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Thread: 4x5 sheet color film transparency vs. negative

  1. #1

    4x5 sheet color film transparency vs. negative

    Could someone please explain to me the advantages and disadvantages between color film transparency vs. negative when shooting and printing 4x5 sheet film?

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  2. #2
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: 4x5 sheet color film transparency vs. negative

    Quote Originally Posted by aaziz58601 View Post
    Could someone please explain to me the advantages and disadvantages between color film transparency vs. negative when shooting and printing 4x5 sheet film?
    Tranny film's big advantage is that it's WYSIWYG. It's big disadvantage is the lack of dynamic range (black to white). Because it's a positive film, maximum density occurs in the shadows where it's hard to see the resulting graininess.

    Negative films give more accurate color (that's in part what that orange mask is for). They have far greater dynamic range than tranny film. But because they are negatives, maximum density occurs in the highlights where it's easier to see the graininess. And of course, they are anything but WYSIWYG. That said, you can learn to evaluate them on the light table pretty accurately, if you'll put in the effort.

    In LF, the graininess issue is pretty much a non-issue unless you are printing huge. I've found that 5x4 Portra 400 makes a pretty grainless print at 10x enlargement. So I for the most part have always discounted the graininess arguments. Color accuracy for most tranny film is really pretty good also, so the better color accuracy of negative films is a similarly small point for me.

    So for me it comes down to WYSIWYG vs. much higher dynamic range. And I'll take the higher dynamic range every time.

    Bruce Watson

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: 4x5 sheet color film transparency vs. negative

    There is now no direct way to print transparencies in the darkroom. You either have to scan them and print digitally, or else revive past techniques like internegatives or older complicated printing methods, which can certainly be done with a very high degree of quality, but only after considerable experimentation. Color negs, on the other hand, can be directly printed on numerous RA4 chromogenic papers quite affordably.

  4. #4

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    Re: 4x5 sheet color film transparency vs. negative

    Transparency film is the most powerful media one can use in photography, IMHO. A 810 Velvia sheet on a light table may make a hard man cry.

    No commercial monitor will show such an static dynamic range, and you have there colors that those monitors won't show.

    Once you scan or print it happens that something is lost in the translation, but still it remains the spectral footprint of the slide, a Velvia slide scan can be imitated from a dslr image by photoshop adjustments, but we are speaking about imitations.

    A problem with slide film is that today we don't have slide film that is portrait oriented like Porta is, Astia was discontinued. The spectral sensitivity of Portra is amazing for portraits... while Provia is more for general usage, still it's good for portraits, but not specialized in that.

    Then we have Velvia 50, a pure landscape film, amazing ladscapes, but if you use it for portraits you'll get people looking like if they had been inside a microwave owen...

    So I would point that each film may have a particular spectral nature that cannot be well imitated with photoshop adjustments.

    Then we have exposure concerns, slide film it's easy to burn, highlights detail can easily be lost, while you have rich shadows (good scanner may be required). With negative film it's the counter: shadow detail is easily lost while it has plenty of latitude for the highlights.

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