While there are many things that submini enthusiasts love about their cameras, there is one shortcoming that has always been a real "thorn in the side". All the larger formats can be used to make helpful contact sheets. These allow the darkrooom worker to examine a life-size image of the negative or slide. It quickly tells you whether the image is correctly focused, correctly exposed and if the composition is pleasing enough. If the image doesn't pass the contact sheet test, you won't waste your time making an enlargement -- saving a lot of time and materials.
But with submini negatives, a contact sheet is largely a waste of time -- the resulting images are just too small to prove useful. True, a contact sheet from half-frame negatives will be marginally usefeul to shutterbugs with good vision who don't mind the eye strain. And you can always use a contact sheet from any format if you have a magnifying glass and are just looking for image content, as opposed to image quality.
But don't despair. You might be able to easily make high-quality, contact sheets from even the smallest submini film. And you might already have all the equipment you need. But to be accuracte, these really aren't contact sheets -- in the literal sense of the term -- even though the results are the same.
All you need is a larger format enlarger and a glass negative carrier. How large an enlarger you'll need depends on the submini format that you use and how many exposures per roll you shoot. So, let's take a couple of examples. Let's say you are shooting with a Minolta 16 MGS, which has a fairly large image size -- 12x17mm. It gets about 18 pictures per roll of film. If you happen to have a 4x5 enlarger and a 4x5 glass negative carrier (just about every 4x5 manufacturer made a 4x5 glass carrier), you are all set. Place the cut film strips in the glass carrier (with or without the plastic negative holders you might store your film in). You'll get a much better image if the film is removed from the film sleeves, but it's not absolutely necessary. Then make an 8x10 enlargement. You'll end up with a result that looks just like a contact sheet, even though it isn't. In the case of the Minolta, the images are even bigger that the images from a regular 35mm contact sheet!
If you don't have a 4x5 enlarger, you still might be in luck. If you use a smaller format, such as the Minox or Atoron cameras, a 6x7 enlarger will do the trick. And if you don't do your own processing or only have a 35mm or submini enlarger, you might be able to get these "contact sheets" made up at your local photo lab -- once you tell them how to do it!
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