Why do you still shoot color negative film?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by randrew1, Oct 26, 2014.

  1. This is not intended as a film vs. digital debate. There are plenty of good reasons for shooting digital. Digital users can make their own lists in their forums. I can think of a number of reasons to use color neg film. I'm sure others will add many items to this list.
    1. exposure latitude
    2. swings and tilts of a view camera and also need short exposure (precluding scan backs)
    3. image quality of large format
    4. willing to risk a one-time-use film camera on a white-water raft trip
    5. already have film equipment
    6. because I like film
    7. ?
  2. It's cheaper than slide film, from beginning to end. Shame, because slides 'force' you to get exposure right. And slides are, in one way, easier to scan - because you have the original to compare with the scan. Negatives, though, require 'interpretation'.
    Also, negative film has superior resolution. From what I have seen, Ektar 100 holds more detail than any 100 speed slide film. It has always been the case ever since Ektar 25 was released. I doubt things have changed. It's a puzzle as to why that is, though.
    It must be said that negative film just looks good. Fuji emulsions have a certain look which I really like. One of them, 800Z, has been discontinued, unfortunately.
    I don't shoot a lot of film these days but I'm about to scan some negatives I took a couple of months ago...
  3. The varying tonal characteristics between fims.
  4. I can't find a digital back for my F3?
  5. If you don't mind spending extra money, some labs will deliver excellent scans when they process the color negatives. And, if you use a sufficient volume of film, you can process it yourself with a C41 kit. The local source of C41 processing recently stopped so I'm doing mine at home with a Unicolor C41 kit.
  6. SCL


    To use up my supply....then it will probably be digital for most of my color. I don't want to process color at home, and the places I've used for years have basically shut down.
  7. Because I have 5K feet of Vision film I can process at home.
  8. first i really like film and i am really considering trying my hand at c-41.
    the down side is why many big outlets return prints and scans but noty negatives?
    why use film if the big boys discard your negatives.?
    after ex[posing film in a camera with a great very sharp lens why settle for poor quality?
    this is the argument against using color negative film.
    I just cannot understand that.
    there athere are few places that process in the old fashoined way.
    despite assurances from walmart. I do not trust them to return negatives.
    my negatives are equiv to 22 mp and the scans are equiv to 6-8mp.
    why bother.
    1. Kodachrome and Polaroid Type-52 are no longer made
    2. If I'm going to shoot film cameras the alternatives, practically speaking, are C-41 or D76.
    3. C/N and Ilford XP-2 allow shooting at a wide range of settings without having to hit exposure right on the nose.
  9. I have only one reason is that I already have perfectly good film equipment.
    I do like to use the view camera and large format but I don't have those equipment.
  10. I don't shoot color film anymore because there are no RA4 minilabs in my area. And I don't want prints made from low quality scans or "dry" prints with obvious scan line artifacts. I can get that at home with my 10 year old printers. Our last pro lab shut down several years ago. Our best neighborhood minilab closed its film processing minilab over a year ago. They only do dye sub prints now, most of which are murky and lifeless, and the printer jams on b&w prints with deep blacks.
    Too bad. That particular Walgreens had for years been one of the best minilabs in town, because the lab managers were always enthusiastic amateur photographers themselves. I stuck with them and their various Fuji minilabs through the transition from RA4 and optical enlargements, through the early glitches with digital printers, and finally the film-to-"dry" prints phase. Usually they worked out any glitches and delivered good work at a fair price. But when the last lab manager, Valerie, left, and the film lab was ditched in favor of a dye sub printer, I stopped using color film even for snapshots.
    I realized years ago that I don't have the same relationship with color film that I do with b&w. I don't care a thing about color film itself. I don't sit around gazing lovingly at color slides or negatives. I never did any color darkroom work and have no interest in doing so. It's the prints I relate to. And not fine art prints of static subjects, which mostly bore me, but candid photos of people - family, friends, anyone. For me, color photos represent a link to the past. They aren't timeless but very definitely of an era.
    Last night I browsed a few dozen color prints of my family dating back to the 1950s, as part of a project I'm assembling for a family book. There were tremendous variations in image quality, due to many factors: the wide variety of cameras, ranging from my dad's Spotmatic to my grandparents' Polaroids and Instamatics; and due to the variations in print processing. Some labs did excellent work - a 1963 Kodak lab print of my dad looks as good as new, with that classic look of accurate, tasteful color. Other labs did terrible work and many minilab prints from the 1970s-'90s are badly faded and color shifted.
    The vast majority of our Polaroids - from the peel era to the self contained era - look as good as new... and as bad. The Polaroid process is remarkably stable and resistant to fading. It's just that the cameras were often terrible and many photos are out of focus, blurred and badly exposed. Most of the consumer grade Polaroids had awful ergonomics that defied steady handholding: worst of all were the shutter release slider thingies with all the finesse of a grade school paper punch. I kept the earlier bellows types with rangefinder focusing for as long as possible.
    But I still treasure those prints and try to emulate that look - actually, those looks, because there were many - with my digital snaps and home prints. I've found my technologically obsolete decade-old HP and Epson printers are useful for emulating the looks of lower quality minilab prints and Polaroids. Some generic ink refills produce mediocre results compared with the original OEMs - forget accurate color matching - but are so cheap it's worth trying a dozen prints to get one that looks very much like an older family color snapshot.
    Find me a minilab doing optical enlargements and RA4 processing, and I'll happily drag that color film out of the fridge. I haven't thrown it out or given it away, so I'm still hopeful.

