View Full Version : neg or tran for scanning?

20-Aug-2005, 11:31
I am planning on trying some colour film for a change and I'm wondering which is best for scanning.
Transparency or Negative film? Leaving aside the colour mask in negative film, which film type is usually capable of recording the greatest contrast range? I have heard that transparency is only good for 5 stops but I think that was for use in making cibachrome prints and not for scanning.

Any clues would be appreciated.

Will Strain
20-Aug-2005, 12:13
If you are going for contrast range - negative film usually wins. If you are going for grain size/sharpness, most people will say tranny film wins.

Some labs don't know how to scan negs well - but once that hurdle is overcome, I've had great results scanning color negative film. Do a search - this topic comes up about twice every week. There are no shortages of opinions to be found.

Kirk Gittings
20-Aug-2005, 12:33
I echo Will's sumation. Color negs benefit most from the grain masking of a wet mounted scan. But it is not an issue unless you are making a pretty big print. Since I don't print above 16x20 grain is not an issue. I prefer negs then with the greater contrast range.

20-Aug-2005, 12:43
Acording to Kodak's own data it's no longer true that tranny film has the edge in sharpness. The mtf data seems to give a slight edge to neg film. Tranny film will probably always be less grainy, though, because grain size is largest in high density areas ... which is the shadows in reversal film, where the grain gets hidden, but is the highlight areas in neg film, which is where it's most obvious. But as Kirk says, how relevent this is depends on your enlargement size.

Scanning negs is definitely more work, and requires better software (and knowledge of how to use it). But you will have a much easier time getting good exposures, especially if you're working in lighting conditions that you can't control. i take pictures outside, often in bright sun, so I use negs.

Bruce Watson
20-Aug-2005, 13:11
Did you do a search before you posted this question? It's been anwered again and again on this forum. If you go to the search box and type in "negatives vs. trannies" this is the first return:


This one if from about six weeks ago. Lots to read here and in the other threads. Enjoy.

20-Aug-2005, 14:03
thanks for replies so far.
Technology changes so fast that what was good advice last week may not be now. e.g. new film or scanner on the market.

the main thing was which gives greatest contrast range on film, hence my placing it in the film section and not digital.

next time I'll search and then ask questions...

Brian Ellis
20-Aug-2005, 16:24
Don't feel bad Rob, if everyone searched before posting questions here there wouldn't be a forum.

20-Aug-2005, 20:03
Here's an idea. Buy a box of each and try them both, same time, same picture, different lighting conditions and subjects. Then you'll know and you won't ever have to ask or worry about this subject again. Which will put you ahead of about 90% of the other folks.

21-Aug-2005, 00:41
I've considered this very question - though have settled with neg for now. The only thing giving me pause for thought is that the lower DR associated with neg film would result in the fact that optical and aliasing errors/artifacts would be exaggerated (in theory) relative to chromes. That is to say, if neg film has a lower DR - than it is using far less of the sensors' range than chrome would - and hence must be expanded relative to input from a chrome. (Read: limited histogram)

Steve Bell
21-Aug-2005, 01:45
A question to those that prefer negative film for landscapes - what film do you prefer?

Sal Santamaura
21-Aug-2005, 08:06
"...if everyone searched before posting questions here there wouldn't be a forum."

If everyone searched before posting there would be a more easily searched archive and a better forum. Instead of a glorified chat room, which is what exists when searches are skipped.

21-Aug-2005, 08:34

but you would wise to remember that making the same reply as has already been made is not exactly taking a leaf out of your own book.

best laugh I've had on this list so far.

and thank you Brian for taking the grown up view.

p.s. I don't feel about it. Anyone else want to do some whining?

21-Aug-2005, 10:53
"A question to those that prefer negative film for landscapes - what film do you prefer?"

I've only been using color for a little while, so I can't give detailed comparisons films. But I strongly prefer low contrast portrait films. Been using fuji NPS and like it. People like to debate the relative merits of NPS and kodak portra, but that's a coke/pepsi kind of thing. They're both from the same camp.

I agree with the photographer Mike Smith (http://www.kochgallery.com/artists/contemporary/Smith/series/01.html) that most modern films were designed for the color blind. I find that most high contrast/high saturation films exagerate colors and make work look like advertising photographs.

21-Aug-2005, 14:26
"I find that most high contrast/high saturation films exagerate colors and make work look like advertising photographs."

I think that might just be the point - and the market.

Kirk Gittings
21-Aug-2005, 15:53
film? NPS in 4x5 for all color work and even for some b&w conversion.

David Luttmann
21-Aug-2005, 16:01
"most modern films were designed for the color blind"


This seems to be the case with people who love Velvia. It has it's place. I've always favoured going with films like Astia, Reala, or NPS. The contrast is lower, the colors are not pumped up on steriods, and shadow detail seems to hold better because of the wider exposure latitude.

Scanning though is another matter. As much as I love neg films, trannies seem to show somewhat less grain...at least on my Imacon. But grain is such a small issue now even in 6x7. Fuji's latest rendition of Astia has a RMS of 7. Reala and Pro 160 are about the equivalent for a neg film. 16x20 commercial shots I do of large groups show no grain. Thus on 4x5, you'd even have less of an issue. Extreme crops I've done from 4x5 Astia, (equivalent to about 32x40) shows minimal grain.

As has been said, it depends on what you prefer. Don't let grain be the deciding factor.....let the "look" dictate to you.

Struan Gray
22-Aug-2005, 01:39
I use Portra NC in all the formats I shoot regularly. I like the palette, both for landscapes and for how informal portraits of my kids turn out.

I used a fair bit of NPS at one point, but it has a decided pink tone that made my more pale-faced relatives look distinctly sunburnt. Snow came out a bit odd too. This was more than a simple colour cast, and hard to correct digitally. I also like the way I can fairly closely match colour rendition across film speeds with the Portra line, which you cannot do with Fuji products.

Portra is a bit wierd in that it has muted colours when printed conventionally, but tends towards over-pure pastels when scanned. It must be something to do with the difference between the absorbances of C41 paper and the spectrum of scanner light sources. I have seen this printing my own C41 on various papers, and in scans from flatbeds and Imacons. Easy enough to correct for on a scan, but you need to watch out for it (or work with it for a sort of manga illustrative look).

I think the grain-up on scans of negative films is probably something more subtle than the size of the grain in the emulsion. It may be grain aliasing, in which case a more correlated or sharply-defined grain pattern will exacerbate the problem, or it may be a form of 'noise pumping'. Both issues can be solved on a drum scanner, if the operator and/or control software allows, but on cheapie flatbeds there is only so much you can do.

6-Sep-2005, 21:14
portra 160NC, portra 100T and fuji NPL and i think i will try the 400NC