about Film and Printing
NEWS: July 2004: Fuji's secret new Fortia 50 film info here.
INTRODUCTION return to top
Film is a very personal artistic choice. No one else can tell you what look you want, and no charts or graphs can help you either.
Your choice of film is far more important than your choice of camera or lens.
All films look very different. You can't learn much from a scientific data sheet. You have to go out and try them personally. What's important is how they interpret the light. When you find what you like, use it. It's that simple. There is NO absolute scale of what makes a film good for you or not.
It's up to you as an artist to choose what gives you the look you want. I want wild, vivid colors so I prefer Fuji's professional Velvia 50 slide film for almost all of my color work. (The new Velvia 100F is not as good, more here on that, and the up and coming Velvia 100 is likely better.)
There is no "best" film for all purposes, or even one purpose. You may prefer something different, for instance, Velvia is poor for photos of people because it makes them look way too red. As you have seen, I don't post my people photos which I do on my digital camera now.
You probably won't find Velvia 50 at smaller camera stores and definitely not at the grocery store, Target or Wal-Mart, but you can just order it here as I do. I use Velvia in 4x5, 120, 220 and 35mm sizes. It comes in 8x10 and bulk, too! To see all the different package options do a search at Adorama starting at FILM, then COLOR SLIDE FILM, then select the check boxes for FUJI, the sizes you want, ISO up to 99 and DAYLIGHT. I usually order in multi packs, for instance, the box of 20 rolls of 35mm, the box of 5 rolls of 220 or 5 rolls 120 and 50 sheet boxes of 4x5.
There is a new Velvia 100F that costs more than Velvia 50 and to my taste looks worse than Velvia 50. See my comments on Velvia 100F here. You can push Velvia 50 one stop to 100, and you can push the Velvia 100 a stop or two to 200 or 400 quite well, although only Velvia 50 has the wildest colors I love.
If you want 400 speed, try the expensive and good Fuji Provia 400F. No, the colors are not the same as Velvia 50, and yes, this is the best way to get ISO400 slides.
MAKING GREAT PRINTS (click)
AT WHAT SPEED SHOULD YOU SHOOT VELVIA 50? return to top
50. Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?
I shoot it at ASA/ISO 50 in every one of my cameras. Like what you see here? Then there's your answer. All the people I know who produce killer images also shoot it at 50.
If your slides are consistently too light or dark then, and only then, adjust either the ISO film speed setting or the exposure compensation.
Compensation possibly is a better way to do this, since you will not still have the camera locked out of automatic DX code reading and into some totally irrelevant ISO. If you use compensation instead of a deliberate manual ISO setting you'll still have the same compensation as applied to a new film, which is probably the thing to do on your camera anyway. This could save rolls of film if you put in ISO 400 film and forget to change the ISO setting manually.
There are folk tales about Velvia only being ISO 40. Some reasons behind this old wives' tale are:
1.) Conspiracy theories, like "Fuji is ripping us off, it's really only ISO 40" always excite impressionable minds, mine included.
2.) People's cameras don't even match to within +-1/3 stop anyway, so people categorically stating that the film needs to be shot at 40 are splitting hairs that don't exist. See Ansel Adams "The Negative" on the zone system. Most of my Nikons need to be set to 50, my L35AF needs to be set to 64 and my Minolta X-700 gets set at 80. Go try for yourself. Many meters read differently.
I agree that you have to figure out what film speed works for you on your camera because they are all different. Electronic cameras are super accurate for exposure today. What varies more is the mechanical calibration of the diaphragms on Nikon SLR lenses.
That's right, good old fashioned mechanical tolerances control how accurately your aperture stops down and therefore how accurate your exposure is compared to what the meter intended to do. Because of this one lens may give a half stop different exposure than another. I've seen this myself and have even had to get out the jewelers' screwdrivers to calibrate one Nikon AF lens the hard way.
Think I'm kidding? Go shoot the same subject like a blank wall so you can get the same image at different focal lengths for consistency with all your lenses. You'll probably see some slides made with one lens consistently brighter or darker (slightly) than slides made with other lenses.
