I've been a grocery-store film shopper for a long time. There used to be more choices. It's slowly dwindled to just Fuji. With bad results I really don't like their 800 speed film.
Oh, I also shot super-fast to avoid flashes and yet still take photos inside.
I've been really meaning to take my game up a notch for a while. Don't get me wong I've captured some nice (and some not so nice) photos but I'd like to try to get a bit better.
I've read a lot of reviews, read a lot of reccommendations, and I bought a couple rolls of film to check out.
Kodak Ektar 100
Fuji Superia Reala 100
The package from Adorama arrived just the other day. I now have 2 rolls of 36ex to test out and see if I like.
The grand experiment begins! ISO 100 is unheard of for me. Normally ISO 200 is unacceptable. However, I feel I can discipline myself enough to take slower shots (and use a tripod!) for at least a couple of rolls. I'll try bracketting shots for these first 2 rolls, which isn't something I normally do.
I'll also be using a flash more for indoors. I normally don't do this, but I have a decent one. I bought a diffuser for it (thank you Adorama, again!), a first for me. I've noticed the results from before and want less hot spots. Apparently I have to reduce the distance because the diffuser weakens the light.
If I like the results but not the speed, I may also try 400X. For now I really am impressed with Ektar 100's rave reviews and want to see it first-hand. After some initial doubt I added the Reala 100 because I want to compare the red-tint Kodak vs the blue-tint Fuji and see what is the best compromise (to my eyes) for both people, scenery, indoors, and outdoors.
The end goal: Find a new primary film stock to use! Once I am done I intend to mostly use that one type, but at least I'll have some good practice.
It's kind of slow in this group, activity-wise. I thought I'd share my plans.
Kodak is up first! I have an outing coming up end-of-month for my sister's birthday. Plan to break it in there. Until then it's not loaded yet for a couple of reasons.
I'm used to shooting 24, as the film often sits in the camera for a while. This is something I have read not to do with Ektar 100. With the 36 that's more photos, but if I'm bracketting it's actually less shots than normal.
I also intend to bracket flashes with and without diffuser, to see more clearly in the prints what the end result is.
Why do you have 'difficulty' to use 100ASA films ? When I started in 1951 Kodachrome slide film was 10 ASA , Dufaycolor was 6 ASA !! I can understand if you want to take floodlit football in Stadium where 400 or 800 is normal .
Difficulty because even at f/2.8 and 1/15 a second often times you still don't have enough light. There are too many photo opportunities to be had that don't occur outside at high noon on a bright cloud-free day
Difficult to pass on shots because there's not enough light, because people don't like sitting still while you set up a 'pod and run a 1/8 shutter (eye blinks, hand movements, blurs, blech!)
So, difficult to use because for the duties I needed it to perform it wasn't practical.
Also: Harder because of habit. I'm a casual shooter. I like some impromptu shots here and there (some candid, if I can get away with it) and usually faster shutter speeds are needed for this type of shooting. My habit is to think about the shot then make it. Now I have to stop and see if there's enough light.
I've loaded the Reala 100 already. Took a couple test shots (bracketing 1 metered and 1 an extra stop opened up for over exposure) as well as some flash test shots. One shot indoors at night with a bedroom light on -- not overly bright mind you -- took a full 1 second at f/4, and this was the widest stop available on the lens in question. This was an extreme exposure test, to see about low-light conditions. I'll give it a fair sampling of different exposures overall.
EDIT: I put the Reala in first because I'm saving the Kodak for a snowshoe trip on the 29th. I figure the slight red tint might help with brighter blue skies. Maybe. Worth a shot!
Finished the Reala 100 roll today. Think I might have screwed up my methodology, though. I've been trying to shoot 1, drop a speed on the shutter, and shoot another. I think for the last 4 I finished today I shot 1 speed, opened up the iris 1 stop, and shot another. Oh well! So much for being consistent! (Hopefully won't affect overall "quality" of the shot -- to be determined once I get prints back).
Will try to drop off for processing today/tomorrow.
Snowshoe trip this Saturday. Ektar 100 gets its turn then!
Okay, I got my Fuji Superia Reala 100 roll back today. Upon first glance (in the car) I was a bit taken aback. The film is nice and all but I was doubling the light on my bracketed shots and the difference between over-exposed and "normal" is almost imperceptible, as far as details coming out of the shadows. Only in one photo is it evident, and that's of a white kitchen stove against a white (ish) back wall. The double-exposed second shot has less well defined shadows.
