RC vs FB prints

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by paul_owen, Mar 20, 2001.

  1. I've just started printing in my "new" darkroom!! For the first time i've started using FB paper. I've previously only used RC but have been desperate to try fibre for a long time but have not had the facility for washing/drying. Now I have and I must admit to being a bit disappointed with the results! The prints do not have the same luminosity as RC prints and certainly my results do not seem to warrant the prolonged processing times and the performance required in getting a flat print. Am I missing something? I heard so many good things about fibre prints but when laid side by side with a RC print I know which I prefer. For the record I have used Multigrade 1V in both RC and FB as a comparison. Is it simply the case that RC has progressed to a point whereby is an improvement on fibre? I understand the argument for longevity seems to favour fibre paper and that there are some processes that require its use, but for general use ( I do sell my prints and will shortly exhibit) will RC suffice? I appreciate that this is a question requiring in-depth answers and varied viewpoints but I would be interested in your views. Regards Paul
     
  2. Hi Paul

    <p>

    Are you using glossy fiber paper? You should be if you are not. Also
    spend some time checking out your safelight. Just because RC is
    faster than fiber does not mean fiber is less likely to fog from your
    safelight. You can do the "place the coin on the paper" test, but I
    prefer to expose several sheets of the paper in question like a test
    strip, but expose it in the dark (safelight off). Then lay the sheets
    around the darkroom emulsion side up with half of each protected from
    the light (under a sheet of paper) and the other half fully out in the
    open. I leave them like this for 10 minutes. If there is a
    difference between sides on any of the sheets, you have a safelight
    problem which makes your prints look flat. Also, just because you
    like a brand in RC, doesn't always mean you will like it in fiber.
    Good luck.
     
  3. Make sure you turn your safelight back on when you leave the sheets
    out in the open for 10 minutes.
     
  4. For the record I am using glossy paper ( i tried a few sheets of matt
    and they were even worse!!). My safelight is okay and my chemistry
    is fresh. Maybe I expected too much from fibre? I have searched
    through older threads and the general opinion appears to be that
    fibre is better because it is more archivally stable than RC. There
    seems little comment on the actual quality of the image. I read all
    sorts about fibre being aesthetically more pleasing but I really
    can't see what the fuss is about. Other threads suggest sticking to
    what suits you, and so far RC wins hands down! But I am still open
    to views/comments. Regards Paul
     
  5. People prefer fibre because it does not have the cheap, plastick-y
    sheen of RC. RC was invented to make quickie commercial processing
    easier to wash. I can't imagine a knowledgeable art dealer selling RC
    fine art prints, unless they are signed by Cindy Sherman or some such
    name. As you may have noticed, you also have to dry your fibre prints
    in screens to keep them flat, you cant just hang them with
    clothespins. Then you have to dry mount them, a costly proposition to
    do yourself. RC will never progress to be an improvement on fiber,
    because it's, well, plastic.... Try some other papers, papers have
    characteristics like film does, you can go nuts matching film, paper
    and developer... But I love the feel of "real" paper in the wash....
    and the feeling that I've made a "real" print....
    best-
     
  6. Paul, I prefer fiber by far, but no one has to be more happy with
    your prints than you. use what you like and be happy about it.
     
  7. Hi Paul,
    Probably your're facing the most difficult task on photo appreciation,
    wich means creating a taste and a sense of quality. For sure, RC
    prints will stand out easily on side-by-side comparasion, mainly
    because it has artificially brightened whites that will transform UV
    light into visible light, contributing greatly to its plasticine look.
    Even curves can stand close matching and, maybe, even show better
    values on D-Max and density range. There's no doubt RC prints will
    satisfy most of your potencial clients. But... it looks like plastic,
    feels like plastic, behaves like plastic. So it's quite easy to
    understand why devoted printers still prefer to work with real paper.
    As mentioned before, it's a sense of quality not just a matter of
    technical performance. And, by the way, why not to try some other
    beautiful and rich emulsion, before being so disappointed?
    Welcome to FB arena!