3.) Here's the real reason: Velvia has the deepest, darkest, most vivid and delicious DMax of any color film ever.
Because of this you get deeper, more VELvety blacks than any other slide film.
You are supposed to make the slide look just a tad darker overall. This way you also get more sparkle in the highlights because they can get even brighter from the overall darker gray level. This is part of what gives Velvia its vividness: colors pop out from the jet-black background.
Velvia has a DMax of around 3.8D, regular Kodak VS film a weak 3.4D.
Let me make up the following numbers; I have not measured these.
If regular slide film is shot to put neutral gray around 0.7D (I'm guessing here at that value) then you can get highlights up to +0.7D above gray and blacks to -2.7D below gray.
If we do that with Velvia we get the same highlights, and blacks that get way down to -3.0D below gray.
If instead we aim to put our gray at 0.85D on Velvia then we can get highlights that hit +0.85D above gray, far more sparkly than with the old Kodak VS, and we still can get deeper blacks down to -2.85D below that gray.
Now when people just hold their transparencies up to the light in the ceiling or throw a bunch of them on a light table without masks their eyes close down and hide all the vivid deep velvety blacks. In these conditions one is blind to detail in the blacks. In these conditions one may be tempted to shoot for a slightly lighter transparency to match what one gets from lightweight films like Kodak VS.
On the other hand, this changes radically looking at projected slides or masked transparencies on a light box in a dark room. Now the shadows will start to glow on Velvia. If it was shot at 40 one will have duller highlights than if it was shot at 50.
Again this is all art. Do what looks good for you, but in all cases don't start off on a tangent like shooting Velvia at ISO 40. One always ought to experiment, but when experimenting it helps to start out where the manufacturer suggests.
In the old days of Kodachrome 20-40 years ago one got a little less bad colors by underexposing it. Today some people try to apply this to E6 films where it doesn't apply.
Velvia gets brown and dull with underexposure. I find Velvia always looks marvelous for me shot right at 50 on all my cameras. Shooting it at 40 would wash out what I shoot. 1/3 stop is a subtle issue anyway. Go shoot a bunch of things at a bunch of things and see what you like.
When scanning for digital I find I love the results from bringing up the levels on an underexposed Velvia slide even better sometimes than from a properly exposed one. Cranking up the levels command in Photoshop (moving the right-hand slider to the left) also increases color saturation.
SLIDES OR PRINT FILM? return to top
For what I happen to shoot I prefer the vivid colors I get from slides. Avoid print film, which is what 95% of amateurs shoot, unless you make your own prints or have an intimate relationship with one person who makes your prints. Here's why:
Slides are the actual film that was in your camera. The colors and exposure are whatever you did, period. Each film is a little different from other films, but overall what you saw is what you get.
Prints are printed from the negative that was in your camera. When printed, the printer again has to control the exposure AND the color of the print when making the print. This is because there is NO standard for how to print color negatives. Every brand and every different film requires different settings of the printer. Therefore many printers attempt to correct colors automatically, and therefore usually they screw up your colors.
There is talk of film makers attempting to adopt the same color printing characteristics for all negative films, in which case a new day will dawn for print film. That day has not yet happened. Stick with slides if you are picky about color.
Your colors are going to be different every time you get your print film printed and they are always going to be too light or too dark. I got sick of this.
If you print your own negatives, fine, because you know what you want. It doesn't matter if you send your film to either Costco or a pro lab, they all have automated printers that tend to eliminate all the careful effort you put in to get the right exposure or color.
If you shoot slides you can get better prints because you can point to the slide and tell the guy at a custom lab "make it look like the slide," although contrast tends to build up.
Everything you see on my site is from slide film. I can't get these colors from print film.
Ever seen magazines called "National Geographic" or "Arizona Highways?" All their photos come from slides, like almost everything you see in print. How? Scanned on a $50,000 drum scanner by a guy with a lot of experience.
