Monday, February 15, 2010

Film's future is far brighter than imagined - high ISO 500T vs. 800Z

Everyone is raving about the new high ISO capabilities of digital, and the future of digital. What about the future of film? Well, one way to find out is to look to the motion picture industry. Any R&D into new emulsions by Kodak or Fuji is going to be for film's biggest clientele, Hollywood movies! It usually takes years (if ever) for the technology to trickle down to the still community; e.g. Kodak's Ektar 100 that was finally released to photographers years after the vision negative technology replaced older emulsions for movies circa 1996-2002. (Listen to Inside Analog Photo Radio's interview with a Kodak representative on Ektar's success HERE!) That film is amazing to us photographers today, but the technology is really over a decade old! Imagine a digital capture that old. Talk about dinosaur! Another film from Kodak that's a part of their Vision series motion picture films is their 500T. This film has yet to be packaged for still photographers, but we figured that we'd use our Leica Summicron 5cm for what it was designed, to test movie film!
This film is ECN-2, virtually the same as normal C-41 process 35mm but it has a Remjet antihalation layer for movie cameras that must be removed (it's like a black carbon coating on the base of the negatives). We paired it up against our favorite high ISO Fuji film that we love, PRO 800Z.

I shot in a mixed lighting situation, with wide range of exposure to demonstrate the film's latitude (digital could never touch this detail in light bulb's filament at any exposure). I light metered off the wall behind bird cage to let the purse overexpose, and the Louis Vuitton logo fall well under. We prefer to rate the 800Z at 400, so I started by rating both films at ISO 200 to test for overexposure. Then from there stopped down, step by step, all the way to metering at ISO 3200! Please keep in mind that there was no push processing on any of these negatives in standard C-41 chemistry, and they were straight scans, untouched from Richard Photo Lab.
Rated at ISO 200 (f/2.0 & 1/30th sec): 500T/800Z500T vs 800Z iso 200Rated at ISO 400 (f/2.0 & 1/60th sec): 500T/800Z500T vs 800Z iso 400Rated at ISO 800 (f/2.0 & 1/125th sec): 500T/800Z500T vs 800Z iso 800Rated at ISO 1600 (f/2.0 & 1/250th sec): 500T/800Z500T vs 800Z iso 1600Rated at ISO 3200 (f/2.0 & 1/500th sec): 500T/800Z500T vs 800Z iso 3200I was blown away when I got the scans back! The 500T has virtually unlimited exposure range, and has better grain structure and shadow detail underexposed at ISO 3200 than the 800Z exposed at it's native ISO 800! Ignoring the fact that it's tungsten balanced film (meaning less color correction in common low light situations), this film destroys any Kodak film I've ever shot!!! Why has Kodak been sitting on this film?

Here are a few more comparisons in a real world situation, rating both at ISO 800 in camera...
500T iso 800500T vs 800Z iso 800800Z iso 800
500T iso 800800Z iso 800
500T vs 800Z iso 800This just demonstrates the advances and potential in film, that are kept just out of arms reach, since the popularization of the "film is dead" ideology, when in fact film is still just maturing! Can you imagine if the same amount of R&D went into film these days as digital? Really it's the marketing dollars that make the popularity difference, resulting lower availability and research investment.

But hey, the new Digis. have high def. video now! The question is, are the new Blue Ray readers gonna be able to read all those lush word processor docs on your 5.25" floppy, that killed paper and ink so many years ago?
I remain hopeful...

15 comments:

Bridget Wang said...

This is so cool! It's great to know that people ARE making improvements to film, even though the process is a lot slower than the digital market.

eric @ MyFirstGarage.com said...

what kind of camera did you use to shoot that stock?

Brian said...

Eric: This was all shot on our Voightlander Bessa R2 with a Leica Summicron 5cm 2.0 lens. Except for the 800z shots of the house show, which were with a Nikon FE2 and a 50mm 1.2

Anonymous said...

Where can one process ECN II film, and is push processing offered?

David Luttmann said...

Thanks Brian. As usual, your tests rock. Great to see there is a big interest in film. Because of you guys, and Jose and Joe, I'm now reintegrating a lot of film back into my wedding work. Should cut down on my time in front of a computer with all those nasty actions to deal with ;-)

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

Get an MF-2 750 exposure back for an old Nikon F2 and you can load the full 100 feet!

Brian said...

Jeff: Find me one and I'll buy it. Oh, and you need the cassettes...

James said...

Amazing pics guys, and amazing films both.

I'd only had the pleasure of using the 800Z for now but that 500T movie film is fantastic stuff.

I'm a newbie to photography but I absolutely LOVE film. Digital has its place (I freelance for news publications and shoot sports on occasion) but when quality trumps convenience (weddings, portraits, etc.), it's always film.

Rafał Stęgierski said...

Here in Poland we have lab which develop You, well almost, anything. ECN-2 in 5 or 6 feet long is ok for them.

Hello, I'm Chelle... said...

what band is this?

Brandon said...

It's Kodak Vision3 500T

Anonymous said...

Love the detail caught in the lightbulb, no need to comment on the rest, Latitude Love 100%.

Brandon said...

The only lab in the nation I'm aware of that will process individual 35mm 36 exposure rolls of ECN-2 Vision3 film is http://www.thecamerashop.com and they have their own modified C-41 process they do. It's something like $7.50 a roll and turn around is 2 weeks. Call or email them for more info and pricing!

fED said...

Digital is just convenient, cheap if your on a budget, but ultimately soulless. Film is where the true beauty of Photography lies. I only use my digital camera as one would use a Polaroid: for test shots. Thanks for starting my taste buds on the thought of an ultimate latitude tungsten film!