Wista DXIII Sharpness

Discussion in 'Talk About Large Format Gear' started by Bill Martindale, Aug 21, 2016.

  1. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    I am a member of the Postal Photographic Club (PPC) and one of the comments I get on my LF images is that "it is not sharp" and that is on a 5 x 7 print. I am using the camera on a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with the Manfrotto 410 geared head and of course a cable release. My lenses are a 90mm Super Angulon (recently serviced), a 150mm Super Symmar and a 240mm Symmar-S. I use a loupe for focussing.

    Having looked at a few prints I have to agree that they do not have that critical sharp edge that I would expect and can see in other people's work.
    My main film has been Fomapan 100 processed using a Jobo CPE2 in a variety of developers, ID11 1+1, Perceptol 1+2, Ilfotec HC 1+31 and Xtol 1+1. I have also used HP5 Plus and have had similar comments about sharpness.

    Looking on the forum I see there are others using Fomapan 100 and those images look to be what I am trying to achieve.

    I have carefully checked the camera for correct positioning of the ground glass screen relative to the film plane and all seems to be well.

    When I got the camera the screen, which I think has been replaced as it does not have the Wista name on, was fitted the wrong way round, the ground glass facing the back not the lens.

    Turning it over made an instant improvement but not enough for the comments to go away.

    I make my prints on a well aligned De Vere 504 enlarger with the De Vere Varicontrast head using a 135mm Componon S lens that will print a sharp 6 x 7 negative satisfactorily.

    So I have a few questions.
    Looking at the images on here using Fomapan 100 they have been digitised for posting but have they also been sharpened post scanning?

    Is Fomapan 100 a "sharp" film in general or should I be using FP4 Plus?

    Does the processing method or the developer chosen affect final image sharpness?

    I am loathe to use Rodinal for its acutance effect as it gives me a grain pattern I am not keen on and would prefer to stay with one of the above developers. I do seem to have to extend development times to get a negative of suitable contrast to print on a middling grade of paper so could that also affect sharpness?

    That also seems to preclude using Pyro developers as they are not as easy to build contrast with.

    If you need any further information do not hesitate to ask but I am away from home at the moment so may not have all the answers immediately.

    I also do not have any examples to hand. My scanner is an Epson 1200 model so is not the best as neither is my scanning technique as it is not something I would ever want to use to print from digitally.

    Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

    Bill
     
  2. Keith Haithwaite

    Keith Haithwaite Active Member

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    Hello and welcome Bill.

    Have you checked the negatives themselves under a high powered loupe? If they are sharp then the problem lies with the printing system - but you say that is ok.

    If they are not sharp then the problem lies in the camera, so ....

    "When I got the camera the screen, which I think has been replaced as it does not have the Wista name on, was fitted the wrong way round, the ground glass facing the back not the lens".

    l would expect the owner of such a camera to know, or at least find out, which way round the GG screen should go. I wonder if anything else was messed around with? (See below)

    "Turning it over made an instant improvement but not enough for the comments to go away."

    This is the key to the problem I believe. If sharpness improved that dramatically still did not resolved the problem then it seems to me that the film plane/GG screen relationship is still not correct and needs further investigation. That part of a LF camera system is critical and is usually robustly built to maintain its integrity, but one never knows ....

    The other key player in this scenario are the film holdes. I assume these are of a reputable make and it has to be asked (forgive me), are they loaded correctly?

    Check the sharpness of the negatives as soon as you get back Bill.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  3. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Morning Keith,
    I have previously looked at the negatives and there is a difference between the Fomapan and the HP5 Plus negatives but I put that down, or it was suggested to me, that it may be more of a DoF problem.
    The holders are all Fidelity Elite some older than others but 2 were mint in their box so I trust those. I have loaded about 300 sheets now so I think I am OK loading them but then again perhaps not!
    Since earlier I have found some small size scans, buried in the computer, of a still life I used for testing so I attach one as an example.
    W118.jpg

    The fun part was emptying the bottles but not immediately before taking the image. If I remember correctly I focussed on the word Ten. The film was Fomapan 100 rated at 80 ISO processed for 10 minutes in ID11 1+1 in the Jobo CPE2. The lens used was the 150mm Symmar at f11. Wonderful what you can find out if you search your Bento database of negatives.

