View Full Version : Suggestions for Color Film

Brian Ellis
29-Aug-2005, 20:00
I''ve used b&w film exclusively for many years. I've decided to try some 4x5 color slide and negative film on a trip to Oregon next month to see how I like it. I know next to nothing about color films especially slide films. Could someone suggest a good general purpose (mainly landscape) slide film and a good general purpose negative film along with a suggested EI for each? Film speed isn't critical but I'd prefer something in the 100 ASA range or faster. The intended use is scans and prints of about 11x14 inches if that matters. I'm not a big fan of that super-saturated look I see so much of, I tend to like more muted colors but that isn't critical for this experiment.

Neal Wydra
29-Aug-2005, 20:16
Dear Brian,

Your Choices are: Portra 160 NC and VC. Portra 400 NC. Fuji NPS. They're all good.

Will Strain
29-Aug-2005, 20:17
For neg film, I really like Kodak Portra VC 160 - I usually rate it around 140. The NC is fairly nice and less saturated as well, I typically rate this at 125.

For landscape work, I personally have never been a fan of shooting transparencies. Not enough local control of the contrast range.

David Luttmann
29-Aug-2005, 21:07
Brian, I can echo the NPS (or the new Pro 160) from Fuji for neg films. For slide, the latest Astia is neutral in color and a grain RMS of 7. I expose NPS @ iso 125 on sunny days and 100 on cloudy days. Astia I find works well at rated speed of 100. If the contrast of the scene is low, then it's safe to rate @ iso 80.


Ted Harris
29-Aug-2005, 21:12

To a large extent film is a matter of personal choice. If you don't want the saturated look then you will want to start with either Astia or Provia in the Fuji films and E100G or maybe EPP from Kodak. These are all transparency films, I seldom shoot color negative film. I have used all of these anf generally gravitate toward the Fuji emulsions with a general preference for Astia as the most natural and neutral (I do prefer the saturated look a lot as well but not discussing it here per your preferences) which I find works well for most landscapes, especially coastal. Provia, OTOH, gives you the widest exposure latitude of any of the transparency films and I find it works well when I want some warmth in the scene, especially with fall foliage if I am not using Velvia. Kerry did a good article for View Camera on all the current color transparency films ... think it was about a year ago ... and well worth looking at although I don't recall if it covered the current new Velvia and Astia 100F.

Leigh Perry
29-Aug-2005, 21:26
Brian, I find myself oscillating between several films for landscapes. Each has its own areas of strength and its own shortcomings. For this reason I find myself with some of each of the films in
Quickload and Readyload formats in my backpack, plus the two holders of course.

In slide film, I use Fuji Astia 100F, Kodak E100G, and a little Fuji Velvia 50 or 100 (not Velvia 100F, which is best left at the shop). Overall, I find that Astia 100F fits my style the best. It's rich enough but subtle too. Kodak E100G I find generally too warm, although there is an even warmer variety too (GX), but it works nicely just after dawn, say the first ten minutes, when the light is very weak. In predawn or twilight, I find E100G has a schizophrenic magenta tendency that swings wildly with half-stop exposure variations. I don't E100G's greens either. Contrary to many, I only use Velvia in extremely low contrast situations, where I find that, perversely, so long as you don't underexpose, it can produce transparencies of considerable delicacy. I have also used Provia 100F in the past, but found it tends towards a steely blue in some subdued lighting situations.

In colour negative film, I use Fuji NPS simply because it's available in Quickload. I find it quite similar to Kodak Portra NC, which I would otherwise happily use except Portra is only available in the VC version in Readyload. That brings me to the other consideration with neg films. As someone who scans and prints digitally, I see no advantage in using the higher contrast versions of the neg films, such as Portra VC or Fuji Reala. I use neg film when the latitude is just too great for slide film + grad ND filters, so I'm looking for a low contrast rendering.

Others will have different opinions of course, as Ted has already illustrated with Provia :-)

If you want to see some examples of each of these, I can email you some links to photographs on my website illustrating what I've described.

30-Aug-2005, 00:20

I like Fuji NPS for neg and Provia for transparency... Velvia is nice but it seems better fitted for studio shooting where you can control the contrast.

I've also used Portra 160 shot at 125... very nice as well! :)

Generally, I shoot Provia at 80 and NPS at what it's rated at.

I think the true film speed will be dependent on your own gear... largely the shutter speed settings and meter. :)

Overall, IMHO, there's a lot of choice out there and they all do the job very well... :)


mark blackman
30-Aug-2005, 01:35
If you are used to shooting B&W then you are in for a shock with colour film, especially transparencies. I suggest you invest in some graduated filters to try and bring some control over your images - if you are used to using the zone system you are going to have to work with a 3 stop range.

Brian Ellis
30-Aug-2005, 06:20
Thanks for all the suggestions. I can see that it's going to take more than 1 10 sheet box of slide film and 1 of negative to figure out what I like best, assuming I stick with this strange stuff, but this gives me a place to start.

30-Aug-2005, 06:49
I'm surprised there was just one vote for the Provia F 100. A very forgiving slide film with the finest grain of them all! The latest generation too.

David Roossien
30-Aug-2005, 07:18
Well, Brian asked for a general purpose slide and print film and Astia or E100G fits the request for G.P. Proviaís contrast is about the same as Velvia 100F, so it canít really be called a G.P. film.

