Slow learner?.AZO Paper : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Am I a slow learner or does it take awhile to come to grips with AZO? I have been playing with it as time allows for about 8 months and only now is it starting to impress me. I heard all this stuff about it and really was interested so I bought a 100 box off 8X10 and at first wasn't impressed like everyone else claimed. I shoot 8X10 and 5X7 Ilford HP5 Plus. At first it looked rather bland but after playing and playing and then stumbling on Michael and Paula Smiths article on it it started getting better. His tecnique on "outflanking the print" is just what I needed. All I can say now is WOW! But it makes me wonder if I am the only one who didn't see these almost magical properties at first? If you haven't tried it I would really recomend it as it is very cool. The pictures especially the 8X10 contacts look as if they are 3-D. Also a big thanks to everyone in this forum for helping me get onto the large format thing and imparting a wealth of knowledge.

-- Michael Pry (, November 25, 2001


Maybe a year and a half ago I tried some Azo and really wasn't thrilled with it. The prints maybe hinted at the possibilities, but I wasn't getting anything I though I couldn't match on my enlarging paper. About 3 months ago I bought a 100 box from Michael Smith and I am absolutely hooked on Azo. Maybe my 8x10 technique has just improved enough that my negatives are more suitable to the stuff now, but the results really do speak for themselves. I have yet to try Azo in amidol (financial considerations), but have had great luck with it in Ansco 130. In fact, I'll be spending a good part of the day tomorrow making a series of prints for sale on Azo (hint- great gift your local student photographer....he he). I'm also shooting HP5 and really like the results I've been getting with it. Bergger BPF in PMK can also make some great negatives for Azo.

-- David Munson (, November 25, 2001.

I use Azo quite a bit for 8x10 contact prints. I've tried comparisons with enlarging paper in my normal developer (Ilford Universal 1-9) vs. Azo in "normal" developer and also in Amidol. I don't think the difference between Azo and enlarging paper is the kind of difference that's going to knock your socks off and I think it's too bad that some of the raves about it get a little out of hand because people then expect to see a bigger difference than they're likely to get. Let's face it, an 8x10 contact print is pretty nice on any paper. IMHO, however, Azo does make a difference, it's just kind of subtle and I don't think you necessarily even fully appreciate it until you've worked with it for a while. The main difference for me between Azo in Amidol and Azo in Ilford Universal is that Amidol produces a warmer tone, actually a slightly greenish look that has to be removed by toning in selenium. That's is a little tricky because the print has to be pulled from the selenium at just the right time to eliminate the greenish tint but avoid the purple tone that too much time or conentration can produce with selenium. Untoned Azo in Ilford Universal developer produced a bluish tint that in a few prints I actually kind of liked but mostly I wanted to get rid of it with selenium (I think that was the combination that produced the bluish tint, it's been a while since I did all this and I now just routinely use Azo in Amidol followed by selenium).

-- Brian Ellis (, November 26, 2001.

Michael ... I've been agonizing over Azo for a while now. In my case, Azo isn't the "magic bullet" paper that others claim it to be. I can't seem to make up my mind if my prints look good or flat on the stuff (grade 2). I've been told by one well-respected photographer that they are indeed flat, but others look at the same prints and tell me they are beautiful. Regardless of the flat verdict, I like the long scale and soft tonality. I plan to keep working with Azo and maybe going for denser negatives for a tad more punch.

-- Ben Calwell (, November 26, 2001.

I had tried Azo a few years ago, developed in Dektol, and wasn't very satisfied with the results. But after reading Michael Smith's claim that Azo produces a greater tonal range than platinum I thought I'd give it a try again. This time I used the Peckham amidol formula and I have to say I was very impressed. Negatives that I previously dodged and burned printed effortlessly on Azo, reproducing the full tonal range with no manipulation other than extending or reducing development and agitation. The nice thing about the Peckham formula is that it is relatively cheap (for an amidol formula) and gives a neutral print color. I toned most of them in selenium and really like the purple-brown color I got with this combination. I have a brief article on my results with Azo, and some print reproductions that give a vague idea of the tones I achieved, on my site at UnblinkingEye.Com. The formula for Peckham amidol is on my formulas page.

-- Ed Buffaloe (, November 26, 2001.

