It has been lost, it has been found, and now finally it has been scanned: my first film, shot on the Lomography Fisheye! The fisheye effect is cute, but unfortunately both the camera and the film leaves some to be desired, not least because many of the shots came out quite dark.
Alors, my very first film:
I like all the photos here, and think that the fisheye effect has worked pretty well for these scenarios: close-up faces and wide areas — but notice the silly built-in flash on Guinness Envy, covering only half of the frame..
On the second film I’m most in favour of Summer Time! for the same reasons as above, and Green Bike for it’s distorted lines (colour tweaked digitally):
Both films are the Lomography Color Negative 400. And while I wouldn’t say that it’s a particular good film given the others I’ve tried at this point, it’s probably not supposed to be and in fact it fits nicely with the silly camera.
By Kodak’s own statement their Portra 160 film is “the ideal choice for portrait, fashion and commercial photography — whether in the studio or on location — [in that it] delivers exceptionally smooth and natural skin tone reproduction”. However, a lot of people also seem to like it as a general purpose colour film so I decided to give it a try.
In my little test I’ve previously come across three films — the Fujifilm Superia, the AgfaPhoto Vista, and the Kodak Ektar — which the Portra is hence up against.
Now, the Portra is the most expensive film, but also the easiest to come by: Negatif+ has always had them in stock and I often see them when stopping by in other photo stores. The other films on the other hand were ordered from macodirect.de (which has a good selection but adds a somewhat high fee for a relatively slow shipping). Moreover, from various discussions online I’ve gotten the impression that it’s the highest quality film of the four, both in terms of grain, tonal rendition, and exposure latitude.
For my thoughts on the film, it definitely has an unique colour toning, in particular, it seems, for greens and reds (for instance in Light Strokes and Port de l’Arsenal). This is not a bad thing, and in fact I like that it is something different that the JPEGs from my digital camera.
It doesn’t produce saturated colours and I’m not getting the vulgar impressions as I did with the Vista nor the disappointments with the Ektar. Moreover, it renders skin and fur very naturally: The Twins (In Chair), Scholastique (with Irka), and The Twins (Lying Around).
It hence seems that it is down to either the Superia or the Portra, and luckily I have one of each coming up with an overlap in the scenes. Comparing only the scans of the films, although all done by Negatif+, does also introduce some uncertainty in that it is unknown how much colour manipulation is performed in their scanning process; for the next comparison I’ll hence also look at prints from each film.
Next up in my test of analogue colour films is the Kodak Ektar 100. It is supposed to be a general purpose colour film and I’ve ended up shooting both landscape, city-scape, and portrait shots with it — with varying satisfaction.
From the Negatif+ scans the film definitely produces more saturated colours, with the added punch making some scenes look unnatural while in others really capturing the right mood.
I don’t like the way the film renders nature in Family Table, Château de Tilly, and Castle Wall: the greens are too yellow and the contrast with the sky too high. Also, I find the reds in Colourful Houses a bit too much, especially in contrast with the dark green and the light blue sky.
On the other hand, I really like the punch in the two indoor scenes Breakfast in America and The Twins (and Scholastique), in Grandiose with lots of yellow, and in Back Alley Surprise with lots of colours in general.
For the remaining photos (Town Centre in Rouen and Backyard Smoke for instance) the colours are good but I would like to know if they would have rendered much different on the two previous films.
So, in the end I don’t see the Ektar film as becoming my general purpose colour film: in some situations it stands out, yet in others it also really disappoints. This of course doesn’t rule out using it for great results when the scenes are known before hand, but at this point I shoot many different scenes with each film and don’t want to be stuck with a film that can’t be used in specific situations.
Next up in my little test of available colour films was the AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200. Since the results of the previous candidate — the Fujifilm Superia — were indeed very positive, the shooting of this film went relatively quickly. And fortunately Negatif+ were again quick to have it developed and scanned.
Again I’m pretty happy with the result. However, the colours seem more saturated than with the Superia, giving it a perhaps more vulgar look; for this I might as a first impulse actually prefer the latter.
It also became clear after the previous scanning that to see the real colour tones of the different films I will need to take away some of the automated steps in the scanning process, in particular in the conversion from negative to positive. More on this later.
When I handed over a colour film to Negatif+ a few weeks ago I decided to try their option of also having the negatives scanned; given that it takes me at least four hours to scan a (black & white) film at this point, I figured the 4€ extra might be a good deal if the quality matches up with their usual excellent service.
.. and it was! I’m positively surprised by both the Fujifilm Superia 200 film and the scanning. Besides lightening up the shadows a bit on a few of them I haven’t otherwise done any post-processing:
For comparison I also tried to scan some of them on my Epson V600 scanner; and given that it is a much cheaper consumer-level scanner than the one used by Negatif+ (apparently a Fujifilm Frontier SP3000) it actually did a pretty decent job, even on automatic, and both in terms of resolution and colour!
So a few pros and cons arose.
The scans from Negatif+ are slightly better resolution, have slightly less noise, and I like their warmer colour cast. Also, it’s pretty hard to beat 1€/hour.
On the other hand, to my surprise they are also slightly cropped for some reason (I somewhat suspect that the OM-1 exposes more than the typical 35mm frame) and come as a relatively small JPEG. The latter might not necessarily be a disadvantage of course, but on a few of them it wasn’t really possible to change the choice of burning out the highlights or closing up the shadows, and as a result I’m stuck with whatever Negatif+ decided; and part of the reason why scanning on my own takes longer is the time it takes to make this choice.
So there it is. The price for development is 6€ and for both 10€. For the next few films I’ll go with the scanning option again to have some very usable files and in order to spend my efforts on a selected few instead.