Colour film options at ISO 1600/ 3200?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by parasko_p, Jul 6, 2008.

  1. Hi all,

    I'm seeking a colour film which can be rated at ISO 1600 (and preferably 3200) with acceptable grain and colour, for
    low light street shooting.

    I generally use Provia 400x slide film, rated at 400, which scans very well and is not very grainy. I shot this film at iso
    1600 on two occasions. On the first, the lab push processed 2 stops and the result was very grainy and not to my
    liking. On the second occasion, the lab only push processed 1 stop and the results were not bad...definitely
    acceptable....but I'm concerned this was a one-off.

    So is there a colour film which can be rated at ISO 1600/3200 with acceptable grain for 11x14 prints and which
    scans well?

    FWIW, I am using 35mm Leica gear and a Nikon 4000 and 9000 for scanning.

    Any advice appreciated.
  2. My first choice would be Kodak's 800 speed color negative film. It will perform reasonably well when under-exposed by one stop. I wouldn't bother push processing. Pushing increases contrast more than speed and you can manipulate contrast digitally since you are scanning the film. I you really need 3200 speed, Then I suggest using Fuji's 1600 speed film. In either case, make sure your film is fresh. It should have more than a year until it expires. Two years is ideal.
  3. First choice Portra 800 or Fuji 800Z. Second choice would be Fuji Natura 1600, but you need to mail order it from Unicircuits in Japan. Fourth choice Fuji Superia or Press 1600.
  4. How does Portra handle being rated at 3200?
  5. I hate to say it but You're already working with the best. All the negative films will have more grain than slide film. And Provia 400 pushes well 1 stop and ok 2 stops. I've not found another chrome that pushes that well.

    All the color negative films I've tried look like crap if higher than 400 or if pushed at all.

    For B&W Neopan or aTmax. I don't care for the faster Ilford films, not contrasty enough for me. But I suppose Delta 400 would be fine too.

    Realize that most films designed to be native fast films will give you as much grain/noise as slower flims that are pushed anyway. An example is the Ilford 3200 B&W. It's really just an 800 film you can push 2 stops. Gotta love those marketing people.

    If I have to use anything faster than 400 pushed 1-2 stops, it really has to be digital.

    There is one way around this though. Depending on what you are shooting, if you can use MF or LF many of the 1600 films expecially Fuji hold up well with this minimal enlargement from 2 1/4 or 4x5. Not practical in some cases, but I still use a RB67 for formals, and a speed graphic for lansdscapes. These cameras are dirt cheap these days. Just a thought.
  6. Portra 800 at 3200 (two stops under) will produce recognizable images with shadows that are smoky and grainy. It might be acceptable for documentation purposes, but pictorial results aren't great.

    With a good fast prime lens, you shouldn't need 3200 speed unless you are trying to take pictures by moon light.

    Here's a technique to try for low light scenes. Expose normally down to 7 foot candles of incident illumination. As it gets dimmer, don't provide additional exposure. Let the camera underexpose the scene. You will find that the scene will be dark, but roughly similar to what you saw. With a long enough time exposure you can make a moon lit scene look like sunlight, but it wont look like what you saw. FWIW, 7 foot candles is equivalent to ISO 400, f/2, 1/30th sec. At ISO 1600 you could shoot at 1/125. Custom printing is a must with this technique as automatic prints will be too light with smoky shadows.
  7. I tried Kodak Portra 800 at 3200, and then push processed. What Ron A. said rings true (no surprise, considering that I recall him menitoning that he was one of the designers for Portra 800 speed film.) I would have been better off just underexposing Portra 800.
  8. Thanks for your comments.

    I should've mentioned that my intended purpose is DISCRETE low light street photography..hence, no tripod, larger format etc. Simply one lens (usually a 35mm Leica "Cron at f2) on an M7.

    Ron, could you please clarify your statement below as it interests me:

    <<Here's a technique to try for low light scenes. Expose normally down to 7 foot candles of incident illumination. As it gets dimmer, don't provide additional exposure. Let the camera underexpose the scene. You will find that the scene will be dark, but roughly similar to what you saw.>>

    Are you saying that you should set the camera to a handholdable shutter speed, regardless of whether the meter indicates the shot will be underexposed? And then do you compensate for this when processing?
  9. I have had good results with Natura 1600 from Unicircuits which I scanned myself. I recommend overexposing it slightly to minimize grain. It looks way better than Superia 1600 (more natural colors, less grain). I used a f1.7 lens under very low light.

    "Are you saying that you should set the camera to a handholdable shutter speed, regardless of whether the meter indicates the shot will be underexposed? And then do you compensate for this when processing?"

