View Full Version : Best Color Film for Long Exposures

David Solow
11-Apr-2011, 04:41
Hi, all.

First of all, thank you all in advance for sharing your knowledge and experience. I put this post in the Style and Technique Forum, but since this is a film question, I thought I would post it here.

I am shooting in 4x5. I would like to know what other folks' experiences are with color film for long exposures: reciprocity factors, color shifting, contrast, etc. It would be great if someone had some experience shooting architecture at night or twilight with color film. I know that long is a relative term, but I would like to know what your experiences are with different lengths of time from a matter of seconds up to an hour or more. For instance, if you shoot mostly in twilight, what do you use, or dimly lit interiors, or outside in the middle of the night, what do you use, etc.

If you're able to reveal a source for this film, that would be helpful. If not, I completely understand. In the month or so, since I became interested in LF photography, B&H has discontinued two print films in 4x5 that have been recommended for portraits: the Kodak 160NC and the Fuji 160S Quickload.


Noah A
11-Apr-2011, 06:19
Maybe I'm wrong, but I think many of us read using the unified view, so there's probably not too much reason to post in two places...

Anyway, I've always used the Kodak Portra films. They work well for longer exposures.

The old NC and VC portras (in both 160 and 400 speeds) were recently replaced by two new films, Portra 400 Pro and Portra 160 Pro. The 160 is probably not available yet. The 400 is available, but B&H for some reason doesn't have it yet.

Try Freestyle, Unique Photo, maybe Adorama, etc...

While I would generally use a slower film for twilight or night work, the new 400 performs admirably and from my tests, the grain is barely more noticeable than the old 160NC. (And for my tests I was comparing drum scanned negs and print sections equal to a 60x75in print!)

You will have to deal with reciprocity failure at night. The color neg films are fairly forgiving, but they are much more forgiving on the overexposure side. It's rather difficult to overexpose color neg film to the point that it's unusable.

There was another thread on this somewhere, but generally I compensate roughly this way:

Up to 1 sec (metered)=I shoot as metered.
5 sec (metered)=10-20 sec
10 sec (metered)=30 sec-1 minute
30 sec or more (metered, though metering gets tricky at such low levels)=5 min or more, depending on the scene.

I generally shoot in urban areas with a decent amount of light, even at night. And I don't generally shoot in the middle of the night, it's usually at twilight. One exception is in the fog or heavy clouds, in which case the sky may light up from the ambient light.

Sascha Welter
11-Apr-2011, 06:47
I had good experiences with Kodak 160NC and Fuji Pro 160S. Once a shop gave me by mistake some Kodak 400VC and I used it amongst others for some night shots - didn't like the result really, the hightlights blew out way too fast. No scientific data, just "didn't work well for me". The twilight shot was ok, the night shot wasn't.

11-Apr-2011, 07:26
Present generation Provia 100F (RDP III), by a huge margin - it is good for exposures deep into the minutes without any correction. The previous Provia, Astia, Velvia 100F and Kodak E100G/VS already were almost as good on long time exposures as the old "Tungsten" films (while beating them in their short time capabilities). But the reciprocity characteristics of RDPIII (which may have been the last fundamentally new formulation of a reversal film ever to reach production stage) are in a class of their own, and easily superior to every general purpose or special reversal film ever made...

If you have to compensate for very warm lighting (Na discharge, dimmed tungsten or candle light), tungsten films can still be worth while as they avoid one factor 3 filter - but they don't seem to be made any more, at least in large format, and old stock is now getting scarce.

Lynn Jones
11-Apr-2011, 10:54
I would suggest tungsten balance film, it is optimized for longer exposures and works better in reciprocity failure situations. When you need long exposures in daylight, do the same but put an 85B filter on it. I used to do this when shooting earth moving and heavy farm equipment when I needed long focal length lenses but needing f45 of f64 exposures.