Here I was thinking it would be pretty badly blown out! Twice the light, right? You think that's a major impact when you don't know any better.
Well, after going over it under a pretty bright light several times I've made some conclussions about my own personal review of Reala 100.
Some are not related to the film, but to other aspects I was testing as well.
The flash diffuser is a great hit! I like the faster falloff behind the subject and the generally better looking photo (hot spots on my self picture are more even and not as hot). Without the hotspots washing everything out, you actually get flesh tones (which is nice). I will definitely use it from now on, as long as the subjects are within the shorter range of distance it has.
The shutter release cable (also new) is very nice for not bumping the camera when triggering long 1 or 2 second exposures.
The film itself: Something was nagging me when I flipped back and forth between "normal" and "over exposed"... Because I was still hung up on the similarity of the 2 it took me a while to realize why they looked different. It took a while because I varied my colors, my lights, my enviromnets, and some looked identical while others did not.
The reds bleed out. A yellow creeps in. With just 1 stop my facial fleshtones were more subdued with an over exposed shot vs the "normal." I had a picture of a red wall with some canvas paintings with red on them. The normal has some more definition and ... I don't know if I'm using the right term, but more "hue" and texture to it. The over-exposed seemed to desaturate the red. I'll have to try some 2-stop overexposures next time, and compare.
But flesh tones, red walls, some red on a 4-foot nutcracker statue, and interestingly enough, the red tone on stone, brick, and wood itself all grew muted. Oranges of varrying brightness remained untouched. Some areas seemed to get a yellowish tint (very slight -- dark yellow rather than sickly yellow). Mind you this is after a long long examination and only my personal opinion.
I had read many reviews beforehand that Reala was blue tinted and isn't for use as a portrait film and all that. To my eyes that seems to be the case in the over-exposed shots. The normal shots have decent redness in them. Maybe everybody is over-exposing their shots in those reviews, lol!
Low light long exposure tends to pick up yellow tint as well even when properly metered. Some lower lighting indoors shots were taken as well as an interesting shot of some buildings during that blizzard Denver had 2 weeks back (you know, the one we till see lying in piles where the snowplows scraped it into mounds?). At the time there was hazy fog, but decent distance, there was snow, there was light polution... So I took 2 shots (1 twice the exposure). They turned out okay for a hand-held risky shot. However they were both much more yellow overall than it really was when I was walking to my car that night.
One bad thing, though: I do see a problem with dark areas. While using a flash and/or evenly lit with moderated light it's fine. When using light and dark, shadows, etc... The dark drops off too fast. It's too dark and too hot, there's no middle ground. Again, I don't know the proper terms and it's hard to describe. Take for example a shot of some buildings down town. The sky looks stunning. Perfect in color and tone as far as my memory recalls. The buildings oblique to the sun show up fine (in the background) but some in the forground that are flat to the face of the sun are too hot, and then the shadows just instantly drop. Not as bad as the 800 film, but still disappointing.
It's a nice film, from what I see, it really is. I'm just thinking it's not the best film for all ranges of photos. It's not general purpose, that is.
Ektar 100 is next! Loaded up and ready to shoot! The snowshoeing trip is tomorrow (Saturday).
Post script: I'm missing faster film! It is harder to take indoors photos with 100 speed. I may expand my test to include a higher quality 400 speed. If you have a suggestion let me know (color negative only, please)
I always got very good results with the Konica 400 ASA neg film but it has been discontinued ( still got about 20 120 rolls in the fridge) so try the Fuji Superia 400 it's also very good and was the film used by the Yellow Advertiser staff photographers here in Essex before they had to switch to Digital to save the company money on processing !
Bit of a delay. I'm slow, I know.
Ektar 100 roll is back. Going through it I like the way it handles shadows and dar a LOT better than the Fuji. There's more definition in there. It also handles over-exposure better.
For the most part, the colors look good both normal and over-exposed (sometimes 1 stop, sometimes 2 stops -- there was snow on the ground and at times I thought it was messing with my meter so I would bump it up to 2 stops overexposure). Overall I think the facial tones are better than Fuji, especially overexposed. They retain most of the redness in cheecks and whatnot at up to 2 stops more overexposure.
