graphic arts camera vs image? Quality comparison?

I read here someone said you can almost get near 2400dpi quality with a graphic arts camera. But if you have a sharp line copy blown up and reduce the size would you not be able to get the same quality, if not better then an imagesetter? Because cant camera film hold finer detail then a 2400dpi imagesetter produce? I have never used a camera before but am interested. Can’t the camera perfectly reproduce anything it sees? So as long as the image is large and clear, won’t whatever is in the line art be perfectly reproduced on the film once reduced in size? Unless it can’t reproduce quality accuratly enough even when reduced. Maybe its not so sharp or crisp between the clear and black areas. I assume it does though I have no experince.

But wouldn’t you be able to reproduce finer line art work with a camera then a 2400dpi imagesetter could reproduce?

I am hoping for a bunch of feedback from people who have used cameras and 2400dpi imagesetters.

On another note, has anyone here used the film called “ultrafine” ortho film with a camera? Does it give great detail on the film if you have? I notice they don’t have any fine line developer so I can’t see the film being able to hold very fine lines unless that is a thing of the past.

I also notice freestyle photograph supplies has ortho film but only ones with halftones built into it. Nothing for just line art. So does anyone know a good supplier for graphic art film?

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I’m an old timer and, as with a good many others on Briar Press, in years past have had extensive training and experience with graphic arts photography and graphic arts cameras. I would say that if you start with high quality black and white prints of line art, such as for instance, prints from 19th century steel or wood engravings, and you “shoot” (photograph) them using a correctly adjusted graphic arts camera, at the right exposure time, using the appropriate lith ortho film, and develop them correctly, you can’t obtain a better reproduction. However, there are a lot of “ifs” in what I just said, and to answer them all used to take a whole trade school or college course.

As you probably know, lith film is ultra high contrast, because you want only one of two states on it: after it is exposed and processed, the image areas need to be clear on the film, and the non-image areas need to be completely opaque black. This mimics the printing process where if you put ink on the sheet it is black, and if you don’t put ink on the sheet it is white. You can’t put a little black ink on the sheet and print shades of gray, and you don’t want shades of gray on the film either.

Don’t forget that the process of developing the film, with the correct times involved, is very important as well. Lith developer is “infectious,” which means that the longer you leave the film in the developer, the more the edges of the images will be turned from clear to black, and the images will get smaller. This is not so noticeable with large solid image areas but is very important with fine lines. If you take the film out of the developer too early, the fine lines will be too thick, and if you take the film out too late, they will be too thin or they may even disappear completely. For this reason it is really better if you can use a film processor, which will develop the film the same way every time.

This is just a small amount of the knowledge you will need to use a graphic arts camera well. I have left an awful lot out. However in years past, excellent results have been obtained with them, and I think there are a few people who are still using them.

I have a complete understanding about how the camera operation works. About how long you shoot for, how long you developed for will change your finished product with the camera. I don’t make prints often and don’t mind taking time out for the work. For me its about quality. I have access to getting a great camera in top shape before they stopped making them as well as a great condition 2400dpi imagesetter. And I am trying to figure out which could create better detailed line art work. I’m afraid to max out in detail with the imagesetter like you would on a laser printer or inkjet printer. Though 2400dpi is a lot, you never really know what quality it gives. Specs claim 11microns but then you also wonder does that mean it can do lines as small as 11 microns or is it smoke and mirror advertisements. But I was thinking with a camera I may not need to worry about all that. But then I read a post here with someone saying with a camera you can get close to 2400dpi quality of an imageaetter making me think the imagesetter can do way better line work… So I’m very confused, lol.

Geoffrey, have you used a 2400dpi imagesetter before? And you think the camera could give better quality line art work? If you think the camera can do better, do you think it could still with just a regular developer instead of a fine line developer? Thanks for your feedback by the way it’s much appreciated.

oh those memories of a gallery camera, reproduction camera……….might be an idea to check what is the “definition”
of the zinco, mag, or polymer plate spec that you would be using or making , whether machine or hand developed, as you do not state this………….polymer plates for example are not that fond of single, or fine lines separated from a mass of lines. Others would have more experience than me in that regard.Eg Gerald Bieler has a photopolymer group on yahoo, plus written an extensively detailed book .

