Letters to the Editor: A Question on Film

Cinestill photo

Letters to the Editor is a recurring series where Chris answers specific emails/letters that could benefit more than one photographer, interesting questions or questions that come in often. Have a question? Send it to chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com with subject: Letter to the Editor: (Your name here).

Hey folks!

I’m back with another edition of Letters to the Editor. This week, Oriol asks about film choices in an annoying situation for him while Stuart is facing a crisis of whether to go with Sony or Fujifilm on top of problems with finding magic in photography.

Just remember, send your letters in and I’ll do my best to answer them every Friday.

Chris,

Congratulations for your site! I recently purchased a Lomo L-CA 120 and I agree completely with your review: I have fallen in love with photography again. My only concern is that one of these days I might sell all my digital equipment!

After trying many different rolls I got the best results with Ilford HP5 for black and white (I found Tri-X too contrasty) and Ektar 100 for colour and nice weather. For cross-processing, I have got amazing results with Fuji Provia 100 F.

Now, for those overcast days that I would like to shoot colour, I have difficulties in finding the right film, I have tried Lomography CN 400, Portra 400, Portra 400 overexposed by selecting 200 at the Asa selector, Ektar pushed 2 stops… But I do not get the same amazing results as with the other combinations

If I am not wrong you finally purchased your LC-A 120, do you have any recommendation? What color roll would you shoot on an overcast day in NYC?

Kind regards and please give us more posts about film, film is alive!

Oriol

 

Hi Oriol,

Thanks for writing in.

You sent me this email last Saturday; and on Saturdays I still work but I tend to take it slower. So I sat in bed for an hour or so thinking about your email and a solution. You see, you’ve got some major complicated problems here that aren’t the simplest to fix.

Let’s start with this one: during overcast weather, daylight balanced won’t render the best colors at all. I’ve known this for a while, but didn’t realize that I did until working with CineStill emulsions made me realize it. In overcast conditions, it’s usually best to work with Tungsten balanced film. The problem: most folks don’t! Here’s what I’m talking about.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Cinestill 800T sample photos (29 of 31)

This is CineStill 800T shot during an overcast day. Nice, right? Everything is on point.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Cinestill 50D sample photos (1 of 29)

This is CineStill 50 Daylight. It’s…meh.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Cinestill 50D sample photos (16 of 29)

This image, again, is 50 daylight. When shooting these images with daylight film, I tended to overexpose around 1/3-1 stop to compensate accordingly for the shadows. There’s no way in hell that I’m getting those highlights and I accept it.

To get the best results in overcast conditions, CineStill recommends shooting with an 80B filter and at ISO 12 according to their packaging.

Now here’s the bigger problem.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer 4V Design strap review (9 of 10)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.8

The LCA 120 doesn’t let you put a filter on the lens due to the design. So what you’ll need to do is find a way to slip some sort of CTB gel into there; which I honestly think is possible. But then you’ll need to overexpose accordingly to how many stops of light it’s cutting out. With the LCA 120, that means setting the camera to a lower ISO–which you’re aware of as you tried it!

Another way that this can be fixed: CineStill is currently trying to fund 120 film manufacturing. Stuff some Tungsten film into there and you’ve got a better chance at getting the images you want. At the same time though, that means you need to waste the Daylight film because this camera doesn’t have interchangeable backs like medium format SLR cameras do.

Kind of sucks, doesn’t it?

The other alternative: shoot black and white. I really like Ilford Delta 400; but that’s just me. That contrasty look will have me hypnotized for days. I know it’s not your thing, but give it a shot.

Hope this helps. It’s not the easiest fix.

– Chris

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Chris,

I have followed your blog off and on over the past several years. I recently read a letters to the editor piece your wrote about the Fuji X Pro1 and I too am having some turmoil about my equipment. I would like your advice in an area where I think you have a unique perspective.

I too started in photography shooting Nikon 35mm film cameras, and then transitioned to digital with Nikon with the D70v when it first came out. After years of good service, I upgraded to a D7000. But I soon found that my photos lack the personality I had in my film days and what I saw other systems producing so I began experimenting. I went through MFT, and then the Sony A6000 when I read an article from you… And last year I thought going to full frame would be my answer and got an A7.

Let me start by saying that I have truly enjoyed the image quality of A7, after I post process (too much time). And that is the start of my issues. To get the image characteristics I like I have to spend a lot of time in post. The second issue I have is size. Yes the Sony body itself is smaller than most APS cameras, but adding a lens makes the kit large. The third and final issue I have is price of the lenses. I have the kit lens, however I prefer to shoot with primes. I feel primes help me to improve my photographic process. Additionally I shoot a lot of pictures of my kids and I want background bokeh. But the Sony lenses are around $1k, which puts them out for me. So I have resorted to legacy lenses, but then the size issue comes back into being an issue.

This has led me to contemplate Fuji X series as a solution. My first thought was the X100s/t, since the single fixed lens may help with my process. And of course size is superb. But now the X Pro1 is an extremely good price with a couple of primes. But it is older tech and Fuji may not be updating firmware for any longer, and it is also bigger… Lastly, I am concerned that I am losing IQ with moving away from the Sony. I have long yearned for the world of Full Frame, and now that I am there and looking at APS again I am concerned I will be stepping backwards.

One other thing, I would really like to cut the amount of time in processing my images. I have been reading that the jpeg files from the Fuji’s are superb and that would help considerably. What are your thoughts?

Sorry for the long email…

Stuart

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 28mm f2 lens review product photos (4 of 7)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

Hi Stuart,

Thanks for writing in.

