideal workflow.---Carl

  10. #10

    Digital enlargement of 4x5 negatives

    Thanks for all of your suggestions in helping me decide. I just wish to add a few additional pieces of information that I perhaps forgot to mention. I presently own a very good flat bed scanner (Epson Expression 1600 with TMA) that will do a very good scan of a 4x5 negative. I also recently purchased an Epson 2200 printer for the output negative as well as to try some color printing in my future. My intention here is to perform my own scanning and printing of the digital negative and not use a service bureau.

    The other aspects which have swayed me towards scanning/digital enlargement is that I already have some 4x5 negatives in my archive that I wish to work with. In conjunction with that fact is that I am much more likely to take my 4x5 camera hiking than an 8x10 camera (if I owned one) so my chances of having good 4x5 negatives is probably better than having many 8x10 good negatives.

    On the flip side of the coin I simply am enticed with the idea of working with a huge 8x10 negative. I also agree that this is a much more straight forward approach to the problem. I guess that I have wrestled the problem down to wishing to first try the digital scan solution and then if my skills warrant the progression I will mostly like purchase a used 8x10 camera.

    So hopefully someone might wish to come forward and do an article on the creation of digital negatives for Tuan's site.

    Any and all thoughts and comments most welcome.

    Kind Regards,

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