What's interesting is this odd side effect when overexposed with certain colors. When over-exposed 1 stop on certain things such as a stained wooden bookcase and a picture of some books it seems there's a brown/red/purple desaturation. On the normal metered photo there was part of a wooden book case. On the over-exposed shot it seemed that the wood color was "drained" a bit and the wood paler, and the grain more apparent. This also seemed to pop up on a few of my books. Books with reddish or purple backs looked a bit more "drained" and worn out as if the color was faded from years of use, but was not to the naked eye.
It's an interesting thing to note.
There seems to be a bit more of a yellow tilt inside (maybe a filter would be best for use with tungsten lights?) but outside it looks great. I really had a hard time telling any difference from some of the shots as compared to their over-exposed counterparts. It really is a good film. I don't think I can definitely say HOW good because of all the snow around -- I think it really changes most of the shots and that I need some more real-world, every-day, test rolls to be sure.
However, I would recommend it to anybody that asks. The down side is the slow ISO speed. I'll have to look into whether folks have push processed the Ektar 100 to 200 or 400 speeds, see what the results were. It might be smoother grain even with the push than other 200/400 ISO films.
I wouldn't say I've found my new "regular" film with the Ektar, though. That color draining was a curious effect and makes me worry about certain compositions. I'll try to scan the pics to show you what I mean.
I'm not at home right now and have not scanned the photos as I mentioned, but here's a good example from a webpage that tested Ektar 100:
Here's a metered shot:
Here's +1 stop exposed:
Here's +2 stops exposed:
Now, that just helps illustrate how the color bleeds away in some cases. Note this is a very dark blue color. It might only be in this range (dark blues) that this happens. It almost looks like it's desaturating back to B&W.
I had people with dark clothing, though, blues, blacks, etc, and this didn't happen in those photos. It really only seemed to happen on darker woods and certain books in lower light situation.
Blues and Greens seem unaffected (notice the vibrance of the grass behind the example pics above, even as the navy blue has turned to grey).
Also note this is just over/underexposing the film and developing normally. I'm still looking for a true push development review on the Internet.
I've read a couple of things online (blogs, flikr accounts, etc) that had folks pushing ektar to 400... It's possible but they say it adds a bit of contrast and grain. Some said it really started resembling Kodachrome (which I've never shot but naturally have heard of).
I think I might try pushing to 200 and 400 in the future. My developer claims to provide this service. Definitely merits future testing.
A couple scans from the Ektar 100 test roll, to show what I mean. I know I know, scans are subjective, but these scans were done with the same settings and the photo was taken with a tripod, exact same light and placement. The relative difference is what I'm showing, rather than the qualitive value of the film itself.
Normal metering (rough memory, about f/3.5-4 and 1 second):
Over-exposed 1 stop (rough memory, about f/3.5-4 and 2 seconds):
Now, a disclaimer first: It's yellow because the wall behind it is actually a yellow (I didn't paint it that way, not my choice!) and this bounced around the room a bit lending a slight tint. On top of that there are tungsten lights via a medusa lamp with ... yep.. one of them has a yellow plastic shroud. Granted this is NOT how you do it, but it was a test and I wanted a test photo. Overall the normal photo looks pretty good. Although I am beginning to wonder about the sharpness of my zoom lens.
Note the Screenwriter's bible. The text is a little more gold and a little less orange in the normal shot. In the over-exposed shot it appears like a more faded purple, as the book is more worn. That's not the case.
Note the Dilbert "Seven Years of Highly Defective People." The first photo is pretty good, compared to the naked eye. The near edge is not worn, that is the highlight from a naked bulb. Looking at the over-exposed photo this book looks positively worn. There is a scratch above the word "seven" in the red only barely visible with the naked eye that becomes quite visible in the over exposure.
In the over-exposure the white spines bleed out a little and start consuming the letters more. Note the "S" in "Professional" and the letters in the Bruce Campbell book. Remember, I did not refocus this at all. I did not move the camera. It was done via tripod and cable release. The fuzziness appears to be white bleedout, and this appears in another photo or two later also.
Note the wood on the far right of the photo. This is not entirely accurate to what my eye sees, however my eye white balances a bit. I see a bit more of a darker brown stain, this photo has a red tint. I think it's made much worse by the light, but look at the two photos. The real truth is in between, but probably much closer to the normal exposure. The second one seems to drain the color from the wood, bringing out some of the grain/details that are darker.
I think this is why folks over-expose ektar 100. It's a false level of detail at the expense of saturation in certain bands (red under yellow light, and apparently deep blue in the previous examples I did not shoot).
