graded paper--how much better is it?

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I'm looking for a new paper and I'm not afraid to do some extra work to get the results I want. I've been trying to glean some real info about whether or not there are advantages to using graded paper, but, as we all know, this can be a religious war and lots of VC people immediately dismiss graded paper since "emulsions have come far enough". So, I'm putting this out hoping to get some experiences from people who know graded paper well and can give an objective comparison to VC today.

A couple of rumors about graded paper are particularly intriguing:
1. graded paper newbies who started with VC seem to mention more exposure lattitude with graded paper and thus easier prints with greater range.
2. do graded papers really have a higher silver content?
3. people seem to talk about better highlights and shadows on graded paper
4. some particularly anal printers claim a sharper focus due to a narrower sensitivity range
5. any other "graded papers are great" rumors I haven't heard

What's the scoop? I'm going to try it either way myself, but I'd love some insight.

Thanks.

Jarred
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Get yourself a half-dozen 25-packs of a range of premium papers and make some comparison prints, and that will really tell you what you haven't heard.

I find that graded papers have richer blacks and some are more responsive to process manipulations like water bath development, bleaching, amidol, and such. On the other hand, they also need those kinds of manipulations more, because they don't provide the options of local contrast control, split filtration, and the things you can do with VC papers. I keep some VC paper around for occasional use, but most of my fine prints are on graded paper (Azo for contact prints, Maco Expo RF for enlargements).
 
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Thanks David--I hadn't thought about graded paper and process manipulations, but that makes sense. The theory with VC paper is you select your contrast optically, so adding some resistance to chemical contrast influence sounds like something a manufacturer might do.
 

Alex Hawley

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David A. Goldfarb said:
I find that graded papers have richer blacks and some are more responsive to process manipulations like water bath development, bleaching, amidol, and such.

I agree with David's assessment, but there are a few premium VC papers available now that have these same traits. The Berrger line and especially J&C/Forte polywarmtone. A marvelous paper, especially when developed in Amidol.
 

ann

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another vote for David's suggestion about getting a 25 sheet pack and check for youself. i use seagull oriental about 95% of the time, galerie about 4 % and a variety of other stuff the other 1%. Bergger papers are very nice and they come in graded as well as mc. haven't tried the J&C product that ALex mentioned but did use Forte graded and Mc for several projects have keep some on hand.

On the other hand, i have a lot of the old Forte polywarmtone paper in the frezzer for a project of split toning, and it is a MC paper.
 

Alex Hawley

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ann said:
On the other hand, i have a lot of the old Forte polywarmtone paper in the frezzer for a project of split toning, and it is a MC paper.
Right Ann. Forte polywarmtone and J&C polywarmtone are the same paper, just a different name on the label.
 

Loose Gravel

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I think VC paper is a god send. It makes possible prints that before were impossible to difficult. Another feature is that it is fresher. Since one paper works for all grades, it moves faster than a graded 4 or 5. These higher grades tended to shift, fog, and age in horrible ways.
 
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Forte Fortezo and Polywarmtone really caught my eye from what I've read online lately. I'll definitely be trying these soon.
 

fhovie

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In my darkroom - the Graded paper is fresher. I keep some VC around for when I screw up - by now - 90% of my negatives land nicely on grade 2 or grade 3 paper due to experience with exposure and development. For those time I screw up, the VC is there to help. It doesn't tone very well, grade 4 or 5 don't seem so much more contrasty that grade 3 graded paper. The color is different and I am not sure I like it better. It is not bad paper, just slightly not as good as graded - in my darkroom with what I shoot and how I deveolp film. - VC Resin paper seem more flexable.
 

david b

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I've just tried some J&C polywarmtone and it is a very contrasty paper. More than the Ilford warmtone I compared it to.

I like it and plan on using it more in the future.
 

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It seems to me that if you have accidentally produced some contrasty negatives (as I used to do by following manufacturers' recommendations- silly me) , then a low contrast graded paper does a better job than dialling in low contrast with VC paper. I'm still using some old stocks of BW and BEW (extra weak contrast) Agfa Brovira, and I am making sure that my new negs are a lot better than my old ones (more exposure, less development).

