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color film recommendation for medium format


A miller

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I have ben using a 1965 Linhof Technica Press recently with Kodak Porta colour film. The lens is a Zeiss 53mm. The colors come out faded, very (too) vintage looking. I know the camera is capable of producing very vivid colors. Is there a different film that is readily available on the market that I can try that will produce more vivid colors?? Thanks in advance!

 

Adam

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Portra 800 and 400 have more vivid colors than Portra 160. For really saturated colors, Ektar 100 would be your first choice. However, to obtain good results with Ektar, exposure and processing have to be spot on, the margin for error is much smaller than with other color negative films. Also, it is not the best film for skin tones. There should be suitable offerings from Fuji too, but I have little personal experience with them.

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Velvia would be the choice of many people.

 

If it was me, who gets to the end result by scanning and inkjet printing, then I prefer to use a less saturated film and increase saturation and contrast (if necessary) in post processing to the point I like it, rather than trying to tame a contrasty vivid film. But if you are using traditional printing methods this isn't an option. Ektar is difficult to control but I like it for 'street' photography where strong colour and deep shadows may be required, Velvia is more forgiving and good for saturated landscape work.

 

Steve

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Adam, I am guessing here (risky I know) but the most likely variable in your work flow is the film processing and printing. If it is done by a lab, that is your most likely source of error. In this day and age, regrettably many/most good labs are gone, out of business.

 

Portra 160 is a good film and I doubt very much that is the source of your problem, any more than your camera is. if at all possible try another lab (not easy I know). I process my own colour film and have for years, simply because of problems with labs.

 

If you elaborate on your workflow details, maybe we can be of greater assistance.

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Adam, I am guessing here (risky I know) but the most likely variable in your work flow is the film processing and printing. If it is done by a lab, that is your most likely source of error. In this day and age, regrettably many/most good labs are gone, out of business.

 

Portra 160 is a good film and I doubt very much that is the source of your problem, any more than your camera is. if at all possible try another lab (not easy I know). I process my own colour film and have for years, simply because of problems with labs.

 

If you elaborate on your workflow details, maybe we can be of greater assistance.

 

Thanks for all who have commented thus far.

The developing was done by Vista Imaging in the Photo District in NYC, which I understood to be a reputable establishment. But I am no expert and will keep this in mind if a different film doesn't help.

I am attaching an example of the lack of vivid colors and particularly vintage look that I am getting (Times Square is about as color saturated of a place as one can get). In some situations, this look might be highly desirable; but in other cases a more normal look is sought and I just need to figure out how to get that!

 

Thanks again for the comments so far.

 

Adam

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The question still comes back to workflow. Was the picture scanned and then printed, or done the old fashioned way in an enlarger?

 

By the 'look' of it I would guess it has been scanned and badly printed. The mid tone contrast looks just like somebody has boosted the shadows and it almost has an HDR look. I don't think there is anything particulalrly wrong with the colour saturation, what is masking the colour is the lack of contrast.

 

Steve

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Here is a different take on it.

 

After I opened it in Viveza I boosted the contrast, nothing else.

 

Steve

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Edited by 250swb
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The colour in Steve's version is a bit warm (for winter?) but his demo of contrast is correct. And that is just simple tweaks!

 

I agree that probably the scan and print is your weak link. The old danger of 'handing over control' to someone else. My pet hate/fear.

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Adam -- since you are in nyc, try duggal on 23rd st btwn 5th and 6th ave and have them do a scan making tiff's rather than jpegs. i think you will be happier with the result -- and i would be interested to hear/read/see the results and what you think. It is who I use for 35mm and while i think they are a bit pricey, it is worth it IMHO.

 

Steve

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Thanks to all for responding to the pic I posted, especially Steve for taking the time to take the bull by the horns!

 

I know less than squat about the processing. I actually only had the film developed but not printed. Instead, I scanned the negative on my Coolscan 9000. And THEN, as many intimated, I did some PP in LR, including opening the shadows. At one point, I had the color vibrance pumped up to come close to what Steve produced, but I just didn't like the feel of it. Even with Steve's adjustment, though, the colors - particularly on the faces of my two boys - look washed out. I know that this camera can produce wonderful and rich colors and vibrance, as I have been scanning hundreds of negatives from this camera from the late 60's on my coolscan 9000 recently with excellent results. This leaves me with a couple of possibilities based on the feedback, for which I am very grateful:

 

1. The issue lies with the film developing - could this be?

2. My lens is the culprit - it looks pretty clean to me, although what specifically should I be looking for that could do this - haze, fungus, scratches? All looks reasonable clear to my eye, but perhaps I need to study it more carefully.