    <p>

    Cesar B.
     
  8. I still can't let go of the possibility of a problem somewhere in your
    methods. I have used both Ilford RC and Fiber and the fiber is just
    more alive. I currently use niether. I'm back to kodak RC and and am
    completely hooked on Forte fiber. It takes about twice as long for a
    fiber print to develop (depending on your developer dilution)than an
    RC print. Are you developing the fiber long enough? Did you
    calibrate your film processing time to the fiber paper ? Are you
    turning on the light too soon to check out your print ? Again, fiber
    may be more sensitive to your lights than the RC. Your safelight may
    be ok, but light leaks from your enlarger may affect the fiber more
    than the RC. Also, you may not be able to assume that a contrast 2
    filter will produce identical results in RC and fiber. Sorry if I am
    rambling on, just brain storming on line.
     
  9. Paul, my experience with RC vs FB is similar to yours. Ignoring the
    archival issues, I was never able to see that FB was at all better.
    Until now, I dared not speak of such on this forum lest we be
    declared a heretic. Scrutinize those replies to your posts wherein
    RC is derrided and FB is praised and see how many of the arguments
    are based on explicit, technical reasons (besides archivability) and
    how many are not. One reply has already conceeded some objective
    measures of RC may be better. I will say no more.
     
  10. http://members.aol.com/onelucent/MLP/MLP.html

    <p>

    Ah, ah, ah, ah. The intro pix above and the first 2 monochromes
    (Zofkie Clothing and Window Shades) are scans of RC prints. I like
    fiber myself but its silly to claim that a beautiful print can't be
    made on RC paper-the Ilford Portfolio RC post cards are great. One
    value for RC-the prints on Ilord's Pearl surface seem to scan better
    on a flatbed scanner than fiber base prints in my experience. Great
    discussion, as usual. The archival issue is beyond this thread but
    just following a certain protocol doesn't make some archival-and as
    inkjet printing advances, a healthy re-examination is nece
     
  11. Obviously you didn't read the full archive. The discussion about the
    merits of FB over RC have been lengthy and detailed. It's great that
    you find RC so much better than FB. I guess if your images aren't
    worth a little effort then RC is for you. I guess most of the rest of
    the fine art printers have been amiss in their opinion of RC. Or maybe
    your processing regime isn't set up for FB. RC doesn't exhibit a full
    deep black for instance. I never found much to my liking when it came
    to subtle highlight detail with RC papers either. But your milage may
    vary. You should print with FB for awhile before you pronounce it
    inferior to RC. There must be a reason besides archival stability that
    induces most fine art printers to use FB if it is such a pain. James
     
  12. May be that you need to spend some time looking at some really fine
    prints...
     
  13. Some messages ahead I didn't want to show individuality on my own
    tastes, wich after all, doesn't make any difference for the matter.
    But, in addition to James and others, it should be stated clearly:
    after a long, long road seeing and making B&W prints, I'd never seen
    a RC print looking nearly as beautiful and rich as Forte print. Maybe
    sometime, not till now.

    <p>

    Cesar B.
     
  14. At this years PhotoLA 2001 there were at least a couple thousand
    prints there and the only prints I can remember being on a plastic
    substrate were color. James
     
  15. I've noticed the "platic" RC glossy surface sets up a nice plane
    which offsets the image in the underlying emulsion (which for me,
    because of the ultra low grain in the print from 4x5 neg, sets up a
    live, "3 dimensional quality" in the image itself.) Haven't really
    tried fibre seriously. Would like to. Andre
     
  16. At times like this I am reminded of Weston's line, "I don't care if
    you print on a door mat, as long as it is a GOOD print."
     
