Hello, what is the current state of the art, scanning vs darkroom?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by vick_ko, Apr 15, 2010.

  1. Hello, what is the current state of the art, scanning vs darkroom?
    Related questions:
    Is it time to sell my enlargers? They are a Focomat IIC and LPL4550 XL.
    Is the quality of "consumer digital darkroom" now equal or surpassing what can be done with a darkroom, assuming "average" effort spent on optimizing the workflow?
    In particular on the larger than 35mm formats, like 4x5 inch and 6x9cm, am I better off going "digital darkroom"?
  2. Extremely loaded question! You didn't mention if you did color or B/W by the way, that can make some difference.
    My thought is really sort of convoluted. I have shot mostly LF and MF film over the years. I have not been in the darkroom for over 10 years. I have a high end scanner, Imacon/Hasselblad, and have been using the digital darkroom all this time. I am now shooting a great deal of digital but still my film cameras as well. So I guess I have switched, but I don't think it is that simple.
    I think there is a great beauty in the organic prints from a darkroom, especially black and white processes. As to color, I much prefer the digital darkroom--just so much more control and organic prints never looked all that great to me anyway! I think the C prints I have made from digital files are much better than anything I ever saw from printing a negative!
    So, sell your stuff? Why, it is just about worthless on the used market (yeah, I know, new ones are way more expensive than when we got our stuff--there is a reason, little demand so expensive to make) and you may want to go back from time to time.
  3. Oh, yes, thanks.
    How about:
    1. BW - is it better to stay with darkroom and chemicals, or go digital darkroom? I'm thinking for BW, wet darkroom still offers better results, for the required effort.
    2. colour - I'd go digital darkroom. The wet process is far too complex, requiring chemical and process control that is beyond my tolerance.
    And to clarify, for MF and LF, I think it would be worth the effort to stay with wet darkroom.
    On 35mm, I don't think I want to go "wet darkroom". For 35mm, I'd go digital.
    Does that make sense?
  4. I shoot mostly neg film, 35 and MF. I develop BW and C41 and have no darkroom. Just a light bag and development tanks. I just scan and do everything else digital.
    If I had this choice 30 years ago, I would have jumped at it then. I always sucked at silver printing. I don't miss it at all. It was my big waste of money with no results.
    I went digital, whole hog, 7 years ago. Got reasonably good, but I missed something. I tried film again 3 years ago and found the marriage to be perfect.
  5. I don't think one is clearly superior to the other.
    For B&W you might try the archives here from experienced printers: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DigitalBlackandWhiteThePrint/
  6. "In particular on the larger than 35mm formats, like 4x5 inch and 6x9cm, am I better off going "digital darkroom"?"

    In my opinion no, digital might be more convenient, it's definaltely cleaner, but if you have the equipment to develop and create prints from negatives greater than 35mm, I would stick with the enlarger.
  7. Vick, 35mm digital almost the quality of MF film, at least the larger pixel cameras.
    As to B/W printing, I still don't think there is anything more beautiful than a hand processed, selenium toned print, however, once a digital print is behind glass the difference becomes minimal. But collectors still like the fine print. Although digital prints are well received these days, there are many who will only buy and collect organic processes. Most of my black and white work was done in darkroom and that was all I did (b/w) and only fine art work. When I went pro, I was sidetracked for a lot of years from doing much personal work--serious stuff--and that sort of helped me transition. Now, I don't have a darkroom set up(but still all the equipment), but I like scanning and do shoot mostly color these days. There is no good answer. For me personally, I am more interested in alternative processes these days, which means contact printing for the most part anyway--here in Texas it is nice and sunny!
  8. Keep your darkroom equipment.
    Invest in some digital equipment.
    There is no rule that states you must shoot silver halide OR digital.
    Personally I like darkroom work for the peace and quiet and slow pace it offers - i.e it is relaxing! (when the 120 goes onto the reel first time at least)
  9. For color, I greatly prefer digital, working from scans or directly from a digital capture. Like John A (above), I find it much easier to get prints I like. Color correction, contrast adjustment, and myriad other tweeks are much more available and easier in digital workflow. These days, I'm pleased with almost all my color enlargements; in the old days I was often disappointed by the prints that came back, even from pro labs.
    For B&W, I still prefer the digital workflow. There are pro labs who will print your digital B&W file using conventional B&W papers and chemistry. Their sample looks terrific. I'm going to give it a try.
  10. Darkroom enlargers have issues with flatness (film and paper), curvature of field and vibration that have been greatly improved with scanners and "lightroom" technology. For one thing, a scanner works at the same distance and magnification regardless of what's being scanned. It's not hard to make prints which are "grain sharp" from corner to corner - a neat trick in the darkroom. In terms of processing, you only have to expose, dodge, burn and spot dust once, and make multiple copies or derivatives of that work. You have the ability to control contrast, balance and saturation with color film which can't be done at all in the darkroom.
    I've done my time in the darkroom, and am not going back any time soon. It's cleaner, faster and less likely to aggravate allergies to work from a computer with a printer (or printers) throughout the house.
  11. I've made thousands of prints, both B&W and color and I shoot MF and LF film.

