ISO 800 film

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by psychoanalyst_god, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    Hello,

    I had some specific questions about ISO 800 film that I wanted to run by you guys. I have searched the forum for the same topic and although I found hits, it does not address all my concerns.

    I am off to Alaska in 10 days to shoot the Northern Lights. I really really want to capture the lights on film (not to worry....I have a solid Nikon D300 as backup). My gear is a Pentax 645N with the 45mm f2.8. I am going to shoot wide open. I want to stop here because this is not a "how to shoot the lights questions" and I am aware of the limitations (I was in Alaska last year as well).

    I already have Portra 400 (although I am not a huge fan of C41 film) and Fuji PRovia 400X slide (I am madly in love with slide film). I am looking for an ISO800 film as well and came across Portra 800 as a choice, but user opinions are wildly varying from "no grain" to "unacceptable grain", so I am left without a reliable baseline....

    I DO NOT want to push and introduce grain in my shots if possible. I tried an experiment with Portra 400 pushed to 3200 (albeit a bit aggressive) and I absolutely hated the result....too much grain.

    My questions (I always scan my film, so am looking for a solution conducive to scanning):

    1. What is the verdict on Portra 800 when shot at box speed? Underexposed 0.5-1 stop? Would it need pushing under underexposure or can it handle that, followed up photoshop tweaking?

    2. Is it advisable to push Portra 400 and Fuji Provia 400X to 800? Again: opinions are skewed, so I don't know what to believe. I dare not push beyond 1 stop since I don't want to risk it given the importance of the subject. Although I want to avoid pushing, if the lights are too weak, I may not have a choice.

    I would REALLY appreciate your valuable insights. I hope to come back with some memorable images of the lights captured on (preferably) slide and C-41 film.

    Avi
     
  2. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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    This is Max 800, the twin brother of Portra 800. If you search Photo.Net, you will find a thread from one of the engineers who helped design both this and Portra 800. He said they are very very similar. With that in mind, you can check this image to get an idea of saturation and (lack of) grain.
    A very vibrant film, with superb skin tones (does not apply to your case), and I was very suprised to find, it actually does a decent sunset, capturing some reds...
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pukalo/7940946376/

    Click on the "actions" button in upper left corner, and set to View All Sizes to see full rez scan.
    Staright scan, no post processsing, straight from the excellent Kodak F135 scanner.
     
  3. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    It looks (from the published curves) that New Portra 400 has at least as much speed as Portra 800. So you could expose P400 at 800 and probably be quite happy. Since you're scanning it, C41 gives you a lot more latitude than you would have with a chrome, especially if the dynamic range is over-expanded by push processing in order to bring the speed up.

    Provia 400X reportedly pushes very well, certainly to 800. You gain some contrast of course but I'm not sure that's a problem for northern lights - just make sure you don't have any artificially-lit structures appearing in-frame to blow out.

    10 days isn't much but I bet you could shoot a roll of each at 800 in an afternoon and have them developed/scanned well before you needed to leave. Only you can judge the level at which grain is or isn't "acceptable" for your purposes...
     
  4. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    Hey...thanks for this. But I don't think this film is available in 120. I don't shoot 135.

    Avi
     
  5. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    Hmm...thats interesting. So what you are saying is I can underexpose Portra 400 1 stop and develop without pushing. My initial foray into Portra 400 was for exactly those reasons. I saw results: http://filmphotographyproject.com/content/features/2011/08/mat-marrash-pushing-kodak-portra where Portra had been severely underexposed with either no push or a 1 stop push. I was astounded by the results.

    I tried the same (sent in my film to E-Six Atlanta) but was super disappointed. I underexposed 3 stops and pushed 1 stop and 3 stops respectively on 2 rolls.....I was disappointed with both results. But based on what I saw from my 1 stop experiment, I can believe that the film will handle 800 well without a push. But I probably will overexpose slightly (maybe 1/3 stop) just to be sure.

    But the results were a bit confusing from the 1 stop push experiment. Scenes shot in sufficient light came out fine, but those shot under low light came out with very thin negs. This could be a metering issue (I use the Pentax 645 meter without an external confirmation).

    I think I might get a couple of rolls of Portra 800 along as well. Unfortunately 10 days is not sufficient to run my tests, since I have to mail my film in for development and that would take time.

    Thanks a lot! This definitely helps.

    Avi
     
  6. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    I read his post to say he understood that but was suggesting that the films are similar enough that this is indicative of the kind of results to expect, grain wise - and your 120 will need less enlargement.
     
  7. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    Hi Roger,

    Yes....you are correct. My apologies to pukalo.

    Thanks!

    Avi
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    In a number of cases Kodak does not recommend that you adjust the development when your film is one stop under-exposed.

    As I understand it, this is due to what actually happens when you "push" your development.

    In reality, pushing does almost nothing to increase the detail in the shadows. What it does is increase the contrast across the board. As a result, the appearance of the deep shadows doesn't change but the lighter areas (from fully detailed near shadows, through the mid-tones and up to the near highlights) becomes more contrasty, and therefore either more or as appealing. The brighter highlights, however, lose detail due to the increased contrast, so they suffer.

    Kodak doesn't recommend the one stop push because their results indicate that the loss of quality in the highlights outweighs the benefits obtained in the near shadows.

    If you have a scene with a narrow subject brightness range, a push is much more likely to work well - but that is probably true even if you don't under-expose the shot.