Does anyone still make very low contrast graded papers? Or do people now know how to expose and develop film properly?
 

doughowk

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Fred Picker said that a good way to compare VC to graded is expose a sheet of #2 grade, then a sheet of VC but with no filtration, ie as a grade 2; then compare. He said the VC would look like mud. I had presumed VC papers were improved since his time; but I did his test and was surprised at how bad VC looked in comparison. I now use VC for proofing & hard to print negs; and use graded with split development for in between grades. My favorite papers are Forte Fortezo (J&C Classic) and Oriental Seagull.
 

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doughowk said:
Fred Picker said that a good way to compare VC to graded is expose a sheet of #2 grade, then a sheet of VC but with no filtration, ie as a grade 2; then compare. He said the VC would look like mud. I had presumed VC papers were improved since his time; but I did his test and was surprised at how bad VC looked in comparison. I now use VC for proofing & hard to print negs; and use graded with split development for in between grades. My favorite papers are Forte Fortezo (J&C Classic) and Oriental Seagull.

Of course the VC paper would look like mud with no filtration. It was never designed to be used without filtration. The only fair comparison would be to compare a graded paper with VC and the corresponding filter for that grade.
 

ann

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alex,
are you saying that the Jand C Polywarmtone is the same version of the old polywarmtone. or that it is polywarmtoneplus, which is a different .
the plus is nice but it is not the same as the original polywarmtone and does not split the same.
 

Maine-iac

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David A. Goldfarb said:
I find that graded papers have richer blacks and some are more responsive to process manipulations like water bath development, bleaching, amidol, and such.

I have not found the richness of blacks to be superior in graded papers. I used to print graded Seagull, Ilford Galerie, and Forte, and then began using VC when I wanted to try split filter printing. I've not used anything else since.

For my money, Agfa MCC 111, Ilford Warmtone, or Bergger will produce rich blacks equal to any graded paper I've ever tried. The particular developer one uses will also affect the blacks. The only graded paper that might tempt me occasionally if it were still available would be the old Agfa Portriga.

Larry
 

doughowk

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Of course the VC paper would look like mud with no filtration. It was never designed to be used without filtration. The only fair comparison would be to compare a graded paper with VC and the corresponding filter for that grade.
For my test I used Oriental Seagull VC RP-F paper & a color head on my Durst enlarger. The data sheet says that, to emulate a grade 2, use 0 Yellow & 0 Magenta. And the results looked like mud compared to a graded #2 paper. Your probably thinking of filters for condenser enlarger.
 

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Hi Jarred

I would agree with David. get sample packs of various papers and test them to the conditions available to you and of work you intend to print in the future,
I change papers daily depending on the client I am printing for, the style of work and look the photographer wants.
I have found out that there is no bad paper , just a wrong selection of paper for subject matter.
I have tried every possible paper and I have a large variety in my darkroom.
When I am printing a paticular negative or style I will put in two or three different papers to see how they respond to subject matter or negative quality. This way I am continually testing and getting some suprises along the way.
For example, I had some Elite paper in frezeer storage, and I made a lith print with this paper, the results were outstanding, now I"m very pissed as this paper is no longer out there.
I just used up the last of my stock of Ilfomar paper, I am now very pissed.
A year ago I used up the last of my Ecktalure, had to see a doctor over that one.
I"m rambling but I think you should try all the papers you can so that if our great companions Kodak, Ilford, Forte, Kentmere ( Oh did I mention how pissed I was when sterling Lith stopped production) make a corporate decision to stop supplying us our drugs, you have at least a backup paper to move to.
Any one saying that One Paper is the best , is taking a very narrow view of our craft, when you have time try all of them and take some chances, you will be suprised.
I particularly like VC papers as I only print with a three filter method now and the spliting of contrast is fun
 

Bob F.

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VC papers are not always grade 2 without filtration: especially as one maker's Grade-2 or not the same as another's. To make a comparison you need to make the best prints you can get on each paper and then compare them - this may well require dialling a different grade for the VC paper. You would have to repeat this for a number of different negatives. Then, you can see if you favour one over the other.

Cheers, Bob.
 

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Bob Carnie,
Your post makes a lot of sense to me. Would you care to describe your "three filter method " of printing?