I just started working with Azo a few months ago. It took a while to get used to using it. I am still learning how to work with it. I was having trouble getting prints to come out _exactly_ the same, for a combination print I was putting together. An extra 5 seconds of exposure, or an extra few seconds in a 1 minute Amidol developer and there were enough differences in tonality that prints would not butt together properly for a larger mural. Also, when flipping the negative to do reverse prints for my mural, I had to change exposure and development times to get prints exactly the same. Contact printing emulsion-side up requires additonal exposure and development- - not much, but more nevertheless as I have discovered. I am not sure why this happens -- perhaps it is due to how much reflection each surface of the film provides.

Compared with Ilford Multigrade contact prints in Bromophen and Ilford Multigrade developers, I can see the difference with Azo in amidol. Azo gives a greater impression of depth to the image. It's startling and not that subtle when prints are examined side-by-side. I still have to learn how to adjust contrast grade with Azo. I have yet to be able to get a decent half-grade contrast adjustment with a water bath. Creasing and "pinching" have also been a problem, but I like the way the single-weight paper drymounts. Colour tinting due to rapid fixing, and learning how to adjust tones subtly with selenium toner are adding to the learning curve with this paper, but it is interesting material to work with.

-- George Huczek (, November 26, 2001.

I use hp5 8x10 and Azo grade 3 in dektol toned in selenium and love it. I can not seem to make a neg that works on grade two. It does seem to make everything flat. I have gotten good results by taking what I need from Michael and Paula's info. The differences are subtle but seeable.


-- echard wheeler (, November 27, 2001.

I wonder what grade of AZO folks "standardize" on. Since it has a longer scale is grade 2 AZO realistically comparable to an average grade 2 enlarging paper? Has anyone enlarged and contact printed the same neg on grade 2 AZO and a grade 2 enlarging paper with similar results?

I ask as I too have had a bit of trouble with flat prints using AZO grade 2. It would be nice if there were a way around the contrast issue that did not require frequent use of grade 3 AZO, as it is not as convenient to obtain as 2 and it seems pricier as well. Perhaps it just requires a denser negative than I am used to making?

Paul G.

-- Paul G. (, November 27, 2001.

I just read all of the comments and there is a lot to respond to here. First, the comment that the differences between Azo and enlarging paper "won't knock your socks off." Well that depends on what color socks you wear. To a trained eye, the differences are anything but subtle. To an untrained eye, I can see that the differences might not be that noticeable. It is like listening to music. A trained musician can hear the difference between different performers' renditions of a piece of music. Most others cannot, or see the differences as "subtle" while the trained musician might see them as huge differences.

Problem with flat prints on Grade 2: Generally this is caused by negatives not having enough contrast. Solution: develop your negatives longer. Or use Grade 3 paper.It is difficult to overdevelop a negative that will be contact printed on Azo. I did compare a Grade 2 Azo print with the same negative printed on enlarging paper. Kodak had sent me Polyfibre or some such paper to test. I had always thought of Azo as a "soft" paper, but to my surprise to match the midtone separations on Grade 2 Azo I had to use a #4 filter with the Polyfibre and even then the Azo print had more of a glow in the midtones.

I have printed negatives that people have sent me that were printed in Peckham's formula for Amidol. The prints, when compared to the prints made in the formula that Paula and I use, seemed cooler and not quite as rich. The differences were subtle, but to our eyes they were there.

Creasing and Pinching of prints: If you hold them between thumb and one finger neither pinching nor creasing should occur. The problems generally occur when the print is held between the thumb and two fingers.

Half-grade with water bath: try 30 seconds in Amidol; 30 seconds in water. This works best with Amidol. I've never seen it not work and cannot understand why it hasn't for whomever posted that message. Something doesn't seem right. E-mail me with questions and maybe I can help you figure out the problem.

Grade 3 paper is just as convenient to obtain as Grade 2. We stock it. In 100-sheet boxes it is a little more expensive than Grade 2 (in 500- sheet boxes it is the same price), because Kodak discontinued it and only reinstated it because I spoke to them almost every week for six months, trying to convince them to keep that catalogue number active. They finaly agreed to do so but only on "Special Order." Kodak prices all special orders higher. We bought 108 boxes--the minimum-- and have it on hand, and, as long as there is demand, we always will.

See our web site: for full information about s and availability of Azo (under "Azo") and for information on its use see my articles (under "Writings").

Michael A. Smith

-- Michael A. Smith (, November 28, 2001.

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