View Full Version : Recommendations for color neg film for scanning

27-Jul-2005, 22:23
I'm getting ready to work on a color project, which is brand new to me. I plan to scan the film using vuescan, and will worry about how to print it later. I'll probably start out using rollfilm (a good friend is lending me a hasselblad, so I don't go broke buying sheet film) but would like the option of moving to 4x5 at some point.

I'm used to b+w film in the asa 50-100 range, so unless there's a good reason to do otherwise, I'll stick to that. Other than that, I want the usual uninteresting qualities: sharp, not grainy, wide exposure range, etc...
Since I'll be working with it digitally, I don't imagine I need to be too fussy about its color rendering, but all else being equal I prefer subtlety to whiz-bang saturation.

Any thoughts? My biggest concern is being able to reverse the scans without crossed curves and other major irritations.

David F. Stein
27-Jul-2005, 23:08
The Kodak Portra films have scanned well for me in 120 and 4x5. In 35mm, I've done well with Fuji Superia 400, the consumer film.

David Luttmann
27-Jul-2005, 23:42

Give Fuji Astia a try. Scans well, and nothing has finer grain in Chromes. For negs, I've always loved Fuji NPS, or Fuji CS Reala.

Kirk Gittings
27-Jul-2005, 23:55
I am very fond of Fuji NPS. It is the standard now for most architectural photographers that I know of. I virtually shoot nothing alse in color anymore. I shoot it in 4x5 readyloads and 6x9 120 rolls at ASA 100 and it scans beautifully at that speed with the Silverfast profiles. I don't know about Vuescan. I find that I can make a scan that will match the Fuji trans. films quite easily.

What is the subject matter.

28-Jul-2005, 01:44
Hi Paul,
I've just switched from the fuji films to KodakPortra NC - I use neg cos the Bracelona sun is so intense. I've also changed my workflow and use a 16 bitlinear scan and then do the neg conversion to positive using something called Negpos. Not for the beginner, but a great tool. Once you have everything measured you get conversions where all the 3 histos are in a line

Paul Butler
28-Jul-2005, 04:14
Paulr, I know you probably have reasons for wanting to use negative film. However, let me relate my own experience. I switched from negative film to transparency film for scanning in 2002 and have been using it ever since (in my case Velvia 100F or Kodak EPP for medium format but I like the color saturation). I can get good scans of rollfilm made inexpensively at the time the film is processed. However, for my sheet film and for some of the rollfilm, when I do the scans myself it is much easier to use the transparency film.

If you have software with the exact curves built in for the negative film you're using, great (you want an exact match) but otherwise transparency film is a good choice because you can get the colors right without worrying about compensating for the orange mask. I don't find the narrower range to be an issue, if I meter carefully.

Otherwise, the silverfast profiles as Kirk mentions (above) are a good way to go if you have them and must use negative film. However great care is required to convert the negatives to positives.

Ed Richards
28-Jul-2005, 06:03
> However great care is required to convert the negatives to positives.

Or stick a gray card into the corner of a sheet for each lighting set up. With PWP you can put a McBeth color checker in a shot and it will use it to align the colors. There is probably some way to do that with Photoshop as well, I just do not know it. There are definitely things you can do with negative film you cannot do any other way, and it is worth wasting a sheet to get a density and color reference if the shoot is important.

Frank Petronio
28-Jul-2005, 07:02
I used to advocate shooting chromes but have since gone over to shooting only color neg, even for images that will end up greyscale.

There are just too many advantages, and with good scanning software and a grey balance eyedropper, what else could you need? I get reliable clean film from Porta 160 NC in Readyloads, with 400NC in traditional holders for portraits and windy days. The Fuji products as just as good I'm sure.

The only real caveat is to find a good lab who can develop the film evenly without water marks... you may have to send it out, as many labs find LF color neg a rare oddity... It is also a good idea to wait and send larger amounts of film with the "take" broken up (don't send the entire take in one run) so they don't do just a couple oddball sheets...

Roger Richards
28-Jul-2005, 07:38
This is a relevant thread for me at the moment. I am trying to decide on Astia or Portra NC for enlargements up to 40x50 in 4x5, and 20x24 in 6x7. I did some tests and scans yeaterday and the Astia in 6x7 is magnificent grain-wise and the colors are extremely neutral, you can see that it will blow up very well. The Portra gives really pastel colors and low contrast, which I like very much, but a lot more grain when scanned. I am torn between the two at the moment. I began shooting a project with Portra, only a couple of rolls, and am considering whether to proceed further in Astia 100F or Portra 160.

Anyone here with experience drum scanning either film up to 40x50 in 4x5? What are the differences? Thanks.

28-Jul-2005, 07:50
I've recently seen some prints by Jim Cooke. 8x10 colour neg 40 x50.Looked great. You need to find a good drum scan operator.Not all drum scans are equal. The problem is that you can resolve beyond grain with a drum scan so the operator needs to knopw how to set the scanner up to get the detail, without setting the aperture so small that grain becomes intrusive

Frank Petronio
28-Jul-2005, 08:15
Shooting longer-range flatter films like Porta (or EPN in chrome) is, IMHO, better than shooting the candy saturated stuff. You can always add saturation but it is really hard to take it away. Likewise, I like a longer range because I can always remove information but not the verso.

