The Photo Film I Will Be Using Summer 2018

The films I have used in the last 12 months have all been either Kodak or Fuji.  In my opinion you can characterize products from both companies by just looking at the colors on their boxes.  Fuji – green and Kodak yellow-red.  My overall experience is Fuji tends green, Kodak warm yellows, oranges, and reds.  You can correct much of this in post but it is still there.

If I was to guess why, I would say that Japan is where Fuji is from and it is overall a very green place.  On the other hand the most iconic Kodak shots are of the Grand Canyon and southwest USA.  There is even a State Park in Utah named the Kodachrome Basin.  The color pallet of that park is orange, red, and yellow.

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Taken April 2018 with Fuji Velvia 50 – edited in Lightroom CC Classic
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Taken April 2018 with Kodak Gold 200 – edited on Lightroom CC Classic

I will start with lowest price first.

Kodak Gold 200 and Color Plus 200.  I have shot both in the last couple months.  Both basically the same price in California and very similar.

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Kodak Color Plus 200 – edited on Lightroom CC Classic
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Color Plus – Lightroom CC Classic – Color on car is accurate.  I blew the clouds out a little by metering on the car.
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Shot on Kodak Gold with a 1950’s Voightlander – Edited in LR CC
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Kodak Gold 200 in low light no flash old camera.  Edited LR CC
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Kodak Gold 200 indoors, natural light.  Edited LR CC

This is a very good low cost film except you need to be careful of getting too much grain in shadows.  Personally I cannot tell the difference between the two Kodak films on my large monitor except to say that color plus seems a little brighter.  In some cases when I get this film the box says Kodak Gold and the film can says Kodak 200.

Fuji 200.  – This is the Walmart 24 exposure rolls.

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Fuji 200 – Edited very little in LR CC

This is a beautiful detailed shot of my dog on my large monitor.  This hardly needed any editing.

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Fuji 200 – edited in LR CC

This one needed a bit of post to get something I liked, but the Fuji did very well in forest scenes.  Fine grain throughout even in shadows.

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Fuji 200 edited in LR CC

Even in the dark areas there is little grain.  I brightened this quite a bit in LR and still minimal grain.

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Fuji 200 edited in LR CC

This is a beautiful picture of one of my grand daughters with great skin tones and minimal grain in the out of focus shadows.

I bought this roll of film at Walmart for $250 a roll.  Only 24 ex.  There are 36ex rolls for sale at B&H and elsewhere.  I mention B&H because they sometimes have some very good sales on this film.  Currently 36ex rolls are selling for $4.

My comments.  If I was shooting the southwest or the beach I would prefer the Kodak Color Plus or Gold color rendition.  Both almost as good as Kodak Ektar.   Just this morning “The Darkroom” posted on my Facebook a comparison of Kodak Gold 200 and Fuji C200 with two beach shots.  To my eye I preferred the Kodak on their example a lot.  I have to say the Fuji 200 gave a much more elegant rendition of my forest scenes, far less grain, and beautiful skin tones, much better than Kodak.  So which is it?  These are both great low cost films.  I would only remember to buy 36ex rolls so you can save on processing and watch the shadows on the K Gold.

Lomography 100.  Lomography sells 100 speed print film.  It is in the same range of price as the Kodak and Fuji products but a slower speed.  I have been giving some thought to buying a 3 pack and trying it out.  I have looked at the samples on Flickr and they look good.

Kodak 400 and 400 Ultramax 400 & Fuji Superia 400.

I have had very good luck with both the Kodak and Fuji.  Kodak has kept their prices level on this film to the same range as the Kodak 200.  Fuji used to sell at the Kodak price but now is usually about 2 dollars more.  At 2 dollars more I will always buy the Kodak, but this past Christmas I snagged 10 rolls at under the Kodak price.  That said here are some samples.

