Portra 800-2 vs Ektachrome P1600?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Bill Tuthill, May 6, 2005.

  1. Bill Tuthill

    Bill Tuthill Guest

    I recently used new Portra 800 (pushed) at a theater performance,
    and was surprised to find it performed better than NPZ pushed.
    Bracketing all shots at 1600/2000/2500 and requesting development
    with two stops push, there was sufficient density in the 2500 shots,
    indicating I should have tried 2000/2500/3200. Here is an example
    of a typical EI 2500 shot from my pushed roll of Portra 800-2:


    So I wonder, is it possible to get better results with Portra 800-2
    than with more-expensive Ektachrome P1600 at similar high speeds?
    Gordon Moat's website has this example of P1600 at EI 3200:

    Bill Tuthill, May 6, 2005
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  2. Bill Tuthill

    Gordon Moat Guest

    I just got some from the Kodak reps, but I have not had a chance to
    shoot any at night yet. In fact, I have been doing so much daylight
    shooting with ISO 100 films, that I almost have a tan. :)
    Thanks for sharing. I read through the messages as well. Do you think
    ISO 2500 is a better choice than ISO 3200 at push two?

    Also, the Kodak reps told me up to push three, though I don't know if
    you want to try that. My feeling is that the contrast would change
    (increase) quite a bit.
    Up to ISO 2000 (or ISO 2500 with some lighting conditions), my choice
    has been Ektachrome E200. To get higher settings would be really tough,
    which brings in these other two choices. Going by your early results
    with the new Portra 800-2, I think the slightly lower contrast looks
    better. What scanner was used?
    The high contrast of P1600 stays about the same all the way to ISO 6400
    settings, and push is mostly linear under most lighting conditions. If
    you wanted ISO 6400, then I think the P1600 is the only choice. If you
    want high contrast, then P1600 seems good, though slight underexposure
    might do just as well with the Portra. However, I have found it rare to
    need that setting, or even ISO 3200, as in this shot. Dropping to lower
    settings, it really does seem that the new Portra 800-2 might be a
    better choice.

    I still have to do some testing, so I have not decided yet, though the
    cost of P1600 is pushing me away. The other question mark is scanning
    performance. Good to hear about the film base change. Also, though hard
    to tell without seeing prints, it almost seems like less grain in the
    new Portra 800-2.
    Gordon Moat, May 6, 2005
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  3. Bill Tuthill

    Bill Tuthill Guest

    Lucky think you're not a vampire, you'd burn up!
    I don't know yet. I'll follow-up after comparing the three bracketings,
    but will only be able to judge 1600, 2000, and 2500.
    When Ctein says he pushes by developing for 5 minutes, is that push2
    or push3? I should ask the lab to be sure, but I think normal is 3:15,
    C-41 push1 is 3:45, and push2 is 4:30. Does that mean push3 is 5:30?
    Interesting... I don't recall seeing specific recommendations on how
    to push E200 this far. But recently I heard E200 will be revised soon,
    so your procedures might go out the window.
    An old SCSI H/P Photosmart. Not a great scanner, and I didn't try
    Vuescan 2400 dpi with downsampling, which would give best results.

    I like the lower contrast of Portra 800 compared to pushed NPZ,
    as did Ctein in his Sep/Oct 2004 Photo Techniques review. Unpushed
    however, he prefers NPZ.
    Bill Tuthill, May 6, 2005
  4. Bill Tuthill

    Alan Browne Guest

    Not sure why you pushed it 2 for a -1 exposure (1600)? That's why the
    2500 looked best ... but to me you would have been better off exposing
    at, say 1200 / 1600 and asking for a 1 stop push, or 2500 / 3200 and a 2
    stop push as you did. Did you try 3200 for your 2 stops?

    IAC, in your linked photo it looks overexp in anycase (whites at back
    are blown).

    How did you meter?

    What was your FL and target shutter speed?

    In short, due to the narrower exp. range of the slide film, you're more
    likely to get useable results with the negative film. (Notice how
    narrow gordons exposure is. Of cours it looks like he also had Na or Hg
    vapour lights which doesn't help at all)

    So: what is the end use of the images? If it's printing or web use,
    then sticking to negative film may be the better choice and will give
    you more latitude.

    Some of Gordons nightcub shots (E200 pushed 2 @ 640 or so IIRC) are more
    colorful than the example above ... but there is more motion blur.

    Alan Browne, May 6, 2005
  5. Bill Tuthill

    Gordon Moat Guest

    I will look forward to that.
    I am much more familiar with E-6, though unfortunately the times do not
    relate that well. Wish I knew.
    I talked to an engineer with Eastman Chemical, and got the impression that
    a change was not immanent. However, that could still mean the end of this
    year, or maybe early next year.

    I also discussed the far range push characteristics I have developed using
    E200. The general idea of how Kodak relays field testing information is
    that they decide how it applies to working professionals (those who would
    complain the most). The unfortunate situation is that E200 goes from a low
    to medium contrast film at up to push 3, but changes to a medium to high
    contrast film when pushed farther. The position at Kodak was that if they
    could not guarantee consistent performance (i.e. (implied) no contrast
    change), then they would not encourage other professionals to use high push
    settings for E200.

