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Monday, 21 October 2013


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Once, long ago, I got tired of carriing two cameras so I could do both color and B&W, so I started shooting everything in color (usually Ektachrome), and and making internegs for my B&W prints. One of the variables was selecting the film for the interneg. Of course, different films see color differently, yielding different gray scales for the same color slide. Can Peter Turnley say what films are used, and if different cameras require different film or treatment to get the gray scale and contrast he wants?

Being illiterate in French, I couldn't figure out from Central DUPON Images' Web site what process it uses to create those 4x5 negatives. Are they made on silver gelatin film by an LVT imagesetter or via LED Durst Lambda/Theta? Or are Pictorio-type negatives produced on an inkjet printer?

I am wondering if "internegative" is the wrong term as this defines a copy of a negative from a negative. Since Mr. Turnley's Paris lab started with a digital file I think the proper (or at least acceptable) description would be a "digital negative", i.e. a traditional negative made from a digital file?

[Hi Michael, "Internegative" is short for "intermediate negative," which seems to work fine here. IMO. --Mike]

Sounds like they will be good looking prints. I hope I can afford one of them.

My last day of employment with my company is Oct. 31. A month off to take care of a fairly large honey-do list, get my various insurance and license requirements taken care of and I'm back in business for myself.

A Turnley print would be a nice celebration present from me to..........me


There are other options to print on silver halide from digital:

1. DeVere makes a digital enlarger, it exposes the digital file directly onto the paper, then you develop it.

2. HP has a system build in to their z3200 printers: print on film at the size you would like the print, then make a contact print. The printer software allows for calibration based on a contact from a standard target.

What would REALLY be essential to understand, is if this internegative is only a way to conveniently archive an image, and hand it over to a highly competent master printer for enlarging, or is there any technical phenomenon going on there. What I mean, is if this internegative, done on silver film, can in any way correct the typical digital tonality, and make it appear closer to that of film or not ? In my opinion, it should not be able to happen, as you can only lose information in reproduction, not create it, but it would be nice to be able to clear this point.

In response to some of the questions, I asked Peter, and he doesn't know the process the lab uses to make the intermediate negative. I'm assuming we'd have to ask the lab. --Mike

For more on Salgado's process see the previous TOP column


I think it would be interesting to some time in the future have Peter send you an example of a print made on an Epson to allow you to compare to a chemical print of the same image. I fully understand that he has Voja still available to print in a darkroom for him, and for life work consistency he is fortunate to have Voja.
But just as Peter has moved from the double chemistry of film and enlargement, to digital and enlargement with an internegative, someday if Voja stops working Peter might want to know what digital to digital can provide.
Five years ago, digital color output was excellent, but B&W was not yet there. Perhaps we have had enough progress that B&W digital output would meet Peter's demands even though he wishes to rely on Voja as long as possible. You and he might want to discuss that experiment, assuming Peter has yet to try it.

Any chance Peter would ever share his thoughts on shooting with the Leica Monochrom. Would love to hear his experience on shooting with a b&w only camera versus converting a digital color file to b&w.


The website mentions the Lambda printer. I will guess that Central DUPON may use a Durst printer, onto Kodak Duratrans film.

As someone hinted above, this is a not bad way to archive material isn't it? No need to worry about file back-ups or keeping disk drives up to date. An old-fashioned silver negative can last a long time.

Mike R. suggests that the film is Kodak Duratrans. However, I believe that film was discontinued about a decade ago. also it was intended for color work, and was made in large sizes as it was intended to be adisplay medium, not an intermediate.Am I right?

This also reminds me of the digital negative process used by the folks behind Lenswork (though even my poor memory suggests there are substantive differences). IIRC, the Lenswork process produces a large transparency used for contact printing, so there would be no tonal differences between prints made at different times (assuming exposure in the darkroom is controlled).


That is a great photograph.

Hi Mike,
I noticed a comment from Nevin inquiring about my feelings about using a Leica Monochrom. I usually don't like to speak about cameras or technique. I usually prefer to speak about the themes of life I photograph. But, here, it is very much worth noting that the Leica Monochrom is in my mind a game changer. The most important aspect about this camera is that it allows one to see and photograph in low light. The camera produces files at 1600 and 2500 ISO that are spectacular in the subtlety of the mid tones and in the detail in the shadows and highlights. One can walk into a low lit subway car and photograph like in daylight. The same in cafes, restaurants, or walking the streets at night. The last two years of photographs I made during my 40 year project of photographs of moments of love in Paris, and moments I love, were made with the Monochrom. The camera allowed me to capture a sense of authentic intimacy and spontaneity, that I couldn't have done easily with Tr-X or certainly not with other digital cameras I've used. Brassai would have loved this camera, as would have HCB, Kertesz, Doisneau, Boubat, Ronis, and many others.
There is another point I'd like to make about the process of creating an internegative from a digital file in order to be able to have a master printer make silver gelatin prints. There are other methods of printing from digital files onto silver paper-Lamda prints, light jet prints, and other methods. What is beautiful though about having a very good internegative in that in hands of the right printer, each print can be slightly tweaked with burning and dodging during the printing process, and also in the developing tank. In my mind, it is the unique quality of each print made by hand, one never being exactly the same as another, but very close when made by a master printer, that offers this process the opportunity to really add to the photographers creation, with the collaboration with an amazing printer. It is the final act in the creative process. I want to finish by saying that technology is amazing, and the opportunities that it has opened up are wonderful, but just like the making of a photograph, it is the heart, passion and interaction of the photographer with a moment that is essential, and in printing, a machine will never be able to out perform the genius and creative humanity of a printer like Voja Mitrovic. Thanks to everyone for their interest and for this discussion. Peter Turnley

