If you have read these pages lately you cannot have missed a growing irritation over the scanner’s limited capabilities. Or, perhaps the limited capabilities are mine? Either way I think I have seen more detail in the negs, specially the medium format negatives, than the scanner has managed to resolve.
Earlier this autumn I found an advertisement for a Durst M670-enlarger. “That would fit perfectly” I thought and driving the required 250 km for picking it up was an easy decision. So in the evening in the hall:
The enlarger went through some tests and seemed to function as expected. The quality compared to the old Rex II-enlarger that was tossed away this summer is significant of course. With proper aperture setting down to f/22 and a large easel this looked promising. The colour head also seemed to give yellow/magenta/blue as prescribed by the settings.
During the festive season I finally managed to get some time to set up the equipment in my makeshift darkroom. With 3 mm Masonite blinds in the windows and the desk ready the experimenting began. A red darkroom lamp was also new as I understand the older green/brown-ish may cause havoc with modern paper.
I was given a batch of old odd-sized Ilford paper and had bought Kentmere paper so I was ready to go. The Ilford paper was old and of fixed contrast but the Kentmere was of the more modern VC (variable contrast)-type. For the latter the contrast is adjusted by choosing the correct mix of yellow and magenta in the light.
The first test strips with a 5×7-negative blown up to A4-size showed that the paper was very sensitive, the strips turned out mostly pitch black! After some adjustments a time of 4 seconds at f/22 seemed to give good results. But it was a very touchy process with needed precision of 1 second even at that enlargement and f/22.
The major result of the evenings tests were that my suspicions regarding the scanner were corroborated. The amount of detail in the paper copy left really nothing to be desired. Also the paper managed the dynamic range better with not so much blown out skies.
So here, for comparison, is the image scanned from negative 4.5×6 cm negative (Fomapan 200 devved in HC-110), followed by a scan of the paper (Kentmere) version:
Direct scan from the negative. Note how the clouds are whitewashed. Had I reduced the exposure-setting in the scanner then details in the shadows would disappear…
And a 600 dpi scan of the paper positive. Note how more controlled the clouds look on average and there still is detail in the shadows. With experience I assume the highlights can still be better controlled.
Finally a detail of the text on the balcony. It is clearly readable here, not so easy in the negative scan that follows after:
So there you have it! An entire analog process is not to be disregarded. Yes, it takes time and have chemicals and stuff involved. The scanning of the negative is of course free from chemicals but is a real time hog as well – and the result I manage to get out of it is worse.
The entire darkroom result can be seen below. Enlarging a 4.5×6 cm negative to A4 is nooo problem!