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good color 35mm landscape film?

Ryan Fryar , Feb 28, 2001; 08:29 p.m.

Hi all, thanks in advance to all with experience who are willing to teach. I am a painter in graduate school in Minneapolis. In my undergrad days, I was at Eastern Oregon University, and I took a number of B&W landscape photos in that area. Now, I find that I want to make some paintings of Oregon landscapes (the weather is too cold to do that from life here for at least two more months, and besides that -it‘s just too flat here for me to want to!). I will be traveling around Oregon from mid to end of May. Thus, I have the chance to do reference sketches (if the weather permits) and reference photos for paintings that I can do back here in the mid- west when I return.

I was lucky with the B&W photos before- I was able to sell a number of the prints. But I know very little about color film. I need to have color photos to look at when I am painting for reference, and I would like to be able use a film that shows good color and is not horribly expensive (I’ll be shooting 20-30 rolls). Also, if the film can still be blown up to at least mid sized (~8x12 inches?) it would be optimal, in case I get some photos that may themselves be sellable.

I have a 35mm Nikon FE2 (a bare bones, mostly manual SLR), with an assortment of telephoto lenses etc. and a sturdy tripod (Bogen 3021 with 3047 head).

So, my questions are these:

1. What specifically are some good, reasonably priced 35mm color print films for fairly wide angle landscape photography? That is, in late May in Oregon (generally overcast, often raining, but still pretty green). A slow ISO is mostly fine for my type of photos, but I would love specific ISO recommendations. I know that slides are often better, but print film will work best for me.

2. Where are the cheapest places to buy? I assume B&H Photo?

3. Any advice from those who have shot this kind of photography, and/or in this kind of weather and place? Am I missing something due to my color photo ignorance? Don’t worry about the rain, I was raised in Oregon and I am used to being cold and wet.

I looked for answers to in archives and in the Q & A places, but I couldn’t find quite what I am looking for. Again, thanks for the tips in advance,

-Ryan Fryar

Responses


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E.J. Peiker , Feb 28, 2001; 09:00 p.m.

Film is pretty subjective and many people have different opinions. The majority of nature photographers gravitate to three color transparency films - here they are in my order of prference:

Fuji Provia 100F - an ISO 100 film that has the lowest grain of all films currently on the market. Even pushed to ISO 200 it competes well with most other 100 speed films. Color saturation is good but not overdone like my #2 and #3 film. Fuji Velvia - an ISO 50 film that many actually shoot as 40. This is a supersaturated film and can at times give color more saturation than is realistic. It is also very fine grained. People look horrible with this film as their skin tends to look very red. The Film can be pushed to 100 but tends to get pretty contrasty Kodak Extachrome 100VS - VS stands for very saurated. Definitely a grainier film than those above but saturates colors very well which can be useful on overcast days.

I've done a lot of shooting in Orgon but am not an expert on the area. Places I have enjoyed are Silver Falls State Park which has about 10 pretty impressive waterfalls. Mount Hood from the Lost lake area is very good. There is always the Columbia Gorge, and the Oregon Coast.

Wayne Crider , Feb 28, 2001; 09:30 p.m.

For a print film thats cheap I'd use Kodak Gold 100, available anywhere, or cheaper at Walmart. Colors are good and it's easily processed. It's hard to screw up the printing of this film. I've seen numerous photographic competition categories won using the film.

Since your painting and using the picture for reference, I don't know if slide film would be better. I'm not sure of it sitting for a long time in front of a hot (cheap manual) slide projector.

Scott Eaton , Mar 01, 2001; 12:37 a.m.

{{The majority of nature photographers gravitate to three color transparency films}}

Do they wear the same brand of socks also? Nevermind....don't answer that.

Generic Gold 100 is probably the best all around grocery store print film for non digital prints. Cheap, reasonably neutral, strong color saturation with decent detail retention and easy for most labs to print. Grain is a bit coarse though. If your lab does digital or Fuji Frontier printing Kodak Royal 100 rather than Gold is the better choice.

For pro films via B&H, Fuji NPC 160 (I'd shoot it at EI 100) wins by default for a solid, neutral, murky-sky landscape film now that Ultra-50, Fuji Legacy Reala, and Kodak PRN have been retired.


Attachment: crayon.jpg

John DeMott , Mar 01, 2001; 11:58 a.m.

Ryan--My wife is a watercolor painter and takes many reference photos, plus she "borrows" some of mine. Coincidentally, we live in Oregon, but I think my film recommendation would be much the same anywhere.

