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Azo Comments

Comments by Azo users:

Over the years we have received many comments by those who tried Azo. Here are a few of them. Please send us comments of your experiences printing with Azo and we will post them.

  1. Gary Inglese
  2. David Haynes
  3. David Lewis
  4. Denny Wagner
  5. Gordon Hutchings
  6. Howard F. Efner
  7. Steve Balcourt

From: Gary Inglese   (back to top)


November 28, 2001

Well, I am a convert and a true believer in the AZO thing. I made some of the most beautiful B&W prints I have ever made, with an astonishment at the tonal scale and color. The images printed beautifully. I compared them to the images made in B&W enlarging paper and also to my platinum prints. I can see things in AZO that are not present in Platinum.

My set up, a 200 watt clear bulb in an aluminum reflector about 40 inches off of the table top. Exposures ranged anywhere from 4 seconds to one as long as 18 seconds......developed in Amidol as per your instructions (chemistry obtained from Artcraft).

Though I am only using 5x7 now, I am in the process of building an 8x10 and in the Spring I will be able to print the negs.

I am so glad that I have been able to try AZO, and many thanks for your help in this matter.


Gary Inglese

From: David Haynes   (back to top)


Do you ever feel like a missionary preaching the Gospel of Azo? You could be! And you'd be right, in my book. I guess the only step left for my complete conversion is a baptism in Amidol (which I still haven't tried).

I can't thank you enough for insisting I try the Azo paper. The package from Freestyle arrived today and I wanted to give it a thorough workout, so I picked two negatives that had been a bitch to print in the past using enlarging papers.

The first, a foggy-morning nude of a girl lying in periwinkle on a mountain top, was developed in a variation of the Morley Baer citric acid pyro formula I got from Hutchings' book, but was underexposed and always printed muddy, even on a Grade 4 Gallerie. My first Azo print was better than anything I'd ever gotten before either enlarging or contact printing!

The second negative, a recent (last month) window light portrait developed in stock D-76, had been difficult to hold detail in shadows and highlights, but not with the Azo. A straight print revealed much more than my earlier efforts of more than an hour burning and dodging and a dozen sheets of paper!

Now my biggest regret is that I know I won't be happy until I reprint everything done so far on the Millennium Project on Azo paper, but at least I'm only 10 weeks into it instead of 20 or 30. But hey, that 45 sec. to 1 min. developing time ought to help, plus the fact that I feel that now I'll be getting the most possible from my negatives.

Thanks again for all your help.


Later-This Azo really is incredible stuff. I just printed a negative, which I fully expected to require much burning & dodging, but a "straight" print was nearly perfect!

David Haynes

David Lewis sent us two responses that he gave on one of the news groups:

From: David Lewis   (back to top)

> Can anyone explain the difference between an enlarging paper and a contact printing paper? I have heard people rave about Azo in the past. Is there anything to the hype about this or other contact printing materials?


I am a fairly experienced printer, and am regarded by some as pretty good. I have an 8X10 negative of which I made a beautiful glowing print (after three days work) on MG IV FB. Later I took a workshop from Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee, and they printed that negative on Azo using Amidol. Michael's first straight test print on Azo had more detail, more glow, and more three-dimensionality then my three-days-work print on the Ilford. I hate to say that, since Azo is hard to find and I'm going to have to rig a light to use it, but the results are undeniable.

David Lewis

From David Lewis

What should I look for when I do the comparison? It sounds like you're saying the difference is something which doesn't appear in the graphs. Let me point out that I'm *certain* there are important properties which are not reflected in the graphs. But I can't/won't spend the time evaluating every conceivable paper/developer combination, so I'd like to know what I might expect before I invest the time. Telling me to look for 'long tonal scale' doesn't help because I don't know what that means and I can't find out because there are apparently multiple possible meanings.

When folks visiting galleries comment on the images without any understanding of graphs & the Azo/Amidol images seem to stand out to them, one does wonder.

