After a VERY long break from dabbling in color photography, I am travelling to Ireland in a couple of weeks and thinking of taking some color film in addition to BW. Maybe it's some fantasy about red hair, or maybe after spending 15 years of living in Southern California it's about seeing the color GREEN in real life.
Either way, I have always liked the sharper, more saturated look of transparencies over color negatives, but I want to end up with a photograph or two on my wall. Is it easier and less expensive to do this with a color neg or is it easier and less expensive to do this with a transparency and a scan or an Ilfochrome?
Originally Posted by David Hall
Color negative film will be a cheaper way to obtain a good quality print, optically produced, to hang on the wall.
Scans can be done from transparencies or color negs, though the scanners say you will get better results from transparencies.
Color neg will hold a greater exposure range, but, as you say, at the expense of some vibrancy. It will also depend on how prolific you intend to be, prices for scans/prints add up quickly.
If I were going on vacation, I would want to make sure I got good results, with color neg film, rather than hope for ideal conditions to fully exploit color slide film. The weather would have to be right and you'd better practice with your graduated neutral density filters, to handle the dynamic range.
So now it comes down to a question of format. If you're shooting sheet film, better to use Fuji color neg(NPS) - the greens will be more vibrant. Kodak color negative tends to be very accurate and the greens, in particular, are rather subdued.
If you're shooting medium format or 35mm, though, have I got a film for you! I've been shooting a lot of Kodak's new Porta 400 UC (for ultra color) in 35mm. This stuff is fantastic. Fine grain, vibrant color, with realistic skin tones. In the smaller formats, this is the only color film I use, anymore.
Just a personal opinion here -
I find that Fuji films tend to give unrealistic greens: While Ireland is called "The Emerald Isle", it in not meant literally! Grass which is beginning to fade looks great on Fuji, but green, fresh succulent grass looks - "fake". I'd go for Kodak. Ecen the Portra VC (vivid color) films give better greens.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
As others have said, it's easier to get prints from your negatives. I've had good luck in the past with the Fujicolor and Kodak Gold films (400). I'm facing an 11x14 from 35mm of fall in NJ (sigh), that's clear and bright. I have some similar ones with subtle shades that the fuji handled pretty well. (neutral grey rocks with screaming green seaweed)
On the other hand, given the proliferation of Frontiers, etc, if you're not printing it yourself, then the beauty of color slides is hard to beat. Recent experience would suggest Provia 100. (sensia in consumer grade) Decent saturation, nice greens (to my eye; may say more about my lawn than my taste), and clean greys. I shot a variety of forsythia + weathered wood, with no bleed or color casts. I'm noticing that the old trade off (slide film expensive but cheap to process, print film cheap but more expensive to print), is gone, with slides being more expensive overall. It all depends; slides are great, but hard to leave lying around in little frames to impress guests and friends.
You've really asked a question with many different answers. If you've not been shooting color film regularly, probably negative film is the safest and easiest to shoot as it has more latitude and is far more forgiving than transparency film.
I recently switched from using a Kodak transparency film to a Fuji transparency film, and despite fairly thorough testing prior to shooting, I would say it took at least 100 exposures before I felt comfortable that I would get >>exactly<< what I wanted on the film when it is exposed. Despite the testing, I have to see the film perform under a variety of lighting and contrast conditions and evaluate the results to really get it "dialed in." You wouldn't have that kind of trouble with negative film as you can easily over expose by 1/3-1/2 stop and be guaranteed that you have a "fat" negative for a printer to work with.
Also, the reproduction method to get your final print is a question. Certainly, it's easier to get a "good print" from a negative than it is from a transparency. I do a lot of Ilfochromes specifically because I can't find a lab that makes them to my requirements without an inordinate amount of expense and hassle.
Likewise, if I make a LightJet print, I have the transparency scanned, I make all the major corrections in Photoshop, and send it back to the lab with a "proof print" from my Epson printer for them to make small, final adjustments.
My recommendation would be to use negative film if you want "sure" results to turn into prints.
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If you are not going to have time to shoot some practice rolls before you go on your trip, i would suggest going with negative over transparency. Like Tom said, negative has a longer exposure range than transparency. Good black and white will have something like a 10 stop range from white to black. Color neg will be more in the 7 stop range. If you go to transparency then you are probably looking at 5-6 stops at best, and if you go with one of the highly saturated films like Fuji Velvia, then you are in the 3-4 stop range. That short range can make for some really vibrant images, but it can be unforgiving.
OK, negative film it is. Thank you for your best thinking.
I have been using Portra VC in both speeds, and I just got some UC. How do those films compare to others?
This is not true if the transparency film in question is Ektachrome 64T (EPY). It has a longer scale than many black and white films.
Originally Posted by mrneoluddite
Good to know about EPY's longer scale, but, being transparency, you still have to get your exposure exactly right, something you don't have to do with negative film. If you can get your values onto the film (favoring overexposure) you can dodge and burn the color neg film to your heart's content. I wouldn't want to travel to Ireland, planning to carry enough extra sheet film to make three bracketted exposures for each picture.
Speak for yourself. If I want truly beautiful prints, I expose them perfectly, whether reversal film or not. Color or black and white.
Originally Posted by Tom Duffy
But, I guess for the sake of convenience, the best bet for the trip would be Portra 400 NC, as the VC is shorter scaled and contrastier. The color balance is also a little too vivid. You could crank that up in the printing, if necessary.
Another advantage to transparency film is that it responds well to zone system controls, whereas negative color film simply develops to completion and that's it. I can expose EPY for the shadows and develop for the highlights. With negative film, I can only expose for the skin tones and hope for the best at either end. (Most of any color photography I do is of people.)