Question about 4x5 negs : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have recently received my 4x5 negs back from the lab, I used NPI in Houston. On the light box the negs look really sharp (which I'm surprised by considering I'm new at this). I asked the lab to "contact print", they did and put four negs on one piece of paper. My concern is that the contact print looks soft and not near as sharp by any means as the negs. I view my negs and prints with a cheap 10X loup. I am using tmax 100 on a horseman 450. Could the contact print softness be due to the way in which the lab made the contact prints, ie thickness of glass or from some other reason. I would like to take one of these negs at least to an 8X10 or 11x20 (or equivilant aspect ratio). Are my enlargements going to not be as sharp as the negs, I realize that at some point some loss of sharpness and detail will be an issue but from a 4x5 negative up to 11x20 should not be problem if the negative is sharp, right.

Any help is appreciated thank you in advance.

Clark King

-- Clark King (, May 20, 2002


I just wonder...if your contact prints was made with the negs in their plastic sleeves..they will look good..but soft...

-- dan n. (, May 21, 2002.

The thickness of glass used has no effect on the sharpness of a contact print, provided it's pressurised into close contact with the neg and paper. No glass, on the other hand, will give very soft results.
How unsharp are the prints? There's always going to be a slight apparent drop in sharpness when contacting onto paper, because the surface texture of the paper itself tends to obscure some tiny detail. Contact prints should still look exquisitely sharp to the unaided eye.

-- Pete Andrews (, May 21, 2002.

As one who has been through this, I can almost guarantee that they did the contacts through the plastic sleeves. This can have a large effect. My experience has been that (fairly) cheap contacts of negs are not given very good treatment by labs and are meant to be of some minor assistance only, not a quality print. I'd suggest that you tell the lab you aren't happy with the contacts, especially when you give them the print to illustrate what you want in the larger prints.

Cheers, Richard

-- Richard Rankin (, May 21, 2002.

I agree with the other answers......most labs will make the contact sheet with the negs in "Printfiles" and they will appear soft. You can request/make the labs shoot the contacts out of the printfiles using just the glass frame, but they will most likely charge you several $'s more per contact sheet. I also wonder that since most labs are now doing dry to dry processing, in other words NO wet developing and possibly some type of digital processing if this isn't the reason. I use BWC in Dallas and they got ride of all their wet darkrooms about 2 years ago. If you have a dust problem or a scratching problem, I suggest you have the lab process the negs and then contact yourself. Good Luck. FWB

-- F. William Baker (, May 21, 2002.

Thank you for all the responses. The lab did in fact contact print the negs while in the sleeves. I had not thought of that being an issue. Next time I will most certainly request that they be removed.

Thanks again for all your help on this!


-- Clark King (, May 21, 2002.


Just fyi in case you do not already know this, you can make your own black and white contact prints at home with ease. All you need is a sort of dark room, a few plastic trays, a sheet of glass, and a minimum of chemicals. You can use the light in your bathroom to make the exposures. You may not want to hassle with it, but it will save you a little money and you will get to make your own prints. It's pathetically cheap and easy and the results will be exceptional. They'll probably never be particularly good from the lab.

-- Erik Ryberg (, May 21, 2002.

Erik, is this known as an azo print? I've read posts about that type of print on the forum. Would you direct me to more information about making my own contact prints. I would be very interested in that. What are good chemicals to start with? Do I need special mounting or equipment besides trays, chemicals, glass?

More info would be appreciated thank you!


-- Clark King (, May 21, 2002.

Azo is the brand name of a graded paper made by Kodak for contact printing purposes. It makes beautiful contact rints. However, few labs are likely to use it to make a customer's proof sheets. It's not readily avaialble, it's single weight, therefore a little unweildy to use and, mostimportantly to a lab, it's more expensive than normal enlarging paper

I was a little surprised at some of the answers to your question. I always make my contact sheets through the plastic and they always look plenty sharp though I don't compare them to the negative on a light table. Rather than the plastic being the problem, I would have guessed that the answer to your question was that the contact printing frame the lab used didn't provide sufficient pressure to hold the negatives firmly in contact with the paper.

-- Brian Ellis (, May 22, 2002.

We always contact by using a small piece of Scotch tape on the edge of the negative (we do 120/220 on the ends) on two sides. The tape doesn't show and comes right off cleanly afterwards. Perfectly positioned also. See if your lab will do it this way. It is easy, fast and the contact are superb!

-- Scott Walton (, May 22, 2002.

You might try Houston Photo Imaging on Gulfton. Lots of really knowledgable people. I'm a beginner in LF and often ask them why I have problems on a neg / print. They usually know!

-- Lad (, May 23, 2002.

HPI on Gulfton is not the same location as NPI on Gulfton? You guys have been really generous to share this info. Thanks very much for responses for a beginner like me it really helps.


-- Clark King (, May 23, 2002.

Hi Clark,

if the contact prints are softer than the negatives, there is only one reason: the emulsion side of the negative was not in close contact with the paper. I can see 3 causes: - printed without removing the negatives from the files, - printed with the emulsion side away from the paper, - insufficient pressure in the contact printing system.

Hope this helps,


-- Pierre Robitaille (, May 24, 2002.

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