Slides are also better than negs for scanning because all slides scan with the same settings. All negs need to be scanned with different settings, and therefore the colors are always off, just like your Wal-Mart prints. In other words, a slide looks like it should. Every brand and type of neg film needs to be scanned or printed a little differently to get the right colors. There is NO STANDARD for colors on the negs themselves, although film makers are considering this. Unless you go get some fancy scanning software like Vuescan or Silverfast that already has all the color terms in it you are just gambling with color when scanning negs. Even with those programs you still have 100 options to select to try to get the right colors. When I mentioned "settings" I am referring to the very complex color sync profiles you have to get someplace, not anything you can set yourself.
Today I'd also recommend Chrome in San Diego for any print film developing and printing. I just drop my stuff personally and you can ship your film to them. Tell them I sent you.
WHAT ABOUT REFRIGERATION? return to top
Don't worry about it. You can carry professional film like Velvia around for a year at room temperature with no problems.
I've been shooting Velvia since the late 80s when it came out.
I've never had any problems with anything, unlike with Kodak.
I'm constantly putting Velvia in and out of the fridge or freezer. Fuji Rep Phil Abel told us around 1995 that Fuji told him that it's best not to freeze the film, but I've never had a problem.
Also, don't worry about not having a fridge, either. I've had 4x5" Velvia loaded in holders out of the fridge for a year and unless you are trying to match colors for fashion work there's no problem.
Film is nowhere near as perishable as milk or cheese.
I keep loads of it in my fridge, but I also don't worry if I go away for a few weeks and have no fridge.
EXPIRATION DATES return to top
Don't worry about them.
If you keep it in the freezer it keeps forever. I have shot Velvia with expiration dates more then ten years out of date, and it was fine. This film therefore was probably made over twelve years ago. Sorry, I have not tried Velvia left at room temperature for a decade.
If you are a cheapskate and know film was refrigerated by all means pick up the give-aways from less courageous photographers cleaning out their fridges. Test a roll first if you have to shoot something important, of course.
Personally I don't worry about film I bought new and goes out of date a year or two. I save the ten-year old rolls friends give me for testing broken cameras.
WHERE TO GET SLIDE FILM DEVELOPED return to top
Slide films are developed with a process called "E-6." Look in your yellow pages under something like photographic processing, and look for labs that do E6.
You can drop film off most places like grocery and discount stores to go to a lab that does this, but the results can be bad. I use Chrome in San Diego where I just drop my stuff personally. You can ship your film to them, although if I were you I'd just go find a local lab. Professional E6 labs are in every city and many towns.
MOUNTING AND PROJECTING SLIDES return to top
35mm film usually comes back mounted in 2 x 2" (preferably glassless plastic) mounts so you can throw them right in your projector. Some pros save a dollar a roll and get them unmounted as just a continuous strip of film in a clear protective plastic sleeve. They then just mount the ones they actually use. Unmounted film is much better for printing and scanning, since you don't have to unmount them again! Personally I always have mine mounted. If you shoot something weird like half-frame (72 shots per roll) or panoramic like the Hasselblad/Fuji/Mamiya then of course you need them unmounted.
Some people used to fuss with glass mounts. You have to be very careful about cleaning the glass, since any impurities and dirt will be forever sandwiched in with your film.
There used to be an odd format called "Super Slides" that were about 38 x 38mm images also called 4 x 4 cm. They were shot on medium format cameras, either regular 120 format 2 - 1/4 cameras with masked backs, or odd little twin lens reflexes that took long discontinued 127 film, a miniature 120 film variant. You could then mount these images in 2 x 2" mounts and project them in many 35mm projectors. This big film area looked far better than 35mm slides, and also the square format has the strong benefit of always filling the entire square screen, unlike piddly 35mm that always has black on the top and bottom or left and right. Instead of the subject being in the middle of the smaller rectangular frame, the subject on a well done super slide gets huge and fills the whole square screen. Of course today it's even better to shoot real medium format below, and of course there's no reason you can't shoot and mount super slides today. More here.