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Great shot on Kodak Ultramax 400 – a tiny bit of editing on LR CC
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The Ultramax shots came out way better than the Nikon digital ones.  At least I like them better.  This shot was slightly edited on LR CC
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Kodak Ultramax 400
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Ultramax
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Fuji Superia 400
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Fuji Superia 400
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Fuji Superia 400

In the end I think I prefer the Kodak Ultramax for landscape and Superia 400 for people and green.  The Fuji seems a bit finer grain, but not much.  The issue with Superia is that at $6.00 a roll it is almost up to Ektar 100 price and I think Ektar is one of the two best landscape films you can buy.  And the Superia is also right in the Portra price range.  Portra just outclasses the Fuji on skin shots and anything not in bright desert sun.  But you cannot go wrong on either the Superia 400 or Kodak Ultramax 400, buy on price and depending on subject.  I plan to work through my supply of Superia 400 this summer but since I have several film cameras I can load them with black and white plus some Kodak for punchier “National Park” type shots.

Pro films.  

The ones I have used in the last 12 months are Fuji Velvia 50 & 100, Kodak Portra 160 & 400, Kodak Ektar 100.

Velvia 50 – A classic slide film that is known for highly saturated colors.  If you like this level of saturation it does a great job on landscapes and not good at all on skin tones.  The speed is a slow 50 but in full sun this works fine.  I have used this film often in all of my cameras with built in light meters.  It is somewhat fussy about exposure, but I really have not had that much problem with ruined shots except when I ran a roll through a very old mechanical camera from the 50’s with a slow shutter spring.  The other thing to watch out for is limited dynamic range.  If you average your exposure and have a great variety of shadow and highlight it is easy to underexpose your shadows.  Two summers ago I had problems with the bodies of bison against bright backgrounds.  The animals had mostly blocked shadows which I could not correct well in Lightroom.  Since the big animals were up close and scared me a little I did not change the settings fast enough on my manual Olympus OM 2n.  My more auto Minoltas would have worked better.  I used Ektar 100 shooting bison and had much less problem with blocked shadows due to that film’s wider dynamic range.

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Velvia 50 shot with Minolta 600si edited in LR CC Classic
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Velvia 50 & same camera as above
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Velvia 50 

These were taken a couple of months ago and as you can see Velvia pops the colors but then does not do a great job on the skin tones.

Velvia 100

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This is a bad picture but this is the best skin tone example I could find of Velvia 100.  You can see the 100 does a much better job with it than the 50 but still pops the color of things.  
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This is a good example of Velvia 100 showing this slide films limited dynamic range.  The two people in the foreground a a little under exposed and the highlights in the background blown.  

But on landscape you can’t fault it.

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Velvia 100 using LR CC to edit.  Olympus OM2n & 50mm f1.8 

Ektar considering everything might just be the best overall landscape film available.  It is 100 speed which is about what you should have for daytime landscape shots.  The landscape color is similar to Velvia 50 without quite so much excess.  The grain is very fine.  It handles exposure better than Velvia.  And it costs about half as much as Velvia.  I have shot a lot of rolls of it.

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Ektar using a Minolta 600si.  The best color I have ever been able to get at Zion was with Ektar.  
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Ektar using Minolta 600si and 50mm f2.8 macro
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Ektar using Minolta 600si & 50mm f2.8 Sigma macro 

I have had some issues with Ektar going red on skin but as you can see from the next two pictures it is OK with skin.

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Ektar and my very old Voightlander with 50mm f1.5
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Ektar and Voightlander 

This is my favorite film but not if I am shooting mostly people.

Portra 160 and 400

Portra tends to be most peoples favorite film.  Here are some of my results.  It is one of mine too.  I find both 160 and 400 to be great with 400 having a touch more saturation.

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Portra 160
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Portra 160
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Portra 160
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Portra 400
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Portra 400

Portra 160 or 400 are both very forgiving of exposure error.  They both have tremendous dynamic range.  I do prefer Ektar for landscapes, but if you only want to take one film Portra is a better choice.  Very fine grain.  Much lower price than the competing Fuji product.  Only slightly more money than Fuji Superia 400.

