a slightly warm-black image tone, bright whites, and deep
blacks, Adorama Variable Grade is great for a wide variety
of images. I developed this Mother-of-Pearl print for
one minute in Kodak Dektol diluted 1+1, but other print
developers produce virtually identical results.
Photos © 1999, Tom Fuller, All Rights Reserved
To those still on the quest
for an affordable, good quality black and white paper, the time has
come to sheath your reading glass. Adorama Variable Grade, a medium
weight RC available in glossy and Mother-of-Pearl surfaces, meets the
requirements and may well be the treasure you seek. This paper has a
pleasing ever so slight warm-black image tone, moderate printing speed,
good exposure range, and full compatibility with standard VC filters.
The box is labeled "medium weight," but I was immediately
impressed by the robust feel of the base, a big plus to someone who
thinks many double weights are kind of wimpy. The glossy surface is
pretty much standard issue, but the Mother-of-Pearl has a nice, very
fine-textured luster. Of course, such characteristics are a personal
thing, and while I generally prefer heavy textures, some have the effect
of visually "dulling" the image. Not so with Adorama Variable
Grade, although as with any paper the glossy version gives a somewhat
Used with the Ilford Multigrade filter set in a tungsten-lamp enlarger,
contrast with both surfaces matched that expected of each grade, although
Mother-of-Pearl appeared to be about a 1/2 grade softer than glossy
in the 0-3 grade range. Grade spacing was even and the contrast range
quite impressive. When exposed without filtration, the paper came in
just below grade 2. The contrast of Adorama Variable Grade can be tweaked
effectively by varying development time over a one to three minute range.
selenium toning changes the image color only a little, it
affords the image good protection. This print was treated
for 10 minutes in Kodak rapid selenium toner, 1+20.
Unlike many RC papers the emulsion
does not contain a developing agent, and while this limits its use with
automated processors, it has no effect upon standard tray processing.
The manufacturer's recommended 60 sec developing time in Kodak Dektol
1+1 at 68°F proved correct, but a longer time in a 1+2 solution gave
similar results. After 10 sec in the stop bath, 30 sec in a fresh normal
(not rapid) fixer, and a two minute running water wash, the print dries
spot free and very flat in about 30 minutes.
Adorama Variable Grade is fully compatible with all standard print chemistry,
as well as economically priced Adorama print developer, indicator stop
bath, fixer, and archival permanent wash aid, all available in easy to
mix liquid concentrate. Although image color does not change significantly
when treated in Kodak rapid selenium toner, there is an increase in image
D-max. Despite an excessively long bleaching time, I was especially pleased
with the very warm tone produced by Kodak sepia toner.
Variable Grade responds well to many toners for different
moods. Kodak sepia toner turns the image a pleasing antique
The only significant difference
between Adorama Variable Grade and similar RC offerings from the major
makers is that its ISO printing speed varies with filter grade: grade
00 = P180, grade 0 = P160, grade 1 = P130, grade 2 = P110, grade 3 = P90,
grade 4 = P60, and grade 5 = P40. However, overall speed is comparable
to that of others and the wide printing range yields a gentle gray-tone
transition. The paper is available in all sizes from 5x7" to 16x20",
including hard to find 81/2x11", in a variety of sheet quantities.
Adorama Variable Grade, beyond a doubt one of the best values on the photo
market today, is an excellent choice for the student, serious amateur,
and working professional photographer in need of a fast, high quality,
and consistent RC paper at a very good price. Excluding shipping, the
cost per 8x10" sheet (in 250 sheet packs) comes out to around 24
cents, a deal too good not to investigate.
For more information, contact Adorama Inc., 42 W 18th St., New York, NY
10011; (800) 223-2500, (212) 675-6789; fax: (212) 463-7223; www.adoramacamera.com.