Medium format film usually comes back in a protective clear plastic sleeve. If I want to project them (always jaw-dropping) then I mount them by hand. In the 1950s and 1960s when medium format was popular with amateurs you could have them all mounted automatically by the lab if you asked. I know of no labs today that mount automatically, but I'm sure some are still around. 6 x 6 cm and 645 film goes into 7 x7 cm square mounts I get here and 6 x 7 cm film goes into these mounts here which are 85mm on a side. Tip: I shoot 6 x 6 and when I have an image better suited to a vertical or horizontal crop I just mount it in a 645 mount and move the film a little to get the crop I want. This always looks great when projected, and of course you just take your film out of the mount undamaged when done the show. The 645 and 6 x 6 mounts all go in the same projectors and trays.
You don't mount 4 x 5" and larger transparencies. You can tape them into cockamamie cardboard frames or whatnot, but in any case you still have to shuffle them in and out of any projector by hand.
35mm projectors are easy to get today, since businesses have been carting them out to the dumpster for the past 5 years since businessmen now use electronic projectors for their presentations. Likewise, many amateurs will be dumping them in favor of electronic projectors in the near future. Thus you ought to be able to get one for free. This also is why Kodak has announced they will stop making them in about 2005. Who cares; there are already too many of them out there and Kodak made the worst I knew of anyway today.
Personally I use an inexpensive made-in-Germany Leica P150 projector I got here for $250 brand new. I threw away the included 85mm f/2.8 Hektor lens which is as crummy as the ones all the Kodak projectors have and bought a Leica 90mm f/2.5 Colorplan-P2 lens like the one here for $130. Thus for less than you'd pay for a new Kodak Carousel I have a Leica projector and lens that really lets me see what's on my slides. The P150 is intended for light duty; if you really want to beat on it then you're looking at a $1,000 projector from Leica. I love my P150 because the optics are unbeaten at any price and I don't use it often enough to warrant a tougher model. The Leicas use a much better slide tray system than the Carousel system that used to be popular in the USA. The LKM style trays used by Leica and other European projectors cost less, work more reliably and don't waste all the space that the Carousels did.
Watch it: it's always tough getting the whole slide in focus. The lens above is flat-field and best with glass-mounted slides. A curved-field lens is better for cardboard or plastic mounted slides. With plastic mounts either one will work. This gets iffy with no glass; as the slides pop and then heat up they wiggle around and thus CF and FF lenses are better depending on brand of mount and humidity. I use a curved field lens for my plastic mounted slides.
Medium Format (645, 6 x 6, 6 x 7, 6 x 9 cm)
Medium format projectors come in two or three flavors.
The cheapest flavor is to go find a 1950s or 1960s amateur projector which you can find at garage sales or your grandfather's garage. They used 500W tungsten lamps and work OK, although dim due to the inefficient bulbs and optics.
The best flavor, if you are as frugal as I am, is to buy a basic modern 250W halogen projector like this Kindermann here for $700 new complete with an OK lens. This is what I use. It has the same lamp, design and brightness as the next flavor,
Of course the two flavors above only show the 7 x 7 cm mounts for up to 6 x 6 cm originals. If you shoot 6 x 7cm then you're in trouble. You can either find an antique, buy the Mamiya Cabin totally manual (you have to feed each and every slide in by hand) projector here for $1,200, or if you want even the basics of a tray advance or autofocus you have to spend many thousands of dollars for der König der Diaprojektoren, das Göetschmann.
To project 6 x 9 cm slides you have to look at a 4 x 5" projector below or go look for antique projectors. Good luck. 645 and 6 x 6 cm is pretty easy to project and manage. At 6 x 7 cm and bigger you have hit the fringes of practicality today.
4 x 5" and Bigger
For 4 x 5" borrow an ordinary and fast becoming obsolete (and therefore free if you keep your eyes peeled as I do) overhead projector. I just make a cardboard mask and project away. Most of these projectors had bad lenses; keep your eyes peeled for one of the better ones with a good lens and you'll do great. Here's one if you can't borrow one. Of course the overhead projector works perfectly for 5 x 7" and 8 x 10" and anything you can stick in it. Just remember as the format gets smaller you have to get further away from the screen to fill it.
