View Full Version : Understanding Film
I am new to this forum. I am going to be purchasing a Mamiya 7 setup for travel in SE Asia in aim to produce some large fine art prints. Mainly street, enviro portraits and some landscape, all with people in them.
So I wanted to ask peoples choice for colour film in Asia. 100, 400. Print and Chromes. I will be scanning on a Nikon 9000.
What film do you find responds better in overcast conditions. What do you find better in more contrasty conditions.
I have seen some amazing work all done on Portra NC. Love the beautifull greys.
My flickr photo's are here.
Great gallery! I am constantly impressed with the work on RFF.
For transparencies, my favorite is Provia 100. Fine grain, very sharp, pleasing color and saturation, and *no surprises with color*, unlike the Disney-chromes (Velvias and hi-sat Ektachromes). On a big trip like that, the best surprise is no surprise!
One more point - Provia 100 does not have the hyper-contrast of Velvia - this works to your advantage when making prints. Velvia is a remarkable film but best reserved when you can carefully choose lighting conditions, IMHO.
high contrast - astia - wide(r) latitude, natural colors
low contrast - velvia - smaller latitude, but adds punch.
As Ronnie suggests, though, Provia is a nice middle ground here. Just watch out for blue shadows.
For print film I like Kodak Portra. The 160NC is very nice on a sunny day in the morning or late afternoon. Really beautiful. For overcast days I prefer Portra400VC for the speed and the saturation. It's not overly saturated but just a little bit more than the NC.
If you want a print film with really saturated colors while still keeping the skin tones natural try Fuji Pro160C.
I don't have a lot of experience with slide film but I like what I've seen shot on Provia.
The only slide film I used so far for medium format is Kodak E200. It has very natural colors and you apparently you can push it up to ISO800 with little quality loss.
Don't want to start holy wars here - but blue shadows?? I don't know anything about the situation you are describing but it was some unpleasant surprises with Velvia in this regard that caused me to switch to Provia for my standard film. FWIW I use Fuji mailers to avoid any lab disappointments.
I pretty much use astia 100% of the time when I shoot slide
I understand that scanning is often the weak link in the quality chain whatever you shoot on. An expertly done scan on a Flextite or drum scan (and be prepared to pay a good deal for this) can yield a file that will give a superb lightjet or lambda print. However any inadequacies in the scan will be ruthlessly exposed when making such large format prints.
I have corresponded with a landscape photographer in California who shoots 5x4 and then will spend anything up to 20 hours on each scan + file preparation before making large format prints. He is somewhat quality obsessed and, in the days when he printed cibachromes, built himself a special enlarger head with 6 different colours to counteract the slight cross over one can get printing some slides on cibachrome do to slight spectral mismatches in the different dye sets used in the two!
Analogue printing is often a simpler route to excellent big prints and also avoids scan related issues like grain aliasing and other artefacts than can be introduced as part of the digitising process. Provided you can find a good hand printer. With slides you only have cibachrome. These can look stunning if you can find a good printer. Neg, both colour and B&W gives more choice at least in terms of printing.
Provia, Velvia 50, and Velvia 100 all suffer from a slight blue cast in shadows. To my knowledge, Velvia 100F was the only one that didn't.
Just curious - if you had unpleasant experiences "in this regard," why did you not know what I was talking about?
It is worth bearing in mind folks, before we start a war over what slide film is best, that the processing itself can have a significant bearing on the results. One lab owner I know (his lab deals with central London Ad and fashion work and used to do tons and I mean tons of E6) reckoned that differences in E6 processing between labs could give results that were as different as between different films. Pros rarely chop and change labs for this reason. Find someone who processes your slides how you like them and stick with them is the advice often given. This same guy also showed me some 5x4 stuff, all shot at the same time, that he had made the mistake of processing a few days apart. The colours were noticeably different - important in the circs as it was a clothes catalogue job where colour accuracy is obviously vital, and emabrrassing for him. He did not reckon it was variations in the E6 processing, he prided himself on consistency in that area - very tight control of chemistry, temperature etc. he blamed latent image stability issues. Who knows. I guess the moral of the story, if there is one, is that there are many sources of variability here an different folks experiences of different films will not all be the same.
FWIW, I _never_ do anything beyond recommend a film, or perhaps just say that I happen to use a particular film. If it comes off as anything beyond that, it's unintended. I shoot fuji chromes, so I know them. I never said anything about them being better or not. I apologize if it came off that way.
And, as with anything, the lab matters. Or, rather, the lab operator matters.
Well - I presume you mean why I don't know about blue shadows with Provia. The reason is I don't get blue shadows with Provia - not that I can see, anyway.
The scan of my avatar is lower res than I'd have liked, but it was shot on Provia and I see no blue in the shadow of the phone pole or cast by the roof. I have no explanation for our different experiences.
Ah, okay. I've had a couple of experiences in overcast situations, with shadows turning blue. So that's cool color in a cool color situation. Perhaps it needs both compounded to result in that.
I have just woken up to find 12 replys already to my post. Thanks heaps.