I used a camera for years and though I will say that I never required 2400 dpi resolution for my letterpress cuts my opinion is that an imagesetter is a wonderful peice of equipment. Camera films will often show distortions like rounded inside corners of crossing lines, they have issues holding line thickness constant and being able to reproduce exactly the same resolution from day to day. There are issues with temerature changes, hot or uneven lighting and film handling that can create imperfections and variations in image quality. Also, if you were to print out an oversize image with a large variety of line thicknesses and or dots it can be quite difficult to find a proper exposure that doesn’t burn one area without unintentionally dodging another. With an imagsetter I don’t have these concerns. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy working with a camera and getting to know it’s behaviors and possibilities.

The materials needed for highest resolution camera negs just aren’t available today. You can get A+B developer, but not Fine Line developer (and no formula available for that). And the lith film I see is usually halftone film, which gives soft edges (for dot-etching) and that is the worst possible thing for a photopolymer relief plate. If you are shooting through the back for RR-Eup image orientation, it gets worse.
My process camera is gathering dust now, and I haven’t bought film in over ten years, so I don’t know exactly what is sold today. The last times I shot fine line negs from hard copy, I was using HD film; I shot thin negs for detail and then duped them for density (and orientation). That works, but isn’t possible in one step.
If the original is a digital file, by all means have it image-set, unless you just are into process and experience. I used to do 600 dpi laser output at 200 and 300% and shot down 50 or 33%, and for text type, the result has never been as good as the equivalent imagesetter resolution; it is just adding steps between original and end result.

Re Geoffreys remark about excessive development making the image ‘infectious’ Theres as solution a compound of cerium which nicely reverses that effect, and cleans out the clear areas that are beginning to fog in a bit .Here In the UK Mansell Publishing took on the production of the Library of Congress’ National Union Catalogue’. This meant photographing 15 million library index cards ( sent over to us in batches over many years ) at high speed in a unique machine, folllowed by the most closely held ” lith” wet processing you ever heard of. Kodak came to see how we did it!

Can image setters of such dpi performance handle well things like S & Bs 12 point Imperial Script? or for that matter the punctuation of 6 point Gill Titling No 4?

If there is no fine line developer anymore what is the smallest pt line size you think you could copy by reducing a crisp enlarged image.

And what is the difference in quality between a&b regular developer and fine line developer? Or the difference in quality between rapid developer or the normal stuff that takes 2 mins?

I haven’t personally used an imagesetter before, beyond sending art out to a prepress house to be output to film, and I haven’t even done that in quite a few years, since I have been retired from industry. When I said in my previous post that a camera image would be the best, it was based on the idea that with a camera image you are achieving actual straight lines, whereas with an imagesetter you are approximating straight lines with pixels.

In past years, excellent results have of course been obtained by using process cameras and film, by tightly controlling the many variables involved. However, since that technology is pretty much a thing of the past, to get into it now seems like not the way to go, unless you’re doing it for the challenge of doing it.

I have been wanting to get some letterpress plates made of 19th century wood engravings, similar to the electrotypes of old, and I too have been wondering whether the modern methods of scanning and outputting will be noticeable in the plates as irregular edges. My gut feeling is that the resolution of today’s scanners is so good that this won’t be a problem. Eventually I’ll order a plate and see what happens.

Another thing to remember is, even if an imagesetter can output extremely fine lines and fine reverse lines on a negative, can a plate hold those lines…..probably not. If you can gain access to an imagesetter with the capabilities of the one you might obtain, it would be good to make a test pattern of different thicknesses of fine lines and fine reverse lines, and different radii of circular lines, at different DPI resolutions, and then make a plate with the resultant negative, to see what the plate can hold. You might find out that an imagesetter with less resolution will do just as well because the plate can’t hold anything finer.

Just some things to think about.

Hard dot film means it has halftones built into it right? So its not suitable for line art work am I right?

No, the Arista Ortho film sold by Freestyle doesn’t have “Built in” halftone dots. This film would be a good film for use with line illustrations.

As far as I know there was only one film produced which had halftone dots built in, and that was a film called “Autoscreen”, produced by Kodak and discontinued many, many years ago.

To get the sharpest reproduction of fine line work with litho film, you will have to make a negative film directly, and then contact print a duplicate negative (using a duplicating film) from that in order to obtain the “Right-reading emulsion up” image required for letterpress platemaking as Parallel mentioned. Shooting through the base of the film to obtain RREU film can diffuse the lines a bit.

