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05-11-2009, 09:24 PM   #1
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Choosing color and b/w film

Hi,

I'm soon going on a two month trip to Ecuador and I will be bringing my shiny new KM with me. I've got two years of b/w photo experience (that ended two years ago, though), but I haven't used color film since I was little (maybe 10 years ago?).

I will be staying half my time in the city and another half in the rainforest, and I'm trying to figure out what film to bring along. I've just found out that the dark room at my old high school won't be available for use this summer, so I won't be able to process the b/w film there. I would like to scan my negatives to keep them safe on the computer.

Knowing this, I'm thinking that I should just get the Kodak BW400CN c41 film for b/w shots. It's easily developed at any drugstore and it has very fine grain, especially for ISO 400 film. I've also found it to give some really nice contrast. Does any one recommend anything else, though?

As for color film, I'm looking at Kodak Portra 160-NC and Kodak Ektar 100. Both of these have great user reviews both here and on the B&H website, though I understand that the Ektar, being new, is often mistrusted. Anyone have anything to say either way?

I'm looking to do mostly daylight and probably evening shots, maybe some night, but I'm not sure I'll have a flash to use. I'll be taking photos both of other people in the program, I assume, as well as landscape and foliage, so I'm looking for natural colors, not too saturated.

Without a darkroom to develop my film, am I right in assuming that I would have to send the Portra film to a professional photo shop? I know that the ektar is c41, so I'm assuming drugstores could do that just fine.

Edit: I forgot to say, I highly doubt that I'll be able to reliably refrigerate any of my film while I'm there, so if any of the above would need that, sadly they couldn't be an option. I remember playing with infrared b/w film for a semester and needing to refrigerate all the film, so I figured I'd just make sure about this one.

Thanks so much!

05-11-2009, 09:33 PM   #2
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Well, the Portra is C41 as well, so no real difference between it and Ektar processing wise. I really like what I'm getting from Portra 400VC.

If you're bringing along some fast primes, ISO 100-200 should do, but keep in mind it's quite dark under a rainforest canopy, and you may be wishing for the extra speed. If you don't intend to make huge 8x12+ enlargements, a 400 speed film will give you quite a bit of leeway in shaded streets, inside cafes, restaurants, and under the rainforest canopy. I find while I love the results from slow colour film, it's difficult to get through a roll without needing something faster quite frequently. If your intention is to defer to the B&W film for speed, by all means shoot Ektar or fuji Reala 100. The grain of Portra 400 is quite fine (t-max technology), and only really apparent in smooth tones and out-of-focus areas.

Fuji's Pro 160 series is also worth looking into: very fine grain from the rolls I've shot.

Don't forget to bring a circular polarizer: invaluable for eliminating reflections from glass if shooting from a vehicle, reduces shiny vegetation, increases colour saturation under harsh light, and can knock some speed off if you want to use a slow shutter effect.
05-12-2009, 04:25 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by CSoars Quote
Don't forget to bring a circular polarizer
Why would a KM benefit from a circular polarizer instead of a linear polarizer?
05-12-2009, 06:56 AM   #4
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Polarizers

QuoteQuote:
Why would a KM benefit from a circular polarizer instead of a linear polarizer?
Linear polarizers lack the wave plate needed for beam splitting.

05-12-2009, 07:45 AM   #5
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All the films you list are good - I have the 160-NC in my Retina right now as a matter of fact. Ektar is good as well, though more saturated. I shoot BW400CN regularly, the main thing with it is to keep away from under exposure as that brings out the grain in the scans. Though low-key photography is possible with some post processing.

I'd recommend you bring some ASA400 color film as well - you don't really pay too high a grain-price with the good modern films. Fuji 400H as well as the Portra mentioned above are excellent, but so is Kodak Ultramax -and it is cheap plus available in 24 exposure rolls. 24 can be handy if you want to change film, you get through the roll quicker

The polarizer is a good idea - you don't in fact need a circular one with the KM, and the cheaper linear one can be more effective. But if you already have one of either kind, it doesn't matter much.
05-12-2009, 07:50 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mike Cash Quote
Why would a KM benefit from a circular polarizer instead of a linear polarizer?
so as not to affect the TTL metering?
05-12-2009, 08:03 AM   #7
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It's sounding more like I should bring just ISO 400 speed film since I do think I'll be shooting in variable to low lighting conditions rather frequently. In bright sun, though, the slower film with its finer grain and brighter colors (Ektar, for instance) might be good to have along.

"If you're bringing along some fast primes"
Clearly I'm not up to date on the lingo, here. What do you mean by fast primes?

What's the difference between Portra NC and VC films? Is the difference worth the slight price increase for the VC?

Thanks for the advice on the polarizer. I've never used one before, I'll look into finding one.

Ok, so I'll definitely bring bw400cn for b/w, I just need to figure out film speeds for color to choose. I don't want to be carrying too many different kinds of film, I'd rather something that I can use general-purpose and maybe a few roles for lower light.
05-12-2009, 08:22 AM   #8
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NC = Natural Color, VC = Vibrant Color... the VC is a bit more saturated. Fuji's 160 film comes in similar varieties.

