View Full Version : Color Sytem Engineering part I

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07-01-2013, 12:13 PM
Back to the original topic : I'm very glad this thread got revived; and we were given a succinct explanation of why color negs have traditionally
come out with so much pumpkin and poison green - and perhaps why they have improved so much in recent years. Right now I'm making prints
from color negs which almost anyone would think came from chromes, except that the white borders would be a giveaway. And yes, 30x40's
with registered masks would be unthinkable without glass antinewton carriers.

Photo Engineer
07-01-2013, 12:48 PM
Drew, that "bad" example with cyan, grape and pumpkin was only intended as an example. NO Kodak film, or any film I know of, was produced without interlayers and scavengers. Even the earliest Agfa color negative film had interlayers and scavengers.

I don't know what films you used in the past but they all had pretty good correction as well as good grain and sharpness. Recent films such as Ektar and Portr are far far better.


07-01-2013, 02:28 PM
Well, I guess we can just say these films have evolved, Ron. You go back to the 70's for example, and people like Stephen Shore built entire
bodies of work on the otherwise clashy contrast of pumpkin orange and poison green. That was the Vericolor L era among art photographers.
Skintones came out lovely, but every other warm netural in the image trended to the same muddiness, and it was almost impossible to peg a
neutral green which wasn't inflected with excess blue. Even I quickly adopted the palette for portrait commisions, but never for landscape work.
Chromes were far cleaner for that kind of thing. Now I still get a tiny bit of muddiness making it difficult to resolve certain shades of yellow-orange in Portra, and even Ektar. No film is perfect for every application. But comparing them to the color negs of previous decades (or current amateur color neg films) and it's downright amazing just how far things have come along. People seem to forget that film and paper
themselves are not stagnant technology, and that if Kodak has bungled certain things in recent years, the R&D of this kind of thing has at
least reached a high point. I wasn't exactly the last rat to abandon the sinking ship of Ciba, but at least I had an excellent new ship to land
on, seemingly even better.

Photo Engineer
07-01-2013, 02:51 PM
Well, I'm not going to worry about your comments. I've used Kodak, Ansco, Fuji and Agfa color films professoinally and personally since the 60s. I've also coated Kodak color films doing R&D. I never got muddy colors and some of the proof is in my gallery. No mud there.

I've also printed on Ciba color material and find the colors garish and untrue to the original unless masked.

And, I have a box of slides and negatives of all of those films, from comparison tests I ran side by side. Talk about mud and then look at some Anscochrome from the 50s or 60s.


07-01-2013, 02:57 PM
I may be naive or inattentive, but most any color film I always used was Kodacolor X, Kodacolor II and whatever came after that, Ektacolor, Vericolor, and whatever came after that. I suppose I've always just used whatever Kodak color film I could get my hands on, or what was available. But I never questioned any of it, I just used it. It is what it is--good enough for me.

07-01-2013, 02:57 PM
Now you talk like you were once in the marketing division of Kodak, Ron. Of course you got muddy colors. Everyone did. Even dye transfers from
vintage color negs look muddy in major hue categories. Ciba itself had huge idiosyncrasies which one learned to correct thru various means, but
otherwise had to anticipate when choosing the shot. But it was the only realistic alternative for direct printing of chromes, and far superior to
R prints, and obviously much easier, more economical, and vastly sharper than dye transfer. Internegs were rarely well done. If negs were so
good back then, how come today's Portra and Ektar shots look so vastly better? They'd still be making Vericolor if there wasn't a reason.

Michael R 1974
07-01-2013, 03:01 PM
I never found Shore's work muddy. It's some of my favourite colour work.

Photo Engineer
07-01-2013, 03:20 PM
The films were Kodacolor, Kodacolor X, Kodacolor II, Kodacolor III in that family. Now it is the Gold family I guess.

There was also Ektacolor S and Ektacolor L for professionals and that eventually merged into the Portra and Ektar family.

The improvements were in speed and grain along with sharpness. Color reproduction was kept rather similar in all of them since C41 was introduced. For example, Ektar 25 was the best we could do in the 90s for grain and sharpness, but today the same Ektar name is on a 100 speed film with better grain and sharpness. It also keeps better. These are the major areas of improvement in just one film family, to give an example.

Engineers from Fuji could say much the same about their products.

And, the choice of making positives at the cape was by making an Ektacolor original and then print it onto Ektacolor print film for a superb tonal range. Direct positives were made using Anscochrome, but they gave muted colors.

At that time, Agfa, Fuji and most other companies made unmasked color negative films which gave inferior color.

An example of positives from negatives are shown in the missile pictures in my gallery. They are rejects so they are not quite as good as the approved prints.


07-01-2013, 03:24 PM
Sure do miss Kodachrome. It was perfect.

07-01-2013, 03:48 PM
Michael - that you "like" Shore's work simply demonstrates how skilled he was in proportionately balancing severely unrealistic hues and making
this interesting. Everybody knew this at the time. If you wanted clean color you went to chrome and dye transfer. Just like looking at the difference between a chromogenic movie back then and Technicolor. Some of these 70's art types deliberately chose color neg for its muted
muddy off color, in contrast to the clean saturation of the previous generation like Eliot Porter and other dye printers. Shore and several others (like Meyerowitz and Misrach etc) learned to exploit the reproduction errors in these films for artistic effect. To say these colors weren't muddy (in the sense of having the dye curves cross-contaminated) is utter nonsense.