RC paper

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I've noticed, in this forum and eslewhere, that quite a few people use RC paper. I have been using it for years primarily for it's ease of washing. There was a time when you would't dare admit that you used the stuff. I'm curious to know what has changed? Are RC papers improving or are more users just coming out of the closet in these politically correct times?

-- Anonymous, April 06, 1997


Hi Andy,

I have used RC paper for proofing because of the cost. However for a "keeper" print I would never use anything but fiber base papers. There is just no comparison in the amount of detail you are able to retain with fiber base papers. And detail is the reason I use large format (4x5) so I feel it would be rediculious for me to use anything but fiber base papers for final prints. By the way, if you should be interested I am just now building myself a web site. The URL is: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/9083

Sneaky way to promote it huh? ;-)


-- Anonymous, April 07, 1997

RC comparison to FB

Well I sort of agree with you as I love FB and IT has been unmatched for most of it's existance but I am now getting great results with Agfa premium RC. It meets their claims of quality. There is a great improvement. You can't just say there's NO comparision. There's SOME now where ther was none only a few short years ago. My new V-54 Cold light requires very close examination when it does the exact same print RC/FB to see the difference. Very few of the Photogs south of the Cdn Border seem to mention Agfa. I must say however their New Classic FB/ VC is getting raves from my fans and clients. They like the RC too however.

-- Anonymous, April 07, 1997

RC and FB

I am a neophyte printer and mainly use RC because I don't have the facilities for proper 'archival' washing. I haven't tried the AGFA paper but will in the future. I am interested in your comparison and would like to know what the differenced are that YOU notice between RC and FB. I have heard that FB has a higher silver content but thats about it.

-- Anonymous, April 07, 1997

I can tell you that the National Archives and Libarary of Congress will not accept RC paper because it is not archivally stable and does not meet archival standards. If you want a "permanent" print, use fiber base paper.

-- Anonymous, April 07, 1997

The Library of Congress & Natn'l Archives don't accept RC because they don't really know how it will react yet. We only know Fibre base papers last because they have been around long enough to see the results, and not only tested through 'accellerated aging tests'. Some RC papers have a greater tonal range than fibre based papers and, according to Kodak, Ilford & Agfa, are as long lasting and archival as anything made. In processing they swell less and have greater dimensional stability than fibre based papers. As to the gentlemman who doesn't have 'proper washing facilities' for fibre based papers-try soaking in 'tupperware' trays, with regular water changes for 10-20 times, with soak times of 10 min or so in the trays. Photo Techniques recently had a good article on archival rinse procedures. But-back to RC. Paper choice -in my opinion only- is a personal decision. All modern papers, processed correctly, should outlast us and can be chosed because they fit our vision. The only real reason to choose one or the other is for fulfillment of the vision. Longevity is not even an issue if you process carefully with any quality paper-I have access to a whole bunch of "archivally processed" images from a major university museum, printed on fiber paper, many of which are fading within two months due to improper fix & wash. They are charging premium prices and you can nearly smell the fixer in some of them. Any Jr. High photo student could do a better and longer lasting job without much effort. Quality is determined by you. So use what you want, and look at the works of VERY GOOD printers and see what they use. Then test it yourselfl-just because Ansel did it doesn't mean it is right for you. His painstaking technique and devotion to Quality is the way to go, but materials change & if he was still around, some of his work habits would probably change too. John Sexton is excellent, worked with Adams on the book series as a consultant, worked for Ansel as an assistant, and would tell you the same thing. Quality is Quality-do whatever it takes to get it and then be happy.

-- Anonymous, April 09, 1997

Nevertheless, the Library of Congress and National Archives still do not recognize RC paper as being archivally stable. If you are doing prints that you want to last, use fiber base paper.

-- Anonymous, April 09, 1997

Archival processing

I would be interested to know if there is an official protocol for archival processing of prints. I read an interesting article a while back about archival storage. In it's purest sense archival would mean stored in a strictly controlled environment which would include total darkness. If a print is exhibited then it is not archival. A bit pointless really.