    A selection of family photos I perused last night, ranging from the 1950s-'80s, from Kodak's outstanding photo finishing and archival stability, to inferior processing, to peel-apart Polacolor prints. These are what interest me, not the film. Color film isn't a talisman for me, it's just a link in the chain to the family anchor.
  11. Karim, are you sure that negative film has higher resolution than transparencies? I think slide film is higher resolution than negative film but has less exposure latitude and therefore requires more careful exposure.
  12. Lex's examples raise a good question. When you are creating an album of old family images, do you reproduce the faded and poor color images as they are, or do you restore the color to what it once was (or should have been)? I prefer the latter.
  13. Here's my quick restoration job on one of Lex's images.
  14. Thanks, Ron, I would indeed try to restore some of those badly faded/color shifted prints. I'm not necessarily looking for accuracy so much as clarity of the people in the photos. Many of my family snaps suffer not only from fading and color shifting but serious exposure problems - flare from backlighting like the example you worked on, under/over-exposure, etc.
  15. I shoot less and less c-41 these days. It's a pain getting the chems and not worth sending out. Too bad, as I have a reasonable pile of film here. It will probably rot.
  16. Reasons I shoot color film:
    (i) Portra 160 and 400 usually give me good skin tones (and other tones), right off the scanner.
    (ii) I rarely have to horse around with the contrast-- exposed correctly, or a bit overexposed, Portra usually gives me an OK contrast curve with no need for adjustments.
    (iii) I don't make many exposures, and I don't do this for a living, so I can afford the luxury of using film. And I have excellent developing and scanning about 1km from where I live.
    (iv) Of course, I don't limit myself to color. I use Ilford XP2 and HP5 as well.
  17. In recent years I do B&W film and color digital. Except one roll of C41 in a waterproof camera for a trip to Great Wolf Lodge (water park).
    But I have some C41 and E6 in the refrigerator, when it is the right time.
    I have 6 rolls of C41 110 film that I bought new and refrigerated soon after.
    Some rolls of C126 and two rolls of C116 that (so they say) were kept cold, and refrigerated since I bought them.
    I have a box of Tetenal C41 for some of the above. (Especially C116, as not many labs will do it.)
    For ordinary family pictures, digital is fine. But sometimes film is still more fun.
    For E6, the image is created by the unexposed (smaller) grains, and so might be less grainy. But the dye cloud formation usually smooths out the graininess, anyway.
  18. 1. The colours, which are the film's rather than my boring attempts at matching this or that.
    2. The texture.
    3. The shadows.
  19. For me, shooting film is all about the image capture process, rather than the end result. Over the last few years I've accumulated a rather sizable collection of film rangefinders, SLR's, and TLR's. Most of them for pennies on the dollar compared to their original prices. I enjoy the challenge of using old mechanical cameras in much the same way a classic car enthusiasts enjoy restored antique autos.
    While I prefer B&W to color, I've been shooting more C41 these days due to the ease of dropping it off at the local Wallgreens for processing, rather than processing B&W at home. I have a 9 month old at home and another on the way and it's hard to find the time to process film at home these days. I haven't even set up my darkroom since buying our house a year ago. When the kids are old enough to occupy themselves for a little while, I'll probably get back into doing more home processing and printing.
  20. If you are not going to use it I know I can find homes for that film where it will be shot and processed.
  21. I shoot Portra because of the skin tone that is very hard to get with digital. I like the highlight roll-off of film, which is (again) difficult to match with digital. OTOH, I needed ISO 3200 this morning, so I grabbed the Fuji.
  22. I don't shoot color film anymore because there are no RA4 minilabs in my area. And I don't want prints made from low quality scans or "dry" prints with obvious scan line artifacts.​
    Lex, I do not know where you live, but if you have a Costco near you, I highly recommend them for prints. Unfortunately, many of the Costco locations no longer develop film.
    I have my film developed only then scan it on a Nikon Coolscan V, post process in Photoshop, convert to the Costco profile (Costco profiles their printer and posts the profiles on http://www.drycreekphoto.com/), then upload the JPEG or TIFF to Costco for processing. I am not a pro but I am very happy with the results.
  23. I honestly cannot say I am still shooting colour negative film. I'm finally shooting some. Or at last, at least, since not all that long. And while I anticipated to shoot mostly B&W, I actually quite enjoy colour too. The colour rendering (I can hardly find anything else locally than Kodak ColorPlus, which isn't great but I like it for its flaws I think), highlight roll-off and the way of rendering sharpness/contrast are different enough from digital to be a creative alternative, a good option to have.
    The cameras I've got are just great tools; I like using them. They don't replace my DSLR (which I also like a lot), but they make a good addition, occassionally an antidote against the high-volume-digital, occassionally forcing an alternative approach, and at least they bring some fun to my photography. The simple controls (or lack of additional and not strictly necessary controls) is refreshing, and helps reconsidering what really matters in getting a halfway decent photo.
    I do not really subscribe to the "film slower working makes me better"-school, because with the DSLR I can do the same. It's more about having different tools, to which I react differently. Sometimes, the direct feedback of digital is gold. But more and more often, I do like the lack of it - do the best I can to get the shot I hope for, and then.... wait, and see if I did. It's educational in a different way than the direct feedback is, and both valuable to me.

