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Trouble with Ektar 100 film??


leica dream

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As part of getting back to analogue photography after many years, and remembering that during the 1950/60’s I had super results with slow rated reversal films, I have run an EKTAR 100 film through my Leica R3. My shots are just very general but I have to say that the results surprised me - while the detail is there the colours seem overly intense and the images have a blueish bloom. I need to explore whether I have done something wrong, whether that is normal for modern EKTAR, or whether the lab process/scan did not suit the film.

For processing I use the AG Photo lab at Birmingham, UK, who are usually excellent,  then Capture One manipulates images on my IMAC. I can improve these images to some extent but they still do not look right.

For shooting I have set the R3 controls to ASA 100 and fixed Shutter speed 125. At each shot, I adjust the aperture until the needle in the view finder is as close as possible to 125. There are some slight over exposures but generally that seems to work OK.

The first image below is direct from the lab scanned negative and the second is after my best effort with C1. Maybe there is a further facility in C1 which could lower colour intensity and remove bloom but has eluded me.

I would really welcome any constructive feedback about why my images do not reflect the supposed natural colour balance of the fine grain EKTAR. What am I doing wrong? May be EKTAR is not suited to my R3, so if not, what would be the best balanced alternative.

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This is the C1 adjusted image

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Posted (edited)

Hello Leica dream, to me the first image looks like you exposed for the highlights. That's correct for reversal films, but not for color negative films. Here, you should expose for the mid-shadows. However, Ektar is a bit capricious, as it needs quite precise exposure and reacts to overexposure with a shift towards reddish tones. Perhaps a Portra 400 would be more forgiving.  In any case, have a lot of fun in the new old analog world!

Edited by Kl@usW.
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If the R3 has a centre weighted auto metering system I’d start by using that instead of deciding for yourself what to meter from, you then have a datum point across exposures and not your opinion which could be wrong if you are metering off a particular area. I would also over expose colour negative a bit because it can tolerate it and obviate the problems with excess contrast. I doubt processing is a problem because C41 is standard across the range and all films, scanning could be the problem, but as you are rightly post processing to get the best results I’m sure C1 has an ‘auto colour’ button just so you can see if the software agrees or disagrees with you, it’s a check.

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4 hours ago, Kl@usW. said:

Hello Leica dream, to me the first image looks like you exposed for the highlights. That's correct for reversal films, but not for color negative films. Here, you should expose for the mid-shadows. However, Ektar is a bit capricious, as it needs quite precise exposure and reacts to overexposure with a shift towards reddish tones. Perhaps a Portra 400 would be more forgiving.  In any case, have a lot of fun in the new old analog world!

Exactly. When I shoot Ektar 100 (with 6x6, not 35mm) I set my meter for EI 80, or even EI 64, rather than ISO 100. Effectively biasing the exposure for "mid-shadows."

Followed by "normal" processing.

The only real color problem I've had with Ektar 100 is that the near-blacks tried to go electric-blue/black under the huge horizon-to-horizon "fill reflector" of Colorado's cloudless deep-blue skies (haven't needed a polarizer since I moved here 30 years ago 🤪 ). Fortunately I have Photoshop's "Selective Color" tool, to add "yellow ink" to "blacks only" until they are more neutral.

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Examples of decently exposed Ektar here 

 

I rate at 100 but certainly expose for mid-tones, or whatever approximates 18% grey. However you get there, Ektar likes to be properly exposed in good light. Personally, I love its look for that purpose.

If you are regularly photographing in very mixed light, or overcast conditions, Portra 400 certainly has more latitude, but is very pastel in comparison.

In your case it is definitely worth persevering with Ektar until you get the results you are looking for. A good lab that uses fresh chemicals will also make a difference, too. 

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Posted (edited)

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Grateful thanks, everybody. As ever your wider experience has provided food for thought. I need to understand terms like "expose for mid shadows" so I guess shall attempt various experiments. I shall begin by trying spot metering and set the ISO slightly lower to see how that goes.

Edited by leica dream
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Posted (edited)

Your shot is underexposed by about 1-2 stops. Negative, when underexposed, doesn't mean darker images but means muddy shadows without much detail and an overall colour shift, often to the bluish/reddish side. 

As a rule of thumb, box speed indicates the maximum ISO at which a particular stock will deliver proper results if exposed correctly. At box speed, there’s not much leeway for underexposure but lots of leeway for overexposure. If you are uncertain or just want to leave some headroom, best practice is to rate the stock one stop lower, in this case an exposure index (EI) of 50 would be perfectly normal. This one stop of more light won’t degrade image quality not at all, just makes the negative fatter which is desirable for printing and scanning. 

As shots are often uneven in their amount of light, in cinematography it’s best practice to compensate that with reducing the EI, thus guaranteeing that the negative won’t be thin in any part of a sequence. Why not do what Hollywood does? 

Spotmetering is great for faces that represent 18% grey like slightly tanned Caucasian skin. For everything else it's a bet that can be way off. Eg, if your camera spotmetered the swans, your negative will be solidly underexposed because the swans are white, which is way above 18% grey. However an integral metering that includes everything in the frame would have added to the Swans’ brightness the dark shadows in the bushes, bringing up the exposure to a meaningful value. 
 

BTW, with the white swans and dark shadows in a sun-lit scenery, your image is a hardcore test for any negative stock, including digital sensors regarding dynamic range. I don’t know how many stops that shot spans but easily way above 10. 

Edited by hansvons
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