  17. But if you can print on something other than a doormat, why not? Why
    not print on the best material available? You take the trouble of
    finding the image and processing the film, why not use the best
    material to bring that print to life. james
     
  18. What difference does it make if you like the print on the doormat?
     
  19. For many years there wasn't as wide a selection of surface tones
    (warm, cold, neutral) and base color (white, cream, etc.) as was
    available with fiber base paper. So some people used fiber simply
    because the tones and colors they liked weren't available in RC
    paper. This difference has been reduced to some extent in recent
    years with the introduction of warm tone RC papers. Others just
    preferred the feel of fiber based papers, apart from considerations
    of looks. And others were concerned about the archival quality, or
    lack thereof, of RC paper. This latter concern has resurfaced
    recently with Ctein's articles about the silvering effect he has
    noticed with his prints made on RC paper. Personally, I use RC paper
    for contact sheets and proofs just because it's quicker and easier
    but I always use fiber for the prints. However, if you like the look
    of RC then I'd say use it but recognize that you may have a problem
    selling your work on that kind of paper.
     
  20. Hi Paul,
    I must agree with you I think RC papers have come a long way and they
    often look superior to FB papers. Esp, Ilford's RC Multigrade IV and
    Warmtone both pearl surface (I hate RC gloss, these do look like a
    sheet of plastic). I think they are both superior then their equiv.
    FB papers. However one of the finist of all papers in my opinion is
    Oriental Seagull FB and another interesting one is Kentmere's
    Fineprint Warmtone, dried under weights this dries incredibly flat
    like no other paper I've used.

    <p>

    Another thing that's often overlooked with FB papers is over washing.
    Often these papers contain brighteners which can wash out with
    prolonged washing making the image look dull. Also FB papers seem to
    have a greater 'dry-down' effect then RC papers.
    All the best,
     
  21. Paul, PS. quite often a FB paper dosen't "snap" until its selenium
    toned this of course applies to RC papers but they don't seem to show
    the effect quite as much.
    Regards,
     
  22. Paul, After using only RC papers for years I too am making the
    transition to FB and, coincidentally, like yourself started with
    Multigrade IV double-weight glossy (which I selected at random). I
    was very disappointed in the resulting 8x10 contacts when compared
    with Polycontrast III RC prints from the same negative; they were
    dull with a matte-like finish resembling a lustre surface paper. So
    I looked to some of my favorite photographers and found that Ansel
    made extensive use of Ilford Galerie dw graded (Print, pp. 49-50)and
    that John Sexton had printed much of Listen to the Trees on Kodak
    Polymax Fine Art variable contrast (p. 88, "absolutely beautiful
    prints"). Freestyle Camera announced the second coming of Oriental
    Seagull G graded as "one of the finest, professional quality
    photographic papers ever made,...." (cf. AA, Print, p. 50). I
    testprinted all three with one of my landscape-architectural negs and
    compared with Polycontrast III RC. I found all three FB papers
    equally luminous and the Seagull G superior in tonal separation and
    three dimensional sense of depth. Curl is a problem but not an
    insuperable one; it is well treated in several previous posts. Some
    kind of print washer is a necessity. The fiber papers have a pleasing
    lightly textured finish; are easier to work with because they are
    double weight; hold up to the heat of dry-mounting; and are of
    *known* permanence. Good luck, Nick.
     
  23. All the answers on this thread were good ones. I have to agree with
    several that stated use what pleases you. I too, had a bit of a
    learning curve when I started using FB papers. But I had seen the
    great prints from some of the masters and was determined to find out
    how these prints had such great deep blacks and stand out highlights.
    I am now finding the best mix of film and paper for my photos. You
    should try selenium toning also. The results will speak for
    themselves. Try the Ilford multigrade warm tone paper. It is great.
    Also if you want to stay in the RC realm try the Kodak fine art paper.
    It is a matte finish RC paper made for colorizing. It has a very
    pleaseing low lustre to it. I think over time you will find that the
    fiber papers will give you much more printing expression than the RC
    papers you have grown accustomed to.
    Good Luck.
     
