Which pictures were you talking about? The Ektar or the Fuji?
If the Ektar:
Regardless of what contrast or any scanning quirks/foibles applied to any single shot, those same quirks/foibles are applied to the overexposure as well. I scanned the images side by side in the same session.
The relative differences are visible, even if not an absolute test.
Is that what you meant about the contrast?
I referred to your comments on the reala from Feb 15, 6:17. Fact is that the scenes have a lot of contrast, much more than your eye vision would tell you. If a part of your scenery is only 1/50 as bright as other parts, it will inevitably look black on a print and at least very dark on your monitor, unless you blow out the highlights. For this reason I strongly contest your quote in this particular post: "Over-exposing does nothing to help bring detail out of the dark". The detail is most likely there on film in both shots, it just won't show up on a regular print.
Ah, I see. Well maybe I wasn't describing it all too clearly. That happens to me sometimes.
What I meant was (to summarize it) all photos have highlights, midtones, and shadows, let's say. Now with Reala the shadows in the photos turn out too dark, the highlights too blown out, and the mid tones rather flat or dim. There is no middle ground to get the best exposure because the highlights are already being overexposed, and if you crank up the light so that the shadows are acceptable, then the everything out of the shadows is toast. It leads to bad pictures, despite correct exposure timing.
I would ask you: If it won't show up in a professional lab's standard developing process and then with optical printing, what good is it?
If I wanted to color balance, use magic wand, dodge and burn different parts of the picture in photoshop after scanning it just to get it to look how the scene looks to the human eye, I'd be shooting digital instead of film. Other films can accomodate shadows and highlights much better than Reala, in my opinion. My previous use of Fuji was all supermarket-bought 400 or 800 speed film, and it shared this shadow/contrast/whatever-you-want-to-call-it problem as well, so I do not think it specific to Reala. I think it specific to Fuji's formulas. I feel I gave them more than a fair try, and I'm not ruling out using them again, but I am unhappy with the results.
Again, just my opinions. Using just this thread as an example, the same photo on Ektar 100 would have had much better shadow details. Supermarket Kodak brands also seem to handle shadows better than the Fuji line. I only have the 1 camera so I can't shoot both films side by side. That would be a nice experiment. If I ever get my A-1 refurbished I'll consider doing that, and just take every picture twice (once with each camera, even use the same lenses!) and have side-by-side examples.
As another note:
I understand what you're saying about latitude in exposure, and I try to take that into consideration (you have to in a sunny place like Colorado). I have a hunch maybe folks like Reala because it simulates that lack of latitude that slide photos have. Maybe? Maybe those folks that started with slides then are comfortable with the end result, or at least familiar with it. So in the end they like Reala. I come from a negative-only background. I never worked with slides. I did work with film going back to 110 cartridge types, though, and the lower quality cheap stuff on 35mm. From my upbringing, better photos can be had with a film that doesn't go black at the first hint of a slight shadow. I had many photos on one sunny vacation that were shot on Fuji. With a high sun in the sky, the subject would have a hat or cap on. Where the shadow from that hat/cap shielded their eyes, the photos came out pitch black. No HINT of definition or detail. It's not like when you looked at the person there was even much of a shadow. Light bounces. You could visually see the person's face just fine, as well as in the camera viewfinder. The film simply did not pick up any of it. Just gone. Faces gone all over the place. No other film brand has such a negative (no pun intended) handling of shadows that I've ever seen.
Film (or digital in its current mode of operation) will never be able to reproduce what your eye sees. Your eye doesn't see the whole scene at once, it rather scans across the area in certain patterns (these known patterns are exploited by folks who compose images! ). So your eye can adjust to the local brightness of individual areas within the whole scene - that's where the huge perceived dynamic range of eye vision comes from. Every aspect of a scene looks moderately lit and contrasty at the same time although the real brightness may differ by many stops between lit area and shadow area.
Take a look at this painting: If any modern camera would take a capture of this very scene, it would look absolutely awful. Light from a candle follows the 1/r^2 law, so you get a huge dynamic range in the scene which your film can't capture and no print or other display medium could present. Oil paintings can display a brightness range of no more than 1:30. Rembrandts claim to fame was not accurately capturing a scene on canvas, but incorrectly capturing it in a way that fools our silly eyes into believing it's the real thing!
So please tell me: what should do film do with a brightness range which clearly exceeds the dynamic output range of any display medium? You can adjust brightness and contrast of the image, thereby either compressing or expanding the dynamic range and/or clipping highlights and/or dark areas. If you compress the dynamic range so it matches the range of the output medium, you end up with a really bland image. Since most labs nowadays operate purely digital after scanning the film, they can bend brightness curves and perform other digital trickery to make typical holiday snap shots look good (it's quite possible that this particular lab does this better with Kodak films than with Fuji films). And as you have already suggested: you might just as well start this whole thing with a digital capture. Haha, the digital folks have just the same problems, unless they care about dynamic range of a scene they need lots of boring and tedious post processing to make their images look ok.
Personally: if you can't haul in Holywood style lightning equipment I'd strictly avoid scenes which contain large sun lit and shadow areas in the same frame. As soon as you have found a way to resolve the brightness range issue, you will notice that shadow areas have a strong blue cast which is nearly impossible to get rid of (even with digital post processing).