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  1. #1

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    Blurry Kodachrome Photos in Magazine Shots

    I subscribe to a periodical that notes the type of image that is presented, either film or digital. In a number of cases, this has made for an illuminating comparison. I have noted that almost invariably the film shots--all of which have been with Kodachrome--always look blurry in comparison to the digital shots. The Kodacrome, overall, looks blurry, and seems to lack shadow detail and resolution, too. Observing the dates, some images were taken as far back as the 70s and 80s, while others are fairly contemporary. Why do the Kodachrome images look rather poor in comparison to the digital shots? This question is not meant to bring about a film vs. digital debate. I am simply trying to "get to the bottom" of this matter. I notice that the digital shots look very similar to my shots, which are shot on 35mm film (either Kodak or Fuji pro film), and then scanned and printed at a pro lab.

    Thus, what is the issue here? Does Kodachome look less sharp and clear in magazine printing? Does the problem stem from some shortcoming in optical processing? Was the film itself an issue? I doubt it could be an issue with the photographer, as I have noted this blurry tendency in numerous shots, taken by different photographers. I welcome your comments and observations, as I am now thinking that perhaps the wonderful sharpness and resolution I see in my 35mm film/digitally printed shots is a mostly a result of the digital prinitng aspect.

  2. #2

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    Isn't Kodachrome trickier to scan? For instance the normal IR dust-removal trick won't work because of the physical construction of the film? Or maybe they'd blur out any slide because they're scanning it with a crummy flatbed scanner, or taking a picture of it against a lightbox with their digital camera, or something. I've got some old Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides my grandfather shot 40 years ago and they're quite sharp!

    Duncan

  3. #3
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Kodachrome was sharp enough that the copying and halftone printing in magazines is probably the cause of the problem you cited. A Kodachrome scanned on a flatbed scanner with a transparancy adaptor isn't going to look its best.

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    Indeed, this is an interesting issue, as I hear constant priase for Kodachrome. Thus, I am confused, as the magazine's print and graphic quality is quite good (again, with the exception of what I observe in the Kodachome shots). I now can always pick out a film shot before I read the photo credit.

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    Any film image is going to be scanned for print reproduction. Kodachrome can be more difficult to scan. If the slides are old and have dust on them then any attempt to use PP software to remove the dust will also lower sharpness. The qualities of Kodachrome are well known by now. The images made with it and printed in National Geographic did not look unsharp. What you are noticing about the images which were supposed to have been taken on Kodachrome tells you more about the way the magazine printed them than about Kodachrome itself.

    The fastest Kodachrome sold had a speed of 200. I remember shooting Kodachrome II in the early 1970s. In some cases a tripod was needed. More hand held shots with slow film are taken at or near full aperture. This reduces depth of field and in most cases absolute sharpness. Today we have very high quality fast color films like Portra 400 and Portra 800. This wasn't always the case. The recently discontinued 100 speed Kodak Ektachrome slide films have very high image quality and are two stops faster than the Kodachrome 25 which was discontinued not so long ago. Apart from selective focus applications, very fast lenses like the Canon 85/1.2 and the 35/1.4 Nikkor were made to allow more use of slow and fine grained films. The very high ISO performance of the current crop of top DSLRs was not yet available.

  6. #6
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    I have Kodachrome slides taken in 1968 and 1969 in Nam. Some of the slides have crud on them, but those with out still scan and the colors are great and sharpe. Yashica TL-Super was used on all but a few.

    David
    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
    ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by FilmOnly View Post
    Indeed, this is an interesting issue, as I hear constant priase for Kodachrome. Thus, I am confused, as the magazine's print and graphic quality is quite good (again, with the exception of what I observe in the Kodachome shots). I now can always pick out a film shot before I read the photo credit.
    The trouble is in the reproduction, not the original source material. The Kodachrome 25 slides (some 40 years old) I occasionally project for the edification of my digitographer buddies never fail to amaze them with detail and color.

    Get some Kodachrome slides, and look at them yourself.

  8. #8
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    In the 1980's many publishers made "Kodachrome" a mandatory film to shoot assignments on.
    Random House books was one of them. (this is a fact). It's sharp sharp as heck. You are looking a blurry images, and or bad reproduction.

    National Geographic was once upon a time shot almost exclusively on Kodachrome.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by vpwphoto View Post

    National Geographic was once upon a time shot almost exclusively on Kodachrome.
    NG also, at one time, had photography varying from very good to superlative. Now, I sometimes wonder if the photo ed.s have ever seen an excellent photo, some of the crap they publish.....

  10. #10

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    It's really all down to the quality of the printing and the skill of the printers. You only have to look back at high quality work from the 1960's and 70's (thinking of what was done in Switzerland, etc.) to see the quality which was produced from Kodachrome and Agfacolor at that time. Or even some of the illustrated books produced in Germany from early Agfacolor.

    I guess that these skills have been lost now that everything is done on a computer screen.

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