Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

Everything to do with colour negative shooting, developing and printing
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bfitzgerald
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Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

Unread post by bfitzgerald »

Highlight control:

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My interest in film dropped down significantly when I ist got the 5d, I almost never used the stuff. Now film is my ist choice for out and about/scenic work. I forgot how good the DR of neg film was, and how not so good it is on digital.

Not for me to convince anyone to dust off their camera, and digital is great in lots of ways, fast, no cost per shot, no scanning and hassle, but for this type of work, it's just not as good. This is a fairly neutral scan of bog standard fuji ISO 200 colour print film. One nice thing, is that with digital workflow, you can now apply the advantages of that, to your scans, want more "pop" just whack it up a bit.

Of course there are better cameras than the 5d nowadays, and technology moves on. But IMO, we are some way off the good old day of nice DR, and esp in the highlight areas. Something to think about..no need for a histogram or the lcd ;-)
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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Agreed. Highlights, despite the DR, can not be brought back when clipped in digital. The best camera I know for highlight recovery is - the Konica Minolta Dimage A2... heaven knows why!

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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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I took a quick look through some recent photos to see what I had that has a wide dynamic range. I am in Hawaii so lots of bright sun. Here are 2 shots that have, maybe, something close to your shot. Both were shot on the A700, ISO 200, cRAW, and converted using Sony IDC 3. These were very quick conversions without a bunch of tweaking, but there is no highlight clipping. This first one I used DRO Auto in IDC:

Image

This one I didn't use DRO in IDC, but I did use just a little bit of shadows/highlights (shadows: 0, 0, 0; highlights: 5, 1, 1) in PS.

Image

What do you think?
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bakubo
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

Unread post by bakubo »

David Kilpatrick wrote:Agreed. Highlights, despite the DR, can not be brought back when clipped in digital. The best camera I know for highlight recovery is - the Konica Minolta Dimage A2... heaven knows why!
That is a surprise. I didn't realize the A2 was that good for highlight recovery with its relatively small 8mp sensor.

I don't do much in the way of testing my gear other than just using it. It seems to me that I am seeing better DR from my A700 than my earlier Canon 30D though. I am not so convinced that color negative film is so much better. Not saying it isn't, just that I don't recall my old color negatives being much better than my A700 raw files.
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bfitzgerald
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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Well I don't have an A700, so the only area I can talk about is the images I have seen from it, jpeg and raw. I think it has more in the highlight range than the 5d does, of that I am certain..shadow wise, no convinced it's as good, the overall DR might be a bit better, but not to a huge degree.

Cameras are getting better with DR, a bit. However, the figures banded about are not realistic. I seriously doubt you would get 12 stops + from an A900, and have no effect on IQ at all. Even Simon at Dp has pretty much said to get the figures they did, the images were a mess. Not that I am knocking the A900, looks like the DR is better than some others.

The crucial difference between neg film and digital is in the way you expose it. The above sample was one, here is another. If you go out with a digital, and take this shot, as it is..the sky would be gone. So you are forced to underexpose to hold the highlights, recovery is a risky thing at times, loss of colour is the problem, some are better than others. Pulling up the shadows on digital, can work well, but only to a point, you get some colour shifts, noise starts to become a problem. You could get near to the DR of neg film by heavy pulling about of digital images, but the final results are not as good quality wise, the DR is "just there" with neg film, no pulling..no highlight recovery. Films will vary in their DR..or course, but I do not think we are at neg DR levels with digital.


Image

The other point is the DR is where you want it, for shots like this. We know neg film does not like to be underexposed that much, you can to a point, but grain becomes stronger..most of its range is in the highlight area, which for shots like this is ideal. In low light conditions, digital has the advantage, it will take underexposure better... I would use digital for that type of stuff mostly. For neg film, expose for the shadows, and let the highlights take care of themselves. In the end, I got tired of spending more time looking at the LCD and histogram on the 5d, than getting the shots I wanted to. So now I mostly use negative film, colour or b&w for contrasty situations. And when the highlights do start to go on neg film, they do so in a very gradual way, digital tends to in a sudden way at times. It's also not possible to blow a colour channel on film, you can with digital.

Pros and cons to both. Obviously, for instant results, and volume work, digital is the way to go. For me at least, I find I am taking a lot less shots on film (for obvious reasons) for static scenes, this is not a bad thing. Think more, take less.
What I would like to see with digital, is a couple more stops highlight end, just there already..then we are getting to a nice place!
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

Unread post by aster »

Hi Barry, :D

Please continue developing this thread. I'm taking up film photography recently also and would appreciate pointers and views now and then...

Thanks
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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I was out this afternoon taking some photos and I decided to take one that was sort of in the vein of Barry's in his original post. Again, A700, ISO 200, cRAW. No highlight clipping.