  24. The fact that Paul has been less than impressed with Multigrade IV FB
    after using RC paper should not be surprising. In this Velvia era,
    anything less than exaggerated (color vs. color or b/w vs. b/w) fails
    to make an impact on eyes with shifted thresholds. Appreciating
    subtlety takes time and accommodation. Practice and patience, Paul.
     
  25. I just can't seem to stay away from this discussion. I agree that you
    can make a really nice print on RC. However, the original post
    implied that RC might actually produce better prints than fiber. This
    just is not in my realm of reality after working with both. I
    use RC for contact prints and test prints while trying to decide
    if a negative is worthy of my efforts with fiber. I also use RC
    for snapshot like images for my friends. Fiber takes time to learn how
    to use properly. If you take the time to figure it out you won't have
    anymore questions about which looks better. Paul, you ask the question
    "am I missing something"? Yes, you likely have not spent enough time
    to learn how to use it yet.
     
  26. Just last night I printed a desert scene on MG IV RC and then on the
    fibre version of the same. The fibre is richer, has much better darks
    and looks cleaner overall. The higher tones on the fibre were far
    better than the RC. The contrast on the RC was about one-half grade
    less than the fibre in Dektol. I use both papers, both Ilford MG's,
    on a regular basis. I would never say the RC is as good as the fibre,
    and would not consider using it for serious work. In fact, when I
    decide to just print some quicky work to see what some negatives look
    like on RC paper, I always end up grabbing the fibre to see what they
    actually look like. That is what happened last night. But, if you
    really like RC, go ahead, it just makes other people's work look
    better. Incidentally, I was always amazed how good Kodak RC paper can
    look, at least until it dries! When wet the stuff is great, but it
    loses much of its richness in drying.
     
  27. This is a fairly long thread and I may have missed it but has anyone
    picked up on the fact that air-dried glossy FB won't produce the same
    surface as air-dried glossy RC? In order to have an apples to apples
    comparison you would have to Ferrotype the glossy FB. Then, if done
    right, there would be no question as to the superiority of FB.

    <p>

    A glossy surface on any paper will increase the reflected range and
    produce greater "luminosity". It's a question of taste and a trade-
    off between a gutsy image and one without a lot of distracting
    reflections.

    <p>

    Regards,
    bw
     
  28. What no one has mentioned so far in reply to the original query is
    that no black and white RC paper can be sold as a permanent image. I
    had the unfortunate experience of printing a commission of 20 large
    prints (16 x 20 and 20 x 24) on Agfa RC, (on RC at the insistence of
    the client to save money) which were then beautifully framed. I did
    not selenium tone the prints or treat then in Sistan--otherwise they
    were properly processed and washed. Within six months all the prints
    begin to have orange areas a nd silvering out, a result of
    contamination of the emulsion by the plasticizers in a sealed frame
    environemnt. I had to reprint all the prints on fibre based papewr
    despite the fact that I originally did not want to do the job on RC
    paper.
    This effect has been well documented by Ctein in his magazine reports.
    All RC papers, when in a closed environment, are susceptable to
    contamination by the plasticizers in the paper. The effect is somewhat
    unpredictable as to timing but usually occurs within a year of
    framing, especially if the framing is done very soon after processing.
    Selenium toning or treatment in Sistan helps, but no one knows for how
    long.
    Now, as to the aesthetics of RC versus fibre, there is no doubt to the
    casual observer, RC can look as good or sometimes better than fibre.
    They lie flatter, the glossy versions have a higher surface gloss, and
    the emulsions on many RC papers are identical to the fibre ones and
    produce equivalent blacks and toning results. But, if you look very
    carefully at matched sets of fibre and RC papers from the same
    manufacturers, there are very subtle but real differences. I think the
    most imposrtant one is highlight gradation and tone curve. To my eye
    at least, the Fibre versions of most papers produce a much finer
    and visibly superior delineation of highlight details. Highlight on
    even the best RC papers tend to flatten out and have less detail.
     
