Azo Contact Printing Setup : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello Folks,

I just acquired an 8x10 field camera and since I only have a 45MX enlarger, contact printing will be the method of choice for print making. After reading many threads here and Michael Smiths articles on Azo w/ Amidol I have decided to give this combination an honest try and use it heavily until I am comfortable with it and have a base of comparison. I will also use the Amidol cocktail he published in the articles and on his website. Here come the questions:

1) I was going to order the chemicals, probably from Photographers Formulary, there are several types of Amidol based products listed, is there just a straight amidol that is used in mixing Michael Smiths formula?

2) Light Source, I have read that a 300 watt bulb is used, others say a 60 watt is fine. Does Azo respond better to differet types of light? Can I use my 45MX as the light source, and should I use the cold light head? Or is this going to be a point of experimentation? Suggestions on light source set up and does it really matter?

Thanks for the help!

-- James Christian (, June 26, 2001


James: First, you're doing exactly what I did when I started w/ Azo. I print 5x7 neg's, but that's beside the point. Michael Smith's formula/procedure etc. has worked great for me. I've done some prints in the last 9 mos. or so since I started w/ it that I just couldn't print well any other way, no matter how hard I tried. The only drawback is the funny greenish tint of the prints. As M.S. explains in his article, this is easily removed w/ a thin dilution of selenium, but see the many useful remarks in that thread called "The Greenish Tint of Azo" about alternatives, esp. Agfa Neutol. Also, I found an amidol formula that utilizes benzotriazole (the old "BB") to achieve a neutral/cool tone. I'll send it along if you wish. Fuss not about light source -- get a plain ol' frosted light bulb and pop it in one of those $12 clamp-on aluminum flood reflector fixtures from the hardware store. Clamp the fixture about 4 feet above the table top. With this set up and a 150W bulb, you'll be looking at exposures around 7.5 to 15 seconds with a lot of negatives. If that's too fast for you, just substitute a 60/75/100 (whatever) weaker bulb. Your enlarger light will be whopping way too slow. Azo Gas is the slowest, longest-lasting, hardest-to-fog paper of them all. BTW, ask if you want suggestions re: dandy/cheap/easy-to-use contact printer. -jeff buckels (albuquerque nm)

-- Jeff Buckels (, June 26, 2001.

Should you wish to use Agfa, it's Neutol WA, not Neutol, that works well with Azo.

-- Sal Santamaura (, June 26, 2001.

This is a value added (or not) FWIW. I have a single 60 watt incandescent lamp behind a diffuser lighting my dark room. Needless to say my little 5X7 foot darkroom like it's owner is a little dim. I also fiddle with AZO and 8X10. After experimentation I discovered that most of my negs require about 3 3/4 minutes with the 60 watt lamp on. But I've got this one neg from up in the ancient Bristlecone forest that is so thick I figured.......Platinum maybe. One day I was playing with the AZO and got that neg out. After a couple of UN successes I put a piece of AZO under it and flipped the light on and actually went and did a couple of the errands my poor wife has been waiting for years for. I'm guessing 10 to 12 minutes went by. Put that guy in some Ansco 135 and Voila! It is perhaps my most stunning photo to present. FP4+ neg in Pyro. So time is relative to the source and the negs. Good luck. Answers here are a starting point but nothing works better than time in the darkroom, and a dumpster.

-- Jim Galli (, June 26, 2001.

I use one of those table lamp fluoroscent lights about 3 feet away from the paper and have some pretty brisk times for Azo - along the tune of 15 seconds - I guess the blue heavy light output helps since Azo is primarily blue sensitive. It is a beautiful paper. I've used a couple of developers - Ansco 130 which yielded a tone that was a smidgin the warm side of neutral and Defender 55 which yielded the nicest cold tone I have ever been able to achieve. Although I've never used Amidol, I can see that it has its advantages, especially if you get into the water bath end of things. Cheers, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (, June 26, 2001.

I don't know about Michael Smith's amidol formula, but the best I have ever used was invented by Samuel Fein and published in the Jan/Feb issue of Darkroom and Creative Camera Techniques. I have it on my site at . It uses benzotriazole as a restrainer and citric acid to reduce oxidation, and is strikingly different from other formulas I have tried.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, June 26, 2001.

