Thinking of colour enlarging
Old 07-18-2018   #1
jgrainger
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Thinking of colour enlarging

Hello,

I've just had a couple of c41 films developed and printed recently. It has been partly disappointing due to the quality compared to my own amateur enlargements from black and white films - to the extent I was considering selling my Olympus om1

After getting a couple of prints from a film I processed, and having a roll processed elsewhere (multi lens and cameras on one roll) there are a few realisations:

-My usual lab will probably benefit form some apparently soon-to-be replacement film scanner,
-My OM 50 1.8 appears equaled or a little beaten by some post war Contax rangefinder lenses
-A good Jupiter 8 beats an ok Sonnar (same roll),
-Developing and processing for colour is expensive,
-And.. I should possibly start to do my own developing / prints for c-41.

The development side of C-41 was recently covered in another thread, but it leaves thoughts and questions in terms of enlarging / prints.

I presently have a De Vere 23 Professional - like a single column version of the 54, from probably the 50's. It does have the familiar two handles for focus / enlargement factor, and it's a condensor enlarger with a filter drawer.

I'd like to keep this enlarger (use it for 35mm and medium format), but would be happy to modify a head to fit - if that's possible / practical. Alternatively, there are some cheap 35mm colour enlargers on Ebay but most of those aren't medium format capable.

I'm guessing that one of the fancy compact heated print developers may work for up to 8x10 (or a bit bigger) prints - so thinking maybe it could be an upgrade to use for colour and black and white. I usually use trays, or a jobo drum for big / 4x5 negatives.

Besides chemicals, is there much extra I'd need compared to black and white enlarging equipment I'm likely to have - and enlarger wise, would it be practical to modify a colour head?

Thank you,
Jonathan
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Old 07-20-2018   #2
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Well, in general, color printing with an optical enlarger is not so difficult. Filtration needs a bit of training, but that's all.
RA-4 chemicals and especially papers are very cheap. Much cheaper than BW.
With an optical enlarging lens with apochromatic correction (Rodenstock APO-Rodagon, Schneider APO-Componon) you also get unsurpassed resolution: Much better than even the best drumscanners!

Modern enlargers with a very good colour head, e.g. from Durst or Kaiser, are cheap on the used market. And Kaiser is producing all its enlargers even new:
http://kaiser-fototechnik.de/en/prod...ent.asp?w=1347

Therefore: If you want it, there is no reason for not doing it. Just start and enjoy.

Cheers, Jan
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Old 07-20-2018   #3
Ronald M
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If you have good access to paper and chems in home size quantity and a permanent darkroom, go for it.

A temp controlled bath is required to hold 100 deg F.

A NOVA processor makes anything else look terrible. Buy extra clips. Use the four slot one with one for wash after developing. Tubes like Jobo require drying after every print. Pain in the neck.

Buy your film in batches so color is consistent without screwing around every print. Set up on a small one or section, then go big
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Old 07-20-2018   #4
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Jan:
By the sound of it, it probably wouldn't be vastly more difficult than the B&W developing / printing I do at present.

I take it there would only be a small difference between the Apo and non-Apo Componon - not really noticeable at small to moderate sizes of enlargement?

I've a 80mm non-Apo Componon at present, but had thought about getting Fujinon EX series when next choosing a different focal length - am not sure whether those are Apo lenses.

Ronald:
My usual paper developing trays are a cheap set of plastic office draws - to save space, they're fine up to 8x10.

The Nova is/ was/ continues to be tempting, might keep an eye on ebay.

Jonathan
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Old 07-20-2018   #5
Bill Clark
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Years ago I did darkroom (analog) color printing. I bought a color head (Chromega they call it) for my Omega enlarger, which I still use printing black and white VC paper. I had a drum to chemical process. I wanted to print more expeditiously so I bought a color analyzer.

As I recall, once I got the paper out and ready, it had to be put into the easel in complete dark. There wasn’t any “safelight” for color printing.

I found the filters to be a bit annoying. Maybe I didn’t operate the equipment enough.

For me, it took a while to realize it was better to have a lab do the printing as I found more productive ways to utilize my time as I was running my business back then.
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Old 07-20-2018   #6
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I used to do color printing in my home darkroom. I agree that the Nova slot processor with temp control is the way to go. I would also recommend a color analyzer to read the image for filtration before exposing. It will save lots of time and paper. ---jb.
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Old 07-20-2018   #7
Bob Michaels
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I did some color printing in my home darkroom decades ago. I found it not that difficult after a while but gave up color printing for a basic reason.