    The comments were made by a digital photographer who always comments that images, not just mine, are soft unless they are high contrast and sharpened to within an inch of their lives.

    Perhaps it is just me and my shots are generally OK but I do think I need to bottom this as it is spoiling my pleasure of using the camera.

    Perhaps as the forum matures we may have some meet ups as a lot of us are in the north and not that far away from each other. That way we could look at original prints, not just scans.

    Thanks for your comments

    Bill
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
  4. Keith Haithwaite

    Keith Haithwaite Active Member

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    Sorry to re-stress it but have you physically checked the negatives with a high powered loupe as I suggested Bill? Scans and prints add an unknown into the mix and will not give you a definitive answer as to where the problem lies.

    Scanned images are wide open for interpretation as to what construes sharp, or 'retains the film look' etc and almost everyone has their own opinion it seems. ;)
     
  5. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark New Member

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    Bill,
    I can imagine your frustration, with lots of possible reasons for your problem.
    One possibility is that there is a problem with the alignnent of your enlarger, or the enlarger lens. Can you get a friend on your print exchange to send their negative as well as their print? Then you can print it and compare your print with theirs. It would help if the print was a 10x8 detail of a 20x16 size print, and the subject has plenty of crisp detail.
    Another possibility is that the ground glass is at the wrong distance from the interface, though I would doubt that, if the glass is the right way round and snugly bedded in the frame rebate. You say that you have checked this gap against the gap in a film holder. Not sure how you did this but it might be worth re-checking. They say you need a depth micrometer to check this, not something that most people have lying around. But there is a simpler method. What we are talking about here is the T distance. This is 5mm from the septum to the interface of the film-holder. Or about 4.8mm with a film in place. So from ground side of the ground glass screen to its interface should be 4.8 mm.
    You can check this distance with a metal straight edge and a wooden wedge. Place the straight edge across the interfaces of the film holder, with the darkslide removed and a sheet of film in place. Now slide the wedge into the gap until it just touches the edge of the straight edge, and mark where it touches. Don't do this in the middle, or the septum might bend and give you a false measurement. Then do the same with the ground glass frame, to check if the gaps are the same. If you can't make a wooden wedge you can use a section of an artist's paint brush, of suitable diameter, as these are tapered.

    By the way, I wouldn't worry about switching to Rodinal to get sharper negatives. I have found that ID11, at a dilution of 1+2 or 1+3 is actually sharper than Rodinal...
    Good luck with solving your problem
     
  6. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    I did but some while ago Keith. I will be home later this week and will re-examine the negatives and post then.
     
  7. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Good Afternoon Alan,

    I believe the enlarger is fine as I have done a full "ground up" alignment check and I have also printed a Mamiya 7ii negative that is really sharp and that prints fine and sharp right across the image. I no longer take part in the FADU print exchange but am just about to start one on a personal level with another FADU member, however his speciality is 35 mm with the occasional 120. It is mainly to try to cure some other issues I am having in printing not related to this. I suppose what I really need is another LF photographer with whom I can do an exchange even if it is only for one negative.

    I have checked the holder position as I do have a vernier calliper with a depth capability. I placed a metal rule edgewise across the back/ground glass, set the vernier then put in a holder and checked against the face of a piece of film. All seemed well within tolerance.
    Thanks for the tip on developer. I have not used ID11 diluted greater then 1+1 so may well try your suggestion of a higher dilution.

    Bill
     
  8. Keith Haithwaite

    Keith Haithwaite Active Member

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    I forgot to ask what lens/lenses you have been using and at what apertures Bill as these can have a profound influence on image sharpness.
     