If you prefer, Noblex makes a dedicated $3,000 4 x 5" projector here.
Black-and-White Film return to top
For B/W there really is no visible difference between films except to experts who develop and print their own work. It's all in how and where you have the film developed. So few people expose B/W film properly that most people who think they are seeing differences between films are really chasing their own exposure issues. In any case one can elicit the looks due to subtly different curves in Photoshop today anyway.
B/W is very different from color. Every film is usually a stop or more different in speed, unlike color which is usually dead-on its rated speed. Thus you have to perform zone-system tests when you start using a new film, otherwise you get poor results most people do at first. Get Ansel's book "The Negative" where he explains how to go all this, or the next paragraph where I explain it a little more simply.
If you want no grain then shoot Kodak T-Max 100. If you want faster film try T-Max 400, and if you want grain try Kodak Tri-X, or for really grainy try Kodak T-Max 3200 or Kodak Recording Film 2475. You'll have to get special and potentially expensive B/W developing for this, or do it yourself. B/W is easy to develop and print yourself, and very difficult to find a lab that will do it well.
Others prefer Ilford Delta 400 and the list goes on. Whichever you choose, stick to it unless you shoot 12 rolls a week. Back to the lover analogy, you need to become intimately familiar with how your film responds under different conditions. If you try to mess with many films you'll never know anything about any of them because you'll be so confused with the very, very subtle differences among them. Don't listen to the guy at the camera store who claims that there is such a big difference between films.
Personally I shoot Velvia color slide film, scan it, and convert it to B/W for my modern B/W work anyway. Yes, I've won awards and had these prints exhibited in museums over other people's prints made with traditional B/W methods and film.
A huge advantage of having a color film source is that you can control the effective filtration after you shoot the film. In other words, by playing with the channel mixer in Photoshop you can get the same look as having used various color filters over the lens with B/W film. By using the channel mixer with color film you have complete and continuous control after the exposure, and the real reason to do it is you can effectively use different effective filtration for different regions of the image. That makes this method superior to traditional B/W film.
Black-and-White Film Speed Testing return to top
Everyone makes this so difficult. It's easy, it's very important, and you should only need to do it once.
1.) First you have to have a lab picked out that you know is developing the film properly. (Personally my life is too short to do my own developing. If you develop your own film this gets a lot tougher since you also need to calibrate your development at the same time. For this I refer you to Ansel's book "The Negative" again.)
2.) Shoot a gray card at many different film speed settings depending on how lucky you feel. Read all the way through and at the bottom for suggestions on how to shoot the card. You don't want to miss the correct value in the interest of saving film and wind up having to do this all again! Feel free to shoot a whole roll at 1/3 stops, or just bracket in 1/3 stops from the rated speed from two stops slower to one stop faster. In other words, for an ISO 100 film try it at at least ISO 25, 32, 40, 50, 64, 80, 100, 125, 160 and 200. Make sure to put a little index card next to the gray card with the speed written on it so you know which neg is which. This is much easier than taking notes and trying to correlate later. Leave the lens focused at your typical shooting distance; if you focus close on the card you may actually bias your measurements to overexpose by 1/3 of a stop since some lenses that extend as you focus close can lose as much as 1/3 stop of light. Try to fill the frame with the card to make the measurements below easier.
3.) Go find a densitometer. A densitometer is a scientific instrument that gives a numerical reading of a negative's darkness, or density. Your lab ought to have one. If they don't have one you may want to worry, since that means they are not keeping tabs on their processing. If your lab are smart alecks they may ask you if you want visual density or R, G or B. Whatever, ask for visual, if not just look at green or blue. Just use the same type of reading for everything. If worse comes to worse you can take your B/W negatives over to a color lab who also ought to have a densitometer. Now:
3a.) Measure a clear (unexposed part) part of the negative. It will probably read something like 0.07, and the exact value will vary with your choice of film anywhere from 0.01 to 0.10 or so. It's not important. Ansel called this value "base plus fog." Depending on your camera, you may just want to leave one frame blank to make making this measurement easy. The densitometer typically needs a spot about 1/4" to make the measurement.
