Best Color Negative Film Options?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by baisao, May 8, 2012.

  1. I've been shooting 35mm Portra 160 and I'm not impressed with the results. I love the look of Kodachrome, but alas... (Scanning slides seems like a headache, otherwise I would consider Velvia 100)
    Are there any better options for color negative film than Porta 160?
  2. Portra 160 is a very good print film. No print film is going to give you the contrast or intensity of slide films like Velvia or Provia. The closest you are likely to get is Ektar 100. At least, that's the most saturated, highest-contrast color negative film I've come across in recent years.
  3. What are your results, scan and print, or just scans?
    I'm using Ektar 100 and the new Portra 160 and 400, all three are excellent films. I do develop and print them myself. No analog to digital conversion involved, just print the neg in a colour enlarger.
    Odds are you are getting iffy scans.
  4. I'm just scanning, using a Nikon CooScan IV. Sometimes it's nice and other times it's meh. Maybe I've just been looking at too much Kodachrome lately. The Portra 160 has a diminsionaly flat look in comparison. It also appears more grainy. I may try the Ektar as well as a roll of Velvia (I have the slide scanning adapter, it just seems like a nuisance to deal with slides.

    Speaking of iffy scans, my scans seem to accentuate grain compared to the prints I get from the lab. Whatever that's about!
  5. Jim, I would echo the Ektar recommendation.
    I use it extensively in both 35mm and 120 formats for landscape work.
    I highly endorse the use of Velvia 50 for slide work. Don't have many scanned but projection of medium format RVP is unbelievable!
  6. The Portra 160 has unnaturally low contrast, so that it can be used for wedding portraits (white dress, black tux). Think of it as being a somewhat HDR film. You need to add contast (snap) in post-processing to make the results look right. Crush some highlights or shadows with curves -- but you get to decide what to lose.
    Portra 160 is also the lowest-saturation C-41 film there is.
    Give Portra 400 a try, the grain is almost as fine as Portra 160, the contrast is normal, and the color saturation a bit higher.
    Ektar 100 certainly has the contrast and saturation of slide films, but it does not have the strong "warm" bias of Kodachrome. Think of something more like Ektachrome E100VS. So you have to watch out for the accurate (but annoying) blue shadows problem, which was rarely an issue with Kodachrome. It's also touchy about underexposure, where Kodachrome was touchy about overexposure.
    As for grain with Portra 160, I presume you're scanning at the full 2900 ppi of the Coolscan IV. Scanning at anything less than full resolution, the optical path isn't serving as a low-pass filter, and you can easily get grain aliasing. I haven't had any grain issues with scanning Portra 400, but I switched to a Coolscan V about the same time those films came out. So I don't know if it has grain aliasing issues on a Coolscan IV.
  7. If you're already scanning negatives, what's the problem with scanning slides?
    Portra is lower contrast than any slide film because it's supposed to be lower contrast. It's a portrait flim, designed for pleasing skin tones. If you're looking for more snap and stronger colors, you can switch to other films but there's also quite a bit you can do in Photoshop to make a file look like just about anything you want it to look like, within reason. Once you've determined the settings, you can then apply them on a batch basis. Actually easier to do going from a low contrast film like Portra to higher contrast results than the other way around.
  8. Scanning slides is actually easier, for several reasons:
    1) you preview the slides, and select only the ones you want to print, which savesa lot of scan time. Maybe only 2-3 shots are worth scanning.The rest can be enjoyed simply looking at them.
    2)slides scan sharper, with better color, and less grain than negatives. They can also be sharpened much more easily because of the reduced grain.
    I highly suggest trying it, I think you will find it is actually a better option.
    3)Only with a minilab scanner will you get reduced grain from negs, because those were $25-50,000 machines designed and optimized for scanning negs. They use a larger light source for one thing, which helps reduce the shadowing effect from film grains.
  9. +1 for Ektar 100.
    What software are you using for your scans?
  10. Brooks, I am using Nikon Scan 4 (hacked for Win 7 64).
    Randall, thanks for the suggestion and information on why my scans are excessively grainy.
    John, I haven't found the setting for ppi on Nikon Scan 4 but I have assumed that is scanning at 2900 ppi out of the box. Thank you for elaborating on the characteristics of the films mentioned here.
  11. 2900 would be in Tool Palette 1, Crop, Resolution. You want 2900 pixels/inch.
    If you liked Kodachrome, you would have liked Kodak Ektachrome Professional E100GX. But like all Kodak E-6 films, discontinued.
    I "go with the flow" with the Kodak "Professional" C-41 films. They are the only color films that are still being improved.
  12. John, thanks for that! I confirmed that it is 2900 ppi by default just now. I never would have found it without you. I searched the pdf manual for 'pixel' and didn't see it.
    Regarding E-6, I'm just late to the party. I sure wish I had started this sooner.
    I think I will give Ektar 100 a try and see how I like it. Thanks for the help, everyone!!!
  13. Since you would be scanning slide film and not projecting it, when you have it processed specify unmounted and cut in strips of 6. Then scan it just like color negative film, except tell Nikon Scan it is slide film.
  14. Brilliant idea, Brooks. Thank you!
  15. If a digital picture is so important to you why not go digital from the start?
  16. Brian, I shoot both formats. I wouldn’t say that a digital picture is ‘so important' to me. It is a way to share the photos that I take. Scanning is also a tangent of my query, but one that I am grateful to the people here for answering. It is false to say that one format is better than the other, as people often insist. Watercolors or oils. Pastels or ink. Cheers.
  17. Kodak portra 800 is a great film as well as any of the generic brands of Fuji.
  18. Though Fuji has stopped production, try Fuji Reala 100 while it is still available from old stock.
  19. Fuji Pro 400H. Shoot it @ 200 and be amazed. Beautiful skin tones also. Not reddish like Ektar.
  20. I have had very good luck with the Portra films. Yes, they tend to be low contrast, but what does that mean? I just go into PS Elements and I can make it any contrast and saturation I want?
  21. I like a film that is multi purpose. Kodak and fuji consumers films are great and inexpensive. The new Portra line is great also. One of my favorites is Kodak's B/W 400 C41 film. At the moment I am shooting a roll of Fuji superia 400. They all work nice and have slight differences to them. Whatever I shoot I like nice skin tones as I always shoot a few people pictures.
  22. I am trying Ektar 100 and Velvia 100. I'll get the Velvia back in a few days. I look forward to seeing the rsults.

    Robert, with the knowledge that has been shared here I was able to 'correct' some Portra 160 by adding more contract and warmer tones. I liked the result! While not ideal for portraits it worked well for the nature photos I recently shot.
  23. I'm more of a B&W guy -- and I know this will make people laugh -- but I like Kodak Gold 100. Ektar gives me this blue tint sometimes.

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