The reason why I ask this question is I travelled SE Asia last year just with a Nikon d70. And there a places I want to return to and take full advantage with a MF camera.
Places like this
The sun is rising over the lower plains, so I had to angle so not to shoot straight into the sun. I guess this would be just like using provia? I am not really a van of Velvia to honest. With print film, would I be able to shoot nearly striaght into the sunrising??
I am thinking maybe Portra VC here would work?
Here goes some advice FWIW....
Since you are taking a new and, I assume, unfamiliar system on a major trip take some time to practice with whatever emulsion you choose. Learn how your meter works under varying conditions with the film of your choice before you leave.
The Portra's are my favorite color neg. I hade great results from the 160VC in London, which can be gray one second and sunny the next. It also worked great when I shot Stonehenge this last April. I shoot the Kodak UC stuff as well and it does saturate a lot more, but still gives great tonal range as well as a very wide latitude. My wife loves the way she looks in UC. I plan on taking both VC (160, 400) and UC (100, 400) to france next year. I only use NC for weddings, to make sure the bride always has "natural" looking skin.
FYI... I shot in both 35mm, and 645 and there wasn't much of a differance between the formats (color wise that is)
My experience with MF is rather limited (I've mostly shot 35mm for the past 30 years, with a wee bit of TLR work), but if I were travelling and not wanting to make a major fuss over film choice, Portra (160NC and 400NC/VC – Jamie pretty much hits the head on the nail here) would be my go-to emulsions, hands-down. In this age of digital "post-production", I can always scale contrast up, but scaling it down is another story. Since the big K has just revamped the entire Portra line with promises of finer grain across the board (about time for 160), this just makes the film that much more a no-brainer to choose, IMO.
I don't do much shooting with transparency film any more (to think, once upon a time, slide film was all I shot with), but when I do, the choice is Kodak E200, which to my eye strikes a nice balance of color balance, and speed, but like the previous version of Portra 160, is a tad grainier than I'd like; unless Rochester deems it too late in the game (and/or the market too small) to bother upgrading any of its slide films, I'd vote for E200 to be the first emulsion to get a Portra-style makeover.
To confuse matters a bit, the above doesn't mean I don't touch anything in the little green boxes: I happen to like both Fuji Press 400 and 800, but largely because Kodak's equivalent numbers have lagged behind in the grain department; of course, I'm referring to 35mm here...for MF this will obviously be less of an issue.
BTW: let me echo Ronnie's comments about your images: riveting and beautiful.
It seems I started a bit of a squabble with my previous comment about Velvia. Re-reading my post, my comment about "Disney-chrome" evidently came across as a face slap to users of Velvia. I didn't intend it this way, I was just trying to liven up the text a bit. Sorry if I offended anyone.:bang:
For many, many years I have shot transparencies because I like their projected brilliance, and also, under ideal conditions, I like their color pallette more - they (to me) seem to print (on Cibachrome) more as I remember the original scene. Even scanning and printing digitally, I find transparencies unequalled for color brilliance and snap.
That said, as a species transparencies are all inherently high contrast - doubly so compared to negative film - and therefore suffer from requiring fairly exact original exposure. Judging by
jaffa_777 's posted samples, he's very accomplished and seems to have this down. Transparencies tend to have bleached highlights when printed on Cibachrome (is that even available anymore?) unless a contrast mask is prepared; I assume if the display prints are prepared by scanning and digital printing this can be tamed effectively.
I do stand by my statement that Provia 100 has proven a very "reliable" film by responding well to varying conditions of natural light and having a somewhat lower contrast that helps in the printing process. Out here in the southwest we get a lot of sunshine and that means shadows which means a lower contrast original is your friend. I like its color pallette, but exactly opposite to Velvia, greens are its weak suit. As others pointed out, the lab matters, and for this reason (also economy) I use Fuji mailers. Personally I find the 1 -2 week wait worthwhile. But since the "blue shadow" issue has been raised, by all means shoot a roll yourself to specifically check for this.
It's been years since I shot Velvia, and today's versions are probably quite different from what I shot. I found it a remarkable film with very high sharpness and color saturation, without equal for recording green foilage. I also found it very difficult to print for contrast reasons, and overly sensitive to lighting conditions - unnaturally yellow in early morning or late afternoon light, and simultaneously exaggerating the blueness of shadows. Without question the worst in this respect was a "VC" (high saturation) Ektachrome I shot that produced such extreme colors in early morning I had to reshoot the whole thing another day.
Personally, I think the single most foolproof film would be a color negative exposed at 1/2 its rated ISO. Negative film is developed to a low contrast so that it can record a very high dynamic range (shadow to highlight) as long as it has adequate exposure. It's the exact opposite in this respect to positive film, which can not tolerate overexposure. A few years ago I saw an Eastman demo for color negative motion picture film where the camera went - in one continous shot, with *1 fixed f-stop* - from bright outdoor sun to an interior shot lit solely by a few lamps. After adjusting the printing density for the various sections, the whole shot appeared quite natural. I don't shoot much color neg and so have no recommendation here, but others on this board surely do.