    If you are interested, you can e-mail me off group for recommended
    settings. This is not something I just want to post all over . . . besides,
    it might be boring technical information.
    Not great, but it gives me an idea that the final images could be better
    than the samples you gave.
    I have other choices for ISO 800, including using E200. I am much more of a
    transparency film user, though with a nice high speed choice, I would use
    more colour negative film.
    Gordon Moat, May 8, 2005
  6. Bill Tuthill

    Bill Tuthill Guest

    C-41 film does not respond as well to push processing as E-6. Generally
    it's considered that push2-3 gains about a stop of shadow density.
    The 2500 did not look best, I offered it because NPZ at 2500 is getting
    kinda thin. I should have tried 3200 but did not. Personally I think
    it's useless to push1 with C-41; might as well just underexpose.
    Could be the scan. Probably is, in fact.
    Minolta 14-segment.
    FL was 50mm, shutter speed around 1/60 to 1/250.
    I'll probably have some scans printed. No commercial use is intended.
    Yup, Gordon gets great results from E200, but says (above in this thread)
    it's not an ideal solution at super high ISO.
    Bill Tuthill, May 9, 2005
  7. Bill Tuthill

    Alan Browne Guest

    As long as the lights were steady for a while, you could have spent time
    in spot meter mode and mapped the scene latitude and let that decide the
    exposure. (I rarely use the 14 segement as it's weighted for landscape
    orientation shots in the Maxxum 9 and 7D. In fact my cameras are rarely
    in anything but spot metering mode).

    If the lights were changing a lot, I would have spot metered the
    highlights and open up 3 to 4. I know it's negative film, but for this
    situation I would have approached it this way. Spot, AE Lock, compose,
    Everything in its limits... but with the 50 f/1.7 you had a lot of speed
    to play with (or a hair more with the f/1.4).

    Alan Browne, May 9, 2005
  8. Bill Tuthill

    Gordon Moat Guest

    When I do single location night shots (like stage or night club), I often take
    readings in several locations. Get to a location early enough, and the
    continuous light can be measured, giving minimum light settings ideas. Once
    the stage or dance floor lights start going, then maybe a couple readings just
    to check if anything changed. Given enough readings (not too many) and manual
    settings on the cameras, good consistent results are possible.
    I have found that if you just let the lights go when they vary quite a bit,
    then the results still often work out. The lights in many situations are
    coloured, semi-spot, or very narrow area. That means that they only show up in
    part of the frame of the final image. The idea I try to convey is what it was
    like to be there, meaning that it often looks dark with moments of coloured
    lights. Open up too much, and it would not look like it might have to an
    observer. Of course, this is sort of an aesthetic bias, and other
    photographers might want a different approach.
    The motion blur was usually intentional, and not just a result of slow shutter
    speeds. That makes hand held shots tough, even when trying to brace against
    something. Mostly, an f2.0 setting is a minimum, though slightly smaller
    (maybe even f4.0) could be possible with wide angle lenses. A 35 mm might be
    ideal, especially an f1.4, and an 85 mm f1.4 might be as long as possible,
    though I have used the 105 mm f2.5 for some stage and night club photography.
    Using a 20 mm, 24 mm, or even a 28 mm, the extra depth of field can help, and
    might allow slower shutter speeds that show more motion blur. One idea is that
    dance strobes stop action, much like setting up photographic strobes.

    The biggest problems are in the viewfinder. Seeing the lights changing is
    often impossible, so some anticipation and timing are needed. This is helped
    by a very short shutter release lag, though tough with some modern gear.
    Faster lenses help an SLR, since the viewfinder is brighter. A split image for
    manual focus is almost useless, since the centre can black out. Matte screen
    can help focus, but the numbers on the lens barrel are sometimes better.
    Picking a focus range works better in some situations, which I know sounds a
    little like guessing . . . hey, whatever works. ;-)
    Gordon Moat, May 9, 2005
  9. Bill Tuthill

    Alan Browne Guest

    It's the kind of shooting where risk taking is not an option but usually
    pays off ina few frames, at least.

    Thanks for all of your comments. When I shoot stage I tend to shoot
    long rather than wide. But I'll keep your wide comments in mind for the
    next time.

    Alan Browne, May 10, 2005
  10. Bill Tuthill

    Bill Tuthill Guest

    Thanks for the tips -- I have a friend who shoots kayaking pictures
    this way, metering a location and then using the same exposure
    for a sequence.

    When I first started shooting ballet and theater, I used the spotmeter,
    but it seemed that regular matrix metering resulted in more keepers
    due to variable background lighting. Also, the lighting crew often
    dims or brightens the lights. Capturing the moment was the hard part;
    14-segment metering gave me exposures that were almost always fine.
    Bill Tuthill, May 10, 2005
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