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Thread: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

  1. #1

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    does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    the best way to find out would probably be to buy both a color negative like portra 400nc and compare it with tmax400 but to save some time and money , does anyone know from experience???
    i assume that if it did, there would not be a pressing need to buy black and white film as if you had color, you could always change it to b&w in post processing.

    any enlightenment appreciated!

    thanks!!!

  2. #2

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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    It depends on how you develop your B&W but you can usually get a little more shadow and highlight detail from a "normal" B&W negative. You can also expand the B&W negative to get a greater range.... Whether you can exploit any of the extra range is another matter, and in most cases you can't or it won't matter or -- and this is the case 98% of the time -- those long range prints are flat and boring.

    In other words you have to a hell of a good printer and have a great scene to photograph so you can get a truly full-range of tones in your final image, inky blacks and brilliant whites and rich greys.

    I'd shoot the color neg with abandon and see how you do. You may well find you want more contrast and less range when you start to do practical photography. You certainly can gain an additional level of control when you do RGB to GS conversions in Photoshop using the B&W command to adjust the color values, and that can be more important than sheer range, especially when the tones overlap and get muddled.

  3. #3
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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    Quote Originally Posted by dede95064 View Post
    i assume that if it did, there would not be a pressing need to buy black and white film as if you had color, you could always change it to b&w in post processing.
    No. It doesn't look the same at all. Been there, tried that.

  4. #4

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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    No offense but not looking the same doesn't necessarily mean not looking as good. It depends on what you do in post processing in PS.

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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    B&W negs are also more archival than colour negs.

  6. #6

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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike1234 View Post
    No offense but not looking the same doesn't necessarily mean not looking as good. It depends on what you do in post processing in PS.
    C.B.,

    This very topic came up at luncheon conversation yesterday with large format photographers here locally (who BTW have many years of experience with LF and PS) and everyone at the table agreed they preferred using B&W film over color conversions (digital or analog). It was generally agreed the look of color conversions, as Oren pointed out, just looks different and good mid-tone separation is difficult at times.

    My preference for color conversions is to use Nik Silver Effects Pro.

    As someone said yesterday, "There's a reason B&W film is made."

    Don Bryant

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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    Hey there, Don.

    Once I have my setup up and running I'll set out to prove you wrong. Perhaps I'll step in my own muck but I really don't think so. Tweaking mid-tones, as with highlight and shadow tones, is a powerful function of PS curves among other tools. And curves as well as many other tools can be applied individually to each color channel.

  8. #8
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    Does it have the same dynamic range? No.

    Does it have sufficient dynamic range for most scenes? Yes. I've gotten an easy 11 stops (9 with detail, +black and white) with 5x4 160PortraVC. Didn't show me any color xover or other interesting artifacts either. This was a photograph I made of a white flower in full sun with dark green leaves in full heavy shade, made around 2:00pm in June, northern hemisphere. IOW, about as bright as it gets here. Film handled it easily enough.

    Does this mean you should use color film for B&W prints? No. See this thread for more arguments pro and con.

    Bruce Watson

  9. #9

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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
    Does it have the same dynamic range? No.

    Does it have sufficient dynamic range for most scenes? Yes. I've gotten an easy 11 stops (9 with detail, +black and white) with 5x4 160PortraVC. Didn't show me any color xover or other interesting artifacts either. This was a photograph I made of a white flower in full sun with dark green leaves in full heavy shade, made around 2:00pm in June, northern hemisphere. IOW, about as bright as it gets here. Film handled it easily enough.

    Does this mean you should use color film for B&W prints? No. See this thread for more arguments pro and con.
    And don't forget you can bracket... take one exposure for enhanced shadow detail and another to retain uncompressed highlight detail... the two can be merged for best overall detail in PS. This is generally unnecessary though.

  10. #10

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    Re: does a color negative have the same dynamic range as a regular b&w film negative?

    [heresy alert]
    And don't forget you can use digital! Considering that we're PS'ing everything anyhow, color film is too much trouble for the results.

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