There were special cameras which would reverse the image using a mirror in the camera, but you are not likely to find one of those on the market these days.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press (former photoengraver)

I concur with JHenry

I use Arista Ortho 3 in 4x5 size for fine line work, using A&B Lith developer, and it works beautifully. I’ve never measured it’s DPI ability, but it will easily carry line images finer than PP plates (and letterpress in general) can ever hope to reproduce. I’ve used it to reproduce intaglio engravings using copper plates (which will carry VERY fine lines, indeed) and the fine line results are almost indistinguishable from the originals.

Now… is as good as the “best ever made”? probably not. In the past there were some very fine materials that are no longer made. But that’s the way things go….. we have to play the cards we are dealt.

Do all imagesetters print thin angle lines jagged? Or is that just older ones? It seems to be that when it images fonts with lines at an angle such as the letter “K” its smooth. But when you have your own thin line at an angle it’s jagged? Why is that and is that all imagesetters? It seems to be that the type is flawless, but any super thin lines that have the same thickness can be jagged which is confusing?

Unless its not having the newest postscript or some other correct software that causes the jagged lines on image setter film. Because if it can print a thin letter “K” nice and smooth it should be able to print a thin line at a angle just as smooth and it does not. So is that a software issue? Does PostScript fix this and it means the negatives I see are missing postscript?

Any Imagesetter uses a RIP (Raster Image Processor) to interpret the File send to the Imagesetter. Imagesetters can accept Tiff, BmP, and a host of other Formats and since the 80’s PDF’s. If the received File is not in order, eg Postscript missing), the File will not be imaged , but flushed, as the RIP is a completely logical process.

The jagged lines may well come from the way in which the graphic was put together. If the type is smooth and the other lines are jagged then perhaps the lines were created in photoshop to be at a relatively low resolution bitmap wereas if the lines had been produced in Illustrator as vector lines they would most likely come out at the same resolution and smoothness as the type. My own experience working in Illustrator and out putting to Agfa 1000 imagsetter never shows any jagged lines at all. Perfectly smooth edges on lines at any angle.

It was vector files in a PDF saved from illustrator. Only the type came out smooth and everything else like small pixels. Maybe there is a LPI you must select when you image it and the LPI selected was low? Can that happen?

Seems odd that if everything was vector that only the type would print out on the film as vector. Did you create the vector file? One can import bitmaps into a vector file and save together with type as a .pdf and you wouldn’t know if you didn’t create it or check for that.
If you want to check your file, you could email your file to a platemaker for a quote and ask them if your file will print out vector. That shouldn’t cost anthing but they might tell you if there is something wrong with how the file was created and they will be happy to advise you how to correct a format issue if they think they might get your business.
If you are currently using an imagesetter you should say the model and the RIP you are using and someone may be familiar with the settings for it.

In Prepress we use a Rule:

Garbage in, Garbage out. Period.

The Image may have been created or modified in Photoshop before creating the Illustrator File. EVERYTING in Photoshop is Bitmapped by default. It’s not not called a Pixel Program for nothing
If the Imagesetter is set for screen and 600 LPI, it will crap out as an image. If the Imagesetter is set at 2400 lpi and screen is selected it still craps out as the screen has limits.

If you do 2400 lpi and FM Screen (stochastic) it should come out noticeably better, but making a perfect FM neg is thin tetorrriy.

No everything was a vector made in illustrater and there was one photo in there as well on the side. The photo looks like it was screened at maybe 75 or 100LPI. But I assume a image setter is smart enough to only make half tones on the picture from the PDF and not the vectors.

On an Imagesetter, if screen is set in the File, everything in the File is screened. You can’t just screen part of a File.
If you want to output clean Type and Images, run them out on separate Film and mount them to desired Form, that used to be a Trade called Stripping, like in Film Stripping. I run Imagesetters and Type is run Lineart, can’t get any crisper than that and Images are Fm.

That be true because people don’t do stripping anymore because line work and halftones can be done on the same film. On this film I had line art, type and pictures. The pictures have half tones, the text is crisp is sharp and the vector line art is pixels. Unless it won’t half tone the text but just the line art? But people don’t do stripping anymore so it has to be all done on one film.

Depends on the RIP, and the setup. If you drop north of US , no problem, you can have niceties like that in the Rip, I run Film and still strip because it’s fast and easy. You need volume to afford expensive software.

So your saying with some software if you have a halftone image everything will be halftone including the vector so stripping is needed. But I assume text will still come out crisp.

And some software will make just the picture halftone and other parts a perfect vector so no stripping needed?

Do I have it right?