3b.) Measure the different frames of film. They will probably read between 0.50 and 1.00 or so.
3c.) Subtract the clear value ("base plus fog" or b+f ) from the values of each frame. These values are the film density above the b+f, which is what counts.
4.) See which frame of film gave you a reading closest to 0.70 above base plus fog. (Probably the card that measured about 0.80, minus 0.10 b+f = 0.70 above b+f.) The ISO used to shoot that frame is the ISO you should use. Hopefully you remembered to include a little card in the side of the image so you can just see what ISO you used. If two frames are just as close to 0.70 as each other then use the ISO for the card that read a little higher than 0.70 (0.75 for instance) when you subtracted the b+f value.
Note that I never said what meter to use or what filters. If you are loony you can do this for every meter, every filter and every light condition and use those ISO values in each case. Personally, I suggest using whichever meter and filter you usually use and stopping there. Each lens will test a little different, too. Don't worry too much about all this.
You also should try this with each filter (Yellow, Red, etc.)
Here's what I do:
Meter: Pentax Digital Spot meter, no filter over the meter.
Film: Shoot in daylight with a yellow filter (my standard) over the lens.
Personally I also shoot these tests for all my different filters, but I'll just tell you the results to save you the trouble.
I get a speed for my film from the above process. I set it on the meter (no filter) and use a yellow filter on the camera and shoot away.
If I want to use a different filter, like green, on the camera, I meter through the filter, setting the film speed a little differently, and then put the filter back on the camera and shoot. The slightly different film speed settings are because the meter responds a little differently to colors than the film does. I use these values:
If you do this correctly you can shoot a gray (or green or purple or white or black) card under any light with any camera filter and all your exposures will print as the same gray. This is important. Now that you see how difficult it is just to get gray to print gray you may understand why so many people's negatives are often incorrectly exposed. Getting the correct exposure in B/W is difficult because you always compensate for exposure in printing, so often you won't know if you got the right exposure unless you calibrate like this.
If you do calibrate like this you will get loads of great images that are easy to print!
Black-and-White Processing return to top
Unlike color, you can do this well yourself, or send it to a real B/W lab. Many pro labs claim to do B/W film, however most of them just process all B/W films the same and if you dislike the results blame it on you.
Sadly, all B/W film has to be developed differently in different developers. Unlike color film, there is no standard time or developer, thus every roll brought in has to be developed differently in a real B/W lab, and this is why even the expensive pro labs usually just process everything B/W the same way. Thus many films are over or underdeveloped, and the lab blames it on you. Ensure to ask a prospective lab indirectly if they develop all films the same, and if they do, don't use them.
There are a couple of good B/W labs I've used. The lab I used in San Diego evaporated in 2005. When I worked in Hollywood I used Photo Impact. They developed my film exactly as it should have, even when I got sneaky and sent them test wedges I read on a densitometer. They were dead on, so if you don't like your results you need to get better calibrated. Their development was far more accurate and precise than my ability to expose film!
As of 2006 in San Diego I'm going to try North Coast Photographic Services, (760) 931-6809, 5451 Avenida Encinas, Suite D, Carlsbad, CA 92008.
Black-and-White Printing return to top
See my separate page on black-and-white printing.
DOES ANYONE STILL USE KODAK COLOR FILM? return to top
Not that I know of. Funny that I refer to films like Kodak VS and E100G as "old." Velvia came out in 1989 and Kodak ever since has been trying to equal it. They keep trying, and every 2 years come out with some other weak attempt to duplicate Velvia. Remember Lumèire and E100VS? It's unfortunate for Kodak. Even if they invented a film that gave the vivid colors and deep velvety blacks of Velvia I would avoid it because it would take me some time to learn how it interprets color, and then Kodak would discontinue it.
Grain and film speed have nothing to do with colors and how good a photo looks.