  29. What no one has mentioned so far in reply to the original query is
    that no black and white RC paper can be sold as a permanent image. I
    had the unfortunate experience of printing a commission of 20 large
    prints (16 x 20 and 20 x 24) on Agfa RC, (on RC at the insistence of
    the client to save money) which were then beautifully framed. I did
    not selenium tone the prints or treat then in Sistan--otherwise they
    were properly processed and washed. Within six months all the prints
    begin to have orange areas a nd silvering out, a result of
    contamination of the emulsion by the plasticizers in a sealed frame
    environemnt. I had to reprint all the prints on fibre based papewr
    despite the fact that I originally did not want to do the job on RC
    paper.
    This effect has been well documented by Ctein in his magazine
    reports.
    All RC papers, when in a closed environment, are susceptable to
    contamination by the plasticizers in the paper. The effect is
    somewhat
    unpredictable as to timing but usually occurs within a year of
    framing, especially if the framing is done very soon after
    processing.
    Selenium toning or treatment in Sistan helps, but no one knows for
    how long.
    Now, as to the aesthetics of RC versus fibre, there is no doubt to
    the casual observer, RC can look as good or sometimes better than
    fibre. They lie flatter, the glossy versions have a higher surface
    gloss, and the emulsions on many RC papers are identical to the fibre
    ones and produce equivalent blacks and toning results. But, if you
    look very carefully at matched sets of fibre and RC papers from the
    same manufacturers, there are very subtle but real differences. I
    think the most imposrtant one is highlight gradation and tone curve.
    To my eye at least, the Fibre versions of most papers produce a much
    finer and visibly superior delineation of highlight details. Highlight
    on even the best RC papers tend to flatten out and have less detail.
    In addition, many people love the sheen of the emulsion of a glossy
    air-dried fibre base print.
    I think the best cold-toned RC paper by far is Agfa Multicontrast
    Premium RC; both in its glossy and lustre versions it is a very fine
    match in tonal colour and tone curve for Forte fibre base cold-toned
    multicontrast paper. But I think Forte Polywarmtone fiber base paper
    is a richer and better paper than Forte cold-toned paper. Both Forte
    products in my opinion are better than Oriental which tends to have
    a very different tonal curve--really good mid-tone separations but
    flatter looking highlights. The old Galerie fibre base was a wonderful
    paper, the new Galerie is also a very fine paper in terms of its depth
    of blacks, but it is a graded paper and not so easy to work with or
    tone as Forte papers.
    Finally, none of the fibre based papers existing today have as white a
    base as Agfa RC paper, but those RC papers are simply not permanent.
     
  30. David, Seagull G in grades 2 and 3, as well as the VC version, exhibit
    pronounced toes that produce the "flat" highlights you describe.
    Rather similar to Azo grade 2. This can be overcome if desired by
    flashing grade 4 Seagull, but my usual solution (for normal
    range negatives) is to print on Zone VI Brilliant Bromide II. It has
    a more conventional curve shape, and is just as beautiful a paper
    IMHO. That said, long-toed Seagull is great to have available for
    negatives with extended dense highlights.
     
  31. Many thanks to al who took the trouble to reply! I think some of you
    have hit the nail on the head, when you suggest that I need to spend
    more time learning to use this type of paper. I will take the advice
    and struggle on with FB! In my original post I suggest that maybe RC
    has progressed to a point that it is an improvement on FB, but I
    meant this in view of the fact that a FB print takes a great deal of
    time to produce when compared to a RC version, for what appears to be
    only a marginal improvement in quality. This comment was made out of
    ignorance as I have only begun using this type of paper. With regards
    to quality, I have never had a customer refuse a print because of the
    paper it ws printed on. In fact, most are not photographers and
    wouldn't know what I was talking about if I mentioned FB or RC!! I
    process my RC prints correctly and include a selenium bath and they
    are matted with archival quality board. I have framed prints (RC)at
    home that show ill effects despite being behind glass for the last 10
    years. As far as "feel" is concerned, this doesn't appear to be an
    issue once a print is framed behind glass...you can't touch it.
    BTW I've sorted the drying problem by using archival blotters....very
    little curl now!! Thanks again Paul
     
  32. I can't help jumping in here. First, I won't repeat my rant about the
    necessity of having a drymount press for FB papers. The disadvantage
    of longer processing times can be partually remediated by use of the
    Ilford Archival processing sequence. 22 minutes from the time the
    print hits the developer until its on the drying screen (excluding
    selenium toning).

