Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2002/04/17

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Subject: [Leica] RE:: [OT] Color darkroom worth it?
From: Jim Brick <>
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 10:11:46 -0700

I personally make all of my Cibachrome prints up to 20x24. I have to go out 
for 30x40's. Hopefully this will change in the future.

There are numerous types of Cibachrome Classic paper. Resin Coated (RC) in 
medium contrast. This is not classed as a 200 year+ archival paper. The 
medium contrast emulsion is Ilford's latest emulsion and is spectacular. 
And there is Polyester paper. Polyester paper is the expensive stuff, 2.5 
times the cost of RC paper. It comes in three contrasts, low, medium, and 
normal. Low and normal come in sizes up to 30x40. I mostly buy it (low and 
normal contrast) in 20x24 size and cut it down for 16x20 and 8x10 prints. I 
also buy it in 11x14 as it is wasteful to cut 11x14's out of 20x24 stock. 
Polyester based medium contrast paper only comes in sizes up to 16x20. 
Ilford's best emulsion and they supply it only up to 16x20 on the archival 
polyester base. But you can buy it in 20x24 on the RC base. This makes no 
sense whatsoever!!!

It is the polyester normal contrast that is archival to 200+ years. The low 
and medium contrast emulsions on the polyester base are close, but not 
quite as good. Followed by the RC paper base.

I buy my Ilfochrome paper from B&H as they seem to always have fresh stock 
in all sizes. And their prices are the best.

I find printing on Cibachrome Classic paper very rewarding as it is easily 
manipulated via dodging and burning and various masking techniques allow 
you to attain the exact result that you want. Assuming it is in the 
transparency in the first place. Filter packs are always low. 15M+10Y is 
typical. A 5cc change is very subtile so there is a lot of room to work. 
And with the low and medium contrast surfaces, masking is not normally needed.

The P3 chemistry that I use is basically odorless, all clear (no nasty 
ferricyanide or the like), and lasts easily six months in my processor 
without even a hint of going bad. I mix 15 liters at a time and use it as 
needed until all 15 liters are used. Then I mix another 15 liters. I've 
never had to dispose of unused P3 chemistry. As I said, I've used a single 
batch for a period of six months (June-December 2001) and the filter pack 
didn't change. P3 chemistry can be mixed in any amount from the 20 liter 
kit. As little as 500cc if you wish. The P3 chemistry is w-a-y  w-a-y 
better than the P30 chemistry. It's about 1/10th the cost and will last for 
a very long time, especially the concentrates. Use JOBO Protectan to 
displace the oxygen in the concentrate developer bottle after using what 
you need from it. It will last a year or more that way.

Since Ciba now comes in three contrasts, masks are rarely needed. They are 
needed in commercial labs since they all use Ilfochrome Rapid which only 
comes in the high contrast (labeled normal) version. Ilfochrome Classic 
comes in low, medium, and normal (high) contrast versions.

The medium and low contrast emulsions have tamed the color spectrum in that 
everything gets equal billing.

Any enlarger with a dichroic color head is sufficient. Used enlargers are 
in the $100 to $500 range depending upon the model. Get a good lens, APO 
Schneider or APO Rodenstock if you can. A four blade easel large enough for 
the largest print size you will make. Get a laser enlarger alignment tool. 
The "Parallel" is what I use and it is inexpensive for what it does. See 
the article in the current (May-June) Photo Techniques magazine page 52. 
You will also need to control your water temperature fairly accurately. 86 
deg +/- 1/2 deg. Get a used thermal control valve such as a Delta 1 or a 
Leonard ( .) I use a Hass Intellifaucet D250 which is 
one of the best darkroom investments I have ever made!

I use a JOBO processor but JOBO type drums and a roller base will work as 
well. Used JOBOs are very cheap now. All used darkroom equipment is cheap now.


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