For painting reference purposes, you want prints, not slides. For the purpose you suggest and given your budget concerns, I would definitely stick with a consumer grade print film. It is readily available at many stores, including drugstores, photos stores and discount stores. It has a wide exposure latitude so you can concentrate on getting the composition you want and know that you will get a useable print as long as your exposure is reasonably close. Also, you can get the film processed in a few hours virtually anywhere, so you can get your photos developed every day or so as you're travelling around.

For your purposes, I suggest Kodak Royal Gold 100. It is more saturated and a little finer grained than Gold 100 (also a little more expensive).

Late May should be a very nice time of year. There has been relatively little snow this year, so you should be able to access even some of the higher areas. Often in May, there are still numerous rain showers and thunderstorm cells moving through the area, so I would look for interesting clouds and rainbows. If you have an overcast day, take photos of wildflowers.

In the Portland area, for machine processing C-41 print film relatively cheaply and reliably, I use Wolf Camera. Make sure you get a membership card, plus the on-line coupon, both of which give you substantial discounts. For professional quality processing, I recommend Wy East Color Lab.

Scott Eaton , Mar 01, 2001; 12:48 p.m.

{{It is more saturated and a little finer grained than Gold 100 }}

While Kodak has confused consumers with their marketing, it's fair to say that the Royal and Gold line are two distinct film families with different technologies. Gold is much older technology and pays for this with a coarse grain structure that is bettered by many professional 400 speed films. The Royal films make much better use of T-grain technology and hence Royal 100 is among, if not the sharpest 100 speed film out there.

Grain aside, the main difference between RG-100 and Gold 100 is color saturation, and I beg to differ, but Gold 100 is significantly *more* saturated than Royal/Ektar. Kodak however has a lot of people convinced that because Royal comes in a splashier box it has more color saturation than Gold, which is simply not the case.

The Royal films have much more shadow contrast and characteristically lighter dyes, which tends to give the impression of more color than is actually there. Shot side by side, Gold 100 prints have much denser and realistic saturation. Fuji corp has tried the same stunt with Superia-Reala, which actually has a lot less saturation than Legacy Reala, but marketing convinces people other-wise and saves some CIO somewhere enough production money to keep his stock dividends in place.

Kodak had a more "Gold-like" saturated version of Royal 100 called PRN that was an out-standing film, but killed it off in favor of dull Portra VC.

The above Crayon picture I posted was taken with Fuji NPC, which is somewhere between Royal and Gold in terms of color saturation. Personally I'd shoot both films to see which one you like the best because they are very different.

jack floyd , Mar 01, 2001; 02:17 p.m.

I would have to recomend two Fujis: 100ISO Reala (color negative) and Provia 100F (slide). Excellent color rendition wihout too much of anything. If you're going into known low light situations, Fuji Superia 400 is a good all around film.

Matt O'Toole , Mar 01, 2001; 04:30 p.m.

I also like Gold 100 a lot. I don't think you'll find the grain obtrusive at 8x12. Buy it at Wal-mart or K-Mart.

Regarding Gold 100 vs. Royal Gold: Gold 100 is really cheap anywhere, while Royal Gold is actually more expensive than many pro films, which are much nicer. With that in mind, you might want to check out that NPC. OTOH, a non-pro lab is more likely to do a good job printing the Gold 100 (or Royal).

B&H does seem to have really good prices. Lately I've been buying film at a local Calumet store. They have the best prices around here, but that's walk-in. Their mail-order prices may be different, and I don't know about their shipping charges.

Brad Hutcheson , Mar 02, 2001; 01:05 a.m.

Since you mentioned that you would prefer print film, I'll agree with Scott Eaton that Kodak has killed off some of the best they ever made. I never used PRN, but Royal 25 was my standard film for years. Both are gone now. Also, the Gold / Royal Gold comparison is dead on.

The only print film that I really like now is Kodak Supra 400. I hate using 400 speed film for landscapes, but I like it better than the alternatives like Royal 100 and Portra 160VC. Also, it is saturated, sharp, and very fine grained. It isn't perfect, as reds seem to block up a little, but it is a very good film that is worth a try. Of course, you should probably get at least one roll of every film you might be interested in and try it for yourself. If you order from B&H this won't be as expensive as it sounds, but processing it is another matter.

Also, if you decide to try slide film, Kodak E100SW (Ektachrome 100 Saturated Warm) is wonderful. While I'm sure E100VS has its fans, SW looks better to me, and it doesn't seem to block up yellows the way VS does. Plain E100S and the consumer version, EliteChrome 100 are pretty good too. I haven't gotten around to trying most of the Fuji slide films yet, so I won't comment on them.

Pete Bowman , Mar 02, 2001; 10:10 a.m.

Ryan

You stated "(generally overcast, often raining, but still pretty green)", these are my favorite conditions for Velvia. Try a couple rolls.


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