RC vs fiber paper?

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I have just purchased a darkroom for B&W printing from 4x5 negatives. All of this is fairly new to me. Is fiber based paper worth the extra time and effort? Many people have told me that RC paper has progressed so much that it has quite a good life expectancy. Is this true? I am concerned about the stories I hear about fiber paper curling when it dries. Should I be? Thanks!

-- Jon Paul (jonspaul@jps.net), September 28, 1999


Let me put it this way: Fiber-base paper is like the finish on fine wood furniture, RC paper is like formica with phony wood grain.

Hang the prints on a line to dry, flatten overnight under a heavy book. Not to worry.


-- Peter Hughes (leonine@redshift.com), September 28, 1999.

Whichever paper looks best to you with finished, matted prints is the one to use. That said, let me put in a BIG caution. Every iteration of RC papers has been given to us photographers & darkroom workers and we have been told over & over that "it is as good and as archival as fibre". Each time, we have been bitten by the damn stuff. Again and again and again. With a track record like that, no matter how good it can look, Fibre is a much safer method of fine printing. We know it will last when processed appropriately. We still don't know about RC. Many of us would love to trust our finest work to RC for esthetic reasons in print presentation, not just the time savings in the darkroom. Sadly enough, the stuff just can't do the job yet. Read the articles by Ctein, or get his book Post Exposure. Read the articles in Photo Techniques on the topic. Read the discussions back & forth in many publications and internet forums on the problems with RC. Then print on Fibre if you want the images to last.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), September 28, 1999.

Print on fiber. Yes, it is more trouble. Yes, it curls as it dries. Yes, it takes 20 times longer to wash. But yes, it is archival.

-- Chad Jarvis (cjarvis@nas.edu), September 28, 1999.

I agree with the above comments about RC being trash, and FB being the way to go, as for drying, get some window screens made with the fiberglass screening 24x35 and use them to dry the prints by placing them between them, very little curl, eliminates the books or whatever. I should say that RC has a place, for things that don't matter if they last, like publishing and advertizing. Pat

-- pat j. krentz (krentz@cci-29palms.com), September 28, 1999.


I think you need both. (Well, I think I need both, anyway.)

Fiber paper is more expensive and if you are a talentless hack like me you end up with a lot of prints you really don't want to look at that long anyway. I print everything on ultra-cheapo RC paper I get from Freestyle (28.00/100 sheets!) and the prints that look promising I print on fiber paper. The fiber paper really is better in every imaginable way and I am always surprised when people tell me it is "just as good as fiber." Of course, that could be because I use the cheapest RC stuff imaginable and I splurge on the fiber paper, but I think most people agree the fiber has a better feel and look and doesn't bring the word "plastic" to mind the instant you set eyes on it, the way RC does.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), September 28, 1999.

Jon, RC has its uses, especially when you are first starting out. It may not rival fiber for the best looking (or keeping) medium, but you'll still look at your results and think "Wow, I really made that, and it looks awesome." At least, I did. It washes and dries quickly with minimal curl and lets you process lots of prints in short order. You can get instant gratification. It is less fragile than most fiber papers, so even a clutz like me can handle it. You won't need an archival print washer right away. It is great for proofing rollfilm. I used RC exclusively for the first year after I set up my darkroom. It allowed me to run through the gamut of the inevitable exposure and processing mistakes more quickly, and thus gain experience more quickly. I've only just started using fiber papers recently because I'm experimenting with toning processes and fiber seems to tone more easily, but I'm going to keep on using RC for instant gratification.

-- Skip Abadie (sabadie@airmail.net), September 28, 1999.

There's alot of hyperbole going around about how much better fiber looks than RC. My opinion is that the surfaces look different, and that difference can impart a preference. I'm wary of anyone who says that so-and-so is "junk", whether it's photo paper or music or cars. Facts: well processed fiber prints have lasted a long, long time, poorly process ones haven't, RC hasn't been around long enough to tell for sure. I have 15+ y.o. RC prints that look just fine. How long do your first prints need to last? My first prints from 25+ years ago were on fiber paper. Some turned yellow from poor washing/fixing, others I've reprinted because I do a better job now. As a beginner I think you should use RC paper and spend the time saved practicing your shooting/printing so you can make a print you'll be proud of 20+ years from now.

-- Tim Brown (brownt@ase.com), September 29, 1999.

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