    No problem here to get a lab to develop it; I scan afterwards on my simple but nice filmscanner, which easily beats the automated scans that come from the lab. What I really seriously like about film is coming home with the 10*15 prints and look at the photos. It's a silly little moment that's gone in digital, and I like it. A lot.
  24. "When the kids are old enough to occupy themselves for a little while, I'll probably get back into doing more home processing and printing." My daughter is 8 and I'm only anticipating more free time when she goes to university.
    Meanwhile when the urge to use film strikes me I generally use C41 black and white or colour films. The main driver for me to use film is to use a number of old film cameras that I have acquired recently. Both colour and black and white C41 films have amazing latitude to compensate for dodgy shutters, guessed exposures etc. I've rated XP2 at everything from 50 to 3200 ISO and got usable results.
  25. Last time I shot color neg was a little over a year ago, partly because I was going on vacation and wanted to take my little Olympus Stylus Epic rather than my Nikon DSLRs and partly because I wanted to play with C-41 developing while I still could. (I've done B&W in the darkroom for 40 years but have seldom done color.) Shot and developed four rolls of Fuji Superia 400 and still have eight rolls left I bought but didn't use. I have a basement full of film cameras so I will probably use up those rolls. But when the rolls are gone I'm not sure whether I will be buying more.
  26. Because I have 5K feet of Vision film I can process at home.​
    You have won this thread. :)
    my negatives are equiv to 22 mp and the scans are equiv to 6-8mp​
    Good point. But film is about more than resolution (IMHO). :)

