I've only shot one roll of Ektar 100 in 35mm, and I like it. I have another roll that I'm gonna shoot one day soon
I've yet to shoot 160VC, so I guess I'm really no help :/
As Mark Barendt already mentioned, I think some of the resistance to color negative film stems from folks getting digital prints. Many digital labs state or imply that slide film is better than color neg as far as scanning is concerned. For example, West Coast Imaging is a very well known digital lab on the West Coast, and this is what they say regarding color neg:
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
Chromes scan more easily than negs for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is a positive, and we have an accurate reference to what it should look like. With a negative we have no such reference. Also, the grain structure of chromes holds up much better, and gives a sharper file than negs.
The wider latitude of negs is part of the problem, as well. Compressing that range into a print flattens contrast and destroys local contrast...things that make a print sparkle. On the other hand, using chromes in flat light stretches out the contrast range and makes nice local contrast happen automatically.
We have scanned thousands of chromes and negs from beginners to professionals with decades of experience. In looking at what works, we have found that negs from studio photographers who light flat for chrome, make the best scans....so the very reason you want to use neg is in direct opposition to creating the type of lighting conditions and neg that scans well.
Now this doesn't mean that the chrome is always better, but with a chrome, what you see is what you get, and we can always make a good scan from a good chrome. With Negatives there is a little bit more variability and uncertainty. The type of neg film really doesn't matter very much.
WCI has also said (although I'm not sure if this is still posted on their web site):
Color negatives can be the most difficult film to scan. You'd think it would be as simple as inverting the data and removing the orange mask, but it's not. The orange mask is not simply a 40cc orange; it varies in density at every point in the photograph, depending on what is recorded on the film at that point. Variations in processing and exposure mean that the same settings for one negative rarely work for another, even if they are on the same film. And while color negative film is capable of recording great latitude, the highest quality scans consistently come from film exposed in "chrome light" and carefully processed.
I've lost count of the digital labs that have told me that color neg produces grainier scans than chromes due to grain aliasing, etc.
I realize that part of the reason some digital labs take this position is that their equipment and business model is intrinsically optimized for E-6. There are certainly digital labs willing to take the time and effort to properly scan and print C-41 (in my limited experience it may take them several scans before they achieve an optimal one), but they are in the minority, and I think at least one charges extra for C-41 scanning versus E-6.
For applications where precise color accuracy is not critical, I think many folks shoot slide film to avoid complications (real or perceived) when printing digitally.
Having a positive that provides reference of what the photo is supposed to look like is cool, but problematic.
First is the brightness; for me slides that project the way I like normally need to be lightened for printing. How much? depends. Still normally need a second printing to get it right.
Second is color cast: I have also found that unless I've carefully and appropriately used filters (which is a close-but-never-perfect thing for me) or used controlled lighting when shooting my positive will lead the lab astray.
In either case above the cure is understanding the challenges and talking about what you want with the lab, just like with C-41.
Third, WCI's "complaint" about the wider latitude causing the problem is simply silly, it's like a lotto winner saying "I wish I'd only won half that money". :rolleyes:
IMHO, what I hear WCI saying is "That darn extra shadow/highlight detail you get with C-41 ruins the picture every time." If they can convince us to use E-6 instead of C-41 they don't have to worry about all that pesky shadow/highlight detail stuff.
I don't know about anybody else but I kinda like those pesky shadow and highlight details.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
It means also that those who wrote the scanning software had absolutely no knowledge of color photographic systems.
Ron, now you have my curiosity going. I know there are probably variables when and why neg is better. But I would love to hear why it is. If you have already posted a thread here can you give a link? If not, I for one would love to hear your views on this.
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There are several threads related to tone scale and to masking. I'll summarize.
1. Color negative is masked and fully corrected for dye errors.
2. Color negative printing takes place on a linear tone scale but pos-pos viewing or printing has a toe and shoulder which both compress data.
3. Color neg uses DIR couplers, DIAR couplers and a fine grain HA developer to achieve the finest grain and the greatest sharpness. Sometimes scanners cannot interpret this due to aliasing and show a pebble grain which is not real, but rather is an artifact of the scanner itself. In reversal processing, the MQ (first) developer is the only one which can effect any sharpness, corrective or grain effects. The color developer goes to completion.
4. Color neg is faster and cheaper to process. R&D continues due to the large market.
5. Neg print materials (which are only made for ECN3 now) can go to a density of 4.0 giving an enormous tonal range compared to E6 which is limited to a density of about 3.0 for technical reasons.
6. Color neg is designed for image fidelity, whereas E6 materials are designed to have higher color contrast to offset the color impurities. This gives the effect of better color but is not true color.
7. Due to the physics involved, you can make multigenerational prints of neg-pos systems, but pos-pos systems begin to lose overall quality with the first generatioin. This is why they were abandoned by the motion picture industry as soon as neg-pos systems caught up back in the 60s or thereabouts.
Just a start to give you an idea.
Very interesting. Thanks Ron, I will dig up some of those threads.
It is my understanding that the orange color from a masked negative is uniform all over the negative; this is why it can be filtered out during printing and the dye impurities with it.
Originally Posted by Eric Leppanen
The orange mask is NOT uniform. It forms a very weak orange positive image to perform its function as a mask. If it were uniform, it would be useless. It is not part of the base (support), but rather is incorporated into each emulsion layer in proportion to the "error" in dye fidelty precomputed during the design of the film.
In response to the original question, invest in a couple of rolls of film and you'll have your answer, but my impression is that Ektar 100 has better saturation and finer grain than 160VC. I think 160VC is too close in tonality to 160NC to be that interesting, while 160NC makes a great film for portraits or other situations where you might want a more neutral color palette.