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Fast colour and B&W negative films


Active Member
Yes, I know this is not the "real place" for this thread, but no one is at home on the accessories forum!

I wondered what Hassy 6x6 shooters prefer as a fast 800asa colour negative film and 1600 asa B&W negative film?

I plan to shoot in a church soon (not a wedding) and am considering which 800asa film to use. I'm thinking about Kodak Portra 800 or Fuji NPZ 800.

I expect substantial "golden" tones in the light given the late afternoon sunlight likely to enter through the windows as well as the non-fluro interior lighting. The interior is substantially clad in white marble. Si I expect to use a "blue" filter occasionally to keep the undesired golden tones lower for some shots.

AND, I will shoot some B&W thinking I will need 1600asa to keep people shots sharp. So am looking to find the finest 1600 grain possible - Fuji Neopan?

I hope to be able to enlarge some of the images (6x6 and larger 120 frames on my LF gear) up to A1 or even A0 prints.

With the recommended 800asa colour negative, what speed am I best to rate it at to help ensure opening up some of the shadows especially since there may be significant light variation in the wider angle images, and if the film is a bit contrasty? Am I best just to rate it at the nominal 800 or say 640asa?

I was told that Portra 800 is not very contrasty, so maybe I'd simply expose for 800asa; whereas I was told NPZ 800 is a bit more contrasty.

Also, with the B&W 1600 negative film, should I expose for a somewhat lower speed for a similar purpose if the film tends to be contrasty (as I do with XP2 when shooting it - 250asa instead of 400asa)?

All suggestions welcome. Many thanks.
Actually Simon, yes is answer to all of the above : -)

You haven't provided enough info concerning the shoot. Is it going to be a people dominated event? Or are people secondary to the church interior?

Secondly, if dominated by people subjects, is flash out of the question? Church interiors can feature light extremes with overhead light at the alter often strongly directional from above ... which can cause "Raccoon Eyes" if fill is not provided when shooting close up.

I shoot a ton of wedding ceremonies (where flash is forbidden), and rarely use anything other than ISO 400 speed @ 320 for both Color and B&W with the camera on a tripod using a cable release (also use pre-release the cut down on the noise). Most church events are not action packed and with careful timing can be shot available light using slower shutter speeds and as wide of an aperture as DOF will allow. (depending on lens used)

That said, Portra 800 and Fuji NPZ are both excellent performers. The question is wether you are scanning yourself or sending to lab for prints? Fuji tends to produce slightly better skin tones and I find it marginally easier to scan for color when people are in the photo. I have found that scanning the faster films at lower ppi avoids excessively pronounced grain (2800 or 3200 @ 300 or 400 ppi) ... depending on the D-Max of the scanner.

In church, I always rate any film a stop lower ISO because of the deep shadows in most churches due to the directional light.

As for filters, study the light carefully. Many churches produce blue shadows when a cooling filter is used because of the mixed tungsten, vapor, and daylight.

Here's one with light walls, directional spot lights, daylight... all shot from a balcony bean bagging the camera on the rail using available light with a 503CW & 180/4 @ f/4.

Many thanks Marc, you are a wonderful help.

The info you asked for: NO flash allowed at all; likely only non-fluro lights (soft yellow tones) and daylight - late afternoon spilling into the church from the back and sides of the altar (not overly backlit); some images very dominated by people/faces and some of the whole scene (beautiful church) say 50/50. I will see it tomorrow afternoon when they rehearse so can make my final plans that night for the shoot the next afternoon.

Your shot is superb and you exposed brilliantly to get the shadow detail perfect - such a good ex&le.

I am planning on taking 800 and 400 depending upon the actual light and f stop / shutter limitations it poses. I was planning to over expose 1/2 stop by underrating the film 1/2 stop for normal processing. It seems you feel negative film may need 1 full stop for the sort of church shadows and given most fast film is a bit overrated.

Processing will be done by my very capable Fuji Frontier lab who will also do scans to max res capable under the limits that gear has - likely about 3200 at 300dpi approx.

The "special" images for big big prints will be separately drum scanned by a pro lab.

I will shoot Hassy 6x6 from the body of the church about 25-35 feet from the altar where the choir will sing - using 50, 80, 150mm probably (will see at the rehearsal).

