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  1. #1

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    Choice of color negative film for processing at drug store mini labs

    If a person is using a mini lab at a Walgreens/CVC does it pay to use the premium color negative films, or does the fact it is scanned and digitally printed nullify the benefits of the premium color negative films? I know several years ago when I discovered all color negatives were scanned in and printed digitally, was when I decided it didn't matter any more and purchased a DSLR. Now I have recently started working with B&W film and film cameras again I have been wondering if I should try shooting color film again as well.

  2. #2
    polyglot's Avatar
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    You will get finer grain and more accurate colour from the premium films, if nothing else.

  3. #3
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    Not necessarily - most of the "entry level" color film is (and always has been) more than capable of producing solid output.
    Stop worrying about grain, resolution, sharpness, and everything else that doesn't have a damn thing to do with substance.

    http://www.flickr.com/kediwah

  4. #4

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    Digital prints made from a scanned color negative film file have a very different look than digital prints made from digital cameras. Scanning different color negative films will produce different results and different looks. It's hard to say what you will find looks better. It's worth mentioning that consumer print films were designed to be printed on minilab machines and will certainly give good results. I also think that it's wrong to assume that using a minilab and shooting Portra will be a waste of time, or that the machine will somehow "nullify" the results.

    Tim

  5. #5
    polyglot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by clayne View Post
    Not necessarily - most of the "entry level" color film is (and always has been) more than capable of producing solid output.
    Sure. But the pro films are (sometimes much) better again and the difference is quite visible in an 8x12" print from 35mm. If they weren't better, they wouldn't exist and be sold at 3x the price...

    For example, Portra 400 has grain as fine as Reala and is 2 stops faster. Pro160S and Portra 160 have about twice the linear resolution (so about 4 times the total info content recorded) of any Gold or Superia class film, let alone the really cheap stuff. Ektar is even finer again, but you get nuclear colour.

    6x4s aren't going to look much different and if that's all you print, don't bother with pro films. If you want to make a 12x18" enlargement, the quality change is arguably the difference between grainy technicolor mush and a pretty fine print.

  6. #6
    polyglot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tim elder View Post
    Digital prints made from a scanned color negative film file have a very different look than digital prints made from digital cameras. Scanning different color negative films will produce different results and different looks
    Only if the scanner is miscalibrated (bad gamma settings and milky results are common) or the operator incompetent. I have no shortage of prints and scans from C41 where you cannot tell whether they're shot on film or digital. The colour accuracy is better on digital, but you basically need to be doing an A/B comparison against a Gretag-Macbeth to see the difference. Modern pro C41 films can be very accurate and you need to abuse them to get "different" results.

    If you shoot a good DSLR, my personal opinion is that colour film is NOT worth it unless you shoot it in bigger than 35mm. So I shoot 6x7.

  7. #7
    Truzi's Avatar
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    I've taken Porta and Ektar to my Walgreen's and they came back fine. Not quite as nice as a pro shop (most likely because of how they are set up to print), but still noticeably better than the consumer films done in the same run.
    However, premium films cost more, and are just as easy for the minilab to mess up if run poorly.

    You really should evaluate the places available to you no matter what film you choose.
    Perhaps buy a four-pack of the "cheaper" film and try a roll at different stores. When you find a place that does a decent job, you will be safe with the premium film. The consumer films are quite good, so don't rule them out just because they are not "professional." I use them most often.

    My local Walgreen's is adequate to good, and I try to take my film there when a specific woman is working; she is more careful when calibrating the machine.
    A Walgreen's in the city next door does a really poor job, once with streaks coming from the sprocket holes.
    The last time I tried my local CVS, everything came back with a strong green tint.

    Find a good place and you'll be fine.
    Truzi

  8. #8
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    Something like portra will capture a bigger range of brightness than any affordable digital. Sunny snow lit scenes you can have full shadow detail and full highlight detail. I mostly use DSLR for color, but film is good for effectively single-shot HDR even if it's scanned rather than optically printed; it's a capture medium. I also use film when I want the look of older equipment. No contemporary substitute for the output look of a 1950-ish rolleiflex with a tessar for example. The original problem with color negative films (which precluded their use by exacting amateurs and pros in some situations) was that almost nobody printed things perfectly. It's still true today with minilabs.

  9. #9

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    That happens here at one of the CVS stores I go to. I drop my film off and they set it aside for the woman on the 3rd shift to do it. She can do amazing things with film. She even makes my test pictures with Lucky color look good!!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot
    If you shoot a good DSLR, my personal opinion is that colour film is NOT worth it unless you shoot it in bigger than 35mm. So I shoot 6x7.
    With all due respect to polyglot, and I can't complain about what I get from my DSLR, but sometimes an image comes out of my Nikon F5 that I know I'd have never gotten from my D800. There's just *something* about it, at least to me. I get plenty of crap out of it too, but this Ektar shot on a gloomy day in Beijing just worked for me. (Warning: a digitally applied watermark, it was the most convenient version of the image I had...)

    Click image for larger version. 

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