3. Back to the film, which doesn't seem to be the issue based on the comments rec'd, but I am keeping it in my back pocket until I put my finger on the issue.

 

Thanks again for everyone's time!

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Even with Steve's adjustment, though, the colors - particularly on the faces of my two boys - look washed out.

 

If that is the case it introduces another possibility, when did you last calibrate your monitor?

 

When I increased the contrast some of the colours got way out of whack, like the blues, but I left them alone just to show how a simple change works. But I think the two boys faces are very cherub like with rosey complexions, on my monitor.

 

FWIW I think the change in contrast really brought out the dynamic's of the picture, with the two boys in subdued clothing being surround with the outrageous bling and colour of New York, especially given the look of wonderment on their faces. I think its going to be a great photograph when finished.

 

Steve

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Thanks, Steve. I really appreciate your time. I am working with a new 27" iMac and I have not done any calibration. So I need to figure out how to do this and what it means to do this? No need to take your or anyone's time on this. I clearly need to just take the time to catch up with the rest of the herd on this.

I totally agree that a slight increase in contract and vibrancy improves this picture. After all, it's Time Square and all that color slaps you in the face in real life anyhow. So from that perspective, it's consistent with reality.

In the end, I guess I'm still stuck on the faces. I agree that they look cherub, which is very cool in this context. It's just that I'd like to be able to control who does and does not looks cherub in my photos!

 

Thanks to all the great comments, I have a lot to think about and play with and I'm hopeful that I'll find the answer that I am looking for.

 

Thanks again.

 

Adam

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Hi Adam,

 

without being able to help on the tasks ahead of you, I often found that I liked the colour handling of Fuji's Pro400H and NPS160 (less saturated) better than the Portra range, especially in city light conditions. For a naturally more contrasty look, Provia 100F (pushable) will do better with people than the aforementioned Velvia. But I don't even know which still exist in the format you need... Perhaps my experience is also due to the development by the lab, which uses a Fuji array and chemicals.

 

An interesting picture, btw, which from what I see on my old low contrast laptop screen I would not want quite as contrasty as Steve prepared it. In fact finding the right contrast between more natural (almost like in your original) skin tones and a flashy environment would be my attempt. FWIW.

 

Alexander

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3. Back to the film, which doesn't seem to be the issue based on the comments rec'd, but I am keeping it in my back pocket until I put my finger on the issue.

 

I beg to disagree. :) IMO, the example you posted is more or less in line with what to expect from Portra 160 (You still haven't stated which variety of Portra you use, there are three different ones, but by the looks I can only guess its 160). The film is designed to produce relatively muted colors and excellent skin tones, and that is exactly what I see in your posted picture. I don't see any development or exposure issue (except for the small light leak that shows close to the right edge of the picture). Personally I think these colors are beautiful as they are and the example with the boosted contrast looks rather over-saturated and not very pleasant to me. But which version you prefer is of course a matter of taste. If you prefer the vivid look (which is perfectly okay), then IMHO its better to choose an appropriate film with higher saturation (you could try Portra 800, which has relatively lively colors, if you can live with the added grain) in the first place, instead of trying to push the film to do something which it wasn't designed for.

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Thanks Alexander and Joeswe for your comments.

 

Your insights are consistent with my initial instinct. I did in fact use Porta 160. So Joeswe, you are on the money on your guess.

 

On the topic of film, is there another alternative to the 800 if I don't want the grain?

 

Dont get me wrong, I think the way my picture came out is really cool. The juxtaposition of the vintage look with my hip, youngster kids is special. But I certainly didn't intend this and I'd like to actually be able to learn how to control whether or not to achieve this look.

 

I will try the porta 800 and see how that goes. I also will look into the velvias...

 

Thanks again.

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Adam,

for 800 iso I would only see the Portra 400 pushed (is there still the 800?), which it is supposed to support well; or Fuji Provia 400X slide film, which pushes well (I use it), but will show grain even in medium format. I find that the grit goes well with the city. Unless you filter, the slide film will be less forgiving on different light temperatures, which can be a look when it works to your favour.

There was the (bit grainy) Fuji Pro800Z and a Superia 800. Not sure for the latter, especially in MF, but the 800Z in no more.

I don't like the Velvia 50 for skin tones (not natural looking -- the 100F I used once only for landscape), hence my suggestion of Provia 100F slide film.

 

Alexander

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