    It will be very underexposed so in the post-processing stage knock grainy shadows down to pure black. Just make sure something in the scene has some light or it won't have any contrast and will just look dark and murky.
  10. According to Ctein, push2 (5 minute) processing of new Portra 800 increases shadow speed by > 1/2 stop. Here's an old thread on the topic.
    I have seen some awful results from Natura 1600, maybe due to aging, but I agree with Roger that it's better than Superia 1600. Despite the label, Natura 1600 might be slower than Portra 800. Superia 1600 certainly is slower, according to Russian tests.
  11. The existing light technique I was describing was described by Don Gorman and Pete Chiesa (Kodak researchers) at a meeting of the Rochester Section of hte Society of Photographic Scientists and Engineers in 1971. It was the basis for XL movie cameras (movies without movie lights) introduced that year. The basic concept is that over a wide range of scene brightness, (from 1000 foot Lamberts to 1 foot Lambert) the reproduction looks realistic when the projected brightness (remember these were movies) was about 2 foot Lamberts. When the scene brightness drops below 1 foot Lambert it starts looking dark to your eye and the reproduction should also look dark. The simple example is a candle lit scene. it is possible to expose so that it looks like bright illumination, but this reproduction wont look normal. It will look more natural if it is darker.

    The approximation of this technique is to expose normally down to 1 foot Lambert (7 foot candles for a typical scene). For darker scenes, allow them to be under exposed. As Roger Smith suggests, they must be printed so that the darkest shadows are pure black. Otherwise the image will look very muddy. 7 foot candles is equivalent to ISO 400, f/2 at 1/30th sec. If you have an f/2 lens and 800 speed film, you can record hand held images at 1/60th. They will be dark, but the effect will look natural.

    This technique is an approximation. The presentation was in support of a product launch. Depending on the shadow contrast, there are times when you need a stop or so more exposure than what Gorman and Chiesa predicted. Experiment and see what you get.
  12. Here's what I would do to if I were to use high ISO film (or digital for that matter) and the final output is a print. Go to the website and get their pro version noise reduction Photoshop plugin. At the same time, download their free profiling target and print an 8x10 from it. Shoot the target slightly defocused so that what you get is an image on the film of various color patches that contains no detail except the characteristic film grain (or digital sensor noise) at that ISO. You'll see the pattern changes with color and lightness. Scan the film. Open the program and perform an auto analysis of this image to create a calibrated profile. Save the profile. Then take a scanned image of your grainy street scene and open it in the neatimage program. Tell it to use the previously created profile to reduce the noise in the image by the amount you specify. Since it will only negate the characteristic grain pattern for that film, the photos real life details will remain pretty much intact and you can get a pretty nice looking image as a result.
  13. Many labs do not really overdevelop ie "push" c41; but say they do. What they do is just fart around are do reprints of you underexposed negatives a couple times with different print settings. Here I use Fuji Superia 800; FRESH film to do low light work; and use lenses faster than F2. In LTM there is the 50mm F1.2 Canon I use on a Zorki; or the Noct F1 on a RD-1/M3/etc. Konica made a 3200 product in 120 size that I used for astro work; dry hyped in hydrogen forming gas to reduce reciprocal failure with long exposures; its was a 1600 to maybe 2400 to 3200 product; depending on how fresh it was. As film ages it drops in speed.
  14. I live in very Sunny Florida. Can I shot 800 speed color film and underexpose on a sunny day then shot at night at regular exposure? What would happen if I did this on the same roll? Thanks
  15. Color film can usually handle some overexposure with not adjustment to the processing. I don't know how much though.
    How fast of a shutter speed your camera can use is also a factor - if it can go to 1/8000, then you probably won't have
    much of a problem with 800 speed film.

    The other alternative is to buy an ND filter and use that during the day to help you get a good exposure, and take it off at
  16. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Underexposing one stop would be the same as setting the ISO to 1600. Why would you want to do that outdoors on a sunny day in Florida?

    The underexposed frames would be very thin. The printer should be able to handle that but you would lose some shadow detail.

    The normally exposed frames at night would be okay.
  17. Just try Fujicolor Superia 1600. I use it for low light street shooting. Both low daylight and the combination of low daylight and artificial light sources (no flash) work very well. At market places or in narrow streets with food stands etc. I find this combination of light sources often in Mediterranian countries in Europe and North Africa. The Fujicolor Superia 1600 produced excellent results for me last summer. I use prime lenses, i.e. F1.4/50mm and F2.8/24mm. Stopping down those lenses to F4.0 -5.6 at a speed of 1/60 sec, gives excellent sharp results without having too much grain. I'm also doing concert shooting without any flash with this film and it gives me the same excellent results.

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