Image

With color negative film, even if the film can record a wider range, I can only think of 3 ways to sort of make use of it (since unlike a positive it can't be used directly):

1. Careful, skillful dodging and burning while making a print with an enlarger.

2. A very low contrast grade of enlarging paper might record a bit more of the dynamic range that is on the negative. Of course, if you do this you might end up with a print that doesn't have the contrast you want because it looks so dull. Depends on the image.

3. Scan the negative and work on it with software such as Photoshop on a computer. Sort of a strange thing to do since you want to work with an analog medium. Why pollute that by not using analog means for the whole chain? Also, scanning film often results in grain aliasing and other problems.

Of course, #1 and #2 can also be combined.

So, I am unclear on how even if color negative film records more dynamic range you are making use of it. I remember when I shot color negative film (shot color slide film too) it was hard to get prints of very contrasty scenes where the sky wasn't blown if the shadows weren't dark.
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bfitzgerald
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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The most obvious thing to say here is..film will vary. And sometimes a "lot". Possibly the best DR neg colour films around are the portrait/skintone based ones.
Scanning, I agree optical prints are the best way, but who has a set up for colour film? Not many. B&W yes, that would be fairly easy and not expensive to get going. Scanning can add noise, but you can also do multi-scans to reduce that. Also, scanners have their own light source, so they are not taking a low light exposure off of a negative, its illuminated. Hence noise is not really a huge issue. Sometimes I get minor chroma noise, which is easy enough to remove.

There is no doubt in my mind that negative colour film has a wider DR than digital, and it has a significantly wider latitude in the highlight region. Next point, whilst the image posted looks decent, it's really not the same as my one. I have seen way too many clipped A700 shots, to feel it's DR in any way approaches neg flim. It might be better than many, including the 5d...but not in the same league.

With regards printing, no question that you cannot use all of the DR, but you have more options with more DR.
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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bfitzgerald wrote:The most obvious thing to say here is..film will vary. And sometimes a "lot". Possibly the best DR neg colour films around are the portrait/skintone based ones.
Scanning, I agree optical prints are the best way, but who has a set up for colour film? Not many. B&W yes, that would be fairly easy and not expensive to get going. Scanning can add noise, but you can also do multi-scans to reduce that. Also, scanners have their own light source, so they are not taking a low light exposure off of a negative, its illuminated. Hence noise is not really a huge issue. Sometimes I get minor chroma noise, which is easy enough to remove.
Yes, I have done the scanning thing for several years using 3 different scanners. I preferred using Vuescan which did multi-scanning. I started using it in 1998 with beta version 0.7 when it only had a command line interface.
There is no doubt in my mind that negative colour film has a wider DR than digital, and it has a significantly wider latitude in the highlight region. Next point, whilst the image posted looks decent, it's really not the same as my one. I have seen way too many clipped A700 shots, to feel it's DR in any way approaches neg flim. It might be better than many, including the 5d...but not in the same league.
As I have said before, I am not so sure about this. You are looking at other people's photos and not your own. There are lots of bad photos out there and many people shoot jpegs. In fact, most of the photos I see from everyone are shot with no regard to the subject and just accept the meter reading from the camera. I rarely do (although that shot I just posted is with the meter reading). A subject that does not have a tonal value of middle gray or so needs to have exposure compensation. For example, I see tons of photos of dark colored subjects that are overexposed which, of course, means anything brighter in the background such as the sky is also overexposed.
With regards printing, no question that you cannot use all of the DR, but you have more options with more DR.
I am finding the same options with the A700 raw. Anyway, I am not convinced at all by anything you have stated so far. You are basing it on the use of an old KM 5D and looking at posted photos on the internet (and most of them are poor :) ).

What it comes down to is just that you have a gut feel that color negative film has much better DR. That's all. My gut feel is that it isn't so much better. :)
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

Unread post by David Kilpatrick »

We did tests of professional colour negative films many years ago and materials like Fuji NPS 160 allowed you to overexpose by five stops and still make a normal print.

That would be quite impossible with digital. The reason is that neg films used a generated mask layer and development inhibitors which ensure that an average over-exposed area is never 'burned out' - you have two stops in reserve even beyond pure white. Digital raw may have two a stop of recoverable detail at the same quality as neg film does to two or even three stops. Those last two stops are the difference.

I don't much like colour neg results though, for my sort of subjects they are not good at all. For weddings and portraits - I know why many professionals still use film.

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bfitzgerald
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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_ I am finding the same options with the A700 raw. Anyway, I am not convinced at all by anything you have stated so far. You are basing it on the use of an old KM 5D and looking at posted photos on the internet (and most of them are poor :) ).-

Not really, I have looked at a lot of raw files, I am not seeing this amazing DR that some suggest. Not for me to say it's bad, but really..the best test is to buy a roll of film and shoot both side by side.

-What it comes down to is just that you have a gut feel that color negative film has much better DR. That's all. My gut feel is that it isn't so much better-

If you compare my ist shot to your one, then you will notice how much lighter the shadows are in my samples, and this isn't me playing around with the levels in the software (at scan or later) Your are much darker..so I don't honestly think the results are comparable.

