View Full Version : Which film is this? Does old there exist a 80's, 90's film look?

21-Mar-2011, 18:46
Hi guys,

I realized from looking at some pictures from famous photographers, that there's a certain color look - besides the fact that it isn't digital - to older LF photographs.

This LF color photograph from 1992 from Thomas Struth is an example of that look. Is it just me seeing things that aren't there?

In the video series "contacts", there's a video still frame where it says he used 4x5 Agfa Optima 100 in his paradise series, but I have no idea about this film.

If somebody has a clue what I'm talking about, i'd be grateful for some comments!

Kind regards


Bill Poole
21-Mar-2011, 19:03
According to this:


it's been discontinued.

Henry Ambrose
21-Mar-2011, 19:06
Agfa color films from the 70s and 80s had a brownish olive look that may be what you're seeing here. I liked that look, but its long gone now-a-days.

Ben Syverson
21-Mar-2011, 19:11
There's not much to it—just LF printed large, photochemically. The "look" has more to do with contrast than anything. Back in the 80s and early 90s, Cibachrome and high contrast were in vogue, so some negatives and RA4 papers had steeper curves. It would be easy to get the same look today—for wet prints, shoot Ektar, for digital output, shoot anything and apply some subtle curves.

Roger Cole
21-Mar-2011, 19:37
Agfa color films from the 70s and 80s had a brownish olive look that may be what you're seeing here. I liked that look, but its long gone now-a-days.

Maybe, but Agfa from the late 90s and in particular Optima 100, did not. I really liked Optima 100 in 4x5, and in fact have some in my freezer having given up LF and film for a decade before I'd used it all up.

21-Mar-2011, 19:53
Analog to digital conversion is suspect at best. Color is difficult to match to the original.

21-Mar-2011, 19:58
If there is an "80s-90s look" it's Kodachrome. I don't know how that relates to LF but that's what I think.

Brian Ellis
21-Mar-2011, 22:20
My parents' color photographs as well as mine from the late 1970s definitely have a "certain look" - they've faded badly and many have acquired a magenta patina.

James Hilton
22-Mar-2011, 02:38
Analog to digital conversion is suspect at best. Color is difficult to match to the original.

That was what I was thinking. Plus with this photo if the grey around the edge is actually the white of the scanner pad or piece of paper etc then it has maybe not been adjusted after scanning much resulting in the high contrast. Who knows, but it looks very high contrast.

Noah A
22-Mar-2011, 06:55
I've seen Struth's prints before and they do look similar to this scan, at least on my monitor. The contrast may be a bit high here but I think it's a valid question.

I think the look of his prints come largely from the large format negative as well as the specific film. But part of it is also a slight fading/yellowing that has occurred. I saw a few of his prints recently and they were printed with a white margin, which was decidedly not white anymore. The prints were beautiful and he's one of my favorite photographers, but the prints had definitely changed over time. It could be due to the C-print itself or the diasec face mounting.

I have C-prints from a reputable lab that have yellowed slightly since the late 90s.

If you wanted to reproduce the look today, I'd suggest shooting 4x5 or 8x10 color neg film and scanning on a good drum scanner. Prints could be digital C prints or inkjet, but the key would be to add a bit of a curve to block up the shadows just a bit.

I think there's a tendency now with digital photography and film scanning to use all of the available dynamic range just because we can. With analog printing we always had to make some choices about what tonal information to keep and what to let go.

Nathan Potter
22-Mar-2011, 08:13
Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s there was a trend by manufacturers to "jazz" up the color saturation in the popular color films. I think this also resulted in a somewhat higher contrast and was a point of frustration for me. I was used to the older films and often did work that emphasized suttle earth tones. I resort to Fuji Astia now when I need to get that more muted effect and a bit longer tonal range. Curiously my most recent extraction of a sensitometric curve shows very little difference between Velvia 50 and Astia 100.

As Ellis said fading might get you there. Just try exposing your chromes to UV light for some hours. Of course the fading is likely to be differential as a function of color. Optima is/was color negative material so would behave differently than the chrome films.

Nate Potter, Austin TX.

Drew Wiley
22-Mar-2011, 09:04
Natan - Velvia does have shadow separation way down the line, but the dye density
is so great that most of it cannot be recovered by conventional means, so for all practical purposes, Astia is a very different lower-contast and lower-saturation animal. Astia also has a much more neutral balance. It is so neutral in fact, that you can take most other Fuji chrome films and precisely duplicate their color on Astia with just some contrast control; you couldn't possibly do this with Velvia or even Provia.

Drew Wiley
22-Mar-2011, 09:10
Agfa films retained the softer, lower contrast look with chromes longer than Fuji or
Kodak did, although Kodak kept making the old Ektachrome 64 until recently. I don't
think that look would be easy to duplicate with current negative films, which have a
palette of their own.

23-Mar-2011, 02:57
Hey guys, thank you for your comments, but for more striking examples please look at the church picture and the pantheon picture in rome of struth in this page: they look almost like paintings and not like photographs anymore. I saw them in the museum and thought how did he get this specific look:


I'm not sure that that has anything to do with Agfa, I just saw that still frame in that documentation. But how would one get this look nowadays? Impossible or just manipulation of curves and constrast?

Kind regards


Ben Syverson
23-Mar-2011, 07:54
Again, there's really no magic to it, technically. He just chooses really spectacular spaces to photograph.

Drew Wiley
23-Mar-2011, 10:13
I'm no expert on the dude, but what I've seen were just garden-variety C-prints, and
not anything special technically. In fact, I was underwhelmed.