Film for New York: Velvia/Ektachrome/Fuji PRO 160C?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by johncarvill, May 4, 2010.

  1. Hi folks
    I'm all set for a long-awaited trip to New York at the end of this month. I'll be bringing my trusty Nikon D70, and my new Panasonic Lumix LX3, but also want to use my beloved Nikon F3 as much as possible. I'm looking for general advice on films.
    I had ordered some rolls of Fuji Velvia 100, but the supplier here in the UK is out of stock and my order has been cancelled. Now, since I already have a few rolls of Velvia 50 in the fridge, and have been reviewing some of my old Velvia 100 slides and cringing at the underexposure caused by wide dynamic ranges, I'm re-thinking my stragegy.
    I'm thinking, bring the Velvia 50, but also try some other films I've seen recommended. One of these is Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 EBX, which I gather is Kodak's (sort-of) Velvia equivalent, i.e. vivid and contrasty. Plus it should provide a bit more dynamic range? The other film I have seen recommended, a print film, is Fuji PRO 160C. I have seen people refer to it as (sort of) the print film equivalent to Velvia. ANy truth in that? Or any recommendations for a print film which will give me more 'punch' than general print films such as Superia etc?
    All advice welcome....
  2. Thanks, Les. I do have a few rolls of B&W to try, including a roll of Fuji Neopan 1600. But I'm mainly aiming to take some nice vivid colour shots.
  3. New York is the home of BHPhoto, I'd just buy most of the film when you arrive.
  4. Bob said it, don't bring it with you, get it here in NYC. There are tons of good camera stores and should be fairly well stocked--one less pass through the radiation as well!
    If you scan your film, I recommend a negative film for the better lattitude. Even as a pro who has continued to shoot film for much of my work, I haven't shot any chrome film, on location, since about 1998! Once I started scanning, there was no need. You can get what you want by how you process it and you have such great lattitude. I use almost exclusively Kodak 160vc, but have used Fuji as well--scanning yields little difference in the end product, which is more your choice than the films.
  5. Buying at B&H is a good idea... except remember they are closed on Saturday and Friday afternoons/evenings. Might put a cramp on purchasing depending on when you get in.
    If you want more 'punch' than regular C41 films, try Kodak Ektar. I've decided that if I want that, I much prefer Portra 160VC. It's easy to adjust it a bit in photoshop for more or less saturation, and I like the colors I get out of Portra more than Ektar.
  6. Yes, I know about B&H, and will almost certainly find myself heading over to 9th Avenue to pay them a visit at some stage. But I want to arrive in NY with plenty of film ready to go. I only have a few days and have quiet a few things, aside from photography, that I plan to do. So I don't want to have to shclepp around buying film if I can help it.
  7. The EBX, Elite Chrome Extra Color is definitely a good bet if you want punchy colors, and it also has decent skin tones. It is one of my favorite travel films.
    Also, Astia 100f may be a good bet if you are after better dynamic range and great skin tones (I assume lots of people will be in your shots).
    Avoid print films, IMO they are not worth the hassles, especially as you already have a digital. They are much more difficult to scan with great results compared to slide. They scan grainier, and the colors can be difficult to get right. As long as you avoid extreems of contrast, you should be fine.
    Also, you may want to try a roll of Ektar, but be very careful not to shoot it as your primary film, unless you are familair with it, and know you like it. It has very different color pallete compared to all other negative films (it somehow reminds me of an ugly version of Kodachrome), and can be VERY difficult to scan with good colors. It is very blue sensitive, and the shadows go blue like crazy (think - building shadows). Its great for sunsets though.
  8. The lighting in New York is contrasty, with the shadows in the deep canyons of the streets. Slide film is going to be an exercise in frustration. Especially Velvia 50, except for landscape shots in Central Park or across the rivers in open sun.
    If you arrive when B&H and Adorama are closed for the Sabbath, there's always Calumet and Alkit, who are open Saturdays. Any of them are so much cheaper than UK prices that you'll be in film buyer's heaven.
    I can't think of any film more in line with the rythym of New York than Tri-X. It's a gritty place.
  9. Thanks for the replies, folks.
    Good point about the contrasty light; certainly I have come to grief before with Velvia's unforgiving tonal range. But I don't think city canyon shadows will look as bad as, say, pitch black swathes of ocean.
    Anyway, here's what I've gone for, film-wise:
    3 x Fuji Velvia 50 (which I plan to rate 40)
    1 x Fuji Neopan 1600
    2 x Kodak Ektachrome Elite Chrome EBX 100
    1 x Kodak TRI-X 400
    2 x Fuji Professional PRO160C

    Interesting that I've received advice to avoid slide film, and to avoid print film! I look forward to experimenting with both.