Longevity is also important to me. The only even partially valid data out there to guess at how long our color film will last is Henry Wilhelm's. His tests show that the Fuji films ought to last longer than Kodak's E-6 films. Kodak poo poos this, which proves the fact that Kodak agrees that Fuji is superior.
I don't know about you, but I want my images to look great in 30 or 40 years. Much of what you see on this site was shot about 10 years ago on Velvia. My 10 year old Velvias still look far better than 10 year old Kodachromes.
Kodachrome lasts forever, but looks crummy to begin with. According to Wilhelm, Ektachrome will be faded before the Fuji films.
Of course if you like what you see on Kodachrome, by all means use it. This is art, and no one can tell you what you like and which is best. Kodachrome looks great for skin.
It is important to have films that stay available from year to year. Kodak changes film types every year or so in the interest of some clueless scientist's quest for less grain and more accurate duplication of bogus color charts and continual failed attempts to imitate Velvia. By doing this artists can never tune their process around Kodak film by the time it goes out of production. My experience with Velvia across three decades (80's, 90's and 00's) allows me to tune my images even before they are exposed.
I use Kodak B/W film, but don't see any point in their color films.
For instance, Kodak was silly enough to discontinue Tri-X B/W film, introduced in the 1950s, when their scientists invented T-Max because the aesthetically ignorant scientists thought that just because their new invention had less grain and more resolution that no one would want Tri-X anymore. What those folks in dreary Rochester misunderstood is how important an artists' experience with certain tools and media is to that artist's ability to create. Artists invest considerable time in learning how a material reacts and sees the world. Once we know this we can use that material to produce consistent results. It takes a long time to get familiar with new materials.
There was enough outcry that Kodak continues to make Tri-X, although Kodak has no idea why people buy it.
WHY DON'T I LIKE KODACHROME? return to top
Kodachrome always looks greenish, especially in the highlights. Everything looks as if were shot through a car window. When Kodak introduced Kodachrome Professional in the 1980s this problem was supposed to go away. It didn't.
On the other hand, it makes people's skin look great. As I said, I usually photograph things as opposed to people.
Technically, if you look at the curves I told you to ignore above you can see how the green curve moves away from the red and blue curves at the highlights, which proves that Kodachrome goes green just before it goes clear. This makes white clouds look awful. Forget the curves, just look at the pictures. You cannot tune this out with color printing filters or gels over the taking lens, although you can tweak it out in Photoshop if you are advanced.
I shot Kodachrome for decades. I didn't know any better until I tried Velvia in 1989 and saw the light.
Real pros whose work was printed in magazines, catalogs, posters and books used to shoot Kodachrome because the color separators who made the color printing plates for the printing presses knew how to get the colors from Kodachrome to look great because they'd worked at it for years. Because Kodachrome was similar from year to year the separators got very, very good at getting great color from Kodachrome, so they didn't bother learning how to get great color from all the other films that came and went every year. Thus all the pros shot Kodachrome up till 1990. The color looked great coming off the press, even if it looked awful on the slide.
This was great if you were shooting for reproduction, but awful if you were shooting for projection or photo prints.
Because all the pros shooting for repro shot Kodachrome before the 1990s many amateurs though that they should shoot it, too. Today the only people who shoot Kodachrome are amateurs, and usually Leica camera collectors at that.
What is great about Kodachrome is that it does not fade when stored. It should retain the same green tinge for decades. My 1973 and 1989 Kodachromes look exactly as they did when they came from the lab, but then again so do my 1989 Velvias, and boy oh boy do the Velvias look so much better!
RELUCTANT COLOR PRINT FILM SUGGESTIONS return to top
If you insist on using print film, I prefer Fuji Reala 100 print film if I'm photographing people. If you want a more general purpose film for use also in dim light without flash I used to use Fuji 400 or Fuji 800 film before I got my D1H for these things.
Today I'd use Chrome in San Diego for any print film developing and printing. I just drop my stuff personally and you can ship your film to them. Tell them I sent you.
Don't worry about print films. Worry a lot about where you have them developed. Any print film will look fantastic when printed well, and the best film shot by an expert will look awful when developed or printed in most places.
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