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03-18-2010, 09:34 AM   #1
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MF B&W printing: Darkroom vs Printer

I would like to hear about the comments by those who have wet printing experience or reach to a darkroom: How do the prints of your B&W negatives printed in darkroom compare to the same ones scanned and then printed on ink-jet printers? What kind of differences in overall IQ you notice?

This is only for the B&W prints, only about the IQ and not about the convenience. Your insightful comments would be highly appreciated. Thank you.

Kind regards,

Bob

03-25-2010, 11:47 AM   #2
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You might find this illuminating. It's a piece by Brooks Jensen of LensWork magazine about his switch from the darkroom to "pigment-on-paper" printing.
03-25-2010, 10:28 PM   #3
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Thank you artobest, much appreciated.

FYI, I have posted the same in the DPReview, Pro Digital Talk forum and received 26 responses. Quite interesting discussions... The majority of the posters prefer ink jet printing due to several reasons...

Kind regards,

Bob
03-26-2010, 02:29 PM   #4
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Not long ago I was at a street fair where people were selling their photographs. A funny thing dawned on me. Maybe it's because I'm old-school. But when I was looking at this guys digital BW shoots all on, of course, digital prints it hit me. It felt like they were "cheap". I was going to pay that much money for imitation BW and not get real exhibition quality silver paper either. For some reason I felt if I was going to pay that much I should get the real thing, LOL.


Last edited by tuco; 03-26-2010 at 04:45 PM.
03-27-2010, 06:13 PM   #5
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It's a very personal decision Bob, but from my own experience, I can say I'm making much better prints now from scanned B&W 6x7 negs, processed in Photoshop, printed on an Epson 2400/3880 inkjet printer on fine art papers than I did from the same negatives, printed 20 years ago on a Omega 4x5 enlarger when I had a darkroom. As the saying goes, your results may vary.

I can also say that the inkjet printer and paper technology has improved dramatically over the past 6-7 years. I've been participating in (and now coordinating) a monthly B&W inkjet print exchange since 2004....so I've seen a wide variety of prints made with a variety of printers, inks, papers and with varying skill. It is now quite possible to produce high quality B&W inkjet prints that are nearly indistinguisable from gelatin silver air dried fiber prints (my favorite back in the day was Ilford Galerie).

By the way, from every outward appearance (based on look, feel, touch, smell etc), my current inkjet prints are every bit as "real" as the prints I made in the darkroom 20 years ago. Go figure.

Gary

P.S. I have a set of the Lenswork special edition folio prints. They are well worth the money if you'd like to see what is possible with modern inkjet printers and paper.

Last edited by bensonga; 03-27-2010 at 06:27 PM.
03-27-2010, 10:17 PM   #6
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I'm not arguing the quality of the inkjet print but just how I felt. However, I would absolutely, positively, never-ever buy from someone a BW print produced by a digital camera, period. The seller could argue the technical superiority until their blue in the face and it would matter to me. I would feel like I was buying an imitation BW.
03-27-2010, 11:11 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
I'm not arguing the quality of the inkjet print but just how I felt. However, I would absolutely, positively, never-ever buy from someone a BW print produced by a digital camera, period. The seller could argue the technical superiority until their blue in the face and it would matter to me. I would feel like I was buying an imitation BW.
Well, if that's how you feel.....certainly no one can argue with that and I wouldn't even try.

Speaking only for myself, I'm more interested in how a photograph and print actually looks, than how the image was originally captured or printed. I've just seen too many outstanding B&W prints made from very high end digital images to think there is anything wrong with digital capture for B&W printing. That of course, is just my point of view.

But we've gotten a bit off topic......Bob's original question wasn't about digital vs film B&W capture, it was about the IQ of traditional darkroom vs inkjet prints, in both cases, made from B&W negatives.

Gary

Last edited by bensonga; 03-27-2010 at 11:21 PM.
03-28-2010, 10:30 AM   #8
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Yes, we're off topic. All I can add is that I send out to be printed what little digital work I do and have sent out a few of my scanned negatives to printed to compare. The quality is impressive. But I do miss a cold-tone shot printed on Kodak's Fine Art Elite paper that is now extinct. Especially when it's from my 4x5 camera.

When you have an image hanging on a wall and the general population is looking at it, I've observed that subject, composition, mood, atmosphere, etc of the shot trumps image sharpness every time.


Last edited by tuco; 03-28-2010 at 11:00 AM.
03-28-2010, 11:03 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
...But I do miss a cold-tone shot printed on Kodak's Fine Art Elite paper that is now extinct. Especially when it's from my 4x5 camera...
A moment of silence for Elite...it is sorely missed...

Steve
03-29-2010, 08:26 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by bensonga Quote
printed on an Epson 2400/3880 inkjet printer on fine art papers
This particular combination seems to break thru the barrier of all chemical B&W prints, it seems to me.

There are now auctions where some high price limited edition B&W photographs are produced this way. I believe the longevity of prints (200y+) does play a role as well.

I've got a question: What particular paper would you recommend for the Epson 3880 printer? Hahnemühle FineArt Baryta?
03-29-2010, 11:05 AM   #11
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There are quite a few good baryta papers available now. Luminous-Landscape has done reviews of several of them. All things considered (including price) my personal favorite is Ilford Gold Fibre Silk (an excellent value).....but I've used and like several others (including the Hahnemuhle). One thing I especially like about the IGFS paper is that it doesn't have much curl and seems to feed thru the printer better without any head strikes at the leading/trailing edges of the paper.

With all of the outstanding printers and fine art papers on the market now.....B&W inkjet printing has really come a long, long way since I started in 2004!

Gary
03-29-2010, 11:10 AM   #12
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I have not yet got our 4880 Epson hooked up so only wet darkroom printing. From all I read it is more a case of different as opposed to better/worse. For example one photographer who was formerly all wet darkroom reprinted a portfolio of 12 images printing both digital and in the darkroom and stated that about half his images he perfered the silver geletin and the other half the epson.

My wife printed me a very overexposed negative as a duotone on an Epson 9600 after I worked it a bit in PS and it is beautiful. But so are the wet darkroom images I printed from other negs at the same shoot.

Personally with today's technology on both sides of the issue there is no reason to avoid either approach. Shoot and enjoy
03-30-2010, 06:49 PM   #13
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MF B&W darkroom vs printer

I have been a serious photographer, onetime pro for about 50 years. I have recently made some digital negatives from my pentax 67 scanned film and contact printed them. Nobody I showed them to could tell they were not a total film process, and that included pros.
As with most things, it is a learning curve, but also allows large contact prints, and Platinum/palladium printing and other alt processes.
03-30-2010, 06:58 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Herb Quote
I have been a serious photographer, onetime pro for about 50 years. I have recently made some digital negatives from my pentax 67 scanned film and contact printed them. Nobody I showed them to could tell they were not a total film process, and that included pros.
As with most things, it is a learning curve, but also allows large contact prints, and Platinum/palladium printing and other alt processes.
Cool! It would not have occurred to me to make a 8x10 digital negative from a scanned film negative. Double cool!

Steve

(Saw a UV lightsource box in a shop today...maybe I should drop back in an see what they want for it?)
03-31-2010, 04:50 AM   #15
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I have had the reaction Tuco describes, but on reflection I think it was due to what was done to the image prior to printing, rather than the print, itself. For color printing, the ink jets have come a very long way. My next big investment will be a quality wider format that works well in B&W.
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