Ektachrome 100G

Looking through some old scans recently, I came to realise the the unique quality of colour transparency film, and its ability to record huge amount of information - even in 35mm; easily a match for a 24mp DSLR.  Sadly, few choices still remain for this type of film as Kodak ceased manufacture of E100G, their last remaining E6 film, in 2012.  It can be easy to forget that transparency film was the medium of choice for advertising and editorial photography for decades, at least until the 1990's, when colour neg film became more popular.  My message is simple; make the most of it while it's still available, as a few years from now it might not be. 

 

Surrey Quays, London UK 2012 Image © Richard Barnes/Alamy

Surrey Quays, London UK 2012 Image © Richard Barnes/Alamy

Worlds apart

There has been much analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of both analogue and digital media since the changeover to digital around twelve or thirteen years ago, but what is becoming increasingly evident is that some photographers simply prefer the look of film for many subjects, as it often has the ability to enhance the appearance of a scene in a way that is not achievable from a digital file, even with film simulation software such as DX0.

The two images below were shot within minutes of each other and no enhancements or radical modifications were made to either shot. In-camera settings for high contrast subjects (such as Nikon's 'D lighting') may bring out additional shadow detail but have the effect of lowering the overall contrast of a digital photograph - an image which already does not posess the richness of film anyway.   The inherent flatness of digital really requires a series of adjustments to the image in the editing stage and appears to become all the more obvious when a side-by-side comparison is made;  and is something our eyes have now become conditioned to over the last decade or so. 

  Kodak Ektar 100 colour neg 35mm, 18mb mini-lab scan

 

Kodak Ektar 100 colour neg 35mm, 18mb mini-lab scan

  Nikon D300s, 14 bit RAW processed in Nikon Capture NXD, standard camera settings  

 

Nikon D300s, 14 bit RAW processed in Nikon Capture NXD, standard camera settings

 

Highlights and shadows

Despite the many recent advances in digital cameras, I still find that colour neg film has the edge for dynamic range, coping well with very contrasty lighting (see image).  I suspect that with a DSLR I would have lost detail in the sky completely, whereas with Ektar 100 I was able to pull out the shadow detail in this shot, whilst preserving detail in the brightest parts.   I was actually almost shooting into direct sunlight here yet all the information is still clearly visible.  This image forms part of my Alamy collection,  together with dozens of other pictures of Hastings, East Sussex.  See Alamy.com

 

 

Image © Richard Barnes/Alamy

Image © Richard Barnes/Alamy

Best of both worlds

Kodak's Ektar and Portra colour neg films are great films to shoot on for digital output as they are designed to be scanned; for anyone wanting the permanence of analogue film they also offer the ability to respond well to retouching and enhancing in Photoshop.  Despite film processing and scanning costs, which can be kept relatively low, there are clear advantages to a 'hybrid workflow' as it is sometimes known.   Nikon's remaining analogue camera, the F6, has the ability to generate EXIF data for every frame, which is recorded on a memory card and downloaded via the MV1 reader. It is therefore possible to have a fully functioning digital workflow for analogue images, if desired.  Judging by the incidences of data loss that I have come across, having the originals in material form makes a huge amount of sense when there appears to be some doubt over the archivability of digital files.  

 

Image © Richard Barnes/Alamy

Image © Richard Barnes/Alamy

iphoneography

All pictures were shot with the iPhone 4s and modified in Instagram, more examples are on my Instagram page.     

All images © Richard Barnes/Stockimo