Sorry--that should be Jan/Feb 1985 issue of DCCT.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, June 26, 2001.

I have found that using one of the small $10 quartz halogen lamps from KMart works well. I get the ones with a 10-20 watt lamp in it and the gooseneck so I can put it up on a shelf & have it directly above my contact printing frame. Works well.

-- Dan Smith (, June 26, 2001.

Don't use the Photographer's Formulary prepackaged Amidol. One of the big knocks on Amidol has always been the very short life once it's mixed and put in the tray. Photographer's Formulary Amidol is just like that. Once you mix it and put it in the tray it only lasts a couple hours at the most. Instead, stick with Michael Smith's formula. His is the only one I know of that allows you to use the developer in the tray for more than a couple hours. I've used the Photographer's Formulary package and it was exhausted after a couple hours. I now use Michael Smith's formula and with it I've used the same batch for at least five hours. I gave out before it did. You can buy the ingredients for his forumla from Photographer's Formulary (or other places) and easily mix it yourself. Unless you enjoy mixing new batches of developer every couple hours, and spending a lot of money while you're at it, you'll be much happier with Michael's formula than any other version I believe.

With respect to the light source, this is one of those areas that you don't need to complicate. Just hang any old bulb in the 60-75 watt range about two to three feet above the contact printing frame and you should be fine. A 300 watt bulb would, I believe, be impractical because the times would be very very short, unless it was hung a long ways up from the paper.

I should add that I've been using Azo and Amidol since attending Michael's workshop last August but I'm not yet sold on this combination. Azo is a pain to work with (single weight), expensive, hard to find, and graded rather than variable contrast. It also needs to be toned in selenium for just the right amount of time or else it has a greenish look (when toned for too short a time or not toned at all) or a purplish look (when toned too long). I also have tried making my 8x10 contact prints on Polymax Fine Art paper developed in Ilford Universal developer and exposed under my enlarger. Contact prints made this way look very nice also and have several advantages - double weight paper, variable contrast so more flexibility, materials much easier to find and less expensive. But by all means try Azo and Amidol and decide for yourself. I'm still using this combination until I run out of Azo, then I'll have to make a decision whether to continue with it.

-- Brian Ellis (, June 26, 2001.

I have had very limited experience with Azo (25 sheet sampler pack of Grade 2) so far. I used an enlarger (Saunders LPL4x5) as my light source, used an empty 4x5 carrier NO lens. The color head was set 0 (M/Y/C) and the exposures using Dektol 1+2 was in the 25-35 second range. The negs were FP4+ developed in Pyro. Print development was 2 to 3 minutes.

All in allthe process was pretty painless, but be aware that the light coming out of the enlarger is pretty bright, especially after using a safelight to get paper out and fixed to the Contact Frame etc...

Have fun.

-- Steve Nieslony (, June 26, 2001.

Single-weight paper isn't all bad. You do have to learn to handle it w/ a little more care during processing to avoid little wrinkles and such and you gotta be real careful when dry-mounting it (which I do). I don't have much trouble with handling after some experience. Anyhow, the slightest little bit of grit or something in between the paper and the mounting tissue and you can get an eentsie bump in the print (your irritation won't be eentsie). On the positive side, it looks real good when you mount it properly. Availability: Tell me about it. Still, Michael & Paula seem to have the situation in hand for the time being. I guess I intend to use it as long as I can get it. -jb

-- Jeff Buckels (, June 26, 2001.

Artcraft chemicals is another good source for amidol and stuff. Look in View Camera mag for their #. (Lets all buy more AZO so that the great yellow god will keep on making it.) ?

-- david vickery (, June 27, 2001.

Yesterday I worked through a lighting arrangement that works well for me at least. I have an old Omega D2 enlarger in which I put a 250 watt copy stand floodlight. I adjusted the condenser into the high position and when I did the light was even across the contact printing frame as measured by my light meter. I get Azo exposures in the range of 10 seconds. Simple, effective and no addition purchases were necessary.

-- David Flockhart (, June 28, 2001.

-- Sean yates (, June 29, 2001.

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