B&W printing yourself opens up great avenues for artistic expression as there are so many variables that one can employ.

OTOH, color printing is essentially formulaic. Eventually one can learn to do at home as well as can be done in a professional lab but not better. It is the same as developing C-41 or E-6, there is no opportunity for artistic control.
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Old 07-21-2018   #8
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Bill:
There are other things I'd enjoy more than wet printing colour prints, except that they're around 7 (poor quality) to 14 (fairly good but not still mini lab machine) each roll.. and the quality of the budget option can be terrible.

JB:
The colour analizer sounds a sensible option, and they're not particularly expensive used.

Bob:
I get what you're saying about the results obtainable, and lack of artistic control.. I can live with that, my interest in colour printing is down to the cost and quality of having other labs do it.

To keep a good balance of time and effort I'm not sure what the best option is for contact sheets.. aside from wet printing them, there's the possibility of using a regular flatbed scanner to produce a low quality contact sheets, or sorting out a light table.

Which of those methods are the best compromise between accurate, practical, and time consuming?

Jonathan
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Old 07-22-2018   #9
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nfo here http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.or...splay.php?f=34
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Old 07-22-2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Michaels View Post
OTOH, color printing is essentially formulaic. Eventually one can learn to do at home as well as can be done in a professional lab but not better. It is the same as developing C-41 or E-6, there is no opportunity for artistic control.
I respectfully disagree. While it's certainly correct that b&w printing gives you more creative freedom, it's not true at all that color printing is formulaic. The choice of exposure time and what color cast to go with are still highly creative and individual choices. What you can't do is you can't dodge and burn since exposure time affects the color and different exposures in select areas would yield different color casts across the image.
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Old 07-22-2018   #11
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Bill:
The colour analizer sounds a sensible option, and they're not particularly expensive used.
I've never used one but from what I've heard they're not very practical at all so I'd personally not bother with a color analyzer. What I'd recommend, though, is getting something that's called "Kodak color print viewing kit". It's a set of cardboard cards with color filters that you look through while looking at the print and it gives you an idea of the correction you need to dial in the enlarger to get the desired results (and the color cast you like best might not always be the most neutral one). They're not made anymore but you can get old ones on auction sites.

I do a fair bit of color printing in a darkroom that I share with a small group of other photographers and we use a Colenta processor which is super practical since it goes from dry to dry in about 4.5 minutes and there's no need to fuss with liquids in the darkroom (which for color printing is a bit more cumbersome since you're working in complete darkness). A Colenta is obviously impractical for home use but there's a modular system called "Durst Printo" that I hear is quite convenient and uses a relatively small amount of chemicals. Certainly worth checking out if you can find one.

Another thing that is super convenient is an automatic paper roll cutter. RA-4 paper is quite cheap if bought by the roll and an automatic roll cutter lets you dial in the length of the sheet and then you can turn off the light and have the roll spit out the pre-set length of paper in the dark at the push of a button. Again, that might be too expensive of a thing to get for home use but maybe if you befriend some people at your local pro lab you can ask to use their machine to cut a roll into sheets?

One thing you need to know about color printing in 2018 is that you don't get as much paper choice as you used to. You basically have Kodak and Fuji. Kodak only makes paper by the roll so if you can't use a roll cutter you're out of luck. Kodak paper is quite nice but it's geared towards digital c-printing so it's quite contrasty and has fairly short exposure times.

Fuji still sells sheets but it's more expensive than Kodak and also more expensive than the same Fuji paper on rolls. The good thing about Fuji is that as of now *knock on wood* they still have separate product lines for traditional printing and digital printing. I've only used their matte paper but it's less contrasty than Kodak's paper which is nice when you have a negative that is quite contrasty to begin with.

All in all color printing is quite easy and enjoyable to get into *if* you have a setup that allows you to experiment easily and cheaply. The first time I stepped into a color darkroom with no prior practical knowledge of printing and no assistance I managed to get a couple of very nice prints by the end of the day (and I still think they're good today even after having gained a lot more experience). However, that day I went through almost 10 meters of a 52cm width paper roll which seems like a lot but at less than 3/meter it's not too bad.
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Old 07-22-2018   #12
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Originally Posted by jgrainger View Post
Bob: I get what you're saying about the results obtainable, and lack of artistic control.. I can live with that, my interest in colour printing is down to the cost and quality of having other labs do it.
By all means, give it a try. I have found over the years with everything related to photography, there is no way DIY saves money once you factor all the cost in. But if you are like me, you have to try it to learn for yourself. For me, I insist on doing everything myself so I will know the end result is 100% me and no one else played any part. Plus, too often I will start on something at night and want to have it completed before daylight so I need to not be reliant on anyone else's timing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jgrainger View Post
To keep a good balance of time and effort I'm not sure what the best option is for contact sheets.. aside from wet printing them, there's the possibility of using a regular flatbed scanner to produce a low quality contact sheets, or sorting out a light table.