    <p>

    I'm in a club focused on B&W printing, and the more
    accomplished members can spot RC paper from across the room. I can
    also tell you with no reservations that RC prints don't look good
    beside FB prints. If a member is not printing on FB paper by their
    meeting, we run them off :).
     
  33. Theres not much left to say. I would agree with the philosophy of
    whatever makes you happy. However go to some exhibitions find a
    print that knocks you out and see what sort of paper it is printed
    on. Dependibng on the reason it knocks you out you will probably
    find that it is printed on FB paper. Personally I like RC paper for
    its speed of processing, especially with toners, far less washing
    time and a hell of a lot less water. However when it comes to hanging
    one on a wall it's usually and FB print. As for archival permanance
    I have never had any problems with prints fading or staining and some
    of my RC prints are 15-20 years old now. Personally I think that the
    world is overburdened by second rate photography, the creators of
    which have had the arrogance to decide that we will want around in 50
    yrs plus.
     
  34. <p>Don't throw the RC out- it has its place- you can put it in a
    portfolio for sending out or passing around- no one would object to
    that- and if you end up doing any commercial work, (magazine,
    headshots etc.) somehow that "glossy" plastic seems to show more
    commercial potential of the print than a paper surface does.. but for
    exhibiting, stick to the far classier fb paper....
     
  35. I think a lot of what is seen in one paper or the other is the result
    of what one expects to see or what they want to see.
    RC papers can have every bit of tonal range as fibre. RC papers can
    be even sharper in appearance as the emulsion is coated on a glossy
    surface capable of sharper results, or at least until you ferrotype
    the fibre paper.
    While RC papers can't be considered as long lasting as fibre papers
    now, poor processing of fibre will, in many instances, make the
    difference insignificant.
    I prefer fibre for most of my work. For industrial, press or quick
    work where the print will be used & thrown away I use RC most of the
    time. For long term prints and exhibition work I prefer fibre. Mainly
    because I like how the prints look with a much longer life expectancy
    being a bonus.
    Just as some like a silver based print and others albumen, platinum
    or whatever, personal taste comes into play here.
    There is more than one brand of fibre paper to choose from. Try a few
    of the premium papers & see if they work for you. Not all look the
    same.
    But any real visual differences can be tested by printing the finest
    print possible, same image, on each paper & then matting it behind
    glass as you will when showing it and let others look without giving
    any information as to which is which. Do it with 3-5 different papers
    and/or combinations of toners and get input as to which print people
    like and why. You might be surprised at the response. Many won't be
    able to tell the difference.
    What I belive it comes down to is that you have to print what you
    think shows your work best, understanding that RC papers "should last
    as long", but currently don't.
     
  36. I've printed with Ilford MG IV on both RC (pearl surface) and FB (glossy).

    In general it wasn't that hard to make prints on RC that for all intents and purposes looked identical to the prints on the fiber. The fiber paper just had a nicer feel to it if you were holding the print, and the contrast was a bit different.

    In a matte or behind glass, I'd bet money that no one would be able to tell the difference.

    That said, I print most of the stuff I really care about on fiber, because who knows how long RC prints will last.
     
  37. Many years ago, the "best" prints were always on Platinum paper. Then, one day, Brett Weston told his dad, Edward, that he liked the proofs better that they were making on glossy silver paper. Edward had the vision and good sense to evaluate the situation, and he agreed. So today the standard for "best" prints has become glossy fiber based silver/gelatin prints. The moral of the story is that conventional wisdom has been wrong before and it could well be wrong now -- if you prefer RC paper, then go with it.
     

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