C-41 films. Overexposure really beneficial?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by ericdan, Mar 21, 2017 at 12:12 AM.

  1. ericdan

    ericdan Subscriber

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    I've seen all the comparisons of people shooting Portra +/- 3 or 4 stops and scans looking indistinguishable. That may very well be the case, but C-41 is a print film after all.
    I just recently made RA4 contact sheets of Ektar 100, Gold 200 and Natura 1600.
    All contact sheets were exposed for minimum time for maximum blacks (black on the non exposed parts of the film)
    Ektar was shot at 100 and the contact sheet looks perfect.
    Gold 200 was shot at 200 and the contact sheet looks great again.
    Natura 1600 I exposed by setting my meter to 800 and the roll actually looks overexposed.

    I know I can get decent prints and scans by adjusting paper exposure but I don't see any immediate benefit to overexposing these films by a whole lot. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Btw, Gold 200 is a very very beautiful film. I wonder what makes Portra 'professional' and Gold 'consumer'.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017 at 12:23 AM
  2. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Color neg tends to have wide latitude in exposure. As you discovered, shooting at the rated ISO results in good color, and overexposing by as much as 3EV looks almost as good. The reason why you might want to 'under rate' color neg is its relative intolerance to UNDERexposure, the colors in the shadow areas quickly 'get muddy' with underexposure. So oftentimes photographers deliberately 'over expose' by shooting at a slower ISO than what is listed on the box, so avoid muddy shadows. So an ISO 160 rated film might be metered as if it were ISO 80-100.
     
  3. RPC

    RPC Member

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    In my experience there is no benefit in overexposing other than giving better shadow detail. Overexposing should not change mid tones or highlights, as long as you stay on the linear portion of the curves.
     
  4. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    There are several advantages that come with C-41's latitude and yes to take advantage of that you need to adjust print exposure.

    Extra C-41 film exposure can reduce grain. It can get more shadow and highlight detail on to the film that you can dodge or burn to get at.

    One of the most important things to me about the latitude is that it can eliminate the need for me to meter for each shot. I can meter for the darkest part of the situation I'm in and then just focus and shoot.

    The latitude also allows you to use larger apertures than others might in a given situation.
     
  5. ericdan

    ericdan Subscriber

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    Indeed, I have gotten away with shooting Natura 1600 and meter set to 100 ISO. I just adjust the enlargement for the dense negative and get decent results. Scanners seem to adjust on the fly. But on contact sheets I can see that those frames look way over exposed. Better than underexposed I guess.
     
  6. Berri

    Berri Member

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    Scan may look the same, but an overexposed negative is more dense. Portra films have a great latitude especialy in the highlights, so if you are not sure about the exposure it is always better to have an overexposed negative than a thin one. thin negatives tend to look murky and grainy.
     
  7. bvy

    bvy Subscriber

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    I wonder about this too, but on the Fuji side. Superia looks great to me.

    To your point, I shot Superia 400 in a fixed exposure (f/11 at 1/100) camera on a sunny day. The frames were probably two to three stops over. I printed one of these last night, and it looks great. The print time was very long, but there's detail everywhere.
     
  8. foc

    foc Member

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    I shot film professionally for over 20 years and I found the latitude of C41 films very forgiving. If I was in a very tricky lighting situation I would rely on my meter and shoot an extra shot over exposing by 1 stop. You can always print down from a dense neg (overexposed) but very hard to print up from an underexposed one. (I used the opposite for transparencies E6)
    Personally I would shoot at box speed with all C41 films, there is a reason the manufacturers make it that speed.
     
  9. RPC

    RPC Member

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    The "professional" designation of a film is not intended to indicate it has better overall quality than a consumer film.

    My understanding is that films dubbed "professional" are aged at the factory until they reach optimal color balance and then refrigerated to preserve this color balance until shipped to dealers, who refrigerate as well. The color balance of consumer films, not usually refrigerated at the dealer, will change as they sit on the shelf, likely requiring more correction when printed. Professionals, and the labs they use, need to be able to rely on consistant balance more than consumers for their work.

    According to PE, consumer films also generally have higher contrast than pro films to compensate for flare in cheap consumer cameras.
     
  10. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    If you are scanning then you don't want the negatives to get too dense. Unless you have a really really good scanner.

    As for Natura/Superia 1600, i've used it at 800 many, many times with no problem. It is a true ISO 1600 film!! One of my favorite films.

    See RPC's reply above.
     
  11. thuggins

    thuggins Member

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    That old chestnut about underexposing for slides and overexposing for negatives is nonsense. Any scene should be properly exposed to render as it is seen. A good photographer is mindful of the variance across the scene. If there is a specular reflection, don't meter to that. If the scene covers 10 stops of brightness then something will have to give and it probably won't be a very good picture at any rate.