  9. Alan Clark

    Alan Clark New Member

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    Hello Bill,
    It is good that you have eliminated some probable causes of lack of sharpness.
    In your original post you asked about the relative sharpness of FP4 and Fomapan 100. By coincidence I have just started using 5x4 Fomapan 100 and did a test with it against the last of my FP4 (photographed the same subject with both.) I couldn't see any difference between them regarding sharpness.
    Regarding ID11, I always used it at 1+1 until a few years ago when I tried it at 1+3, with half a roll of 35mm HP5. The other half was developed in 1+1. I found that 10x8 prints from the 1+3 half were noticably sharper, at normal viewing distance, than prints from the 1+1 half. There was a slight increase in grain with 1+3, but you had to look hrd to see it. I later found that a 1+2 dilution gave identical grain and sharpness to 1+3, and this is what I have used for several years now.

    Alan
     
  10. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    If the problem is the ground glass alignment, it will be at its worst with your 90mm lens. Does the lens make a difference?

    Edit to add:
    Yes, developer does influence the result. Acutance developers will make the results look sharper, but won't function as such so well with increased agitiation. Fine grain developers will reduce apparent sharpness.

    You'll tend to get a higher acutance effect with increased dilution.
     
  11. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Hi Keith,

    The lenses are all Schneiders as listed in the original post. I normally aim for f22 - 32 when I use them for my landscape work. Possibly when testing or if required by lighting conditions I may go to f11 but rarely.

    Bill
     
  12. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Hi Alan,
    I have taken some shots on FP4 Plus on a course I was on but not the comparable Fomapan shots so cannot directly compare. Your experience is useful.

    I will also try your dilutions on my next sheets. I will be home on Wednesday so after that I intend to do a "carefully controlled" trial (means I may actually take notes of what I do) but using normal subjects rather than still life shots that are not my normal subject.
    Bill
     
  13. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Thanks Stephen. I have not taken many images using the 90mm but I intend to take some shots in the next week once I am home where I will take notes and ensure I try all the lenses. I will also make comparative shots on HP5 Plus at the same time. I also have some Adox Pan 25 I could try as well.

    Thanks for the notes on dilution, it is similar to what Alan said, so I will try that as well but it may be better not to change too many things at once.

    Bill
     
  14. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    I've just made a few web searches on the effect of continuous agitation (I'm assuming that from the Jobo processor) as I was sure about the acutance effect, but wondered if the solvent effect in a fine grain developer would lead to decreased sharpness with continuous agitation. I haven't come up with anything, after realising what you'd said about print size.

    You might get unsharp negs from an inferior lens, but I have a print from a 6x6 box camera that looks wonderfully sharp at half-plate size (it was a half plate enlargement, I'm not being twee in quoting older sizes). Half plate (4.75" x 6.5") is near enough 5x7 for our purposes. So, unless you have a large number of vastly inferior lenses, I'll pass the lenses as OK.

    I also seriously doubt if the minimal enlargement to 5x7 would reveal any differences in the developers used.

    That seems to leave only focusing, with a choice between film not being flat, ground glass not being in the same plane as the film, or your eyesight.

    I'm very open to having this conclusion exploded.

    Edit to add: I'm assuming that the negative isn't sharp; otherwise we start questioning enlarger alignment and/or scanner resolution/focus.

    There is also the purely subjective effect of subject (pun semi intended). Some subjects will inherently look sharper than others.
     
  15. Keith Haithwaite

    Keith Haithwaite Active Member

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    Sorry Bill, I worded that wrong, I just meant to ask what apertures you used. :rolleyes: It all depends on what you see on the negs now! BTW, if your negs do look sharp then try a contact print. If this is sharp then you have a problem with the enlarger, as Stephen noted, the degree of enlargement up to 7x5 shouldn't make that much difference so if the neg is sharp so should be the print.
     