  10. There's a learning curve to scanning color negative film. Once you're over it, it's the medium that gathers far more information than slide film. The reason for the learning curve is that you're totally on your own in terms of color balance.
    Sooner or later everyone who shoots color will need to get used to color negative, as it's obvious that E-6 is far closer to death in the marketplace than C-41...
  11. Velvia would not be my choice for NYC for the reasons stated by John Shriver. Although I love slide film I would go for the Kodak Portra line - the 400 is amazingly low-grain and can do wonders with interior shots. BTW I do the same thing as you - take my D70 and my F3, plus a P&S (in my case an old Canon S50 which does all I need it to). Enjoy!!
  12. I've had nice success for city architectural photos with Ektachrome E200, which has less contrast than most slide films. It does a great job digging into the shadows when you've got contrasty situations like in NYC. The neutral balance is also good, without imparting color cast to the stone & brick. Colors will not be nearly as saturated as Velvia or EBX, but won't be washed out either.
  13. Thanks folks.
    Dan Sapper: do you have any examples of your Extrachrome city shots I could have a look at?
  14. david_henderson


    I've been visiting NYC to photograph -from the UK- for more than ten years now and in that time I must have spent at least fifty days just walking the streets with cameras. Until the last year or so the vast majority of my colour work has been on slide film, mainly Velvia, some Provia. When I look back and think back over what I've been doing over that period and the results I've got, the following is very clear.
    • The only really successful shots I've taken with slide film in NYC are skylines and other big cityscapes
    • Avoiding the need for a tripod is key to being able to get the pictures you want. This means faster films. My tripod stays in the apartment unless i'm shooting "landscapes"
    • New York is more of a textural experience than a colourful one. B&W brings out those textures. Too often the brightest colour in a scene is a distraction. Having the distractions brighter than the subject is not, for me at least, a recipe for success in colour work.
    • In the canyons of the city, and especially in bright conditions the scene brightness range will be too great for slide film. Its sometimes tough to get a digital slr to work well, with another two stops dynamic range to play with. Of course colour neg film has even more dynamic range, but you don't get to know that you've nailed some very difficult lighting until much later.
    • IMO the best work I've produced in NYC has been on b&w film (TriX rated at box speed/ISO400) and for colour work, a dslr.
    • Typically I carry just one system at a time. Being able to walk all day with the camera, and then again for a week at a time, is a priority. I'll choose the medium that suits best the environments I'll be covering and note anything that I need to revisit with a different camera.
  15. David H ,thanks f or your very helpful comments. Fantastic B&W shot of Chinatown by the way , where can we see more of your NY photos?
    The more I think about it, the more I doubt I want to use slide film after all. Par ticulalry since I wi ll also have my digital SLR *an d* the Lumix LX3, ma ybe I should do most of my film photography in B&W .
    Your thoughts on tr ipods also strike a ahcord , I do n 't even think I 'll bring mine: hard to use in urban en v i ro nment , a bother to carry, and some doubts about whether the airline(s) wil l l e t me take it as carry-on luggage (n o way I 'm puttin g my Man frotto tripod in the hold!).
  16. I second what was just said above. NYC is a Tri-X kind of place. Shoot it at ISO 400. Color slide film is tough because of the great tonal contrast. If you really want color, stick with a print emulsion. For street work in the day, I like Kodak Portra 160VC. At night and indoors, try Fuji Pro 800Z; it's been discontinued, but still available. You'll find the 800Z handles mixed lighting sources better than the similar Kodak films. Also good is Fuji Pro 400H.
    If you want to shoot the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn or NJ in the late afternoon--the best time--go with Kodak Ektar 100. In fact, one of my favorite places to shoot the skyline is from Boulevard East in Weehawken, NJ, just a few blocks north of the Hamilton-Burr Duel Site. On a clear day you can get great views of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the south with a long lens. If you don't have a car at your disposal, you can take a NJ Transit bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal that runs along Boulevard East. I used to know the route numbers but that was 30 years ago. Go on the NJT web site for info.
    Another alternative is to take the NY Waterway ferry from Manhattan at 30th Street to Hoboken north. Great views of the lower Manhattan skyline right from the pier. You can wander into Hoboken, which is totally safe, and do some street photography or grab a pint and a meal at one of the many taverns that dot every block. One of the best German restaurants--with more than a dozen beers on tap and hundreds of brands in the bottle--is Helmer's on the corner, I think, of either 11th or 12th Street and Washington Street, within easy walking distance of where the ferry lets you off. Hoboken, NJ, along with Greenwich Village in Manhattan, are two of my favorite places to wander around. Perfect in the spring and summer.
    Good luck!
  17. John,
    Don't forget to post some of the finished product here after you get back!
  18. Yes, John please share with us your photos...!!!
  19. SUch a great forum, this. Based on all teh advice I've received, I'm definitely rethinking my strategy. I'll still take some slide film but will also try quite a few rolls of B&W.
    BTW, when people say 'shoot TRI-X at 400', I assume they mean shoot rolls of ISO 400 TRI-X, rather than pushing rolls of 100.
    I will of course report back and post a few shots, if I manage to take any half-decent ones.
  20. John, some people like to overexpose Tri-X and shoot it at ISO 320. I've been using Tri-X for decades and usually stick with 400. If I want to overexpose a bit, I can always open up on a particular scene rather using 320 for the whole roll.
    If you want to take slide film, I'd use that for the scenics, like the skyline, rather than on the street where you will get areas brilliantly lit and then other areas very dark from the shadows of the tall buildings. You can be in Manhattan on a sunny day and turn the corner, then all of a sudden it's dark shadows. Slide film does not have the latitude you'll need in those circumstances, but for a sunny skyline shot with a deep blue sky and puffy white clouds, you'll be OK.
  21. PS: Here's the website for that German restaurant I mentioned:
  22. Well, I'm back from NY, and starting to sort through my photos. Here's a quick sample, a digital one because I've yet to get my films processed. One of my aims for the trip was to capture the 'definitive' New York yellow cab shot. Didn't quite happen, but I had fun trying.
    This is actually a slightly adjusted crop - the original can be seen, alongside the crop, here:
  23. Just posted some links to galleries showing some photos from my NY (and Chicago) trip:

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