    Lex, cool story, if bittersweet.
    Karim, are you sure that negative film has higher resolution than transparencies​
    Yes. However, it depends on which emulsions you're comparing and which era you're taking them from. Velvia 50 out-resolved Kodachrome 25, but Ektar 25 out-resolved Velvia (IIRC). I only have one definitive document about this, and that was from 1992!

    Stock libraries usually only accepted slides for reasons other than resolving power.
    I use Ilford XP2 and HP5 as well.​
    Both are great films. HP5 is probably my favourite traditional high speed b&w film. XP2 I love at EI 1600 for its high contrast (yum). I have not shot either for a long, long time. But maybe...
    OTOH, I needed ISO 3200 this morning, so I grabbed the Fuji.​
    Photographers were pushing colour negative film to ISO 3200 back in the 1980s. :p ;-)
    I do not really subscribe to the "film slower working makes me better"-school​
    Neither do I. It's rationalising. Film is great stuff. No need to invent reasons for using it.
  27. No winners just those who still love film.
  28. I just sold my digital cameras. Most people think I'm crazy, but there are several reasons why.
    First, the places I like to shoot, often involve a lack (or potential lack of) of electricity and carrying as little weight as possible. It's pretty handy to just forget about battery life altogether and bring along a manual film camera.
    Second, exposure latitude. Honestly, I don't think that much about exposure anymore. Which leaves me more time to worry about what's in the frame.
    Third, shooting experience. Shoot. Forget. Process. Christmas morning. Nothing like getting a roll back from the lab and seeing all of your images in your hands and not on an LCD screen.
    Fourth, the look. Can't replicate it with digital, though some have got close. There is substance to it. Digital feels flat/flimsy to me and lacks the depth that film has.
    Fifth, it forces me to visualize more. To think ahead, to see the image before it happens and not rely on an LCD screen. While this sucked at first, and I messed up a lot of photos, it is getting easier the more I practice!
    Sixth, I hate spending all that time in photoshop to get a certain "look". I'd much rather shoot and get the look by the film and lens combination. Much simpler.
    What do I not like about film?
    Extra cost. Yeah the cameras are cheaper, but damn, the film processing costs for a good lab add up QUICK when you have a lot to develop.
    I have to be really selective, as I have a limited supply of photographs. Sometimes this is stifling creatively.
    Piles of negatives to deal with after you shoot. Much easier to deal with a couple hard drives.
    Low light is MUCH more difficult to shoot in, even at 400 speed.
  29. Scott contact me I can get you some nice frozen film.
  30. Why do I still shoot color negative film?

    Why not, it's still being made! Great latitude, colors, and the many ways it can be manipulated while still looking natural. I have absolutely no temptation to switch to digital. I'm also fortunate to have a pretty good lab only a few miles from where I go to class (I'm getting a roll of Cinestill 800T back today), and there are plenty of 1-hour photo drugstores around that could process it too. I'll probably shoot more E-6 when Ferrania sends me some in the Spring, but that has to be sent to a lab about a hundred miles North of me and usually takes a week to get it back. So I guess convenience plays a role, I suppose. I'm just getting processing and scanning, so there's that, too. I don't know anywhere in my area where I could get a good optical print made, in fact if I did I would probably go back to getting prints...
  31. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    "...when Ferrania sends me some in the Spring,"

