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   Living with Film

 


Last Updated 12th August 2013
 

 

I have been using a digital camera for 7 years and it got me wondering, could I really return to using film?

 

I figured that if I returned to a 'film' camera, I would want to emulate my digital workflow as much as possible and to create jpeg images for my web and also images for my digital picture frames.

 

The supplier of the 'Kodak Ektar 100 - Colour Negative Film' was Harrison Cameras and the store of choice for film development and scanning was Jessop's in the UK.

 

Camera & Use     

The Russian built 'fully manual' Zenit-E SLR has an exposure meter built into the top housing. It has a Helios 44-2 58mm Lens (Zeiss Biotar f2 Clone) and a (nightmare to remember) pre-set aperture ring. Operation consists of - point the meter/camera at the subject, match the small ring to the needle in the meter viewer and read of the meter settings on the body scale - next you set the shutter and then the f stop 'aperture of choice' on the lens, open up the aperture secondary ring to let more light into the lens, focus using the ring on the lens and then remember to close the secondary ring to finally set the aperture. The viewfinder is huge and the magnification is amazing. I pre-set the aperture at f8 and closed the secondary aperture ring, then I set the depth of field scale so that infinity was just to the left of the f8 scale marking on the right. The shutter was the only area that I adjusted thereafter for all my shots - the 58mm Helios lens was quite restrictive for composition but I was not really concerned with accuracy of overall focusing and I certainly was not expecting any images of 'quality resolution' from the Zenit-E. It turned out fairly reasonable. I would have liked to use the only other film camera that I had - a Zorki 10 Rangefinder, but the shutter was jammed.

Link -
Zenit-E

 

Film     

I had extensively read up on 'Film' and finally chose Kodak Ektar 100 (ISO:100) Negative 36 Exp Colour Film.  It seemed to deliver the quality of colour and was deemed to have a very fine grain. I bought 5 rolls (over the web) from Harrison Cameras in the UK and paid 22.50 inc vat.

Link -
Kodak Ektar 100

 

Jessop's Lab Film Development and Scanning

After I ran a roll of Ektar 100 through the Zenit-E, I took the film to Jessop's in Edinburgh to have the negatives developed. I found that for an extra 2, Jessop's would scan them automatically to CD in the development process (Low Res+Medium Res and High Resolution = 3637 x 2433 jpeg, which gave me a 12" x 8" at 303 PPI. Jessop's offered to develop the roll of film and provide me with 'cut sheet' negatives or negatives left as a roll. The cost of a 36 roll developed and scanned with negative index prints was 6.50 inc vat. I still completed my own tests on my own scanner - to compare the quality.

 

My Own CanonScan Scanning

I brought the negatives back from Jessop's and popped one in my scanner, set it for 4000dpi and scanned it to tiff format. The result was not brilliant but I persevered and manually adjusted the focus of the scanner until I was able to obtain the same result as Jessop's. I scanned and saved to tiff format and converted for the web to jpeg. It was nice to know that I could match Jessop's and now had the option of home or lab scanning!
 

The Following 26 'Medium Size File' Images are the high resolution scans direct from Jessop's and post processed as follows = Adobe CS2 copyright stamped, brightness slightly reduced, downsized/bicubic sharpened for the web (all ticks on). Some of the images have been cropped to test the 'crop noise' headroom. Recently I downloaded a demo version of Nik Silver Efex Pro - so I used the pre-set samples in the software to change some of the images to monochrome and also apply antique settings.

More about NIK Software - http://www.niksoftware.com

 

       


The Following Table of 3 x Full Size '6-8Mb' Colour Images are the high resolution scans direct from Jessop's and post processed as follows = Adobe CS2 copyright stamped, brightness slightly reduced and slight sharpening applied.
 

There is no download software but if you click on an image (wait for a long time loading) then right click and select 'save picture as' option to file.


Conclusions

Film
I was very impressed with the Kodak Ektar 100 (ISO:100) negative colour film, the image quality to noise v size is excellent. I reckon with a modern camera and lens the results could be even better. The 'film by default' has a greater tonal range than digital and the images were more pleasing (to my eye) than my digital images. There also seemed to be a greater 'flexibility' in the exposure/capture of the film image. My feeling is that the 1960s Zenit-E camera and lens could not exploit the full potential of the Ektar Film's capabilities. However, I cannot fault the noise and the full size images will speak for themselves.

Film Negative Development & Scanning
Jessop's have done an excellent job of developing and scanning the film and the noise levels on the Ektar 100 are very well controlled. The Jessop's scans at 3
637 x 2433 jpeg are offering full 303 PPI for 12" x 8" prints and makes them excellent for web work. I have no doubt that the scanned digital and especially the negatives can be pushed to higher print sizes. Thanks to Jessop's I realised that there are quality scanners out there but the cost could be prohibitive. I think it is best to use a Lab like Jessop's for jpegs and pay a 'Specialist Lab' for those 4000 DPI 'Plus' tiff scans that you may want for digital (gallery/advertising/client) image/prints. The other answer of course is to get the image from the camera, right in the first place and print it from negative?

Home Scanner
Finally my CanonScan FS4000US film scanner came through and delivered the quality of scanned image required? It was nice to know that I could match Jessop's and I now had the option of home or lab scanning!

Post Processing
There is no doubt about it - if you are good with software, you can work wonders with film/digital scanned images. I found the Nik Silver Efex Pro demo software a pleasure to use - I did not read the manual and just clicked on the pre-set modes to change the appearance of some images to monochrome and the various options. Needless to say, I am not an expert with software!

Finally
I thoroughly enjoyed my return to film photography and I fully intend to continue with it - alongside my Canon digital equipment. I am looking forward to continuing with Kodak Professional Ektar 100 and trying out the others - Kodak Professional TMax 100 & 400 Black and White and Kodak Professional Portra 400VC Colour Negative Film.

Second Hand 'Film' Cameras
Shortly after I wrote this article, I bought a second hand Nikon FM3a 'Film' SLR Camera and a Nikon 50mm f1.4 AI-S Lens, both in 'Mint' condition. There are many second hand 'film' cameras out there at very in-expensive prices and there is a lot of enjoyment to be had using the different models. I have always wanted a Leica M Rangefinder and now some of the M3 and M6 models are reasonably priced and worth considering!

Associated Articles -

 

If you have enjoyed this article - please donate to my Charity of Choice   -   The Sick Kids

Richard Lawrence
Scotland
United Kingdom


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