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Thread: Film - how to process and print?

  1. #1
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    Film - how to process and print?

    I've had a lot of fun over the past several years with about 6 digital cameras. But "they" say that for really superior results quality-wise, film is better than digital. So I bought a used Nikon N75 SLR w/ a Nikkor 28-80 lens.

    So far I've shot and processed only 2 rolls of film - CVS Drugstore ISO 200 color print film. One roll was processed and scanned to CD by the local CVS store, and the other by the local Walgreens store. In both cases, the jpg files on the CD's are surprisingly small: around 1.2 mb and .6 mb. And the viewed and home-printed images are about equal to what I get when printing from my 7MP p&s digital camera.

    As you know, it's A LOT easier to shoot a compact digital p&s than to deal with film and a large SLR camera. If the film results are no better than digital, why bother?

    But, I suspect there are better ways to shoot film, and thus my questions:

    1. Does it make much photographic difference whether I shoot cheaper store-brand film compared to Kodak or Fuji?
    2. What can a dedicated camera shop processing lab do what the drugstore can't?
    3. My understanding is that there may be good scanning or bad scanning (to CD). Are there questions I can ask to find out whether a particular processing "lab" is even capable of a good scan?

    Carrying an SLR around in my tank bag is a lot harder than shooting from a tethered digital p&s. I guess it's possible that a film SLR is never going to do me much good. If that's the case, OK, I can easily revert to digital. But I do like the idea of film.
    Last edited by Sailorlite; 11-28-2008 at 04:10 AM.

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    Cam Killer marchyman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sailorlite View Post
    Carrying an SLR around in my tank bag is a lot harder than shooting from a tethered digital p&s. I guess it's possible that a film SLR is never going to do me much good. If that's the case, OK, I can easily revert to digital. But I do like the idea of film.
    Do both. I now have a P&S tethered to my tank bag and my SLR in a pelican case behind me. I use the SLR when stopped, the P&S when on the move. My SLR is digital. Don't think that makes any difference.

    As for processing... how about shooting slide film them scanning them yourself?

    // marc

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    Registered User dancogan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sailorlite View Post
    1. Does it make much photographic difference whether I shoot cheaper store-brand film compared to Kodak or Fuji?
    2. What can a dedicated camera shop be good scanning or bad scanning (to CD). Are there questions I can ask to find out whether a particular processing "lab" is even capable of a good scan?
    1. Generally the brand name films(Fuji and Kodak) that I used were superior. The manufacturers of those name brandsw are much more conscientious regarding conditions encountered during shipping and storage. I remember some films that I bought that were always retrieved from the refrigerator.
    2. A dedicated film processor, different than a camera shop, will have much higher quality standards and much more consistency than most mass processing labs.
    3. Scanning can be done at a number of resolutions (sizes). A dedicated processing lab will often scan the same picture at several different resolutions, depending upon the size print you want to make or use you'll have for the scan.
    Despite all of this, some of the self-serve kiosks available today can turn out a high quality product. No human operator to screw up the quality - it's pretty much automated.
    Dan

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    Unfunded content provider tommcgee's Avatar
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    I think all of the high end film processors are gone and it's too bad. There were some great ones like Beacon Professional. Last time I looked was 8 or 9 years ago and my pro buddy at the time could only give me the name of one, and it was a custom shop.

    Anybody here know of a a good film shop that is still around?
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    Mars needs women! 35634's Avatar
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    Color film is rapidly becoming a niche industry, similar to B&W when it was crowded
    out by color in the 60's and 70's. For most applications, a quality digital camera trumps
    film by ease of use. In my field, Aerial Photography, we still film in a 9x9 inch format
    because it can capture and store information faster and easier that Digital can (yet)
    Most all of the film is scanned at high resolution (one 9x9 color frame can be up to
    1 gig or larger, depending on resolution) then used for output, stereoplotting or whatever. Almost no one in doing conventional printing anymore.

    As for as quality, stick to Kodak or Fuji, and find a processor that still does a decent
    volume of work. Scanning does matter, and if you want quality there you might
    try getting a small scanner and do it yourself. Also, that's a good way to archive
    all of you old pictures. Have fun!

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    Registered User dancogan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tommcgee View Post
    I think all of the high end film processors are gone and it's too bad. There were some great ones like Beacon Professional. Last time I looked was 8 or 9 years ago and my pro buddy at the time could only give me the name of one, and it was a custom shop.

