Traditional may be the term used to describe silver halide photographic paper, but that should not infer lack of development - at least, not as far as black and white paper manufactured by Ilford Photo is concerned. Rod Parsons, head of Ilford Photo's worldwide technical support service, provides an overview of today's monochrome print material.
For many years, Ilford Photo has offered a full range of silver halide black-and-white papers on both fibre and RC bases. These include graded and variable contrast papers available in cool, neutral or warm tone varieties with a choice of surfaces, all in a wide range of sheet and roll sizes to suit every need. The long established and familiar brand names Ilfospeed, Multigrade and Galerie are synonymous with black-and-white papers from Ilford Photo.
A particularly significant recent development with RC and FB papers is their alignment with the needs of digital photographers and labs, enabling the traditional benefits of silver halide media to cross the divide between analogue and digital. Ilford Photo has achieved this integration to a remarkable level by combining the benefits of both aspects - as demonstrated in its Ilfospeed RC Digital and Ilford Galerie FB Digital papers.
Although specially optimised for use in tricolour laser enlargers such as those produced by Durst and Océ, Ilfospeed RC Digital is, nonetheless, a premium quality black and white panchromatic photographic paper. It has been designed using traditional silver halide technology based upon the emulsions used in the highly successful Ilfospeed RC Deluxe and Ilfobrom Galerie FB graded papers.
Ilfospeed RC Digital is a medium weight (270gsm), resin-coated, water resistant photographic paper which produces a neutral image colour with excellent contrast, sharpness and surface finish.
It enables superb continuous tone black and white images or text to be printed from digital files prepared from black-and-white or colour film negatives or positives, prints and digital originals. The results are equal to those seen when using conventional black and white printing materials and exposing equipment.
While some printers use colour paper for producing black and white prints - mostly for the sake of convenience - the advantages gained from using Ilfospeed RC Digital are significant. Its use avoids the problems associated with image tone variability, dye stability, process control and print quality, while providing a true silver image with a neutral image tone which is fixed, predictable and reliable.
Enabling superb image quality with excellent tone reproduction, rich blacks and a bright white base tint specifically created to bring out the best from black and white photographs, Ilfospeed RC Digital is simpler to control and process, and, as with other black and white papers, it can be toned for creative or image protection purposes.
Photo labs previously using Kodak Professional Digital B&W Paper and Agfa MCP in their digital enlargers will be pleased to find Ilfospeed RC Digital continuing to support this unique application. Ilford Photo now provides the only monochrome product specially designed for use in digital enlargers.
Ilford Galrie FB Digital, meanwhile, is a heavyweight (315gsm) baryta fibre based paper. It is totally unique in that it is the only digital paper of its type in the world which utilises Ilford Photo's renowned fibre base baryta material, long established in such products as Ilfobrom Galerie FB and Multigrade IV FB papers, yet it can be exposed in digital laser printers (eg: Lightjet and Lambda) writing directly from digital files.
The optimised spectral sensitivity of Ilford Galerie FB Digital, combined with the proven long term archival benefits of traditional fibre base black and white papers, provides the opportunity to create genuine silver gelatine prints from digital images. This unique combination makes Ilford Galerie FB Digital the ideal, and first, choice for exhibition and fine art prints.
“For the first time, fine art photographers can benefit from the best of both worlds,” says Ilford Photo chairman Phil Harris. “This unique product brings together the added creative benefits offered by digital manipulation with the long established aesthetic and archival properties of true baryta base black-and-white silver gelatin prints.”
The resounding message to all photographers, whether working within an analogue or digital workflow, or a combination of the two, is that there is an Ilford Photo pure photographic black-and-white paper which will provide those best results - whatever the purpose or application for which they were created. Simply stated, Ilford Photo is black-and-white photography.