28-Jul-2005, 08:24
Thanks for the info, everyone. I think I'll start with NPS and see how it goes.

Anyone recommend a good lab in New York City? preferably one that uses dip and dunk? I'm hoping there's still such a thing. Can't find anythig on google.

Leonard Evens
28-Jul-2005, 08:36
I use Portra VC 160 and scan with Vuescan using an Epson 3200. I've also used Portra NC 160 and I didn't see any significant difference in the scans. I think some of the differences we attribute to different negative color films, which might be evident with darkroom processing, may be minimized by the scanning process which tends to aim for a common result.

Vuescan has a setting for the Portra films, so you shouldn't have to worry about the orange mask or reversing the colors. Vuescan will take care of that for you. On occasion I've inadvertently left Vuescan set on an older color film, scanned Portra, and still managed to get good results. I think you can get good results even if you use the generic setting.

Vuescan has one nice feature. If you right click on a neutral area, it will adjust the color balance so that area becomes a netural gray. It seems to work over a wide range of light to dark grays. Of course, it may still be necessary to do some tweaking in your photoeditor. The emulsions never precisiely track one another, so you may have to make different color balance adjustments in highlights, midtones , and shadows. But I don't find that reversal film is any different, when scanned, in this regard.

Danny Burk
28-Jul-2005, 08:48
"Anyone here with experience drum scanning either film up to 40x50 in 4x5? What are the differences? Thanks."

I shoot 4x5 NPS frequently, and I drum scan it for myself and for clients on a regular basis. It gives excellent results with, as you'd expect, great latitude. It does scan with slightly more visible grain than chrome films, but as someone mentioned above, this can be lessened by careful manual selection of the scanner lens' aperture. Most labs don't seem to have much experience with color neg; I've seen some that actually state that you should avoid it if you expect good scans. This tells me that they simply don't know how to handle it, and then expect their customers to adjust their own shooting to fit the desires of the bureau.

In short, don't hesitate to use NPS. Just make sure that you send it to someone who knows how to scan it.

Danny www.dannyburk.com

Roger Richards
28-Jul-2005, 09:52
Thanks for all your replies.

Roger Richards
28-Jul-2005, 10:10
Danny, I visited your site and had a look at some drum scan samples you have posted. Most impressive.....are you able to get this level of quality from color negs? You noted that the sample scans are from transparency films. Also, what resolution would you suggest scanning at in 4x5 to get a detailed 40x50 print? Your photographs are excellent, by the way.

Sal Santamaura
28-Jul-2005, 10:53
I speculate that all of you using NPS aren't using enough of it fast enough. Last year Fuji announced NPS would be replaced by Pro 160S, a film allegedly "designed for scanning," but the introduction was postponed from Spring to July, and July's about over with no sign of the new film and plenty of NPS still in stores. Get out there and use up that NPS -- I want to try some Pro 160S!

M Brian Mills
28-Jul-2005, 12:03
I started by scanning NPS, Kodak 160VC, and 160NC and found that I was displeased with the look (grain and color). I then started shooting and scanning chromes. I've shot and scanned Fuji Velvia 100, Velvia 50, Kodak E100G, and 100VC. I have been most pleased with the 100VC. After scanning I desaturate in PhotoShop. The 100VC is great as just a chrome, but when trying to make a decent print the color is far too saturated. I find that I am desaturating by 20 to 40 points but am very pleased with the outcome.

Also, with my Epson 4990 scanner and Epson 9600 printer I can get huge prints that are pleasingly sharp and much less dollar-wise than drum scans and lab-prints.

Danny Burk
28-Jul-2005, 13:16

Thanks for your reply and kind comments. From NPS, there will be slightly more visible grain than from the chrome samples shown on my site. It's also less saturated than the samples I've shown, which were not altered in saturation from the original scan. Of course, it's a simple matter to adjust saturation as desired in PS, and personally I choose NPS for my own work because it's the least contrasty color film available. (AFAIK Kodak 160NC is very similar, although I've not personally used it.)

For a 40x50 print, what method of printing do you plan to use? I'd suggest scanning at 4000 dpi, which would give you 20000 pixels on the long side if the image were exactly 5" in length (which it isn't); dividing that 20000 by 360 (if you're sending to an Epson for printing) gives a printing size of approximately 55x44" without any upward interpolation. You'd need to reduce this figure slightly to account for cropped-off edge margins, meaning that the result will be almost exactly the size that you need for an Epson printer. Of course, you'll need plenty of computing power and RAM to handle the file, especially if you have it scanned at 16-bit mode.


Roger Richards
28-Jul-2005, 14:41
Danny, thanks for the detailed info. My plan is to print on an Epson large format printer at project's conclusion. I'm shooting some more Astia in contrasty light to evaluate whether it is even close to the color neg films in terms of tonal scale. The Astia I have shot so far is so beautifully neutral and yet offers the possibility of increased saturation, if wanted, in Photoshop.