Ektachrome.  I had planned to shoot some Kodak Ektachrome this summer.  The problem with that is I have not been able to buy any yet.  Ektachrome is not Kodachrome, but if I do see some Ektachrome soon I will buy some.

Black and White.  

I usually shoot color, but recently have used some TriX and Tmax.  I have beautiful results with both.  These are both gorgeous films and here are some recent shots.

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Tmax 400
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Tmax 400
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Tmax 400
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TriX
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TriX
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TriX

If I had to pick only one of these I would take TriX, but both are sure to give you B&W results you will like.

So what am I taking with me this summer on our long trip?  All of the ones mentioned with a couple of rolls of Ilford black and white.  I have just looked up the price of Velvia 100 and Provia 100.  They seem to be about $7 a roll.  I will call to see how long to expiration before I buy, but that seems like a good price.  I have never shot Provia and would like to try it.  I usually take about 5 camera bodies with me and I load them up with different films and take what I am in the mood for that day or fits the likely subjects.  If I shoot any new films before we leave I will update this post.

  • All around films.  Any of the ones mentioned in this post Kodak 200 or 400.  Fuji 200 or 400 will work well and not cost a lot.  But if you have to pay $6 for a roll of Fuji 400 I would pick the Fuji 200 for $4 or either Kodak for $4.
  • Higher end film.  I will not pay $15 for Velvia 50.  But Kodak Portra or Ektar make great images at about $6.50-7.00 per roll.  Fuji Velvia 100 seems like a good buy at $7 but I have to check the expiration.  Don’t forget that slide film is harder to shoot and costs about $3 extra to develop.
  • Black and White.  I love both Kodak TriX and Tmax.  Both run about $6 a roll.

 

Nikon, Sony, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, and all the big camera makers are going to copy cell phones –

ability to use more than one camera and editing software.  Here is what I mean.  My Nikon and my Sony digital cameras are Nikon and Sony hardware and software.  My iPhone X is an Apple camera hardware and Apple camera software, but also Adobe Lightroom camera software and Night Cap camera software.  If I wanted to I could add a dozen more camera and editing softwares to my iPhone.

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Taken with an iPhone X using the Apple camera app and Lightroom Classic to edit 

This past fall when Apple introduced new iPhones much of the improvement in the camera was software related.  Then in the last ten days Adobe launched a huge improvement to their Lightroom Classic software system that I used in line with my iPhone X camera.  And all of the iPhone camera software works using an interactive touch screen.  Three years ago when Nikon introduced a touch screen on the mid range DSLRs nearly all the camera reviewers commented that it made it much quicker and easier to change settings and to use in live view.  I bought a Nikon D5500 because of the touch screen and have admired how easy this camera is to use since I bought it.  I find it incredible that all new models of cameras do not have something like this.  I recently rented a Sony A7R III and very much missed having a full featured touch screen on this high end device.

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Taken with an iPhone X and Apple camera software.  Edited on Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.  

Even though my D5500 has a touch screen the software on this camera is limited to only using Nikon’s software.  I would like to be able to add Adobe (or other software) to this camera.  It is obvious to me that someone other than me is going to be able to see this soon and will shake the camera market by adding this ability.  Or possibly a phone maker like Apple, Google, or Hauwei will offer a stand alone camera.

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Taken with iPhone X using Apple camera software.  Edited using Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.  

Today’s camera systems are much more complicated than a few years ago.  It is a struggle for the camera companies to make both hardware and software that works well at a price people are willing to pay.  If the camera companies made their models to be more open sourced for software it would make things easier for them.  The camera makers could concentrate on getting the lenses right and software makers like Adobe and others can work on things like efficient transfer of photos and video to the cloud, or backup, or a computer.  All cell phones do a good job of this and I don’t think any camera makers do.

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Taken with an iPhone X and Apple camera app.  Edited in Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.  