Personally, I've had poor luck with Ektar and bright sun, my usual sloppy metering habits have resulted in blown highlights. Have had better luck with the 160's and 400's. Bring a roll or two for the 'special' occasion, otherwise you'll probably be OK with 400. The main advantage with slower film, practical shooting wise, is you can use larger apertures within the shutter speeds provided by your camera.

I'm serious about Ultramax, it really is a good film.

05-12-2009, 08:26 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jzietman Quote
It's sounding more like I should bring just ISO 400 speed film since I do think I'll be shooting in variable to low lighting conditions rather frequently. In bright sun, though, the slower film with its finer grain and brighter colors (Ektar, for instance) might be good to have along.

"If you're bringing along some fast primes"
Clearly I'm not up to date on the lingo, here. What do you mean by fast primes?
fast: large aperture such as f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2. One or more stops faster than most any zoom, allowing quicker shutter speeds in low light (or more 'selective' focus)

prime: single focal length lens.... does not zoom.

QuoteQuote:
What's the difference between Portra NC and VC films? Is the difference worth the slight price increase for the VC?
VC = vivid/vibrant colour. Bit punchier and produces more contrast than the NC. NC may be more forgiving in really bright light. If you intend to scan you can always add saturation etc later, but it's not as easy to remove.


I guess it's the biggest thing I miss about digital, auto-ISO. I'd imagine one of the 160 speed films would be a happy medium, but if you're using zooms that are only as fast as f/2.8 or f/4, the 400 film is likely a safe bet. It's easy to criticize the grain when looking at 100% scans on a computer monitor, but images at 1024x680 or so are fine, as are 5x7 prints.
05-12-2009, 08:39 AM   #10
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QuoteQuote:
Originally Posted by Mike Cash
Why would a KM benefit from a circular polarizer instead of a linear polarizer?
so as not to affect the TTL metering?
You can use a linear polarizer on any "K" series camera. (K1000, KM, KX or K2).
I don't think circulars we even invented when I got my KX in '75 and bought a linear polarizer.

You need a circular for the LX and ME F. I'm not sure about the other "M" series cameras.

A linear polarizer will be about half the cost, so you can use the money you save to get a really good Multi Coated one. B+W are really good.
05-12-2009, 09:44 AM   #11
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Develop at home.
05-12-2009, 10:59 AM   #12
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BW negative films (clasic process) - It's cheaper tha you have more control over the process (and it's easyer that it seems)
1. Agfa APX 100 (Rollei Retro 100) good (superb tones) and cheap (1,5 euro/roll) BW negative film.
2. Fuji Neopan 400 fine grain and less expensive than Kodak Tri-X 400 or Ilford HP5 or Delta 400.
3. Fompan 200 fine grain , cheap (~2 euro/roll) and great tones.
C41 BW
4. Ilford XP2 400 fine grain (but less fine than Neopan 400). Problem is that is more expensive.
- Fuji laso has a BW C41 film : Fuji Neopan 400CN

Colour negative films.
1. Fuji REALA 100 very fine grain and very sharp, relatively cheap and with goond skin tones and also good for landscapes (more saturated green and blue).
2. Kodak Profoto 100 - approximatively like the REALA but just little less sharp. I like it's tones more than the REALA (seem to have a little more "warm" colours).
3. Fuji Superia X-TRA 400 , very cheap, fine grain and good colours.
4. Kodak Gold 200 , fine grain but too saturated (to me) colours and less suitable for skin tones than the other three from above.
05-12-2009, 12:58 PM   #13
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I'm looking around for a medium-sized, maybe 28 or 35 to 85 or 90 mm zoom, but for now I just have a basic 1:2 50mm lens. Does that change the usefulness of slower speed films at all?

I'd love to develop at home, and I do have experience with developing film myself. The biggest question is where I would do it, I can't really remember any window-less rooms back home (at school now), and the closets are all full of clothes... For now I think I'm safer sticking to c41.

I'm leaning towards the Portra 400 color film for most color use now, though I'll probably bring a few roles of ektar, just to see.
05-12-2009, 01:40 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by jzietman Quote
I'm looking around for a medium-sized, maybe 28 or 35 to 85 or 90 mm zoom, but for now I just have a basic 1:2 50mm lens. Does that change the usefulness of slower speed films at all?
If you get your bog standard 28-90/3.5-5.6 kit zoom type lens, it would be anywhere from two to three stops slower than your 50/2. If you're going to use such a slow lens frequently that could definitely be a significant factor. If you shoot mostly outside in daylight, and especially if you have a tripod, 200 or whatever is still fine with a slow lens. I wouldn't generally feel comfortable walking around with a 3.5-5.6 zoom and 100 speed film in my camera, though. Go 200 or 400 to be sure.
05-12-2009, 02:12 PM   #15
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Just reel the film at night. There must be one room in your home that has no windows, or that can be easily light seeled.
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