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/800ZRated at ISO 400 (f/2.0 & 1/60th sec):500T/800ZRated at ISO 800 (f/2.0 & 1/125th sec):500T/800ZRated at ISO 1600 (f/2.0 & 1/250th sec):500T/800ZRated at ISO 3200 (f/2.0 & 1/500th sec):500T/800ZI 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... This 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...