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Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by ToddB, Feb 5, 2013.
What's a good solid pro color neg film?
Solid as in good? Portra 400/160 and fuji pro 400h
Porta 400 has incredible latitude. Dont underexposed 400h.
I like the colors of 400h but the usibity of portra 400 wins for me.
Portra and Ektar seem to be the two compared to each other more often then not and Fuji seems to have it's adherents. Overall I'd probably match my film choice to the subject matter, but in today's age of do everything Photoshop (if you go that way) you can basically shoot anything. If your wet processing I'm sure someone will give you their impressions.
Fuji Pro 160
Since there's only about three, this isn't much of a pickle.
Portra 400 will be revered like Kodachrome in the future. The last great colour film?
Ektar is like Marmite, but I really like it.
As you're shooting medium format, unless you want really big enlargements, I'd go with a faster film like Fujifilm 400H or Kodak Portra 400. The slower films are great, but unless you need the resolution, they can be a pain unless you've got a lot of light.
400H is a lovely film, Portra 400 gets more press on the various blogs, but I think 400H is lovely, muted, and in 6x6, more resolution than just about anyone needs.
You've got three superb choices from Kodak at the moment, but they each have their own look. Don't
count on Fauxtoshop to fix mistakes or turn one film into another. That's the lazy way out, but is in fact
the hard way. Pick a film and learn to use it properly. You've got a low-contrast skintone-friendly choice
(Portra 160), a more saturated and contrasty choice requiring more careful exposure and light balancing (Ektar), and something in the middle (Porta 400). Then there is still a little Fuji around if you want to
experiment with that. Hard to go wrong quality-wise, but applicability to specific subject matter is another question completely.
Portra 400, hands down.
Get some of each. And try it while you can. If it goes away sometime (statistically likely), you'll wonder what you missed out on. When you find something you like, buy up a bunch of it.
I like portra 160 since it's a nice opposite of digital (which I do plenty of). Massive subject brightness range, low contrast.
I've been working with Ektar for a couple of years now. Most of my work in color is MF. I like the rich but subdued color palate. It's a moderate speed film (iso100) which fits my shooting style (landscapes, etc). I've processed it using the several c-41 kits on the market with consistent results. This is my go to film for color. A couple of examples:
Provia 400 for general purpose use, Ektar 100 for critical work.
If you want to do portraiture with your lens wide open particularly on medium format cameras Portra 160 is a must. A lot of medium format cameras have a maximum shutter speed of 1/500 of a second. I've gone out shooting landscapes on a sunny day and then decided mid roll to do a portrait and gotten screwed by the 400 ISO. Since I am not a pro I can't just look at the sky and accurately judge what issues I'm going to run into. I use a hand held light meter and just meter and play with some apertures so see what problems I may run into. Then I choose my film speed.
Provia is E-6. I know you know that but I don't want the OP to get confused.
As you can see color C-41 film is pretty easy to sort through. You have the Kodak Portra offerings which are lower contrast and have a more muted or neutral pallette. Excellent for portraits. Then of you have Ektar with punchier colors and more contrast. And then there are the Fuji offerings which I am not familiar with.
I don't want to be a photography forum troll but I am going to say something that I hate hearing on these forums... My advice is to try a roll of Portra, Ektar, and a Fuji offering. I do a lot of B&W stuff and trying out a different developer involves mixing up a bunch of chemicals and if you don't like it you are stuck. There are also tons of B&W films out there and it would be too expensive and time consuming to try each one out in it's preferred developer.
If you are shooting medium format C-41 experimenting should be relatively inexpensive and straight forward. You only have maybe 3 or 4 emulsions to try out and they are all developed the same way. I use Walmart's send out service for less than 90 cents a roll of 120.
The difficulty in making a choice comes about when actually comparing results through printing/scanning - I'm not sure how else you would compare colour neg - on a light box?
Getting good workable scans of Ektar for instance might be difficult with 'efficiency oriented' labs, unless you're opting for a more costly, higher res custom service. This is my conundrum with shooting colour. I don't have my own scanner and can't afford the decent (100MB+) scanning services from my lab at the moment - which is the only way to substantiate the quality advantage of shooting colour film over digital, unless, you make optical prints. So the question of making a choice between films comes down to the OP's preferred output and his level of scrutiny of the results. Testing and comparing could be more technically arduous than you make out. If it's just a case of using a 'process + scan to CD' service, to be honest, it all comes out the same. In which case, shoot whatever and have a play around. But we are talking about 'pro' films. Doesn't that suggest he wants 'pro' results?
This is where the 'cost-results' issue of choosing traditional over digital becomes controversial - it's something you don't account for when impulse buying MF gear on eBay for pennies. Yeah, you might have those 60MP single use sensors stored away, but will they ever become high quality images. For me the answer is - not in the foreseeable future. I'm basically shooting colour film for posterity.
Maybe he could chip in here.
About film speed.
I prefer a medium speed film, about ISO-100.
The reason is, with ISO-400 film, in daylight you will turn your adjustable camera into a box camera. f/16 @ 1/500 sec. That does not give me much if any room to adjust speed or aperture. My MF camera only goes up to 1/500 sec, so I am stuck at ONE exposure setting, w/o using a ND filter.
If you have a camera with a film back (Hasselblad, Bronica, etc), load up one back with ISO-100 film and another with ISO-400 film. Then use the appropriate film for the lighting condition.
