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Thread: Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

  1. #1

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    Hello Everybody,

    When I first started into color photography & darkroom activities (years ago)I w as told by the guy at the photo store that color negatives were the way to go. M y darkroom has been stored away for years and I have just recently re-gained my interest and started B&W again in 4x5 format. Over the past couple of months I h ave been reading this forum as well as many books and now feel ready to approach 4x5 in color. My question is...should I shoot negatives or slides ? I realize t hat this is probably a personal preference but would still like to hear from any body who wishes to share their ideas. Back years ago I was told by my local phot o store that color negatives were easier to develop and print. I believe that is no longer true (and may never have been true), and wonder what the feelings are today on the Cibachrome process ? Also what film would you recommend ? If it is important, my main interest so far is scenic photography, landscapes, and a sma ll amount of candid (people) shooting. Thanks for any and all replies and for th ose that daily contibute to this forum from which I obtain an immense amount of enjoyment.

  2. #2

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    Hello Grey,

    You'll be hard pressed to find a better sheet of 4x5 landscape film than Velvia. Every so often I need to remind myself of this fact by shooting other films, the results are always disappointing. In my opinion, no other film on the market pops like Velvia for landscapes. On a recent trip to Utah I ran out of Velvia while backpacking, so I used a holder that had some Provia F loaded. When I got back and had the transperancies developed, I couldn't believe how dull and colorless the Provia F looked compared to the Velvia.

    My vote is for Velvia, it'hard to beat!!!!!


  3. #3

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    Albert's evaluation of Velvia as landscape film is right on. I had a similar experience as he did with Provia F. On the darkroom front things have changed a great deal. Cibachrome's existence owed much of its justification to permanency. Today, Crystal Archive paper digitally printed in the Laserjet 5000, has greater longevity and a tonal range which is far superior to Cibachrome. In the digital world it does not make much difference if you use negative or positive film, in printing, that is. However, negative film has much greater exposure range than positive film and some people prefer it for that reason. That leaves you with another problem if you were to use negative film: before printing, what does the picture look like?

  4. #4

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    With all due respect to the previous responses I will part company with them and say the I prefer Kodak E100S or even Fuji Astia. I think it has everything to do with how we, as individuals, perceive color. I find Velvia far too artificial in its color and it has a tendency to turn things green that aren't really green. My advice to you is to not listen to our advice and try out some different films until you get the results you want to see. BTW, B&W makes a snappy landscape too.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jul 1999

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    When you expose a transparency, that's it. You get what you exposed for and there's little lattitude for correcting mistakes. The negative film is more forgiving of exposure mistakes. In my opinion, I don't shoot color negative film since I don't have the facilities to make prints. I don't want to have someone else decide what is 'right' for the exposure, or (gasp) have a machine print a 'correct' print. Good luck!

  6. #6

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    While I agree with Albert and Julio about Velvia on the light table, there is another factor to consider in shooting color today. That "pop" on the light table comes at the expense of lost information in the highlights and shadows of the image. Many of us now use a digital process to go from transparency to print. This involves scanning then digital "darkroom" work in Photoshop (or equivalent) followed by printing. For this workflow, a lower contrast, longer curve film like ProviaF, or better yet, Astia gets more information into the digital file. The "pop" is then generated digitally without the loss of highlight or shadow information. So I am learning to live with less spectacle on the light table for more tonal values in the scan.

  7. #7

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    first fold : negative versus positive films : I, too, was told that negative films were better than positive ones as far as printing was concerned. I tried several (incl. Fuji Reala) in 35mm and MF but did not liked the prints I got from them. So I now use exclusively positive films. second fold : Velvia versus other slide films. For years I have been using velvia and still use it exclusively in 35mm format. Regarding 4 x 5 I started to experiment with Ektachrome 100S several months ago.The main reason was too much reds in my picture taken at the end of the day.What do I think now ? Well...nothing absolute sometimes I'm quite happy with the Ektachrome and sometimes I believe that I could have done better with velvia. What becomes evident to me is : when light is becoming nicer and nicer the difference between velvia and Ektachrome is less and less important. Still, if no direct sunshine is available, what I like for a great part of my shooting, nothing can replace Velvia.

  8. #8

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    I saw a few negative comments above on Fuji Provia 100 F, so I thought I should voice my support of the film. It has a more neutral color balance than Velvia, and thus is much more suited to product shots and portraits than Velvia. Actually, I've never used it for portraits, just product shots, but you definately don't want to use Velvia for protraits -- too much color brings out the imperfections in skin. For protraits, I usually shoot Fuji NPS 160 in 120 size with my Pentax 67. It also has a neutral color balance and does well with flesh tones. NPS is also good for architectural interiors because it is very tollerant of mixed light sources (daylight, tungsten, etc.)

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 1999

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    It's an endless debate "I tried Reala and did not like the prints I got" - then the problem is not the film, it's the printing! Reala printed by an expert on Fuji Crystal Archive paper looks fantastic! Velvia printed on Cibachrome by an expert (most likely using some sort of masking process) also looks fantastic.

    The "usual" advice is to use slides for projection or magazine reproduction and negative film if you want to make prints. This may slowly be changing however with the advent of high quality digital processes. Still, $100 for a drum scan from a slide plus Fujix Laser print is more than I can afford. Thus I will continue to use negative film if my goal is exhibition quality color prints (until the economics of digital become more "reasonable").

  10. #10

    Negative or Positive ..which is better ?

    For a different view than most of the previous responses, I suggest a negative film. Negatives will handle a larger light ratio (contrast) in the scene and give you more exposure lattitude. I think it makes sense to have a professional lab develop your film, so developing the film doesn't have much impact on your decision. If you are going to do your own traditional wet printing, printing from negatives is probably easier. For digital output, it really shouldn't matter, but the industry seems more used to transparancies.

    Film: I suggest Kodak Portra 400 NC, unless you plan huge enlargements, then 160 NC, or, if you want more vivid colors, 160 VC. The 400 speed will really help for your candid people photography.

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