quality of prints from slides

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by stephen_bakin|1, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. I have been using color negative film until now, and I know that
    slides produce better color saturation and contrast. My question is
    whether prints can be made from slides at reasonable cost, and if
    these prints would supersede the quality of color negative prints.
    Also, I am wondering if it is feasible to scan either color negatives
    or slides, and print from home, giving better quality prints than
    traditional prints made directly from negatives. The advantage here
    would be that images can be manipulated on Photoshop, but my real
    question is which method produces the best possible quality prints?
  2. Stephen, speaking personally I believe that it is possible to get truly excellent prints from slide film and, again speaking personally, I shoot little else. HOWEVER, try it yourself. Shoot a roll of Velvia or Sensia and have it scanned at the time of processing (at a good resolution) and or have some prints made via a Fuji Frontier or an Agfa D-Lab and judge for yourself. If you are in the US the film will cost ~$6-8, processing another $8 (there are cheaper options for both) and a PhotoCD could be anywhere from about $15 to $25 for resolutions of around 3000x2000. Cost of prints varies A LOT but at least you can decide which you want to have enlarged. EXPERIMENT!
  3. Digital minilabs can make excellent prints from slides (though, like any other minilab issue, if the person operating it is incompetent, you can also get horrible results).
    Whether they can exceed the quality of prints from negatives is another issue entirely. If you're looking for the pop you get from putting a slide on a light table, you aren't going to see it in prints; that's just the way it is ("Slides viewed on a light table have much more tonal range than a print viewed with reflected light"). Slide film also usually has less tolerance for high-contrast scenes and for exposure errors.
    As for scanning and printing at home, yes, it's possible to get great results this way, though to a large degree it depends on your skill with Photoshop (or similar). On the positive side, you control everything. You can increase or decrease contrast and saturation and brightness (and do it in specific parts of the picture or the whole picture), remove elements you don't want (like that ugly telephone pole in your landscape), and so on. On the negative side, some of this stuff is awfully tough, like getting good skin tones.
  4. Stephen,

    I hate having my negatives printed by someone else because the results can be unpredictable. I've found that there are several ways of making prints from slides:

    (1) Internegatives: old-fashioned, labor intensive (expensive) method. Probably gives good results but I've never tried it.

    (2) R-prints: positive-to-positive process, invented because cheaper than using internegatives (but still not cheap). It has improved in recent years, but quality still not great.

    (3) Scanning and then outputing digitally. Quality and prices vary hugely. A few highly talented and highly compensated individuals can produce prints that match traditional color prints. The other 99% of the shops will hand you inferior work, but you should check it out to see if it meets your needs because the prices in some cases are cheap.

    (4) Ilfochrome (formerly Cibachrome). Another positive-to-positive process. When done on polyester-based paper the results can be stunning. But it'll cost you at least $5 for a 5x7 print. This is my preferred method of producing prints from slides, but make sure you find a place that knows what they're doing.

    One note about printing from slides v. printing from negs. Printing from slides is more difficult and you have less control. For example, you can't control color casts as much. That's why professionals who shoot slides carry around dozens of color filters and expensive meters that measure the color temperature of the light.

    Also, the range between deep black and white on a slide is very large. This is a good thing when you're looking at a light table, but there is no paper that can capture that range, and there is no scanner that can capture the full range.

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