Over exposed (2 stops maybe, I did not keep notes):
Note 2 things specifically:
The over exposure loses a bit of the red on the skin tones (see person in front fiddling with glasses) but overall still looks presentable, where on the Reala it appeared to lose this redishness.
The detail on the black (jacket in foreground, ski pants in background, trees behind) really impoves, but at the expense of shades of white (notice most of the shadows on the footprints in the snow are consumed?). Also despite bright light and darker shadows, the overall photo still turns out great with no color correction. Either of these shots would make me happy, typically speaking, if I got them back from the developers.
And the final Ektar example: The white bleed.
Over (I think 2 stops over?):
Here's where it gets interesting... Going back to the fuzzy nature of the first bookshelf shots, you see a bit of a glow about the hat on the left most person... The white appears to bleed out causing a fuzzy focus if over-exposed. I think the face loses some redness not because of the lack of red, but because of the pervasiveness of the white creeping into it (covering it). Note things like the person second from right: Face is much crisper in the normal exposure. Why? It's not really out of focus. Trees seem about the same. Details on clothing look about the same. I think it's the white pigments again.
Because of the way it handles pure white, I would be cautious over-exposing this film. This is not to say "don't push the film" -- I have not tested that. Simply, I state it's less desirable to over-expose this film than to expose normally. (or, over-expose by only a little!).
Fuji Reala scans: Nothing applied (not even unsharp mask):
over (1 stop opened up -- all Reala tests were +1 stop, I was consistent):
It makes the whites brighter but removes most of the shadows and texture from the wall.
The Reala, to use my own words, sucks for any shadows or dark details. However, it has another slight problem with losing red tint as well.
Note the red brick on the building at the left. That is decidedly red tinted in real life. It loses redness with just 1 stop of extra light, and yet that extra stop of light does not help the foreground any. I zoomed in max to meter just the top of the fountain, then zoomed out wide to compose the shot. It did not help any. The actual photo is harder to see than this (the scanner brightens it a bit apparently).
Details on the fountain, the stone, as well as the concrete or lighter stone supporting it, are rather muted and swallowed up but yet the buildings behind come in bright and clearly detailed.
Loss of red tint, part 2:
Perhaps a better example showing the red tones of wood being lost:
See the wood lose its saturation in the second pic. It's subtle but it really does influence the photos as a whole. It makes you think "something is off" -- and it takes a while to realize why.
Why I don't like the Reala:
The reala can't handle light and dark in the same photo. If you have evenly lit interior shots maybe it's better. However, injecting some interesting light, some highlights, some shadows, makes Reala break down.
Here's an example also showcasing the red loss.
Note the Brown Palace on the left. It should have a red tint as well (similar to the fountain pic) but this becomes muted.
This photo also illustrates a problem with the reala: Over-exposing does nothing to help bring detail out of the dark. On Exktar this building would have shown a lot more detail, and would have appeared much more clearly. In my memory as I composed the shot I wanted the stark shadows to test this aspect of Reala. It was surounded by other buildings with the light hitting it just right to only illuminate the tower. However, it was mid-day on a bright sunny day with plenty of ambient light. There was more than enough light to see the building clearly.
Let's go to some normal exposures that show lack of light/dark compatibility in the same shot:
Metered this for the orange mixer bowl. Zoomed in, metered, zoomed out. The photo is worse than the scan. The rice cooker on the left is almost lost in shadows. The window on the right blows out a bit but the problem is the total loss of the focus of the picture: the orange mixing bowl. If you over-expose it loses a lot of the definition in the lighter areas, and does nothing to help the darker areas. The areas that SHOULD be "normal" are in fact under exposed. The problem with this film is that it is underexposed when metered properly, and cannot overexpose properly either. Damned if ya do, damned if ya don't!
Here we have another photo that's flattered by the scanning. The cars and buildings were all quite readily visible with the naked eye when I composed this. The only things that looks normal are the distant buildings behind the church and the red stone building. The shadows are far too dark and lacking too much detail, and the highlights look surreal. At lower left you can see the building from previous pictures (sitting in shadow) The colored pattern of the church stone loses its allure because it's washed out with too much highlight (it really was more of a checkered color).
And then we have the capital dome. Bright sunny day, some clouds, bright solid gold plated dome with a whitish grey stone building... I zoomed in to just the dome and the granite/whatever pillars and surrounding building, minimizing sky to meter the shot. This is the NORMAL shot but the over-exposure looks no better. There's no details. It's super dark. This is the main recurring thread for Fuji Reala 100. It doesn't do details well. Loses them in shadows where there ought not be any.