    If I never go back into a darkroom it'll be too soon!
    I disagree with some of the above posters who hold that B&W is better done wet. I think they may need a better printer, or at least better paper. I use an HP z3200 and, though I was very good at B&W darkroom work, I think that the HP gives me richer B&W prints.
    And then there's that damn hypo smell!
  12. I printed in a darkroom for about 15 years, mostly b&w (6x7, 4x5, and 8x10) but some 35mm color as well as a couple alternative processes. I originally became involved with digital thinking it would be quicker and easier to make b&w proofs digitally, then make the "real" print in the darkroom. That lasted about a week. I quickly became frustrated when I realized that even with my minimal Photoshop knowledge at the time there were many improvements I could make to the print digitally that couldn't be made in the darkroom. I never went back in the darkroom to print again.
    One of the problems for me with darkrooms compared to digital printing is the amount of time taken up with purely mechanical work (as opposed to creative) in the darkroom. When I think of what I actually did in a darkroom I realize that only a small amount of time was spent doing anything creative. Most of the time was spent doing mechanical work that anyone with a little training could do - setting up, mixing chemicals, maintaining temperatures, jiggling trays, moving prints from one tray to another, washing, squeegeeing, drying, cleaning up, etc. etc. And if I made a print and thought perhaps the print might be better if I changed it a little - bumped the contrast, dodged differently here, burned differently there - I had to repeat the same mechanical steps all over again. . . and again . . . and again.
    Digital is much different. Almost all my time in Photoshop is spent making creative decisions. Implementing them involves only a minimal amount of time and effort. Which means that I'm more inclined to experiment or to make small changes in an effort to get things right than I would be if I had to go through all the steps involved in darkroom printing to see whether a small change worked.
    Then there's the problem in a darkroom of a complex print requiring many different dodges and burns - dodge five seconds here, two seconds there, burn that corner for 30 seconds, this tree limb for 10 seconds, flash the sky but not the foreground, on and on. Just keeping them all straight was hard enough but mess up one step along the way and you threw the paper away and started all over again. With digital you lock each change in as you go along. No need to keep repeating and repeating every step on your way to the final print.
    I don't try to make digital b&w prints that are as good as a darkroom print. I try to make better prints digitally than I made in a darkroom. But I've included both darkroom and digital b&w prints in exhibits and if anyone could figure out which was which just by looking at them framed under glass I haven't heard about it.
    Color isn't even arguable IMHO so there's no point in repeating what others have said - unless someone printing traditional color learns how to make and use masks, which relatively few traditional color printers did, to me there's just no comparison between the quality of a color print that can be made digitally compared to a color darkroom print.
    I don't mean to disparage anyone who enjoys darkroom work and is still doing it. Certainly great work has come out of many darkrooms for a very long time. But you asked for opinions and for me digital is the way to go these days.
  13. Brian, could not agree with you more. Have worked in a Darkroom since 1937, and at times making an exhibition print, spent hours doing what we do not in minutes with PS.... Ten years ago, donated my Darkroom Equipment to a school, and have never looked back...
  14. Brian (Robert), because of your response, I just sold my Saunders LPL4550XL kit, along with a Focomat V35.
    This will leave me with the Focomat IIc, which I'm keeping for now but mostly for sentimental reasons. And those sentimental reasons may evaporate quickly, if I don't set it up and use it within the year.
    Thanks all for your comments.

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