I will shoot Linhof Technika with roll film backs from the balcony (use its adjustments) on 6x12 and some 6x9/6x7 depending upon how close I need to reach etc based on my 90mm, 150mm and 210mm lenses (all fast f5.6 Schneider/Rodenstock - I prefer as tonality is close to Hassy/Zeiss).

Maybe I can load one Hassy back with Fuji and one with Kodak. On the Linhof maybe use the smaller back for closer people images with Fuji and the 6x12 with Portra. I have been told Portra has very very smooth tonality with lower contrast and thus grain is very smooth and Fuji by comparison is more contrasty.

I suppose my most "important" people shots will be taken B&W - think I will use Ilford 400 rated at 320 and shoot it pushed to 1600 rated at say 1200 for some hand held images.

Your comments would be of HUGE help. As always, many thanks - your experience and beautiful images give me great learning.
Well Simon, you are certainly going in with the best gear possible. Luck favors the prepared ; -)

If you have relatively free access to moving around so you can position yourself in relation to the available light, I think you will be fine. The great wedding photographer Jeff Ascough shoots almost exclusively available light even in the worst possible lighting conditions (England), and is successful because he carefully evaluates the source and direction, then positions himself to take advantage of it.

Funny, one suggestion I was going to make was to also include some B&W work. A thought is to consider is the use of C-41 B&W films like Kodak Portra B&W 120/220 (now called just B&W I think). It is quite a nice film when scanning is going to be done, and handles the contrast of spotty lighting very nicely. When scanned, it is difficult to tell apart from real B&W due to some contrast gain when scanning, yet provides very nice tonal gradations. Since I scan my own films, I like it because Digital Ice can be used to avoid dust and tiny film scratches on the surface without effecting the image itself. A blessing when scanning 40-50 shots.

While I am sure you will be doing most of the following it doesn't hurt to mention it. When shooting on a tripod, line up the shot, then prerelease the mirror, and watch the action until key events are just happening and release the shutter. It's actually a nano second faster and avoids any mirror vibrations. Use a cable release also. No matter how steady one is, the act of manually releasing the shutter causes tiny movement which one can't detect until big enlargements are made or severe cropping employed. I learned this when doing a job that required pin registration for animation on a commercial job once. Even on a locked down tripod that was sand-bagged using a Arca Swiss head, the images didn't quite line up one to the other. Using a cable release solved it immediately.

If you scan everything and get proofs first, you may want to take some shots into PhotoShop to color balance isolated areas. In the shot posted above, and this other version shown below, the light hitting the Bride's dress was very intense and quite blue when the remaining image was color balanced correctly. I isolated her dress, made a layer, increased detail and color balanced it.

BTW, I chose to warm-up the second shot a bit after seeing the upload of the first. This is more like it really was with soft sand colored walls.
hello Marc and Simon,
I just wanted to show you a shot of mine, and I would be pleased to know if you like it or not.
Thanks for attention
I like very much street photography, they all where in Rome (where I live) and I wasn't member of the company at all (I've just stolen the shoot)
Marc, That truly is a great shot.
I'm familiar with Jeff Ascough's work. I believe he maintains his "mobility" by using Leica M cameras and fast lenses for his weddings.
Fun shot Sandro.

Thanks Colin. BTW, Jeff no longer uses Leica M having migrated to digital after much study of the new medium. Canon 1DMKII and fast Canon lenses. Same shooting MO. The move was mostly due to poor lab performance where he lives and works, and the improved higher ISO performance of the newer digital cameras, (but he won't sell me his Noctilux because of hopes that Leica will have a digital M in the future).
That's a shame. Without getting into a digital-film debate, I would say that it seems one is being "pushed" into the "D" age because of shoddy processing labs. I assume that he has used this lab for many a year as one doesn't tend to change such things too often.
As far as the Noctilux goes.............the line forms on the left!
Many thanks Marc,

Your warmer shot is even nicer. For that sort of reason some light warmth does not overly worry me.

Oh yes, I've done lots of preparation - have their program and church layout so all the theory is planned - now for reality.

I've decided to overexpose the 800 and 400 films by about 1/3 stop to account for "manufacturer overrating". Then based on the scene I see in each lens and the variation of light, I may add some more overexposure to be sure the shadows are not blocked up. I suppose that in the end my spot readings around the scene and finding a mid tone will answer that question as it usually does for me.

