|The complete family unit: Ilford's new FB line-up.|
Who says the darkroom is dead? Here's some news from Ilford that, on the face of it, can only be a real shot in the arm for film-based photographers. The company's commitment to traditional photography is apparent in a completely new and improved Multigrade FB, to be called Multigrade FB Classic, and a new Cooltone FB paper to complement the existing Multigrade FB Warmtone.
The new papers are expected to start hitting shelves in the UK, the USA and Canada mid-December and the present Multigrade IV FB is being phased out - so watch out for some bargains at the usual retailers as they clear their stocks. Europe and the rest of the world will have to wait until the end of March for deliveries. There's no word on pricing yet and we can only hope that Ilford does the decent thing and pegs the cost at a similar level for Multigrade FB Classic to the out-going paper.
The King is Dead...For 20 years Multigrade IV FB has reined supreme in the darkrooms of many photographers but now it will make way for Multigrade FB Classic, the result, Ilford says, of "extensive research and development". The company claims the new paper is "significantly improved". It'll be available in glossy and matt surfaces and should make sharper images possible along with improved d-max and shorter exposure times (if exposure times get any shorter with my Durst L1200, I'll be using a stop watch!). Ilford says Multigrade FB Classic will also respond better to toning than Multigrade IV FB, a paper that, for all its virtues, was definitely not the most responsive in that department.
In a further development, the Multigrade FB range will be extended by the addition of a Cooltone variant, said to give a cool image with crisp whites and well-separated mid-tones. FB Warmtone continues unchanged and Ilford has no plans now or in the future to alter its formulation. The aim of the revamp is to deliver to the photographer and printer the complete range of print tones in one product family, the first time, according to Ilford, that this has happened.
Photographer Alan Ross, who was a photographic assistant to Ansel Adams and personally selected by The Master to print his Yosemite Special Edition negatives, has been testing the new papers.
He said, "Both papers have a similar contrast range to the MG IV FB and exhibit a greater clarity or crispness of image. Both papers will take a richer tone in selenium than MG IV FB - a real boon.
"The toning test was impressive - at 1:23 even a print immersed for 1 minute showed a noticeable change in image color, but my favorite is in the 4' range. A color I could never get with MGIV FB.
"I think I am going to like the CLASSIC a LOT!"
Some residual stocks of the paper are being held but, provided there is sufficient demand, a final coating will be made. Ilford said that if that coating does take place then final orders will begin to ship from the factory to the company's worldwide network of distributors at the end of February next year.