The question, in the very beginning, was not "Is there a special quality to Azo/Amidol?", the question was "What do you mean by 'long tonal scale'?", primarily as an aid to getting an answer to the question "What is the special quality of Azo?"


While I understand film and paper curves, what I'm going to relate doesn't reference them. I took a negative, which required a fair amount of manipulation on Zone VI Brilliant VC II. It was not a pyro negative. To get rich detail in the shadows, I'd had to give an overall exposure with grade 3 from my Beseler head, and burn the shadows with grade 5. Development was in Zonal Pro Factor One, the print was selenium toned, and it looks quite good. When I took Michael and Paula's workshop, they asked for a difficult negative, so I brought that one. The Azo/Amidol print, which is neither manipulated nor toned, has more detail in the shadows, and holds equal detail in the highlights. Since it hasn't been toned, it appears quite green, but I know that that goes away. The overall impression of three-dimensionality is quite a bit higher. There may be some local contrast or edge-effect differences that a curve wouldn't reveal. The print glows in a way that the original simply did not. I say this with regret, because it's always a pain to change working materials and methods, but to my eyes it's true.

From: Denny Wagner   (back to top)

My first Azo print and I like what I see. I used your water bath and it helped. Used Dektol.

Looking forward to trying Amidol---maybe not as much contrast-but I now know where to go with my Pyro negs-maybe.

Side by side-Azo blew away Ilford multi-grade.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!

I've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

Talk to you later.


From: Denny Wagner   (back to top)


The high wind photo when my box just about went over, is just wild-the clouds are just awesome. I have never, and I mean never been able to print clouds like Azo has done on this one neg.

Know all a person needs is about a 1000 speed HP5, and we would be in business.

Just dialing the phone for Badger now to order out another 1000 sheets of AZO!!!!!!!!


These messages from Gordon Hutchings were incorporated in the article Azo Update 2000.

From: Gordon Hutchings <ghutch@psyber.com>   (back to top)
Organization: Bitter Dog Publishing
To: info@michaelandpaula.com
Subject: AZO!
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 15:02:58 -0500

Hello Paula and Michael.

Thank you for the generous time you spent showing me your photos in Steve Simmons office a few weeks ago. They were beautiful. Since that time I have been nagged in my sleep by the unique quality of the AZO prints. Finally I gave in and grumbled "well I went through this before" (that was some 30 years ago when I knew even less then than I do now). I dug and dug until I finally came up with some old AZO prints I made at that time. Hmmm, yes even with a non-pyro neg they look pretty good. So, I dug and dug and came up with some 30 year old AZO paper ! Expiration date 1980 and not refrigerated, kept on a back shelf in a closet where temp reaches 90 plus in summer. Oh well, I printed some with my pyro negatives and I was blown away. Despite all that I have learned in 30 years, I couldn't match the look with even my expensive Bergger cloro-brom paper, Agfa, Forte, MG, Oriental--anything. The AZO prints were alive and the local separation was wonderful. Green grass had almost the separation of an infrared photo. All this on ancient 20 year out-of-date paper. Grade two seemed to handle almost everything. The partial pack of grade 3 was a little splotchy. It was on top and probably reached 100 degrees on some hot days.

Sorry for the shaggy dog story---anyway, I am hooked. AZO seems to love pyro negatives. The shot I was most impressed with was done with the Bergger 200 film in my pyro. The Bergger film is quite close to SXX in many respects. Seems to be some magic there, as we discussed earlier. Now the rumor is that Bergger may withdraw from the US market. Here we go again.

Finally to my question. Where is the best place to buy AZO? Is there a store somewhere that actually stocks it? I can special order it from Camera Arts if I have to. Their Kodak catalog shows only 500 sheet boxes in grade 2 and 3 for 8x10 at some $450 per box, list price. I will do it if I have to.