Which of those methods are the best compromise between accurate, practical, and time consuming?
For almost 20 years I have been laying negs on a light table finding I see the most detail and it is also the quickest cheapest. There is nothing I cannot determine better from a neg than any second generation copy. But, the the same length of time, many have said there was no need for them to even try it because they already knew it would not work for them believing they had to have a positive.
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Old 07-22-2018   #13
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For 35mm I prefer a scan because the contact sheet prints are just too small for me to see the imperfections like a little scratch or debris imbedded in the film emulsion. For MF I usually don't even need a contact print as the negs are so much bigger and the details are so much easier to see.

My hats off to you guys that do colour developing and printing. It looks like a different animal than B&W. My B&W stuff doesn't have to be spot on w/ time and temps. I can mess things up pretty badly, and still usually pull it out on the print.
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Old 07-22-2018   #14
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Originally Posted by jgrainger View Post
Jan:
By the sound of it, it probably wouldn't be vastly more difficult than the B&W developing / printing I do at present.

I take it there would only be a small difference between the Apo and non-Apo Componon - not really noticeable at small to moderate sizes of enlargement?

I've a 80mm non-Apo Componon at present, but had thought about getting Fujinon EX series when next choosing a different focal length - am not sure whether those are Apo lenses.

Ronald:
My usual paper developing trays are a cheap set of plastic office draws - to save space, they're fine up to 8x10.

The Nova is/ was/ continues to be tempting, might keep an eye on ebay.

Jonathan
Paper is processed at 100 deg F, far above room temp. Even if you floated them in hot water, maintaining temp would be difficult.
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Old 07-22-2018   #15
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I've never used one but from what I've heard they're not very practical at all so I'd personally not bother with a color analyzer. . . .
Dear Jamie,

Frances wrote the manual for the Lici Colorstar... unofficially. She tested it Darkroom User magazine, and the manufacturer liked the review so much that they asked if they could use it. You can now find it on their site (Part 1 here) and really, they ARE practical.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-22-2018   #16
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Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
I've never used one but from what I've heard they're not very practical at all so I'd personally not bother with a color analyzer. What I'd recommend, though, is getting something that's called "Kodak color print viewing kit". It's a set of cardboard cards with color filters that you look through while looking at the print and it gives you an idea of the correction you need to dial in the enlarger to get the desired results (and the color cast you like best might not always be the most neutral one). They're not made anymore but you can get old ones on auction sites.
I don't know who told you that a color analyzer is not practical, but they are mistaken. I made color prints for years in a commercial lab, and we used a color analyzer on the printing easel every day. The general routine was to shoot one frame of a neutral gray card on each roll of film, or when lighting conditions changed. The neutral gray negative was then analyzed when printing to give a very accurate starting point for proper filtration. The "Kodak color print viewing kit" was used after the first print for final tweaking of the color.
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Old 07-22-2018   #17
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Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
What you can't do is you can't dodge and burn since exposure time affects the color and different exposures in select areas would yield different color casts across the image.
I respectfully disagree with this statement. In my years as a color printer, I would routinely dodge and burn prints with no severe color shifts. ---jb
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Old 07-22-2018   #18
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Jamie,

Frances wrote the manual for the Lici Colorstar... unofficially. She tested it Darkroom User magazine, and the manufacturer liked the review so much that they asked if they could use it. You can now find it on their site (Part 1 here) and really, they ARE practical.

