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Thread: Reversal vs negative

  1. #1
    Photographer LocalHero1953's Avatar
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    Reversal vs negative

    I am a recent starter in 5x4 large format - I have only run through a box of 25 B&W, and 20 colour (Portra 400). I'm looking further ahead to the sort of photography I will be using the format for - probably mostly urban and rural landscapes, with occasional portraits. I am likely to use a mix of B&W (processed at home) and colour (lab processed). I cannot see myself doing any traditional printing at home, and rarely via a lab; I will scan most films using a DSLR (in multishot mode to get high res).

    I have just realised there is no obvious reason for keeping to colour negatives. Why not use reversal films?

    Pros:
    Easy to evaluate the result from the film
    No need for software to invert the image, which leaves you with reversed sliders etc in Lightroom. (I have Negative Lab Pro, but it is not a silver bullet - it leaves quite a bit of work to be done on colours).

    Cons:
    Is reversal film more expensive to buy and process?
    Is the range of available reversal film severely limiting?
    Are there other difficulties in digital processing of the scanned image?
    _________________________________________________________
    Paul Ashley Photography

  2. #2
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    I've settled on Velvia 50 for the pros and cons you mentioned although I'm trying Provia 100 (not shot yet) and Ektachrome (shot a few but not crazy about the colors), as I'm new to them. I had problems with getting the exposure and colors right scanning Ektar 100. No problem scanning with Velvia 50. And you know immediately before scanning whether you nailed the exposure. I like the colors better in Velvia 50 then Velvia 100., Velvia 50 is expensive though and has to be bought directly from Japan in 4x5. Velvia 100 is available in 4x5 though in the USA. Do not know what's happening where you live in the UK. Shadows can tend to go dark with Velvia 50 so that's why I'm trying Provia 100 which is suppose to give better range. Portra is too bland for landscapes but scans well. Good for flesh tones. I rarely print so if you do that could change everything.

    Nothing's perfect. Experiment with different films until you're happy.

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    Quote Originally Posted by LocalHero1953 View Post
    Cons:
    Is reversal film more expensive to buy and process?
    Is the range of available reversal film severely limiting?
    Are there other difficulties in digital processing of the scanned image?
    Add to the cons:

    * Very small dynamic range compared to negatives.
    * Very high Dmax which makes scanning difficult.
    * trannies may be WYSIWYG, but WYS isn't as color accurate as negative films (that's what the orange mask is about).

    I took the opposite approach; I haven't used tranny film in decades.

    Bruce Watson

  4. #4

    Re: Reversal vs negative

    I rarely use color negative but lots of chromes. Neither on 4x5. I use Fuji and kodak chromes on 35mm, 645, 66 and 67. I love them

    Price is my principal "con".


    ---------

    Scanning colour negatives with DSLR is a pain. Not scanning slides.

  5. #5
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
    Add to the cons:

    * Very small dynamic range compared to negatives…
    Yes, a key "Con" to keep in mind. But when I have a nice composition in much flatter light than I desire, transparencies or Polaroid Type 55 (for b/w) to the rescue. That’s mainly why I keep trannies in some of my film holders for color work, and wish my beloved Type 55 was still around.

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    Lots of nuances, and therefore the need to be much more specific than just generic distinctions. Certain hues respond much better to one fashion of film than another, even with the same general category. High contrast can sometimes equate to better distinction between similar hues, with better saturation, especially in flatter lighting where a typical color neg exposure might turn out comparatively bland. I've shot and printed a lot of both varieties, and hence my aversion to blanket answers. Then you have to think about what is available now, and not just in the past, with a much tighter selection of not only color films in general, but the especially limited selection in sheet version.
    Then there's the expense issue. Either way, twenty or thirty dollars per shot if you shoot 8x10, and include the cost of processing. Chromes are wonderful for being easy to analyze right atop a decent light box; but they're seldom as easy to print, at least in optical mode, which is still in my opinion the superior manner.

  7. #7
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    Chromes are difficult to print. But some people are attracted to difficult situations. I was, but I stopped when Cibachrome stopped.

  8. #8
    Photographer LocalHero1953's Avatar
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    Thanks everyone, for all the advice.
    To confirm, I wouldn't be printing, except as an inkjet print from the scanned positive.
    _________________________________________________________
    Paul Ashley Photography

  9. #9
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
    Add to the cons:

    * Very small dynamic range compared to negatives.
    * Very high Dmax which makes scanning difficult.
    * trannies may be WYSIWYG, but WYS isn't as color accurate as negative films (that's what the orange mask is about).

    I took the opposite approach; I haven't used tranny film in decades.
    Same. I haven't shot chromes in 17 years. Limited use, shorter lifespan and too contrasty, in general.

  10. #10
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Reversal vs negative

    Ask yourself how many times you've been in superlative lighting conditions where chromes will be usable and appropriate?

    I have a few boxes of Velvia languishing in my freezer. I think I see lighting conditions worthy of shooting it a few times a year, and usually when I am not able to photograph...
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

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