-- Anonymous, April 09, 1997

Archval Processing

I don't know about an "official" formula, but there are a number of variations on the basic sequence of develop/stop/fix/hypoclear/wash. Ilford's data sheet for Multigrade IV, for example, recommends a single, short-duration (30 sec for RC, 60 for fiber) fixing step in film strength (1:3) fixer, followed by a 5 minutes wash in running water. Next, a 10 minute soak in a washing aid (hypo clearing agent) and finally, a second 5-minute wash in running water. Kodak, in its B&W darkroom data guide, specifies the more traditional two-bath fixer method (2 1/2 to 5 minutes in each bath. Dilution isn't specified, but I would assume 1:7 "paper strength"). The fix is followed by a 60 minute wash time... or alternately, a 1 minute rinse, 3 minutes in hypo clearing agent, and 20 minutes final wash. For "image stability" Kodak recommends then using a suitable toner (instructions vary with type of toner), followed by an additional 30 minute wash. I'm sure there are many individual vatiations between these two extremes. I use a sequence that I was taught by a teacher/photographer who has a strong technical background. It follows the Ilford sequence, with two variations: selenium toner is added to the hypo clearing agent (at a 1:8 ratio), and the final wash is extended to 20 minutes. jack

-- Anonymous, April 10, 1997

Yes there is. My book "A WIndow to the Past--A View to the Future, A Guide to Photodocumenting Historic Places" Denver: Bureau of Land Management, 1994) outlines the entire process of producing archival quality prints. You are right, by displaying them, light and UV rays will damage them. However, most such prints are produced for record purposes and therefore are stored under archival conditions (like the National Archives or Library of Congress). I have had several exhibits that were printed on RC paper go bad from exposure, like fading and brassing. The stuff printed on FB paper did not go bad under use. Archival is a relative term. Properly stored, the life is hundreds of years. Displayed, the life is much less. You have to decide what you are going to use your prints/negs for to determine their real life.

-- Anonymous, April 09, 1997

A late add on this topic. In the Salt Lake City airport we have a good display of photographic prints on the walls. One small section of B&W, archivally printed on Fibre based paper. All the rest is COLOR. All displayed under the same lighting, quartz spots on the prints. The B&W after 10+ years all look great. The color(Cprints as the joker who curates theshow does not believe in Ciba or "archival color") have all faded, the worst having lost approx 70% of their density. Yet, all B&W prints look great. I know many of the B&W printers whose images are up , some of whom have color images up also. Reality still is that we KNOW B&W silver on Fibre based paper will last if printed properly. We know it because it has actually lasted over time. All testing by Kodak, Ilford, Agfa & other tells us RC processed properly will last also, now that the earlier technical problems have apparently been 'solved'. BUT, we won't know for sure until another 100 years have passed. There are a number of printers using RC papers for exhibition work, more all the time. It is still a gamble. All we know tells us it should work. But only time will tell for certain. As far as quality goes, any real difference in in the minds of us as photogs & viewers and are mainly personal preference.

-- Anonymous, July 15, 1997

RC Paper

Point taken Dan and I agree with you that time will be the only judge but there are more signficant differences between the two processes (colour and BW) that your are comparing than what type of paper they are printed on! Chemically they are not even slightly similar, it's like comparing apples and oranges. I have some 15 year old colour snapshots that have rarely seen the light of day and they have faded and lost their colour balance. Was this because they were printed on RC paper? Probably it had more to do with the kid operating the processor at the time. The only way to properly compare the two papers is to minimize or eliminate the variables; you'd have to print the same BW image at the same time with the same chemicals etc.

-- Anonymous, July 15, 1997

I also use Agfa multi-grade fiber based paper. Most people use Kodak (The Great Yellow Father) paper. I quit using Kodak paper when they canned their Elite and poly fiber paper in favor of the Polymax crap. There is little comparison when it comes to fiber vs RC paper. Fiber paper will always look better than RC because RC paper is plastic coated. I use both and for High quality prints fiber always wins out. It is worth the average 1 hour per print.. I guess it is a matter of taste..


-- Anonymous, August 11, 1997

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