There were some great responses. As Leigh pointed out it's important to consider the scene you are shooting when selecting the film to use. Fortunately LF lets you pick each sheet. I try to match the color of the subject and the lighting to the film choice. For greens, browns, and reds I like Provia a lot. It is slightly less saturated than Velvia 100F and a lot less saturated than Velvia 50. If I were shooting scenes with lots of green foliage, then Provia would be in my camera.

On the beach is a different story. Provia doesn't handle yellow or blue very well. It tends to block up yellow. So, scenes with golden light are better shot with something else--Astia, Velvia, E100G.

David Luttmann
30-Aug-2005, 08:10

According to Fuji, the RMS for Provia 100F is 8, while Astia 100F is 7.....making Astia the finest grain as yet for their chrome lineup.

30-Aug-2005, 08:33
Astia for a more natural response, Provia 100F for a more saturated but not as much as Velvia. I prefer provia. It fits me.

I like NPS and NPH, as well as 160 and 400 NC. Not a big fan of VC

It is a real personal choice. One 10 sheet box and some testing will give you enough to know if you like the look of a particular film. No need to go the 20 shot or 50 shot box.

I would rather shoot with readyloads or quickloads. Don't know why but I can load and unload a film holder with BW with not a scratch. Put color film in and I scratch the hell out of it. The quick load and ready load gets rid of this problem for me.

Eric Leppanen
30-Aug-2005, 11:12
Since you won't be making large prints, I don't think you'll see much difference between many of the emulsions mentioned above, so you have quite a bit of leeway here.

Since you're not a super-saturated kind of guy, I would suggest shooting color neg film. I've been using Portra 160VC (a bit more color saturation than NPS), but I am very curious about the new Fuji 160S (I have a box on order). Ctein in the latest issue of Photo Techniques magazine rates 160S as the best color print film available. Calumet has it in stock (both in standard sheets and Quickloads).

Transparency film limits you to shooting either early or late in the day, or in shade. If you were gung-ho on color saturation and contrast, then putting up with this limitation might be worth it, but since you prefer more muted, natural colors, I don't see the point. Color neg film is also more tolerant of warm/cool light temperatures when shooting in shade or reflected light. The most color neutral transparency film I've worked with is Astia 100F.

30-Aug-2005, 13:09
Dave, thanks for the update.

Nathaniel Paust
30-Aug-2005, 15:01
I'd put my vote in for Astia. Since it's slide film, you don't have to worry about color casts introduced in printing (of course, you do stil have to worry about color casts just from the color of the light.)

More importantly to me though, using slide film lets me see a more or less finished product on the light box. You can't just look at a neg and tell that much about the picture.

I also love Astia's color palette, good colors but not over saturated. Nice fine grain. Great skin tones. And, for low light photography, no need to worry about reciprocity failure out to about 2 minutes. Of course, other people care about this factor less...

Really, I don't know that you'd go wrong with any of the color films available in 4x5. It's not like Seattle Filmworks is selling 4x5 film.

Bruce Watson
30-Aug-2005, 17:55
Something else to think about - consider limiting your choices to those available in readyload or quickload formats. Why? If you are shooting B&W from film holders, this cuts down on the confusion. At least it does for me. Otherwise you've got all kinds of things in film holders and you have to go through a lot of pain and effort to keep everything separated and your meter set to the right EI.

So... I'd consider 160PortraVC for your negative film. It comes in readyloads, and it's works quite well for landscape work I think. For a slide film, I'd try Kodak E100G in readyloads, which has had a number of favorable reviews.

Now, I've never used a large format slide film. I want the extra dynamic range I can get from negative films. Since I'm scanning, I've found that I can treat the color film pretty much as I treat B&W film. That is, expose for the shadows and let the highlights fall where they may. For both Tri-X and 160PortraVC, I put the shadows I want to carry detail on zone III, and go.

Actual EI rating will depend at least in part on the lab that processes it. For example, I find that an EI of 160 for the Portra works just fine with my lab. Others find that it needs to be downrated a bit. I can't advise you on an EI for E100G.

Mike Lewis
30-Aug-2005, 19:46
I agree with Henry's recommendation of Fuji NPS for negative and Provia for transparency. Some folks complain that Provia has a blueish cast in shadows and I have noticed this from time to time. But to me that seems to be its only drawback. Additionally, it is advertised as having no reciprocity failure and this appears to be the case.

I tried one box of Astia and was disappointed. I found it to lack contrast and to me the colors seemed "washed out". In April I photographed a Mormon temple in the small town of Paris, Idaho. It was built from pink sandstone that was quarried locally, and the color of the building was simply stunning. The resulting Astia transparency looked like ... a red brick church. Very disappointing.

And as for Velvia -- the world is not a cartoon.

Brian C. Miller
30-Aug-2005, 21:19
"And as for Velvia -- the world is not a cartoon."

Yes, it is. And its a really good one with that Frog Skin brand film, paper, and (oh yes!) chemicals!

The Kodak E100G or E100GX film is good stuff. The colors seemed fine, nothing abby normal about it. The E100VS is saturated, though.

Do you own a 35mm camera? If so, just buy some different rolls of film, set up a still life or something, and shoot the rolls. The best comparison is based on what you see for yourself.

Eric Fredine
30-Aug-2005, 22:16
I'm perfectly happy with the combination of Astia 100F and NPS. I shoot Astia when the contrast range allows and NPS otherwise. I use both in Quickloads.