Means to Obtain the Best Color Prints

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by neil_poulsen|1, Jul 22, 2003.

  1. It wasn't too long ago that to obtain the best quality prints, the
    accepted practice was to expose a 4x5 negative. A photographic print
    obtained from a 4x5 transparency just wasn't quite up to the same
    standards as a print obtained from a negative.

    What is the current state of the art in scanning and applying
    Photoshop to a 4x5 negative to obtain a print? Is the scanned
    transparency now the preferred choice to obtain the best possible
    print quality? Or, does that distinction remain with a 4x5 negative?
  2. "A photographic print obtained from a 4x5 transparency just wasn't quite up to the same standards as a print obtained from a negative."

    Who were you dealing with? Type R, Fuji Supergloss, Ilfochrome(ciba), dye transfer and other methods all worked very well & were/are as good as or better than working from negatives. Having the original chrome gave you the density & color wanted in the final image and got rid of the guessing you have working with negatives.

    Rather than playing around with the scanning stuff why don't you have Ilfochrome prints made?
  3. Means to obtain the best prints?
    large format transparency, drum scanned and printed using either LightJet or Ultrachrome. Definitely Ultrachrome for matte prints, Ultrachrome will also have a wider colour gamut.
  4. Neil, at the risk of alienating a moderator, I question the use of the term "the best." Do you mean the most accurate in reproducing the colors of the original scene? The longest lasting? What, exactly? All printing is a compromise, and there is no "best." For years I made Dye Transfers from Kodachrome originals; sometimes it would take a week to get a satisfactory final print. Then Cibachrome made it possible to get virtually as good prints with 10% of the sweat. And Ektaflex made wonderful color even easier to print than B&W, but of course Kodak soon discontinued it. Frankly, as in B&W, more depends on the quality of the original than on the final process. And, in the final analysis, there is nothing more beautiful than a well done Polacolor print. Click, pull, peal, and marvel!
  5. In my opinion the term "the best" is subjective. Given a negative and a transparency of the same subject, the final result depends on the skill of the printer, either at a traditional lab. or at a digital lab. For the photographer the negative is more tolerant than the transparency. For the printer the transparency is easier to compare the original with the final print. In commercial graphic design field the transparencies are the norm. Why? In case of doubt, the Art D. just put the transparency on the light table and compare it with the printer's proof. Just my 2 cents.....
  6. I disagree with the above posts, and suggest that the outcome is determined by the tonal range of the subject being photographed.
    I do believe that scanning and printing with Ultrachrome is the best way to make color prints these days (sharper, better color fidelity, more control, and longer lasting than any darkroom printing process), but whether you will get better results shooting negatives or transparencies depends on the brightness range of the subject. If the range is less than four stops, transparencies will produce better results; if the range is more than four stops, then a negative (with its wider latitude) will produce a better result.

  7. I agree with Chris -- the best way is to have someone else do the work.
  8. Personal experience and I wouldn't change; Velvia, scanned and printed on Fuji Crystal Archive with a Light Jet 5000.
  9. I'll second Chris's comments on Ultrachromes. They are also more archival than chemical prints. One thing I've found is that drum scanners have problems with negs as the narrow light beam can hit grain and over-emphasise it. Sometimes with negs a scan with an Imacon or oilmounting on a good flatbed (e.g. Creo) can give better results.
  10. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned carbon pigment transfer prints in the context of "best" color prints. Mark Dubovoy, an SF Bay area photographer, showed several at a meeting earlier in the year, and they were stunning - almost like looking at LF transparencies on a light table - simply stunning.

    Carbon pigment printing is similar to the old dye transfer method in that separation negs are created first, and then each separation neg is printed onto the appropriate color inter-print material (I'm not sure of the actual term, but I hope you get the idea), which, after processing, is transfered to the final archival print substrat.

    The downside is that Mark indicated his material costs run between $600 and $1,000 per 20x24 print, and each print takes about 100 hours of darkroom effort. The carbon pigments will only last a few thousand years, but that may be sufficiently archival for most purposes. ;-)
  11. I keep coming back to professionally done Ilfochrome prints from 4x5 transparancies. Lightjet prints just don't quite do it for me. I think the combination of 300dpi and the Crystal archive paper renders less sharp and vibrant prints than can ever be obtained with Ilfochrome. Inkjet prints on really nice paper (e.g. Ilford Classic) yield better color for me than the lightjets and are nice and crisp, but still lack that super sharpness and smooth color gradations of Ilfochrome.

    I have never obtained such nice results starting from negatives and have never really bought the argument in favor of 'negs for prints'. None of these printing materials has more dynamic range than even the higher contrast films (i.e. Velvia). Perhaps this was more true in past times, but not now.

    Of course all of these methods yield stunning results from good source material. This is a discussion for the detail oriented ;-)

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