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Despite the attraction of slides, everyone will reach the point where they want to get a good hardcopy print of their best and favourite slides to mount on the wall or to put in an album to show those people who won't sit still for the obligatory slide show.
Unfortunately, prints cannot be obtained from slides with the same degree of availability as you can get a set of prints from your local high-street developers. Fortunately though, there are specialist processes that can produce prints that at least match the best hand-printed negatives, and which, some would claim, produce even better results.
The material used is Cibachrome, and is a "direct positive process based on the dye-bleach principle". Cibachrome works on a quite opposite principle to conventional chromogenic processes, and the azo dyes used are inherently more stable than the types used in other systems. The dyes yield images that have excellent colour saturation and hue rendition, and the presence of the dyes within the emulsion layers reduces scatter during exposure, increasing resolution and image sharpness.
The Cibachrome process can also include the preparation of display transparencies, which can be mounted with a rear light-source for stunning, vibrant displays. You may have seen examples of these at high quality exhibitions.
As Cibachrome has a gelatine base, careful consideration must be made when mounting, or putting into glass frames. Professional advice from your printer is best sought here.
Other processes are available, using different R3 chemistries, with materials available from Kodak (Ektachrome papers), Fuji (Fujichrome papers), and Tetenal. Considered option says that although R3 processes produce perfectly acceptable results, Cibachrome can be really stunning. Cibachrome actually no longer exists, having been bought out by Ilford, and is now known as Ilfochrome Classic, I believe. Those contemplating making Cibachrome prints in their own darkroom should be aware that the chemicals have a reputation for being a bit noxious.
At least one company, Solarchrome of Warrington, employ a technique known as contrast masking, whereby the slide is sandwiched with a low density black and white negative copy to improve print contrast and exposure, when printing on Cibachrome papers, and claim exceptional and consistent results from this process, which is available at a competitive price. I gather now however, than the composition of the Ilfochrome materials has rendered this contrast masking technique unnecessary, and very good prints can be obtained without it.
The last, and most obvious process, is to take a high resolution colour negative copy of the original slide, usually on 6cm x 6cm film, and use this internegative to print on conventional paper. Beware of the additional, but small, potential loss of resolution caused by the extra copy stage. You may also find that the cost of the internegative does not make this process economically viable for single reprints. Obtain a price list from your local lab for all the alternatives.
Perhaps the best solution is to experiment, and obtain sample 10 x 8 prints, from a very high quality slide, from a variety of professional sources using a variety of processes and make up your own mind, according to the results.
Please don't ever expect a print to come up to the quality of your projected slide. There are plenty of reasons why this doesn't happen, the main one being that there is much less contrast range in a print than there is in a slide.
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This page was last updated on 09 February 1999
Please address any comments to Mark Mumford