Will it be easy to adapt something like Lightroom to a regular camera.  No.  It will take a significant software change.  Even large rich software companies cannot do something like this easily.  But lets just say Nikon worked with Adobe and their soon to be announced mirrorless camera had the ability to use software like an iPhone and also had a touch screen that worked as well as an iPhone.  It would shock the industry and they would make lots of money.  If it worked I would buy one.  But I may buy the soon to be announced Nikon mirrorless anyway even if it is only a little better than my D5500 software.  So I would guess that Nikon will not go this giant change and only update a little.

This leaves open the possibility of a smaller company or Sony to make this kind of a move.  Sony could add this type of system to their cameras by adapting some of the technology from their cell phones.  But Sony has left off a full touch screen and menu improvements to their brand new high end cameras so I will not be holding my breath for them to do it.

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Taken with an iPhone X and Apple camera app.  Edited – very slightly – in Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.  This photo needed almost no editing to look this way.  

What I actually think the most likely outcome is that cell phone companies are going to keep improving and make larger cameras less and less relevant.  I would guess that Apple and the other higher end makers will follow Hauwei and add a third camera to their phones.  Adobe and others will keep improving their camera and editing software.  And almost everyone will be satisfied with that outcome.  I would guess that the best “photographers” edition phone would have a 28mm, 58mm, & 135mm equivalent lenses and be able to cover everything from wide angle to telephoto in the same system with high quality.  Will it give the same detail as a Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III?  No, but for almost everyone it will be good enough.  And it will do 4K video too.  My current iPhone X will do 4K video at 60fps.  And the iPhone includes free editing software for stills and video.  And it will send all the files to your other devices automatically.

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Taken with iPhone X and Apple camera app.  Edited in Lightroom CC Classic.  

Lightroom Upgrades To CC Classic

This is a user report.  Lightroom seems to be most serious photographers default post capture editing software.  It is mine too.

When Adobe introduced Lightroom CC a few months back I installed it to see how it compared to the traditional version.  Like a lot of people I liked some of the features of Lightroom CC but could not give up the older style software for a number of reasons.

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Taken with Nikon D5500 and 18-55 lens using RAW & Lightroom CC Classic 

In the last few days Adobe has sent out a major update to traditional Lightroom CC Classic.  The changes have made it much easier for me to get photographs I like.  The most significant changes are adding a large set of profiles on the right side of the develop screen, and many additional presets on the left side of the develop screen.  Plus you can see a preview of what will happen to your image by mousing over the profile or preview.  I have edited about 100 images since this update and I have to say that this is the most significant upgrade to make LR CC Classic easier and faster to use ever.

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Taken with Nikon D5500 with 18-55 lens and LR CC Classic 

The profiles and presets so far have not replaced the auto setting and sliders, but much of the time using a profile as a starting point you do not have to manually adjust settings nearly as much as before.  I also have to say that Adobe did a very good job in making profiles and some of the presets that are useful.  The profiles are mostly new and very good.  The presets are all from the Lightroom CC on line and mobile system.  They are also quite good, but not as much so as the profiles.  At least to my taste and eyes.

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Taken with Nikon D5500 and 18-55 lens using LR CC Classic

I have been shooting a mix of digital and film over the last few years.  The biggest reason I still shoot film is I like the color and black and white profiles of some of the films that are available.  Kodak Ektar and Fuji Velvia are two landscape films I love to use for their colors.  I have many times taken film shots and then some digital shots of the same subject and picked the film ones in the end as better due to the way they handle the color or B&W rendition.  I would guess that these changes making Lightroom much easier to use will lessen my film use.  I do like some of the simplicity of my Olympus and Voightlander cameras.  And the Minoltas are also a pleasure to use with their simple controls and both good manual focus plus auto focus when you want to use it.  And some of the legacy glass is just super and gives beautiful results.  But there is no doubt at all that my digital cameras are better at difficult exposures and give immediate results.

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Shot with Nikon D5500 & 18-55 lens edited in LR CC Classic

If you use an older version of Lightroom it might be a good time to upgrade.  If you don’t use Lightroom give it a try.  This new version is much easier to learn than the older ones.