    Anybody here know of a a good film shop that is still around?
    I think finding a good lab depends upon where you live. We still have at least one very good lab in town, and there are good labs available by mail order.
    Dan

  7. #7
    Registered User stkmkt1's Avatar
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    Film Types

    Don't know if this still applies, but back in the '70's and early '80's, we always shot kodachrome slide film when shooting 35 mm as we could get the best results with the smaller grain size. The larger the ISO number, the larger the grain of the silver halides. Larger grain allows for less light but a lower quality of picture. We never wanted to go over ISO 100 and typically stayed with 32 or 64.

    One reason for using negative film over slide film is that in the processing from film to photo was you had one less step. With a negative, after processing, you could just print to photo paper. With slides, you typically have to make a negative before you can make a photo. This is going to get too technical in a hurry, so just take it for what it sounds like. A slide, is already a positive, ie, if you look at a slide through a light, you see what your picture will look like. But typical photo paper is designed to make photos from negatives. With slides, you ran the risk of messing up both the colors and the clarity of the picture.

    As for Fuji vs Kodak, when using 35 mm film, we shot Fuji outdoors where we wanted to emphasize the blues and greens. Kodak was used to emphasize reds. Fuji film was colder in color (or more blueish) while Kodak was warmer (more redish). So depending on what you wanted the end result to look like, you choose the appropriate film.

    Of course, back in those days, I very seldom used the same type of film you bought in the store. For negatives, I used the same film used to make motion pictures, I developed the film, and printed my own pictures. And because it was motion picture film, it was kept cold, not frozen though, all through it's lifespan until just before being shot. Then back into the fridge. And it had a special black, anti-glare coating on the back side of the film that had to be removed during film processing stage. But you could get some really nice pictures.

    Today, for most every application, digital is the way to go. It is faster, more convenient, more economical, and in most cases, if you use a good digital SLR camera in the 8 or higher megapixel range, you will not be able to tell the difference between digital and "analog." And if you plan to have your pictures posted on the Web, or in most magazines, I believe in most cases, digital will be the format that is requested.

    Sorry for the long post, but believe me me, I did not hardly even scratch the surface on film. Just believe that you want to spend more time riding your motorbike and getting those great shots with a digital SLR and less time and money printing from slides and negatives. And to think that 10 years ago we all laughed at digital.

    For slides, I sent all slide film to Chicago to be processed by Kodak. The prints I did using a process known as Cibachrome which allowed me to make prints directly from the slides.

  8. #8
    Small road corner junkie pffog's Avatar
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    I too shot thousands of slides on Kodachrome , but now am looking to digitize them and finding out that Kodachrome is harder to scan due to the density of the film.

    But, we will give it a shot and see what happens.

  9. #9
    SNC1923
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    First of all, I don't agree with the premise that film produces a better image than digital. But that's just me.

    I agree that Kodachrome is the way to go—especially if scanning is the ultimate goal.

    If you're going to shoot negative film, Kodak and Fuji were both top-notch last time I checked. I would certainly choose them over "private label" films.

    Processing is EVERYTHING. The type of machine used, the type of chemicals used, how often the machine is calibrated, how often the chemicals are changed, what type of computer runs the machine, how well trained the operator is—if there is an operator—all make a huge difference.

    When I worked in a camera store, one day they had an in-store photo shoot with a model. All the photographers were using the same camera, lens, and settings (a Contax promotion). The model and backdrop were the same in all photos. In other words, two dozen identically exposed rolls of film. The employee in charge of the event then went around town and dropped the film off at various developers: drug stores, big-box stores, photo labs, and camera stores.

    The results were stunning: 24 very different results. Some were gray, cloudy and underexposed. Some were brilliant. Others tended to be purple, or yellow, or green, or magenta. There was a trend, though, among the higher priced developers in that they seemed to be generally the truest, best colors and sharpest images.

    I strongly suggest that if you intend to shoot negative film that you allow a dedicated photo lab develop your prints. It's definitely worth the money.

  10. #10
    Unfunded content provider tommcgee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SNC1923 View Post
    I strongly suggest that if you intend to shoot negative film that you allow a dedicated photo lab develop your prints. It's definitely worth the money.
    Recommendations gladly accepted! One of the main reasons I stopped using my film gear was my failure to find good processing.
    Salty Fog Rally 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, AND LOOKING FORWARD TO 2014!

    -Tom (KA1TOX)

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