    Could you explain that remark? Do you get the film for free to use in classes?
  32. I've been working my way through 15 rolls of Kodak Gold 100 from 2003.
    Damn that stuff looks beautiful, much richer than Gold 200 or 400. Not as clownish as Ektar (although I loves me some Ektar)
    I wish Kodak would fire off another master roll or two of Gold 100.
    To get results close to what I can get with $100 of film cameras and lenses would take $10,000 or more in digital dollars. That's a lot of film.
    I process my own for fun an pleasure. Keeps the cost down and keeps me off the street at night.
  33. It's just more fun. I even print color negs in Black and White darkroom. I don't spend as much time in darkroom as I'd like but it's always more enjoyable than sitting at a computer.
  34. "I wish Kodak would fire off another master roll or two of Gold 100."
    Man, me too! Maybe we can get a special order together someday... It's kind of sad that one can't get Kodak Gold or Fuji Superia in medium format anymore, maybe we can convince them to bring that back too. As it is, I prefer the look of consumer negative films to Portra, Ektar, or Pro400H.
    In fact, I've thought of a more eloquent reason why I still shoot color negative film:
  35. I don't shoot color film anymore because there are no RA4 minilabs in my area. And I don't want prints made from low quality scans or "dry" prints with obvious scan line artifacts.​
    Lex, sorry to hear about your situation. But where do you live? I live far away from big cities but have at least 2 photo labs within 25 min driving. They do hi-res scanning also. Plus Costco and Walmart’s (never used them anyhow). Plus Dwayne’s of course (well, shipping orders only – about 3000 mi away).
    Go back to the thread. Why am I shooting color neg films? Actually I shoot everything: color neg, B&W, chromogenic, E-6 and eventually, very rear, digital. Being heavily involved in wild landscape photography I have quite strong addiction to E6, especially Velvia (well, nothing else is available anyhow). Unfortunately there’s literally no room for negative films. But I still love color neg films and usually use them for general street photography, travel and occasionally portraiture. Film like Portra 400 has quite delicate and pleasant color palette and gigantic exposure latitude so it forgives your technical slipups and doesn’t require heavy bracketing (if any) as E6 do. Color neg films are cheaper than E6 and even than BW (film + processing if you outsource the processing). Some of them are still available about $2/roll from many retailers. It’s also easier to scan and adjust in PS. Might agree with Karim that many color neg films resolve more details that E6 but the grain/noise is usually more pronounced.
  36. I am going to put a challenge soon to Lex and even allow him to do some color film. Details are to blow us all away because I know what he can do.
  37. Ruh-roh, Reorge. Rounds rike rouble.
  38. Ja Tink Brother?
  39. (a) I like the 'look' and 'feel' of colour negative films.
    (b) Exposure latitude; I've gotten lazy in my old age, don't want to fuss around with transparency stock any longer.
    (c) I have a tremendous amount of film gear that can never be used digitally.
    (d) I'm working off huge stashes of colour negative stock in my freezer that will, at my rate of usage, outlive me.
    (e) I love shooting with vintage film cameras.
    (f) I like the anticipation of waiting to see how my handiwork turned out, no interest in 'chimping' every frame.
    (g) No interest in spending hours in post manipulating images on my laptop; that's fun?
    My emulsions of choice are Kodak Ektar, Agfa Ultra (now discontinued, but plenty in the freezer), Kodak Portra 160 & 400, Kodak Gold 200, and Fuji Pro 800Z (also discontinued but dozens of rolls on ice). Once the local Costco wet Noritsu minilab goes away to the great darkroom in the sky, off my rolls will go to Dwayne's. I have no real interest in digital; that is my wife's purview, not my cup of tea.
  40. I don't shoot color film anymore because there are no RA4 minilabs in my area. And I don't want prints made from low quality scans or "dry" prints with obvious scan line artifacts.​
    As far as I know, a large fraction of the digital printers run RA-4, or a similar process. Many are running Fuji Crystal Archive, which probably runs the Fuji equivalent of RA-4. But it is exposed by scanning lasers instead if an enlarger. The reciprocity characteristics allow for either microsecond or tens of seconds exposure.
    But yes, I do still prefer RA-4 prints from my scanned negatives and slides.

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