Category: Darkroom

Analog-To-Analog-To-Digital versus Analog-To-Digital-To-Analog

I bought another enlarger. It’s an Opemus 5 made in Czechoslovakia probably in the 1970s. Now I can print pictures taken with my Hasselblad on 120 film.

While testing the enlarger I made a print that I was quite pleased with. It was sharp with a nice bokéh and had rich blacks and clear details. But how does the analog print compare to a digital one? If you also need a digital image, should you scan the negative or the silver gelatin print?

My scanner (CanoScan 9000F) is not the best possible film scanner but it produces decent images. I scanned the same image from the negative and from the darkroom print and adjusted them to look as similar as possible.

This is the scan from the negative:

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This is the scan from the silver gelatin print:

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There is not much difference. You can get a decent digital image both ways. Dust removal is an issue in both cases. I found that the print scan needed a bit more work removing the dust.

For this picture, I wanted the background to be almost completely black. The original negative has more detail in the background and if I had wanted to show that in the digital image, it probably would have been easier to do with the negative scan. The analog print would have required more dodging and burning in the darkroom.

But what if you want to have the picture on paper? I also have an Epson Stylus Photo inkjet printer that can print decent pictures. I printed out the image scanned from the negative and compared that with the silver gelatin print. It doesn’t make sense to rescan the prints and show them here but what I found out was:

  • The bokéh areas of the inkjet print seem to have some digital noise. Those look better in the silver gelatin print.
  • The white of the silver gelatin print looks brighter.
  • Both prints have rich black. The black from the inkjet printer looks even a bit darker but not pure black.
  • The inkjet produces grey tones through mixing colors. If you look at the output in a tungsten light indoors it may not be so apparent but if you look at the pictures (inkjet vs. silver gelatin) side by side in the daylight, the difference is very clear. The darkroom print is truely monochrome while the inkjet print has a greenish tint. Certainly the inkjet output can be improved through color calibration but I think that the silver gelatin paper can outperform any amateur-level inkjet printer for b/w pictures.
  • Probably related to the monochrome nature of the silver gelatin paper, the details in a b/w picture look sharper than from the inkjet.

Conclusion: I will continue scanning my negatives and happily share the scans online. But if I have a shot that I really like and want to hang on my wall, I will setup my darkroom and spend a lovely afternoon smelling the chemicals 🙂

(The picture was taken with Hasselblad 500C using a Carl Zeiss Planar 100 mm lens at f/3.5 on Kodak Tri-X 400. The film was developed in D-76 stock solution.)

DIY Darkroom Dodging Tools

I needed a dodge tool for some printing in the darkroom. I could have just cut some shape from a piece of cardboard and paint it black but then I started thinking that maybe I could make several templates for further use.

A dodge tool needs to be black from the other side to prevent reflecting light from affecting the print. Instead of painting some cardboard black, I decided to use my laser printer. I made some templates in Photoshop for different shapes of dodging and printed them out. I’m sharing them here in case anyone else finds them useful.

Firstly, download the PDF file that contains my templates.

Print out the page that seems to have the shape you need.

Print it out

Glue the laser printer output on a piece of cardboard.

Glue on cardboard

Cut out the shape you want.

Cut to shape

Bend some steel wire to make a handle.

Bend some steel wire

Make holes to the cardboard and insert the steel wire.

Make holes and insert wire

Apply some tape to secure the steel wire handle.

Apply some tape

Fix any white showing on the black side using a black marker pen.

Finish with black marker and use.

Take your new dodging tool to the darkroom and make some great prints 🙂

C41

After successfully developing some rolls of B&W film, I wanted to try something new.

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It was time to get my hands on developing color film.

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Google and YouTube really are your friends if you want to learn something new. I watched videos people who had successfully developed their own color film and decided to try it out myself.

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It was autumn and the colors were just shouting to try out some Portra 400.

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So I purchased a C41 kit and mixed the chemicals. This picture is from my first roll of self-developed color film:

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With the modern C41 kits the developing really isn’t that different from B&W. The only issue is to get the temperature exactly right (100F, 37.8C). This took me a while in the first attempt but the pictures turned out great.

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DIY

I am a big fan of DIY. Whether it is related to home renovations, woodworking, software, electronics or anything else that I am interested in.

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That is why sending the exposed film to a photo lab for developing did not feel satisfactory. I wanted to do that part myself.

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Unfortunately I had trashed my film developing equipment during moving between homes. After some consideration I came to the conclusion that I want to develop film again. Even though film processing equipment is not as widely available as 20+ years ago, it still is. Both online and also in some local photography shops.

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So off I was to buy a developing tank and chemicals. The first time loading a film to the reel in the dark bathroom made me a bit nervous but I was able to succeed.

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Developer, stop, fixer, washing. It felt amazingly routine after 25 years. And opening the tank after the fixing and seeing the developed negatives felt as wonderful as it always used to do in my youth.

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Slowing down. Thinking. Succeeding. Feeling good about it.

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