    So essentially I'm saying that if you have a scene with a narrow subject brightness range, go ahead and meter your scene at EI 800 when using ISO 400 film and request a one stop push. If, however, you have a scene with an extremely wide subject brightness range, you need to decide where you are willing to sacrifice detail - in the shadows, or the highlights.

    If your scene has a moderate subject brightness range, you can rely on Portra's excellent ability to capture it.
     
  9. thegman

    thegman Member

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    I think I'd go with Provia 400X, pushes well, and the contrast of slide film will probably help the subject too. I think I'd also do at least one roll of Velvia, maybe it's too slow, but if it works, I think it would look great.
     
  10. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    thanks so much guys!

    I have got Provia 400X, Portra 400 and 2 rolls of Portra 800. The plan is to shoot 2 rolls of Provia (1 at 400 and the other pushed to 800), 2 rolls of Portra (1 @ 400 1@800 without push; I will push a third roll to 800 if time permits) and 1-2 rolls of Portra 800.

    I am definitely carrying Velvia with me, but those are for my daylight shots.....I cannot image using that for the Northern Lights.

    Avi
     
  11. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi Psychoanalyst_god,

    Have you considered using a tripod and doing long exposures (30 mins - an hour?) on Velvia? Slide film is great for night-time shots. The only real downside is waiting around for an hour or so during the exposure. It's just a thought.

    Cheers,
    kevs
     
  12. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Portra 800 for C-41
    I do not have a recommendation for slide film.
     
  13. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    That is not an option for the northern lights.....I will end up with a light smear on the sky instead of capturing the dynamics of the aurora....

    But for traditional night sky shots, yes......velvia would be lovely.

    Avi
     
  14. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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  15. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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    Found this on Flickr - Northern Lights on Slide Film. Perhaps e-mailing him, he can tell you what he used.
    Beware the use of Portra 400 for this subject matter, being a portrait film, and also designed to work under mixed lighting (think, neutralizes "color casts"), you may very well end up with washed out, muted, "auto white balanced away" colors.

    Most slide films dont have these issues (hence, terrible under indoor lighting or mixed lighting), which is a strength in your case. Stick to ektar and 400X. Triple up on the 400x, not thye Portra. As this shot proves, the Northern Lights can be captured very well with slide film. And given it is from 2001, its proibably either E200 pushed (800 max, which 400X does easily), or Provia 400F.
    1 roll 400X at 400
    1 roll at 800
    1 roll at 1600
    Your set.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanspalding/201526136/in/photostream/
     
  16. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    Pukalo,

    Many thanks! That is sound advice. I got a 5 roll pack of Provia 400X.....that should be enough for the 3 experiments you mentioned above, although I am not too keen on a 2 stop push. We will see......I will have to make a last min judgement call based on the intensity of the lights up in the Arctic.

    Beyond that, if time permits (I also have my D300 with the Tokina 11-16 which will take precedence above the film for obvious reasons...and I have only 1 tripod) I will experiment with the portra.

    You are right about the aurora shots in the Flickr stream. They are clearly long exposures on slow slide film.........I made the mistake of shooting at low ISO last year and my images were pretty much like those......light smear. They look lovely, but the aurora looks absolutely stunning when keeping exposures below 30 secs. That should be possible with ISO800 and f2.8.

    Anyone have recommendations for sending in the film for development/push? I used E-Six in Atlanta for my Portra experiments. I don't want to unnecessarily blame them (it is very likely that I am at fault for the poor results), but I'd rather go with a lab people have had sufficient experience with and have consistently got good results.

    I have heard good things about Richard's Photolab over in California.

    Avi
     
  17. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    Don't worry too much, Provia 400X handles 2 stop pushes quite well. It's a beautiful film with great colors!
     
  18. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    If I can capture the lights on slide, that is one thing off my "dream" check-list!

    Thanks.

    Avi
     
  19. BrendanCarlson

    BrendanCarlson Member

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    I agree with Pukalo, Portra will wash out those beautiful colors that you are trying to capture.
    IMHO, Ektar pushed to 800 is noisy, but in a nice way (I like grain if it looks filmy). You may want to try a roll or two to see what happens.
    As for the best bet... probably the Provia 400x. Looks good pushed a couple stops.
     
  20. pukalo

    pukalo Member

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    Dont take chances with your prior lab! I would say it is pretty difficult to screw up negative shots on the shooters end - but very easy, and likely, on the processing end. Especially in todays low volume film world, where many labs keep the chems far too long to squeeze out a few extra dollars. At your expense.

    Send you slide film to either:
    Denver Digital Imaging aka The Slide Printer
    www.theslideprinter.com
    They specialize in E-6, and have a long history of good work, back to the 1970's. They use a dip and Dunk machine too, which is bber than roller transport (which can scratch your film).

    OR


    North Coast Photo of Ken Rockwell fame/acclaim. Especially good if you want some decent scans at reasonable prices to go with your slides. They have decent volume too, due to the referral at Kens site.

    http://www.northcoastphoto.com/
     
  21. psychoanalyst_god

    psychoanalyst_god Subscriber

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    Pukalo,

    Thanks again....I have definitely come across both labs.

    I think Denver Digital is widely recommended.

    I scan my own film (I have the Epson 4990).....for slides that I especially like, I will probably send out for drum scans.

    Avi