To VC or not to VC : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I was on the phone with Calumet ordering some materials and I asked about the Zone VI graded papers, whether they were phasing them out. Gary said yes they were. I also asked about Seagull and Iford graded papers and he responded that VC papers were more economical to make because of the VC heads. Questions is, am I the only one who feels his arm is being twisted, legs broken, extorted to spend money he cannot afford on a VC enlarger head? Has the mafia mentality finally reached fine art photography?

-- Rob Pietri (, January 02, 2002


I have a VC head and I still like to use graded papers better! Speciall if you are going to print more than one print the same way... I always found that VC paper varies from print to print, even when you use the exact same times and settings.....I do hope Oriental does not phase out the graded paper...

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, January 02, 2002.


I have not found a VC paper yet that pleases me as much as graded. No filters, one emulsion ... I don't know what does it but I just prefer everything about graded so here in Australia my only readily available choice is Fortezo, which is great. But the supply of that is limited too.

Happy searching ... Walter

-- Walter Glover (, January 03, 2002.

VC head? Why not just use the filters? If you're like me, once you start printing on VC paper you'll wonder how you ever were happy with graded paper. The ability to print different areas of the print at different contrasts gives you a degree of control over the look of the final print that goes way beyond anything you can achieve with graded paper. Try it, you might like it.

-- Brian Ellis (, January 03, 2002.

I don't want to get into the graded vs. VC debate- they're different and I like 'em both. You might want to see what Freestyle is carrying. Last time I checked they had a decent selection of graded papers. You might also want to try a pack of Ilford Cooltone VC and filters. The terms warm and cool don't fully describe a paper and the Cooltone is actually the most neutral and flexible paper I've found. It reacts well to different developers and times. You can push the tone from cool to warm, and it doesn't suffer from the crossover problems that Seagull does with low filter numbers.

-- Conrad Hoffman (, January 03, 2002.

Think of this the way a bean counter would. It costs manufacturers, distributors and dealers a fixed amount per year for each item/part number in their line. That includes paperwork as well as packaging, storage and handling expenses. Graded papers require anywhere from three to (in the past) five times as many numbers.

There are advantages and disadvantages to VC papers from a user's perspective. If one prefers graded and wishes it to remain available, the only way manufacturers can be influenced is to collectively purchase enough product that fixed costs are more than covered. This is the way a market economy works.

If you really like Zone VI Brilliant Bromide II, I believe it's made by Kentmere. The same paper should be available in the US from Luminos.

-- Sal Santamaura (, January 03, 2002.

I received a flyer from Calumet yesterday. Zone VI graded paper is on sale. Get it while it lasts.

-- Jay wolfe (, January 03, 2002.

Thanks for all the great responses! I have used graded papers exclusively and with good results. I have yet to print a difficult negative that I couldn't squeeze on graded paper. Papers do come and go. Ilford used to make Ilfomar back in the 70's. That got phased out for Ilfobrom which pretty much is present day Gallerie. Dupont used to make varigam, a vc paper that many liked. I used some but it lacked that deep rich tonal quality of graded paper. Oriental Seagull went off the market, only to recently return. At the Ansel Adams Gallery, they use Ilford multi grade to print his Special Edition prints. Though in all my readings of his books, I have yet to read where he printed on vc paper. He did have an old code light head which is vc.

What bothers me is that I am being strong armed, threatened almost, to spend $1000.00 for a vc head and print on a material that is some what inferior. It is almost a repeat of the fiber based, RC paper debates that went on, with manufacturers threatening to discontinue fiber based all together in favor of RC papers. I remember reading W. Gene Smith's reaction, If I have to print on RC paper, I'll quite photography, or coat my own. Unfortunetly fine art b&w photography is more of a specialty then a real money making industry, so papers wil probably continue to come and go.

-- Rob Pietri (, January 03, 2002.

I don't think things are nearly as bleak as you suggest. Ilford Gallerie and Oriental Seagull are excellent graded papers (although I wouldn't be surprised to see Ilford drop Gallerie). Things were much worse in the 80's when the Hunt's tried to corner the silver market and drove the price up to $50 per oz. Manufacturers were cutting back on the silver content of their paper, which is what led Zone VI to have Brilliant manufactured to their specs. Just having Gallerie or Seagull graded papers is sufficient to keep me happy.

-- Michael Feldman (, January 03, 2002.

Graded papers do not exist in Fresno California(where the raisins come from)so for me it's a mail order proposition. I admit this talk of manufacturers discontinuing graded papers got me as uptight as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, so I punched up B and H in NYC and found plenty of graded papers! There was even a new (to me) offering from Agfa! Low and behold, my beloved AZO is available as well! Me and my Elwood will sleep well tonight. Happy printing.

-- John Kasaian (, January 07, 2002.

Calumet also has a good selection of graded papers. Their mail-order business ships from Chicago, which may be cheaper shipping than from NY. The trick to getting paper (and film) via mail-order is to get it while the weather is cool. Those delivery trucks get very hot in the summer.

-- Michael Feldman (, January 07, 2002.

I use a Zone VI cold light head and tested every vc fb paper I could get my hands on in a week-long marathon. All showed inconsistent results -- unequal spacing between grades. In addition, I would say that the #2 filter produced a #3 or # 3 1/2 result for starters.

A bit of trivia: Ansel Adams referred to his use of DuPont Varigam with the Ferrante Codelight variable cold light head in his earlier series of books. I used Varigam back in the day and thought is was vastly superior to Polycontrast, Polycontrast Rapid and Varilour (DuPont), the other vc papers of the age.

-- Jerry Flynn (, March 21, 2002.

Yeah...but light is light....a number 0 filter is close to 2.5 on one of our enlargers (with an Aristo D2H, and running both Polymax II and MG IV through an Ilford paper processor)....if I want to flatten things out, I can either use a cc40Y or most of the time, I just use a -1 and 5+ to split filter everything.....or resort to flashing in cases of extreme duress.....I've been printing this way for years--not exactly by choice, but because I didn't *have* a choice at first--this was all we had. At home, I do have one of those fancy-shmancy 2 tubed VC heads you all are moaning about being "arm-twisted" to buy, and I sure wish we were arm twisted here....the one I have is the best lightsource for b&w printing I've ever used....even with graded papers. We also have 2 dichroic colorheads that work like a charm on these papers, but I've used Multigrade heads as well. Our coldlight though? It's almost twenty years old, and we use it weekly to make prints up to 20x24 on VC papers.....

BTW, you can learn alot by getting a projection step wedge and doing ring arounds with the filters...even on a condenser system, using PC filters, different brands of papers respond differently.....

-- DK Thompson (, March 21, 2002.

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