Alan Clark
 

Bob Carnie

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Hi Alan

I have posted my way , and I believe others in detail over the last few weeks.
Basically I use a middle filter to get a good basic tone, I print slightly on the light and flat side to get as much mid tone. and highlight detail.
Then I blast in with grade 5 to give the overall look in contrast density ect.
I then use the 00 filter to bring down the hard highligts.]
I find this method much better than 00 and 5 only .
I use the 5 filters and 00 filters to dodge as well.on a wire just like your dodging tool.

Burning in with high and low contrast is a breeze with this method.
so one filter in the enlarger head and the 5 and 00 filter used for effect.
hope this helps.
 

Alex Hawley

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ann said:
alex,
are you saying that the Jand C Polywarmtone is the same version of the old polywarmtone. or that it is polywarmtoneplus, which is a different .
the plus is nice but it is not the same as the original polywarmtone and does not split the same.

Hmm. Got me on that one Ann. I will assume the J&C is the same as the current Forte. This is based on a post from J&C a while back where they said their paper and the Forte offering were one and the same.
 

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thanks alex, i am sure it is the most recent version , which would be polywarmtoneplus
 

Tom Stanworth

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My experiences are certainly not as comprehensive as other, but heres my 2p worth!

Sweeping statements that VC is better than graded or visa versa are at odds with my experiences. Most would agree that they have different properties and some are not available in 'both forms'. I have used dozens of VC and a good few graded papers and can honestly say that my favourite VC papers (oriental, Forte, agfa etc) produce superb results; the only limitation being ME. They all produce deep luscious blacks with a touch of selenium and can produce luminous glowing prints. I too like certain graded papers, such as Fortezo, which limited comparison tells me has benefits over polywarmtone - it seems slightly richer and seems to allow pretty well any neg to print so easily on normal grade. I have used Oriental graded, Zone VI graded etc and cannot say that there is any real wholesale improvement in the final images that leave the darkroom. That said, I will continue to exploire their properties as they do tone differently in some cases and have different colour etc (Oriental graded being cooler than VC etc).

The clincher for me is that some fo the finest printers in the world, whether they be those serving big names in London or NY or fine art photographers such as Roman Loranc, use VC papers and would not be without them. There is no denying the brilliance of their images. I was blown away with many prints in a Salgado exhibition (all on Kodak polymax Fine art I believe and from 35mm). The printer obviously knew his trade and materials well! Loranc is not exactly lacking in his printing either.

Anyone here using Fotospeed Legacy? I used some of this thin VC paper a while back and it was superb.

Tom
 

Bob Carnie

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Hi Tom

Just a curious question,
Are you speaking of the Salgado exhibition that was at George Eastman House a good few years back.
If so, my impression of that show was that it was printed by two different printers.
the large prints were excellent , beautiful contrast , edge to edge detail , but I must say the smaller prints were lower contrast and not as well printed,
To me it seemed the show was started with the large prints, say 24x36inches, they then ran out of time and quickly made the smaller prints at a lower contrast which was safer to print and quicker to make.
I would be thankful to know if the larger prints were on Kodak paper as they were magnificant examples of good analog printing . This is one paper I have not used as I am still pissed they stopped producing ectalure.


thanks Bob
 

Tom Stanworth

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Bob, you have a good point and have jogged my memory. The exhibition I saw was at the Barbican in London about 2-3 years ago or so. 'Migrations' I think. Although I had to rush as I had little time, it was clear that some were superior to others and I do recall that the large prints were all stunning; tonnes of glow and beyond criticism. Some of the smaller images down the side aisles wer not as good and did appear more 'grey' and lacking the bite and glow of the others. There were so many prints (many hundreds)! Did you see 'Migrations' too? If so they were probably the same prints. I have heard and read that his printer used Kodak polymax Fine art and he shoots Kodak films and this would be in keeping with what I saw. I looked really close and the surface of the paper looked like Polymax, very smooth without the slight undulations from Oriental for example or the texture and slight mattness of Ilford MG. They also had the cool black of Polymax with a selnium afterbath for permanence. Could be wrong, but it looked right according to my use of the paper.

I think the paper is great, but no better than Oriental VC - which is less expensive when Mr Cad in the UK does his buy on get one free. I find the two pretty well interchangeable, tho the Kodak has a less white base. It is definitely neatral to cool and very cool in cold tone devs. I have never used Ektalure so cannot compare them.

Tom
 
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