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Portra 800-2 anyone?

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In the Sep/Oct 2004 issue of Photo Techniques magazine, Ctein raved

about how well new Portra 800 pushes: "With push processing [compared

to NPZ] Portra 800 was the indisputable champ." Unfortunately my

local pro store didn't stock Portra before Nutcracker ballet season,

so it wasn't until spring Musical season that I got to try it.


Given that Ctein said it's faster than ISO 800, and 5-minute push

processing increased shadow density by > 1/2 stop, I shot bracketed

1600/2000/2500 and requested push2 processing. When the negatives

came back, it looked like a better test would've been 2000/2500/3200

because all the negatives had good density, except the last series

when the lights were dimmed during bracketing.


The base is grayer (less orange) than most C-41 film; I don't know

why. Negatives are edge coded Portra 800-2. Grain seems about the

same as NPZ @2000 developed push2, but skin tones are better due to

lower contrast. Color fidelity seems good, although with stage

lighting it's hard to be certain. Next time I need a film to push,

I'll definitely choose Portra 800 over NPZ, although I might buy

a DSLR before that occurs. I doubt Portra 800 @ 3200 developed push2

can compete with Canon CMOS. If anyone's interested I could evaluate

the effect of 1600/2000/2500 on grain.<div>00C4sm-23291484.jpg.6b248f9851ef9147210b3e3ae6c5ab85.jpg</div>

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That's pretty good, particularly considering that the "incorrect" tungsten light underexposed the blue-sensitive layer. The shadows are decently smooth and not "dandruffy" (did you increase the black point when scanning?).


A DSLR only goes up to 1600 for usable images. It's hard to tell from the reduced image you posted, but a 350D at 1600 probably has more noise than the pushed Portra's grain. You can clean that up with NeatImage, but there's still unavoidable loss of detail at that speed.

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The main reason for lack of dandruff-grain is probably oversampling.

Here is a crop from the 1200 dpi scan showing the worst grain, in the

dark-magenta curtain. Of course at 2400 dpi, this would look worse.

The blue background wasn't too bad, a hopeful result for Portra 800,

especially in this yellow-biased tungsten-lit image. Which would

help more, increasing the black point or decreasing the white point?


Ted, you don't think Canon 20D images are usable at ISO 3200?

They look acceptable to me. Maybe the 350D isn't quite as good;

its dpreview.com test has not yet appeared. With film it's really a

question of at what downsampled resolution images become usable.

With NPZ is seemed under 1200 dpi, but Portra 800 seems usable at

that resolution, moreover at EI 2500 instead of 2000.<div>00C5QB-23311084.jpg.f2cdae5596fdf3c51455749a61e84fa7.jpg</div>

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You're right, Vinh. Months ago I saw samples on Tweakers.net, but

misremembered 3200 as 6400. According to the Dpreview.com review,

a Minolta 7D has lower luminance noise than a Canon 20D, but higher

chrominance noise except at ISO 200-800. The 7D achieves low noise

above that point by softening the image. I could not find any high

ISO sample shots in Dpreview's 7D gallery, and the ones on Tweakers

are nothing to write home about.


So again, film surprises us. Whether it's possible to get better

high-ISO images from Portra 800 or Ektachrome P1600, I don't know.

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