    C-41 is certainly not very picky on exposure. Millions of Instamatics and Brownies are proof of that.

    As for Gold 200 being a great film, I guess everything is a matter of opinion. I shot it for years and now feel the results were mediocre at best. When I go back to the old prints they look dull and listless. Many times I think how beautiful a shot would have been with Ektachrome and kick my self for taking so long to give up prints. But that being said, viewed side by side, Fuji prints were always noticeably crisper, brighter and generally more lively.
     
  12. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Shoot at box speed and that will give you the maximum exposure latitude. Film manufacturers know much more about their products and have tested their products carefully. The only thing that the testinestas know is how to waste film and time.
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Just to be clear, with the exception of gross under or over exposure that limits the image on the film, there is no specific connection for any negative between camera exposure and print rendering.

    3 negative frames of the same subject under the same light; one shot at normal, one at -1, the last at +2, can each produce essentially equal/nearly indistinguishable prints.
     
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  15. ericdan

    ericdan Subscriber

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    I have an old Frontier scanner and it does everything by itself. The only thing I do is feed in the film. I do notice that dense negatives take a longer time to scan than normally exposed ones. As they should. That's how they behave in the enlarger too.
     
  16. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    FYI

    Superia 1600 (or Natura 1600) will show large grain if scanned on the Frontier system. And I bet, even worse on an inferior scanner.
    The same negative, printed conventionally onto paper, will show reasonable grain.
     
  17. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    I bracketed Ektar 100 and had a pro lab develop and provide a contact print. While I could scan all and get decent results, I notice that there is a shift in color among the different exposures. It's not great but enough if you need color fidelity.
     
  18. ericdan

    ericdan Subscriber

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    I know, the Frontier's sharpening is nasty stuff. I turn the damn 'hypersharpen' off.
     
  19. flavio81

    flavio81 Member

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    Frontier works wonderfully with iso 100 film, though. I think the problem I described was due to grain aliasing, not really sharpening.

    I have some scans made from Kodak Supra 100 that look really sharp and detailed and deep. Wonderful!
     
  20. ericdan

    ericdan Subscriber

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    I assume you own one, too and know a lot more about it than me.
     
  21. zanxion72

    zanxion72 Member

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    Indeed, especially if underexposed it gets a nasty bluish cast. Overexposure does better as the color shift is barely notable, but underexposure by 1 stop make it look ugly.
     
  22. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    I used to take a lot of photos of steam railway locomotives, where the wheels, pistons and drive mechanism tend to be in shadow. With slide film I worked on box speed, but with color and B&W negative I always gave a half-stop or so extra exposure. This worked well to show the detail in the dark areas, but gave a good black in the areas which I really wanted it.
     
  23. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

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    I used to buy into that until, back when VPS III was a new film, I got my eyes opened. At the large chain outfit where I worked we had some problems that we thought might have been related to film shifts. So we set up a program to monitor all of our new film emulsions; we basically ran a couple of sensitometric wedges and logged the results. Very little change, with a few exceptions (we learned something from that, but that's not my point).

    A second thing we did was screen unused film (long roll) returned from our studios. They did this whenever they found film with an "unknown history;" perhaps it had been found in the trunk of a company car or some other unknown storage condition. Now we were not about to throw this film away, nor would we have risked sending it back out for studio use; it was even possible that someone had opened the can and fogged the whole roll. So we ran sensi wedges from every can before considering reuse.

    Without planning it, we now had an interesting set of data. We had sensi wedges on every emulsion when it was new, AND we had semi-random samples from the same emulsions at various ages. Although we didn't know the storage conditions of the returned film, it was, at best, typical US office conditions. Plus, we knew how old it was.

    Before I go on, have a guess at how you think the films aged (up to a year or so after the expiration date). (As a note, we kept our in-house film stock in a walk-in cooler, under 55 F, or whatever the storage spec was at that time.)
     
  24. pentaxpete

    pentaxpete Subscriber

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    When VPS III 160 came in wedding photographers found it was NOT up to it's rated speed -- I rated it down to 125 ASA when fresh and 80 ASA when a bit 'outdated'
     
  25. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

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    Pete, as I recall, it was initially as you say, for practical purposes. (Technically it WAS ASA 160, but it had the lower contrast typical of such films, so needed increased exposure to hit Kodak's aim specs for densities. Same as its predecessors, VPS II and CPS, a C-22 film).

    But over the first year or two, a number of subtle changes were made (we could see these in the sensi wedges), and the contrast was gradually increased. After this, almost no obvious changes were made throughout the (long) lifespan of VPS III, and it could now be shot at the rated speed. (Again, I'm going from memory so no one should quote this as authoritative.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2017 at 9:51 AM
  26. RPC

    RPC Member

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    I tried VPS III back in the 80s, and I recall that Kodak's literature that came with the film even said that better quality might be achieved by additional exposure.