Before I get to your question, I wouldn’t at all be doing the 6+ years I’ve spent running this site if I didn’t say the following:

There’s no good reason why you shouldn’t be following Phoblographer; let’s start off with that. That’s not arrogance from the almost-out-of-the-20s me; but I’ve worked incredibly hard on this site to differentiate it from the other large independant photo blogs. The Phoblographer doesn’t pixel peep, talks more about experiences (which is part of the crisis that you’re having), tries to teach folks that it’s not all about the gear (which is part of the crisis that you’re having), and if you look on a daily basis at what’s on my homepage it’ll greatly differ from DIYPhotography, Petapixel, F Stoppers, SLR Lounge, and the like. I usually get to stories first; and no one really started to believe me until a couple of years ago when the site’s own former employees saw others copycatting, and got infuriated themselves. All that work and someone just goes and copycats. It’s made me want to honestly make the site subscription only for like $10/year along with a couple of other perks. Just imagine, for less than a pint of a good craft beer you can have a year’s worth of exclusive inspiration, reviews, essays, etc that’s bound not to appear anywhere else.

End rant; but part of what I said there has more to do with your questions.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 60mm f2.4 review product photos (6 of 8)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 4.0

First off, no gear, no matter what, will bring that spark back in you necessarily. You can do it with the same gear if you want. But you can also keep your gear, buy a flash and an umbrella, and get back to creating all over again. But if you really want the excitement that you got from the film days, go medium format film. That will reawaken a love in you like no other.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 review photos Natalie's portraits (1 of 4)ISO 4001-640 sec at f - 1.4

As far as the issues of lenses go; there are lots of small ones. The Sony 28mm f2 is pretty darn cheap and has a small size and fantastic image quality. There are also loads of third party manual focus lenses you can get off of eBay. Zeiss used to make lenses with 17 aperture blades. With practice, manual focus lenses can outdo autofocus when using zone focusing.

To get the look that you want, honestly, I’m not sure what to say because everyone has their own specific looks. What it does mean though is that you’ve got the start of your own creative vision and you’re struggling to find a way to make the technical and artistic sides of you talk to one another.

My absolute most genuine commendations of respect go to you then at that point.

You can start with the camera profiles, edit one image and then sync the settings to all of them, and then export using Lightroom. But the truth of the matter is that post-production is a reality. Fujifilm has better JPEGs than Sony does, but to me even then they don’t give me what I want personally. The term “better JPEGs” is so subjective and relative.

Fujifilm could give you want you want, but they also may not. You sound like you’ve got a specific creative vision in mind for these images and honestly, no camera manufacturer or camera can give you what you want unless you tell it to. The same idea applies to machines: you’re not telling your car to start, you’re telling it to set off a reaction that will cause the engine to get going.

To that end, you can always create your own custom profiles in-camera and modify them down the line until they really get to what you want. I did that when I owned the Canon 5D Mk II. My buddy Giulio is an absolute God at doing this.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 7D Mk II review images portraits (1 of 2)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 1.8

You’re not necessarily losing image quality when it comes to going to APS-C. If you’re talking about pixel peeping and stuff, maybe; but the sensor in the X Pro 1 performs like a full frame sensor in many respects and anything that isn’t there can be added in with the tweak of a slider. You’re thinking too technical here I feel and not enough about capturing the moment–which is honestly probably what you were infatuated with when shooting film. Folks didn’t really pixel peep back then unless you were a wedding and portrait photographer wanting to show off to all your bros. But let’s be honest, you’re an adult and you’re beyond that.

So what should you do?

Honestly, one alternative is I think you should do it to go back to film. Portra, CineStill and Ilford are beautiful things. Ever try Fujifilm Natura 1600? Get some from Japan and you’ll probably never shoot with another 35mm color film again. Lots of my work is done on film.

Sony does a fantastic job, but the best images that inspire all of us via marketing aren’t created right out of the camera. When they are, it’s a lot of luck and careful knowledge of contrast. But all the pros post-process. You’re not at all saying you’re a pro; you sound like you’re going through a small crisis of choice. For what it’s worth, they’re both good. I use Sony and Fujifilm on a weekly basis and Canon and Olympus a bit less because their files requires more work on my part to get to what I want. But my creative vision is very specific and that’s why they work for me. Canon and Olympus aren’t at all bad; but I’ve got a very highly tuned creative vision and I know how to get what I want out of my files because I’ve sat there and experimented on top of using reasoning, color theory, and researching what adjustments do.

I sound like you, right?

Fujifilm's X Pro 1 Rendering of Astia

Fujifilm’s X Pro 1 Rendering of Astia

The difference: I really genuinely can’t spend lots of time editing when I’ve got news, reviews, tutorials, features, interviews, deal hunting, email responses, camera testing, lens testing, light testing, shipping products back, business meetings, social media management, Flipboard management, business calls with my advertising folks, etc. And let’s not even get into the comments on this site…

If photography if your hobby, I implore you to take the time to embrace what it is: a process. That’s the most beautiful part of it and I don’t get to do that enough anymore. I haven’t shot for myself personally in months. I’ve got all these cool ideas that I want to do but no time. Genuinely, no time. Sometimes I don’t even get to call my Dad for weeks and I’m thankful everyday that he understands.

Your solutions are to either go back to film or to use a system, stick with it, and honestly just shoot less frames but more effective frames. You’ll still need to do post-production; but there are lots of ways to get around it faster. And faster doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a better file that’s going to make someone’s jaw drop when you post it to the web.

– Chris