Is continuous tone with 'process' film feasible?
A few years ago a local historical society was changing their archiving into digital and offered, for free on Craigslist.org, twelve 100 foot rolls of 35mm Kodak ImageLink microfilm (NOT perforated!). I was the lucky 'buyer' and I gave them $10 for their bounty.
Since then I have tried to get continuous tone. I have succeeded only partially. With this film, if you overexpose, you get both highlights and mid-tones blocked. If you try to compensate with dilution or truncated development, you get (lighter) blocked mid-tones and highlights. You simply cannot overexpose this film as from mid-tone upwards, the 'shoulder' gets crammed and melds into one tone.
If you underexpose this film you get delightful highlights and usable mid-tones. But shadows are totally blank. The film is so contrasty that NOTHING seems to be a compromise. Folks, for low contrast subjects, NOTHING is better for tonal rendition. It is sensational. But any normal or high-contrast scene is either a technical disaster or becomes a special picture that, (for 'esoteric', aesthetic reasons only) is either under or over exposed.
Sometimes I wish to get as complete a record of a scene as I can and I overexpose (EI 4) to 'get it all'. As a result, my highlights become recorded at about the same value as do my mid-tones, but there is some shadow detail. Other times, I like a more stark, poster effect with completely black shadows and brilliant mid-tones and highlights.
Is there a way to force everything onto this film? Or is this simply not possible with process films of this type? I usually use a standard developer with baking soda added in order to reduce its activity, as this film attains density much faster than 'normal' films. - David Lyga