The grain structure of Astia 100F on an RMS scale is 7. The Kodak and Fuji negative films are rated at an RMS of 4. I read that to compare negative to transparency RMS ratings it is necessary to multiply by a factor of 2.5. That means if Astia is RMS 7 then NPS/Portra is RMS 4 x 2.5 = RMS 10. The not yet released Pro 160 Fuji films are rated at RMS 3; to compare to negative, RMS 3 x 3.5 = RMS 7.5 . So it looks like the new Fuji neg films are going to be quite a leap and closer to transparency film, in addition to being better to scan, according to Fuji.

By the way, since scanning at 4,000 dpi is at film grain level, is that not more than lenses can resolve for large format? I scan 35mm at 4,000 dpi on a Nikon Coolscan for the file size even though it is said that 3200 dpi is about max for what can be resolved.

Danny Burk
28-Jul-2005, 15:59

I've shot the same image on both Astia and NPS and there is no comparison in latitude. Astia is a very nice transparency film and I use it at times, but NPS can work miracles when you're used to shooting E6 :) Certain images, even in soft light (such as creeks in the Smokies, exposed to avoid burning out white highlights but surrounded by deep forest) are completely blocked in the shadows with Astia, yet give a full range of shadow detail with NPS. And, as part of my initial NPS test shooting process, I shot images in terrible, contrasty midday sun (far worse than anything I'd use as a real subject), and NPS held detail in fully sunlit white-painted wood alongside foliage in shade. Of course the sunlit area and the shadowed area have to be selected separately in PS and adjusted to taste, but the film held a full range of usable detail.

I'm looking forward to trying the new Pro 160 Fuji film when it becomes available.

Modern LF lenses are extremely sharp, perhaps not quite as sharp as the very best 35mm lenses, but some (such as Rodenstock's 150mm Sironar-S) are astonishingly good. At 3200 dpi, you're getting close to pulling all the detail out of any film format, but since you have a definite need to print extra-large prints, it's worth pulling out every last speck of detail rather than interpolating upward if you want the best possible result.


Roger Richards
28-Jul-2005, 16:38
Danny, thanks very much again. I shot chrome film for years, but stopped using it consistently since about 1996. I find that for the documentary type shooting that I do now the 160NC has been almost a miracle to behold in really contrasty light. The Astia I shot this week is beautiful but not, as you said, as good at holding the shadows while keeping the highlghts from blowing out. What I am seeing is that because my subject requires me to shoot in what is often not ideal light the color neg is leading, although the grain is not there yet but might be with the new Pro 160S films from Fuji.

My favorite lens is that same 150 APO Sironar-S. A marvelous piece of glass. Like you I also use an Ebony, mine is a 45s. I am a newcomer to shooting LF for large prints and drum scans so I appreciate all your help.

29-Jul-2005, 05:51
One thing I forgot to explain about Negpos...
When scanning neg film the weak point is in the conversion from negative to positive. Most apps have some built in ways of doing this, but the parameters are hidden. You also can't 'profile' as such a neg film. So ideally you need to be able to measure the orange mask for your processor, film type, and then be able to control the gammas of each ch. in the conversion process. Negpos http://www.c-f-systems.com/Docs/NegPosManual120.pdf is the only app that allows you to do this (I think, not found anything else anyway). Tim Atherton pointed me to this and it is a godsend. It takes some time to understand it, but once you have it, you do the convert and each ch gamma is bang on the histos aren't out of step at all

29-Jul-2005, 09:14
Julian, what does negpos offer that software like vuescan and silverfast don't?

29-Jul-2005, 09:21
well it isn't a piece of scanning software, so you still need one of those. In Vuescan you'd scan as a 16bit Image file, in silverfast as 48 bit hdr. You then convert using negpos. It gives you control. Just like for BW you don't use the makers ISO but you do tests, work out a 'real' iso and then work out a range of processing times to match the scene, you also need to be able to control all the parameters of the convert app. As an example, if you scan the same neg in Vuescan and Silverfast, you willl get a different result and the histos will be out of step, or staggered. measuring and then using the negpos app nails the gamma of each chnl so the conversion process is tailored to your film stock and lab. Now all this is null and void for a drum scan, but for a film or flatbed IMO it really helps. you get much fatter histos which affetcs your tonal range

Leigh Perry
29-Jul-2005, 17:50
Julian, I've just had a play with NegPos. Its defaults came up with an encouraging conversion for Fuji NPS, but the manual says for best results you need to know the film gammas. They list values for Kodak films but not Fuji. Are you aware of the gamma values for NPS? Thanks.

30-Jul-2005, 03:31
Sorry Leigh, I only use Portra NC. Try a value of 2.00 for R, then 1.5 for the other ch'ls. Then adjust each step by step until you get the histos inline. Use a well exposed neg from your usual lab

30-Jul-2005, 16:53

Re your question about NY labs, I'm happy with Coloredge (www.coloredgenyc.com) on 21st Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.


Fuji was giving away samples of the new 160 film at my lab (Coloredge) a couple of weeks ago. I passed on the roll film and asked for 4x5 sheets, which they are sending by mail. Should arrive soon.