Well that was quite the wordy post! To summarize -
1) I'd shoot Provia 100 for transparencies (but do tests for shadow blues, since it has been brought up)
2)See if you can find a color neg film you like, and expose for 1/2 rated ISO.
But - do your own tests first, with the meter you plan on using, under the most extreme contrast lighting you can find. Something like a gray scale card under an umbrella on a sunlit beach.
Cheers to all
Color neg at less ISO is popular but I've never tried one full stop more exposure, just 1/3 or 2/3 more (100 ISO film at 80 or 64) but could never see any worthwhile difference/improvement so nowadays it's 100 ISO film at 100 ISO. (Fuji Reala for what it's worth.)
Thanks Ronnie for your replies and everyone else too.
I will be learning my new setup and trying different films before I go.
I have noticed that provia can produce some blue tints in the shadows. And while velvia or 'disney chrome' is not for me, I have seen some beautifull work done with it in India by this guy.
After hours and hours on flickr, I would have to say my favourite chrome would have to be Provia, followed closely by E100g. From the photo's that I can see, the rules look similar to digital.
Digital is great, but I just can't seem to emulate that look that you get on a great chrome shot. Digital fanatics say you can, but have never really pointed me to work that stands up like good chromes. Sure digital is sharp, but I am starting to learn that sharpness isn't everything. Beauty and vibrancy is! I usually get shot for this in the digital forum, (and I am a digital guy), but I am noticing there is something about film which digital just doesn't do yet. I don't know what it is, but I will be happy for someone to please tell me!
So hence my walk down film lane. Anyway, back on topic. With digital I find when shooting say a street enviro portrait, its near impossible to hold the sky while exposing for the persons face . Especially in SE Asia where faces are darker and skys are bright. This is while still shooting early morning/late afternoon. I guess print film is going to help me here?? While sacrificing some colour and contrast?? Am What is it like playing with curves and levels on photoshop with film? Digital loves overcast, so I guess that Provia would too?? I remember Steve Mccurry saying he prefers to travel Asia in the wet season because the overcast light acts as a huge soft box for peoples faces.
I am starting to ramble now so I will stop. There are just so many options. :)
Are you comparing transmissive viewing of slides (projection or light table/box) vs. prints from digital? That's like apples & oranges.
But I hear what you are saying. A well exposed slide is just so vibrant.
Jaffa: you ramble rather interestingly. :)
About Velvia: I once did some scanning work for a pro shooter who covered the British Open, and shot nothing but 35mm Velvia 50. Those images blew my socks off – perfect, gorgeous, almost scary in their MF-level detail. But he sweated the details, even though he had gorgeous weather (yes, I'm talking the UK here), but naturally you have to be more on-your-toes in good weather than bad when shooting 'chrome.
Photoshop and film: it depends on the film, of course, and climbing the PS learning curve, but for films like Portra (and Fuji Pro and Kodak's E200), the scanning process is almost drop-dead simple, which makes PS work all the easier; I tend to make only minor tweaks in terms of contrast and, occasionally, color. Again, I feel more can be done with a low-to-moderate-contrast film under most conditions, because I can always increase contrast where and when needed/wanted, whereas trying to tame a neg or 'chrome with too much contrast is a lot more trouble.
Sharpness: you're right – sometimes it can be fetishized to ridiculous ends. I've never had issues with sharpness for the rare times I shoot digital. It's the assorted other issues with digital capture that drive me up the wall (and for which I'm not willing to dedicate $5000+ for a single camera body that might address a few of them). With good gear (camera, lens, scanner, printer) and decent film, I don't fret about sharpness. I fret about getting most of what's in my minds eye onto that little chip of film.
And, looking at your work again, you'll have no problems whatsoever in that realm. Whatever you do, I (and, no doubt, others here) will be anxious to see the results!
Jaffa, with great respect for your technical concern, and after touring your flickr site, I suggest that you just pick a film, shoot, process, and post, please. With your photographic strengths, I'm confident the details will not bedevil you.
Selfishly, I just want to see more ... your AIDS gallery leaves me wordless.
Thanks for your comments on my photo's. Appreciate it.
Yes, after burning my eyes out on flickr for hours, I have chosen 3 films to try and take with me on my next trip.
Kodak e100g for good light and tripod.
Kodak e200 for my push film in not so good light/indoors. (Thanks to who recommended this)
and Fuji Neopan 400 for my black and white. (This film looks awesome in MF)
My other camera will be digital (d200) for all my documentary work and oppurtunistic shooting. Although I am scanning ebay and can't wait to get my Mamiya 7 and try out what it is like at street shooting. Does anyone use this like a leica? I have read it doesn't focus that close which may mean I will have to change how I shoot. And the hyperocal markings are quite optomistic. I have never used a rangefinder before but I am going to learn the tool to get the shots! At first I might walk around and get used to what the spotmeter on the camera reads in different light and reference it with my light meter.
Ok I am rambling again. Thanks all, heaps!
I notice that the this thread is several years old. I use both Provia 400 and E200. I am starting to lean towards E200. The saturated look of Provia is beginning to wear on me. Also I notice no difference in quality. What decision would you make, if you had to make one now?
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