To be honest I have found this true with several other Fuji films, 400 and 800 speed. I had heard Reala was really good so I gave it a shot in a number of enviroments. I find it fails to pass my personal requirements and will not be using it again. It simply doesn't capture the image that the eye sees and the mind remembers. It loses detail, cannot handle light and dark together, and is only suited for controlled enviroments with precise lighting.
P.S. All of this is typed up and experienced from an amateur's point of view, looking for a good "regular" film to rely on. There may be more eloquent folks that test things differently, more scientifically, but this is my attempt at a practical test.
I'll be frank and say your Reala shots look bad. In fact they remind me of some lab scans I had done whilst I lived in Sweden. I was very disappointed in them and I questioned the film in the first instance. Unfortunately I had a 20-roll pro pack to use up. Later, when I bought a scanner I found those same disappointing shots where actually rather nice and I was glad I shot all 20 rolls of Reala. Later still I optically printed those Reala negs and now it's my favourite film.
Horses for courses, but I do wonder if it's worth trying a different lab before coming to a conclusion. Your experience sounds just like my initial experience with poor lab scans. That said, if you're happy with Ektar, there's no real point in labouring with another film. I would like to see you trying Ektar in the same lighting situations as you tried Reala, mind.
I have had similar loss-of-detail-in-shadow across a number of fuji film types, processed at a number of places in several states across the country. They share this trait.
My main focus will always be having print copies. I don't want to have to scan and digitize every shot I ever print just to get an acceptable print. I will concede the scans look better than the prints themselves, and this is without any filtering/color changes. I have no doubt you could make a nice scan of them if you put the effort in for every photo.
I'd rather have a film that doesn't require that. I'm somewhat confident in my latest processor/developer. It's an actual professional lab. Results so far are better than the typical 1-hour photos and the send-away labs I've dealt with in the past. I think it's just how Fuji balanced their film. Different films have different characteristics, I've come to learn. Fuji's and mine don't align apparently (and definitely not a slight towards anybody that likes Fuji, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks and all that).
P.S. This has definitely made me lose a bit of confidence in Fuji, but I would still do a roll here or there of a few other types that folks have recommended on a test-roll basis. It won't be my regular until it proves itself in my eyes, though
News on the "bleeding white" front...
It might have been the lens. I'm comparing 28mm, 50mm, and 75mm settings on the zoom to my 28mm, 50mm primes and the lower end of my 75-200 zoom. I haven't developed the roll yet (only shot 12 of 36) but just looking through the viewfinder I forgot how nice and easy it was to focus on my primes. The zoom seems soft and hard to focus with so it might have been my lens was the problem all along.
Might have to upgrade but it'll wait. Not going to have the funds for a lens for a bit unless it's super budget (which runs the risk of another soft lens).
First of all, I am quite surprised that you see such big variation between shots that were exposed with only 1 stop difference. In my experience the latitude of negative film should be able to handle this easily without any visible difference. 20 years ago Agfa advertised consumer film here with the claim that a 2 stop exposure error wouldn't make a difference.
Secondly, you noticed that the prints look much worse than the scans. This is not surprising, as you included huge contrast in your images and a print can typically handle a contrast of 1:30. If you look at the scan on your screen, the gamma settings make the pic look better than a print would ever look.
Third: Overexposing doesn't reduce contrast, so it won't reveal more shadow detail in a print, at least not for the scenes you shot and the tiny level of overexposure (again: 1 stop is nothing for negative film).
When I started using slide film I had to learn the hard way about the tiny latitude of slide film. Any shadow regions inevitably turned black, any bright spot would blow out, and I really had to learn how to control contrast in a scene. Negative film has huge latitude and is very forgiving to over or underexposure, but when it comes to contrast you are basically limited by the output medium, unless you want to go the full hybrid route and do a lot of PP resembling the dodging and burning we do in the dark room for B&W images.
And finally: despite the claims of all film manufacturers that all their films reproduce all colors perfectly in any situation, they don't. Good films attempt to produce pleasing images, not accurate colors, that's also the reason why there is (still) so much choice of color film out there. If the analog purists excuse me: For a while Fuji made DSLRs which were strikingly similar to certain Nikon models with (according to those who used them) a main difference: The Nikons reproduced colors accurately, while Fujis models yielded wrong colors but nicer images. People wrote that shows Fujis film heritage ....