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Old 11th January 2012, 09:52 PM
adelbridge adelbridge is offline
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Default Negative holder for sharp prints from 35mm

Hello,

I'm struggling to get prints from 35mm negatives are satisfyingly sharp. I doubt that it's the camera/lens combination or my focusing when taking the initial picture (old nikon body with manual focus prime lenses). I'm currently printing on paper size 8 x 10 which I believe to be within a reasonable enlargement size for 35mm. (Film; mainly Neopan 400 in ID11).

I have been wondering if a different negative carrier may help things by holding the negative flatter. My enlarger is an LPL 7700, and the carrier is has an open aperture where the light passes through the film. I know that negative holders with glass are available, can I please ask if this would be worth seeking out? The glass holders seem to be very expensive for the 7700 and I don't want to unnecessarily buy one, especially if I should be looking at other areas of technique.

Any advice would be very much appreciated, thank you.
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  #2  
Old 11th January 2012, 11:15 PM
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MartyNL MartyNL is online now
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Your right, something doesn't add up and indeed you need to eliminate some of the variables.

A test negative or one of known sharpness would be handy together with a good quality 6 element lens.

Check that the issue doesn't lie with the magnifier to focus the grain. Sometimes these need to be adjusted and I focus with a piece of paper under the magnifier.

Assuming alignment is ok and there are no issues with stability, then you may need to look into "focus creep". In the time between fine focus and exposure many enlargers go out of focus. Sometimes this has to do with "significant" compression of the negative stage even with the correct lens board.

Since you've already ruled out poor tools or practice, then in my experience, these elements are more likely to be the cause of unsharp prints rather than glass vs glassless negative holders.

Let us know how you get on.
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Old 12th January 2012, 08:23 AM
Dave miller Dave miller is offline
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I agree with Marty in that you need to check each stage of the process, checking the focus over a period will reveal bellows creep.
You don't mention the lens aperture that you are using, are you stopping down enough? Another possibility is negative "pop" due to heat expanding your negative.
Another point to consider is that some of us (me) have found a significant improvement in focus after getting a new pair of glasses.
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Old 12th January 2012, 08:39 AM
Richard Gould Richard Gould is online now
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I agree with both Dave and Marty, check each stage of the process, check the allinnment of your enlarger and check that you are not getting any shake during exposure, also after you have checked for exposure etc and just before you put the paper in to make the final exposure check the focus with the finder with the lens stoped down to the working aperture and if you are using MG filters, with the filter in place, this to check if the negative has ''poped'' while doing the preperation, and also because occosionly a lens focus can alter slightly when stoped down, then make the final print, I have made 12/16 pin sharp prints from various 400 negatives using the above method,
Richard
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Old 12th January 2012, 09:43 AM
PaulBJE PaulBJE is offline
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I too use an LPL 7700 and I have a universal glass carrier, but because it cuts off too much of a 6x7 negative I acquired a 6x7 glassless carrier. I have had no problem with this and it produces pin sharp 16x12 prints, so I cannot believe you would have a problem with a 35mm carrier. Neither have I had a problem with focus creep. In fact I print most of my prints the same size and the focus remains sharp without adjustment between prints.

Have you recently acquired the enlarger? If so it may be set up for MF i.e 80mm lens and if you have fitted a 50mm lens I believe you have to reverse the lens mount otherwise it is not possible to focus the 35mm neg. Just a thought!

Best of luck with fixing your problem.
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Old 12th January 2012, 10:11 AM
Tony Marlow Tony Marlow is offline
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I was just wondering if you can completly rule out anthing to do with the negative. You don't mention using a tripod; it might be worth while to to take a few frames using a sturdey tripod at around f8 of a subject which does not have too much depth you could then be totally confident that the neg is not the problem.
One simple way I have used to check the enlarger is to scratch some straight lines with a fine point (eg the steel point of a pair of compasses) on an exposed section of the film, say scribing the lines around the edge of the frame and a couple of diagonals and put this in the negative carrier. Set the head to maximum height and see if the lines are crisp and sharp when focussed on the base board. You may even see the ragged edge of the scratched emulsion. Not very scientific but easy to do.
Tony
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Old 12th January 2012, 07:25 PM
DavidH DavidH is offline
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Just adding to what Tony says - First of all, a sharp negative is needed. Do you know anybody who can print one of your negatives for you? This will tell you first of all if there is a problem with your camera/lens combination, or if the problem lies with your enlarging. If you could get someone to lend you a negative from which a known sharp print has been made this will serve the same purpose. If the trouble is definitely at the enlarging stage, then Dave makes a valid point, if you use a focus finder it could be faulty. try focussing by eye, assisted by a magnifying glass if necessary. If the negative carrier is not properly parallel with the lens mount you will find that part of the print is sharp but the rest isn't. A glassed carrier holds the negative flatter, but this is unlikely to be noticed if the lens is a couple of stops down from wide open. Certainly a negative can "pop" in a glassles carrier but this shouldn't be a problem if you only stop down immediately before exposing the paper. You would notice the chage in focus with the lens wide open. If you eliminate these problems, then you could have a defective enlarging lens.

Hope you get it sorted without any expense.
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Old 12th January 2012, 08:00 PM
Mike O'Pray Mike O'Pray is offline
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A grain focuser such as the Paterson will focus the grain irrespective of whether you use glasses or not. Simply get the hairline sharp with or without glasses and then use with or without glasses depending on glasses/no glasses when setting up the grain focuser.

Once the grain is sharp then unless there is very rapid bellows creep a print exposure immediately will have sharp grain.

If there is any fuzziness then it is almost certain that the neg was out of focus.

I had this happen to me with a neg from an Isolette which had no rangefinder so I relied on setting the correct distance but got it wrong

It took close examination under a loupe to establish that it was the neg that was out of focus.

So in short and based on my experience a grain focuser will get the grain sharp and if the print is fuzzy it is likely to be the neg.

Mike
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Old 12th January 2012, 08:06 PM
Dave miller Dave miller is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike O'Pray View Post
A grain focuser such as the Paterson will focus the grain irrespective of whether you use glasses or not. Simply get the hairline sharp with or without glasses and then use with or without glasses depending on glasses/no glasses when setting up the grain focuser.

Once the grain is sharp then unless there is very rapid bellows creep a print exposure immediately will have sharp grain.

If there is any fuzziness then it is almost certain that the neg was out of focus.

I had this happen to me with a neg from an Isolette which had no rangefinder so I relied on setting the correct distance but got it wrong

It took close examination under a loupe to establish that it was the neg that was out of focus.

So in short and based on my experience a grain focuser will get the grain sharp and if the print is fuzzy it is likely to be the neg.

Mike
That's interesting Mike, I have a grain focuser and cannot use it without the aid of glasses.
If the image you see through the eyepiece is blurred due to eyesight problems, how does one focus on the grain that you cannot see whether the negative is in focus or not?

No one has yet addressed the problem of a grain focus being incorrectly set-up, could that be the problem?
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  #10  
Old 12th January 2012, 08:09 PM
JimW JimW is offline
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Mine has a moveable eyepiece, presumeably to allow for different strength eyes.
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