With regards the KM5d, yes it's not new digital wise, though it stacks up fairly well DR wise, to those who have bothered to test it. Just saying it's old and crusty isn't really enough IMO. Like I said, as far as I can see the A700 is better highlight end than the KM. But I am not seeing a huge overall increase in DR, maybe others who own both would like to comment. But I took both out one day, and compared the results..frankly I just gave up on the KM for some shots, as it was not able to compete with the film ones. Every single film shot looked better, in every regard. Not to knock the 5d, I have it, it's a good machine, great for low light high ISO, and it does skintones better than many. But neg film thrashes the pants off of it, with regards DR, and if we move onto b&w neg film, the difference is even more stark. And this is just plain old fuji C200 neg colour film, in no way super champ for DR with films.

Like I said before, I am not out to convince anyone digital sucks (it does not, it's very good for some applications) But my findings are as before, due to lack of highlight headroom, you have to underexpose to try to hold the highlights, and then try to correct it later in processing, sometimes it works ok..other times you get noise and colour shift problems. Meanwhile, neg film you just go out and take the shots, leaving you time to concentrate on the compositions..not the histogram. I have plenty of highlight lost KM shots to share if you wish... ;-)

For those who feel that some sites show amazing DR figures, you can find a post on dp's forum, where they pretty much say (with the A900 review) that to get the numbers they do (ACR best), the image is pretty appaling and near enough unusable.

So bottom line, unless the A700 has about 3 stops more DR than the KM5d, then I don't see your point on this, and I seriously doubt it has that..
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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David Kilpatrick wrote:We did tests of professional colour negative films many years ago and materials like Fuji NPS 160 allowed you to overexpose by five stops and still make a normal print.
How many stops can you underexpose them? It seems that that is also an important consideration because it is the total range that is important, isn't it? Again, I don't do testing. Boring to do so I just use stuff and get a feel for what it can do. I am always glad to see what someone who likes testing comes up with though. With scanned color negatives it doesn't seem like I get better results than using raw from my A700. No testing, just what I have found. With a DSLR I can easily expose such that highlights are not blown and in raw conversion and pp usually get results that are as good or better than color negatives.

I used to have a B&W darkroom but didn't like using it so rarely did. I never did color darkroom stuff. No interest. Maybe a master color print maker working with a color negative can get better results than someone working with a DSLR raw file and Photoshop. By the way, can you even do dodging and burning with a color enlarger? I don't know, just asking. It would seem that there might be problems with getting color shifts in parts of the print. Just curious.
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

Unread post by bakubo »

Oh, by the way, I always try to avoiding getting caught up in technical discussions about stuff like this since I just go out and use stuff and try to get good results which I am satisfied with. I don't know if technically color negative film is so much better, just that I am not finding that my DSLR results are generally worse and in most cases I like them much better. That's what I care about. :) I certainly don't want this to turn into a dpreview-type argument. :)

Barry, I believe you when you say that you have examples that illustrate the big superiority of color negative film. I just think that the 2 examples you have posted here don't illustrate it well. Both look pretty much like what I can get with a DSLR.
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bfitzgerald
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

Unread post by bfitzgerald »

This is the most obvious sample of out of camera, for film and digital.

5d raw

Image

Kodak ISO 200 dynax 60

Image

Now the ist KM shot I took, was pure white in the sky, so obviously I had to down the exposure..which has obviously underexposed the shot to a point. You could argue I could have let the highlights clip a bit, and pulled them back. However, it's pretty obvious that "straight from the can" you have more DR from the neg film shot. It's fortunate that the 5d is pretty good in raw for pulling up shadows, but I would have a hard time getting the same exposure, without a fair bit of tweaking, and IMHO..the film shot is just easier to work with..once you get to grips with scanning that is.

So after deleting a no. of shots, and spending too much time trying to hold highlights, I just downed the 5d, and shot for the rest of the afternoon with film. I still got some nice 5d shots..but I got nicer better film ones.

Now I hope to get hold of some of that new Ektar 100, but when I do, I suspect, that the digital just won't get a look in for this type of work (or not that much) Also important to say again, that I don't shoot 100's of frames when I go out doing shots like this, so the cost is minimal..and of course, you don't bother doing scans of duffers.

The other point to make is, for myself..once you get past the loathsome aspect of film scanning (and it is that until you get to grips with it), I find I spend more time on composition, and moving about, rather than snapping away, knowing that I have loads of shots I "can take". Film teaches restraint..and I think that is a plus point too. Obviously for sports and action, events etc etc..digital would be your ist choice.
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Re: Reasons to shoot colour neg film part I ;-)

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Kodak just came out with a new version of Ektar film (REF: www.kodak.com/go/ektar) I got a couple of rolls at the Photo Plus Expo, I'll try to get more soon.
That's a WONDERFUL reason to shot negative film...
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