Color Film Comparisons

You guys/gals know I like film right? Of course you do - probably too much for you digital only people. I know I know boring but I am telling you digital only shooters - I swear you may actually pick up a thing or two embedded in some of my film non-sense that I post. Just not from this post - this is just somewhere to stick this…

An illustration to my probably over the top rant in response to a "film comparison" over on flickr. I hope the Op doesn't take me wrong - I am glad he shoots some film - really I am. I am always trying to be helpful but sometimes I come off a little, ummm, let's say over-enthusiastic, no, too critical? The heck with it I don't know, in any case, I am sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings along the way - it is never my intent.

As for the image above, it is a demonstration of the worst possible case for film color reproduction. Well maybe not the worst but pretty friggin bad. Here is the recipe:

  1. Find very very old Kodak Portra 160 VC in a box with a bunch of other forgotten things. This particular film expired 7/2006 according to the back of the pro-pack box. Meaning I bought it somewhere around 2002.
  2. Mistreat said film during it's entire lifetime. I moved to TX sometime about a year after the film was purchased and then back to the mid-atlantic a couple of years ago. I know for a fact that the box the film was in was stored in an un-airconditioned garage in the sweltering TX heat and then again for two hot humid summers here in coastal Maryland.
  3. Shoot film in 2011.
  4. Process film at Walgreens.
  5. Scan film on home CrappyScan™ scanner.
  6. Shoot film in Nikon FE with a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 single coated lens made in 1965 in harsh mid-day light with my red shirt coloring the left and bottom part of the frame as well as a big blue watering can coloring the right part of the frame.
  7. Spend less than 20 seconds doing two things in Photoshop - curves layer to neutralize one of the gray squares by eye (auto tone would probably have done just as well) and a curves layer with an S-curve to somewhat simulate what printing it on a punchy RA4 paper would sorta look like.

Now with all the abuse - the lowering of the speed and contrast via age and mistreatment. The somewhat shoddy quicky scan and correct job I can clearly see that the colors and neutrals are not WAY off. I can also clearly see the influence of my red shirt and blue watering can in the lighting (Digital guys learning opportunity = watch what you wear, you wouldn't believe how it can make color casts in your images). More importantly you can see based on the color chart that blues don't have greens in them, reds don't have magenta in them, etc, etc. Yea they may sway one way or another away from "accurate" but they don't have obvious horrendous casts.

My point here is that no matter how you slice it if you do not color correct the film scan in some way - at least some single target value. What the heck is being compared when comparing two different color films? Are you comparing what your scanner happens to crank out by default? I don't know.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.


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