I do not see the point of using a internegative for silver gelatin fiber printing, just have Digital Silver Imaging in Boston print directly from the digital file on the silver gelatin fiber print.

Dear Marek,

I don't know what you're concerned about in "typical digital tonality," but tonality is completely maleable in digital files. You can have essentially any characteristic curve shape you like, combined with an extremely broad range of microcontrast and edge acutance qualities. I can't think of anything else that could go into "tonality."

Whatever you don't like in "typical" results is a consequence of the artistic choices of the photographer (and printer, if not the same as the photographer). There may be a prevalent aesthetic you find distasteful, but it is not inherent nor inevitable in digital photographs.

So, ultimately you'll be relying on whether or not you trust and like Peter's aesthetic judgement. If you do, then it doesn't matter what camera he's using. If you don't, ditto.

Completely aside and of no pertinence whatsoever, this business of "you can't create information" is deeply and profoundly irrelevant to the art and practice of photography. There is no reason to ever, ever invoke it. Really! Truly! (I even wrote a whole column about that. Search for it.)

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Folks,

Hybrid work flows can get convoluted.

A client sent me a 35mm Tri-X negative to scan and repair, because it had suffered physical damage that made it unprintable, conventionally. After I cleaned it up, I sent the file to Color 3 Lab in San Francisco, which made the client a new larger-format B&W neg. He was very happy with the prints he made from that new negative.

Last month, asked me to print from the digital file for him. He'd been doing iron-toned silver-gelatin prints of modest size from his negative, but now he needed a 36" print, which was way beyond his darkroom's capabilities. So, he sent me a sample iron-toned silver-gelatin print for reference, and I produced an much larger Epson 9800 inkjet print that matched it in tone and color. (Which, no, did not mean simply printing the digital file "straight," not even close.)

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Shooting film in the first place was what crossed my mind.

Ken Rockwell, whether you might agree with him or not, has written a nice article about film photography and how it makes good sense:


May I ask what size prints Peter can make from this digital film print process? Sort of a how big question.

Thank you!

It'd be interesting to see a direct comparison between Peter Turnley's printing method and "Digital Silver Imaging's" method. It would in effect simply remove the interneg and Voja Mitrovic from the equation.


Granted Peter Turnley's preference for the Leica Monochrom in terms of size and convenience for street shooting, I wonder if he ever compared slrs like the Nikon D800,which have a monochrome mode, with the Leica in terms of image quality and low light performance, especially given the larger file sizes and higher ISO capability of the slrs?

I'd be curious to know if prints made with the MM/internagative method look different from prints made with original 35mm negatives, if printed to the same size. Does print from the digital original look like it was from a larger format than 35mm?

Seems like I remember Mike saying that the Nikon D800 had resolution that could match 4X5, quite amazing I thought at the time.

Dear rnewman,

No one else seems to have chimed in with information, so I'll give it a go. Mind you, I'm working from published data, not hands-on experience with the camera, so believe anyone with the latter over me.

Using the DxOMark data, the Leica is barely a half a stop slower than the fastest DSLR's, which puts it close to the top of the field. For comparison, it's nearly a stop and a half faster than my Olympus E-M5, which produces very acceptable noise and good tonality at ISO 800. That's consistent with Peter's writings about how happy he is at ISO 1600-2500.

The Leica is a 24 Mpx camera, so there are few DSLRs out there that produce larger files. More importantly, it's a monochrome camera, which means its actual resolution will be comparable to a 40 Mpx Bayer array camera. IOW, it's already at the top of the heap, enlargement-wise.

That much resolution can produce a "press-your-nose-against-it" sharp 20" x 30" print (my Bayer-arrayed 16 Mpx Olympus has no trouble doing that in a 15" x 20" print). Since that's already at a size where people start to step back to better be able to see the whole composition, there's really no practical limit to how much you can enlarge one of those files and still have the print that'll be perceived as being really sharp.

IOW, if you're into monochrome photography and you don't actually need the photo to look like it was made with an 8x10 view camera, this camera is as much camera as you'll ever need.

pax / Ctein

Ctein, just a minor correction: M Monochrom is based on the older M9 sensor and not the newer CMOS M sensor, so it's "only" 18 MP, not 24. Conventional wisdom pecks it as more or less equal to ~24 MP, not ~40MP.

Now if they make a M Monochrom MkII based on the CMOS M sensor, that could push it up to effectively ~40MP, as you said.

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