  16. Graham Patterson

    Graham Patterson Member

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    Start with the basics. Make sure all the movements on the camera are locked down at the time of exposure. Use the cable release properly (big U bend). Photograph a fence or some railings at an angle, and put markers on the point of focus, and a bit behind and in front. You can work wide open - you are interested in the plane of focus not optimum sharpness at this point.

    Look at the negative with a good loupe or via the enlarger at maximum magnification. That lets you verify your focus. If the focus plane is off, it might be your eye/loupe is not correctly focused, or the screen is misplaced. Don't mess with scanners for critical determinations - that is a whole other optical system over which you have marginal control!

    If the focus is good, and where you expected, look at the grain in a big enlargement. If the grain is sharp, the enlarger focus etc. is fine. If the grain is sharp, but the subject edges still seem soft, decide if it is a contrast issue. Increased contrast will make tonal changes more pronounced, and the converse.

    There is a tendency with digital work flows to over-sharpen, or sharpen too early. The result starts to look like a cartoon with an outline. If the only person who is making an issue of your sharpness likes that effect, why worry?
     
  17. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Hello Stephen,
    I also have done some research to investigate continuous agitation which gave very mixed results. Some say it does affect sharpness because you lose the edge effect that intermittent or stand development supposedly gives while others say it makes no difference whatsoever.
    While the comments were raised on a 5x7 print I am also a member of the United Photographic Portfolios of Great Britain where we produce prints up to 12 x 16 inches.
    From the choices you mention the film is held fairly firmly in the holders so should be flat, the loupe i use has an adjustable eyepiece that I adjust to suit my eyes so the ground glass is the last thing left.
    I agree that the subject could affect the look as will the lighting, That is why I will fins something with lots of texture preferably with cross light to give maximum effect when I try things next week.

    Bill
     
  18. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Not a problem Keith, I think I know what you meant. Until I get home and examine some negatives under a loupe I cannot comment further but you idea of making some contact prints is a good one.

    Bill
     
  19. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Thanks Graham. All excellent advice that I will take on board. As I have said until next week when I get home I cannot do a lot more but I need to sort this out once and for all.
    I think the modern digital trend has affected how people look at prints especially darkroom ones which may be less contrasty than the current crop of club prints. Even one person making the comment has put a doubt in my mind and once that starts it is easy to be looking for problems in one's work.

    Bill
     
  20. Bill Martindale

    Bill Martindale Member

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    Now that I am home again and have most of the domestics out of the way (still got the grass to cut) I have just spent an hour examining negatives through a 10X Peak loupe with an adjustable eyepiece.

    To be honest the results are inconclusive, to my eyes anyway. I examined negatives made with the Wista using Fomapan 100, FP4 Plus, HP5 Plus and Adox Pan 25 developed in my Jobo rotary system with various developers. These included ID11 at 1+1, Ilfotec HC at 1+49, Perceptol at 1+2 and Pyrocat HD.

    If pushed I would say that the ones shot on Fomapan 100 and marginally 'fuzzier' than the others. The ones in Ilfotec HC are not as good as those in ID11. These all include shots made on all three of my lenses so there is no real difference between them.

    As a check I went back to negatives I made using an Arca Swiss Monorail I used to own. There is no real difference to the current negatives.

    I think that the original comment may be more due to a DoF problem as it was a still life with the camera pointed slightly down.

    I checked the bottle shots as shown above and the writing is slightly crisper on the HP5 Plus shot than the Fomapan 100. Both were taken using my 150 mm lens at f11. Both had the same development treatment apart from the time given.

    So I need to do some actual controlled checking now on real shots rather than test shots using all my lenses and making notes as I go. It also looks like the films are marginally developer dependent to get the best result. I intend to try Alan's ID11 at 1+2 for these shots.

    So Thanks for all your help and suggestions, it looks like more of a problem with me rather than the camera. When I get the trial shots done I will report back.

    In the meantime I have been looking at various images on here taken using Fomapan films and they are perfectly sharp unless of course they have been software sharpened after scanning.

    Bill
     

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