Cheers,

R.
Dear Roger,

Thanks for the link! I have no doubt you're right. Like I said, I've never actually used one and maybe impractical was the wrong word. What I meant was that from what I heard they require a lot of work, although, of course, what is and isn't a lot is highly subjective

I thought about buying one a few times whenever one popped up on an auction site for little money but in the end I think I much prefer the viewing filters. I'm hardly ever going for truly accurate color reproduction as much as I'm going for colors that I find aesthetically pleasing so I like the intuitiveness of just looking through the filters and deciding what I like best.
But then again, I'm also working in a darkroom with an automatic dry-to-dry processor so it's very easy to just quickly do a series of test strips at different settings and send them through the machine. I guess if I'd have to laboriously develop each test strip by hand I'd be more inclined to reduce the amount of trial and error.
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Old 07-22-2018   #19
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I respectfully disagree with this statement. In my years as a color printer, I would routinely dodge and burn prints with no severe color shifts. ---jb
That's interesting to hear and makes even more of a case for there being artistic freedom in color printing! I personally haven't experimented much dodging and burning with color and have only seen some rather wacky results from another photographer in my darkroom. I suspect, though, that this has to do with the rather high sensitivity of Kodak Endura paper these days. Next time I'm in the darkroom I'll give it a go.
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Old 07-22-2018   #20
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I don't know who told you that a color analyzer is not practical, but they are mistaken. I made color prints for years in a commercial lab, and we used a color analyzer on the printing easel every day. The general routine was to shoot one frame of a neutral gray card on each roll of film, or when lighting conditions changed. The neutral gray negative was then analyzed when printing to give a very accurate starting point for proper filtration.
To be fair, though, your description of what this process entails does sound a bit impractical an uneconomical for me personally. But of course, if you're working in a commercial lab and printing for others there's a different expectation of accuracy. All I need to worry about when printing for myself is whether or not I like it. (I use film also on commercial jobs when it makes sense but there the negatives usually end up being scanned. I'd like to switch to scanning prints instead of negatives for commercial jobs, too, though.)

That being said, though, if I start from a decent contact sheet it never takes me more than two or three test strips to get in the ballpark of an acceptable print (an then there's obviously a lot of fine tuning and testing to get a print I'm happy with).
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Old 07-22-2018   #21
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Goodoldnorm:
Thank you for the link, it would be a great place to ask questions

Bob:
I'll give the printing a try, along with examining the negatives on a light table - good and cheap is a winning combination for anyone just trying something out (I usually have a look at 645 or 6x6 black and white negatives just held in the light but am a bit unfamiliar with judging C-41 negative film, especially in 35mm).
Generally speaking, I just got my enlarger back on a cupboard after a month of it sitting on the floor, and am quite excited that it will work just fine using the filter drawer instead of getting a 2nd machine.. probably excited enough to get through a learning curve.

Ronald:
I did momentarily think of using the trays in a heated water bath but it would be pretty impractical. The Nova looks like a step up from my regular cheap trays - I mean, even if I don't take to colour printing, the Nova tank would probably be a nice improvement for black and white too.
I'll see how it goes though, it should be possible to use my Jobo print drum to get started - provided it drains quickly enough to keep up with the short development times.

Jamie:
The idea of rolls of paper seems fine if one can get past the initial difficulty of processing it into sheets. I worked in manufacturing for around a decade, partly as a manual machinist - which has been a hobby before and since then. Adapting some sort of guillotine or wheel cutter to be used in the dark should be doable. It's feasible that slightly oversize sheets could always be trimmed after printing.. and it's surely no worse than some of the more freehand methods of cutting down film for 127 cameras.

Jonathan
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Old 08-22-2018   #22
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Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
If you have good access to paper and chems in home size quantity and a permanent darkroom, go for it.

A temp controlled bath is required to hold 100 deg F.
Paper is not processed at 100F, the correct process temperature for standard RA4 is 95F or 35C. The exception are some non orthodox Fuji minilab paper processes.

That being said, you don't need to process RA4 paper at 35C, you can go as low as 25C (of course with adjusted processing time) when using Kodak Ektacolor chemistry and Kodak paper. This will simply result in a color shift which can be filtered for easily. But it is important that the temperature is kept as stable as possible, because with drifting temperature you will experience drifting filtration!
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Old 08-22-2018   #23
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A color analyzer is a handy tool for someone who needs to print a lot of negatives in reasonable time. It is not a necessary tool for a darkroom beginner.

A color analyzer might even get in the way of learning proper color filtration and get a good and creative color printer in the same way exposure automation in cameras can get in the way of learning and becoming a good and creative photographer.

Learn to see and judge color shifts and learn to educate and exercise your own judgement regarding colors. This is a process that requires experience, it comes with trial and error. There are no shortcuts.

Again, not to be misunderstood, I do not condemn the use of color analyzers in the hands of experienced printers who know what they are doing and why.
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