Secondly, what is the best light source for printing AZO? I am using the old traditional bare bulb and wear sunglasses to print. It really blitzes my eyes unless I wear the glasses. Do you know what wave length in Angstroms is optimum for AZO? I am thinking of building a light box similar to the old press contact boxes of decades ago. I have a 4x5 box but fresh out of 8x10. The 4x5 box is neat as it has a inner pull out drawer for adding dodging bits.

Thanks for your patience reading my long confessional! Hope this finds you and Paula in fine health and good cheer.

The best

Gordon Hutchings

From: Gordon Hutchings <ghutch@psyber.com>   (back to top)
Organization: Bitter Dog Publishing
To: "Michael A. Smith/Paula Chamlee" <michaelandpaula@michaelandpaula.com>
Subject: Re: AZO!
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 22:25:34 -0500

Dear Michael and Paula,

Thanks again for the info. I will not bother to make a print box. I couldn't figure how to conveniently dodge and burn anyway. I have a pair of welding goggles with eye shade built in, should be a good setup. 300 watts, egad, have you ever touched this beast with your forehead while on? Maybe we can tell AZO printers by the burn marks on their foreheads.

Only a year left of AZO, I hate it when that happens. Well, considering the incredible shelf life I think I may buy a bunch of the 8x10. Incidently, there was nothing wrong with the Grade 3 AZO after all. I took a closer look at the 8x10 neg and discovered that it was one of the batch that I shot with out-of -date FP4 and they were all "orange peely". Tried the paper with another neg and it was perfect. Good grief, the film was only about six months out of date and no good, while the paper was 30 years old and printed perfectly!

I forgot to add a note for the shaggy dog story. What finally induced me to try AZO, in addition to the nagging thoughts about your and Paula's prints was looking at a small collection of original Ed Weston prints done on chloride contact paper, I don't know which one, he used several. I marveled at the quality and tonality. I grumbled that even with the amazing precision of modern equipment (of which he had none) I cannot match the quality of this particular batch of prints today. I'm stubborn, but between Ed Weston , you and Paula I finally gave in.

How exciting! I am filled with a great desire to take my 8x10 and photograph deeply and intimately and see what I can reveal with this paper. I will start with small close in objects. It is a frustration that I didn't know I had. I knew subconsciously that I couldn't get what I wanted, now I think I can. A whole new avenue is open. How strange, I have been preparing myself for something and didn't know what. I stopped using the 5x7 , a really nice outfit, and dug out the 8x10 and put away the modern super plasmats and dusted off the vintage lenses, mostly Dagors. I have been shooting the 8x10 for several months now and all my friends think I am crazy to carry the 8x10 again. I couldn't help myself. I am also retorgrading in other ways also, sort of going back to my roots in seeing. I think AZO was the missing piece of the puzzle and I now feel ready to shoot. How strange, we think we are in charge of our lives and that may be the biggest misconception ever. Anyway, enough of my rambling.

Of course you may use any of the notes you wish. If you want a print from the 30 year old paper for your article, let me know and I will mail it to you. It is a gem.

Thank you for all your help.
All the best,


From: Howard F. Efner   (back to top)

I am in total agreement with y'all on Azo as the only paper for contact printing! The dynamic range of the paper vs. any of the enlarging papers (including Seagull) is outstanding.

Best Regards,
Howard F. Efner

From: Steve Balcourt   (back to top)

Dear Michael,

I have spent the last couple of weeks reprinting some negs that were originally printed on Azo and BW65, and Agfa Multi/Dektol. What a world of difference! The Amidol imparts such a wonderful color to the paper (Azo), that I tore up and discarded my initial prints so that I won't have to compare them side by side anymore. I gave up on the Agfa about a couple of years ago when I discovered Azo was still available. My wife and I went to see an exhibit of original EW prints at the Cleveland Museum and seeing his prints up close had a profound effect on me and my direction in printmaking. That's when I started the search for a different paper, then I discovered Amidol.

Thanks again, all my best,



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