About the film, you may not have much choice. Check out what they have at your local camera shop. That would really be your limiting factor, unless you mail order your film. I was very disappointed today. The only 4x5 slide film the camera shop had was Fuji Velvia 50 and 100, no un-enhanced contrast film. Talk about having no selection to choose from.
I haven't bought film in SF for a long time, but across the Bay here in Berk. you can still get a good selection of up to 4x5 color films. Astia and E100G are disappearing fast, so really, all remaning slide
films are relatively high contrast. I switched over to Ektar. Most of the complaints about Ektar are due
to either half-assed scanning or improper exposure in the first place. But anyone accustomed to the accuracy needed for traditional chrome films should have no trouble. If you're a shoot-from-the-hip
or machine-gun type photographer, better stick to Portra or one of the wide-latitude amateur films.
I'll sometimes order up a med resolution scan of Ektar at the time of processing if a potential client
wants to preview certain images, but I'm really interested in outright optically enlarging it. Whatever
you decide, it's not an ideal drugstore or big box kind of film. But it sure delivers if you handle it
intelligently. And not the kind of film a high school year book photographer would choose either. I've
used even chromes for high quality portriature, and Ektar would need the same care in lighting or
My last roll of Fuji 400H came out really pretty. I like the stronger colors. It was slightly over exposed ~320 and I also ran the color developer about 15 seconds over.
I am excited to try it again to see if I can match my results.
That said I never got on well with Fuji 160S or Reala but I liked 160C well enough.
I do like Kodak Ektar a lot.
When someone asks me what C-41 film I recommend I assume they have a camera, lens, and some reasonable method to view the negatives. That is sort of understood.
I didn't "impulse buy" my MF gear. And I use both digital and film. They are just different. Neither one is superior to the other. They both have their pros and cons. And in things like large format or panoramic medium format there is no digital equivalent, so whatever the costs of film there is no choice.
That is the first time in my life I have ever heard anyone say that. Whatever works for you, works for you. But you can't assume complete strangers on the internet are engaging in such a niche endeavor. An Epson V500 scanner can be purchased for less than the cost of a medium format back. I got mine for $130 shipped. I have ordered 20x24 prints for less than $8. The prints are nice. The scanner may not squeeze all the resolution out of my negatives but when I want that I can just get a drum scan.
I actually get prints from my analog stuff more than my digital stuff. Not sure why. Maybe I'm just a bit more into the analog stuff at the moment. At any rate how many large (ie >11x14) prints do most people make regardless of what they shoot? A lowly Epson V 500 is absolutely fine for an 8x10 made from medium format film.
This thread is not about comparing film to digital. This thread is about compare different C-41 films to each other. I am not really familiar with the Fuji C-41 offerings. But I have used the Kodak professional C-41 films and if you can't tell the broad differences between Portra and Ektar even on an Epson V500 medium format scan it is time to pick a different hobby. This is not a matter of pixel peeping. The big differences are not subtle.
batwister, I think you are misunderstanding what was originally asked and what was answered. The question was in regards to C-41 emulsions only. That is a very finite universe. And at least on the Kodak side of things the two emulsions are so obviously different one roll of each type shot under various conditions will tell you pretty quickly which one you will choose for most situations... even via an Epson V500 scan. Portra 160 and Ektar are both very fine grain modern films. Which one is the finest is irrelevant. As other people have noted you pick whichever film is appropriate for the situation. You aren't going to eschew shooting a wedding with Portra simply because you think Ektar has finer grain on a drum scan.
Trust me man I see a very real need for Air Force test charts and drum scans. I've been cursed on this very forum for advocating rigorous methodologies for evaluations. But for something like this it simply is not necessary. If you want to get into some big digital vs film bake off then sure. But I don't need a drum scan to figure out Ektar is more contrasty than Portra. So yes I agree with you not every property of these films can be meaningfully assessed in an Epson V500 scan but really that simply isn't necessary to answer the OP's question.
Here, trade with me... if you have some good B&W film (Acros/Tmax400/HP5/PanF) try out some of the fuji and kodak stuff I have and see what you like
Funny this thread is in the Black and White forum...
There are just a few to choose from.
Kodak has the Portra 160/400/800 which are optimized for portraits as the name suggests. The colors are beautifully subtle, skin tones look great and the contrast is fairly low. Lower ISO = finer grain.
Kodak Ektar has more saturated colors and higher contrast. This film is great for landscapes and I love the look when the sun is low or at sunset/sunrise. The reds are rendered absolutely beautiful.
Fujifilm Pro 400H has its own unique character that is difficult to describe. Saturation and contrast may be somewhere in between Portra and Ektar, but the colors are different than both, especially the blues and magentas.
These films all give a certain film look that differentiate them from digital and that is the whole point right. If it looked like digital, why not shoot digital? Anyways, I like them all and I cannot choose for you. Do a search on Flickr.
Portra 160 or Portra 400
The OP's question is over three years old.
The thread might be old, but the answers in the topic evolve, especially as emulsions get discontinued by the manufacturers. So it does need to be updated from time to time!
When I was doing weddings, my choice was to use Fuji NPS for its wonderful more-pastel portrait pallet, and to use NPH 400 for its more vibrant colors with same grain as NPS.
Fuji discontinued NPS about 2005, and supposedly Fuji Pro 160S is like NPS, but I got out of the wedding and portraiture game before then. NPH 400 is still around.
Fuji 4-layer characteristics made it a nice film to use in a variety of lighting conditions.