Maybe I'm a bit nervy since these are being done for someone else rather than myself. Don't know how you pros cope with the stress!

I regularly use XP2 c41 B&W but fear it may be a bit too cotrasty for this even so plan on using HP5 and push it one or 2 stops if needed. Ilford say it is good up to 3200! But 800 will hopefully do.

Thanks for the other tips. Yes, I regularly use mirror pre-release for the reasons you give - I feel why have such a good feature and not use it? The weakest link.......
Really nice shot Sandro
I've been doing some "wedding snoops" myself lately - love getting that image of the shooter at work.
Since you were all so kind to assist my planning to shoot a Christmas choir event and deal with the challenging light issues that lay ahead of me; I have posted a s&le image from the first film back from processing. The image is exactly as scanned without manipulation to give you an idea of the light.

This was taken with Portra 800 @ 640; shot on my 4x5 with a 6x12 roll film back. The light was disgusting in colour being a mix of fluro and incan making it unappealing to the eye and adding green and blue mostly to the tones. Shot with a Grandagon-N 90mm f5.6 lens 1 sec @ f16.

It is actually scanned as a 6x9 as my normal Fuji Frontier lab only masks up to 6x9. The 6x12 is more dramatic as it takes in much more of the roof and a bit more audience. The resolution is no more than 2800dpi (these scans are done gratis with the developing).

At 100% the resolved smallest detail way at the back is amazing.

The Hassy films are being pushed and were shot down nearer the altar, so I have not seen them yet.

Anyway the exposures were on the mark; the images (on the negs) were as sharp as a tac and negs had nice density. I'm sure a real post-processing geek will get the colour cast right when a proper drum scan is made of selected images.

Thanks again for the help - a great learning experience especially since I've not done LF since my average daily morphine was trippled 6 months ago, and I know how LF needs one to have his mind very sharp!
Simon, that is one beautiful church. I don't know if it is the web upload, but you are losing some of the highlighted areas ... which is understandable since the shadows are beginning to fill.

A suggestion: If cost isn't to prohibitive, consider having 2 sets of scans made ... an A) scan which exposes for the highlights and a B) scan that exposes for the shadows. Using the exact same size, you can layer the 2 scans over one another (usually the lighter scan over the darker one) and use PhotoShop techniques to blend the two together before merging the two files into one. Film has more tonal latitude than most scanners can pick up on in one scan, or even multiple scans at times.

Another PS technique to use, IF there is some highlight detail in the scan, is to select the highlights with Select > Color Range > eyedropper the highlights > then use the slider to control the degree of highlight selection > then feather 15 to 20 pixels and make a layer ( Control > J key command) then open the layer window: Window > Layers, and click on the arrow that reveals a menu of commands and click on > Multiply. This can also be controlled in intensity by using the % slider in Layers. This effectively

Both these techniques sound complex but really are not. They both extend the dynamic range of scans to match that of the films themselves. If you are interested in this at all, I can continue with some suggestions via e-mail, even do one vis an ftp site transfer as a demonstration.

Here's a tweak that's not there because of the small size of your web upload, but it shows a little bit of what can be done using the above PS techniques on scans. You probably can restore all the detail in the windows and bring up the side walls better than I could with this tiny jpg to work with.

BTW, not that the original isn't a cool shot as is. But if you'd like to control the highlight areas a bit more, those are a few ways you can accomplish it. Best of luck.

Great shot, the latitude is impressive, and what a magnificent church. I think it is the most brightly lit church I have ever seen.


Many thanks Marc. Yes this was just a basic scan. I will pass on your tips to them for the drum scanner to do the adjustments for colour cast and the exposure / scan issues.

The Hassy shots had far more colour cast due to the lighting "proximity"; but, I'm no PS expert and will let their technician do the adjustments like you suggest after he does the drum scan. That way they will have a perfect image to print nice and BIG!

Thanks Gilbert. Yes I have come to really like the latest 800 Kodak films - grain structure and tonality. Whilst it seems a brightly lit church, I had to set the Hassy to 1/8 sec at f5.6 using 800 asa and 1/15 sec pushing 800 to 1600 (metering 0.3 stop over-exposed).

One day I will do a more controlled test adjusting over exposure form 0.3 stop to 1.5 stop and see what the relative effects are to learn how to get the best from this film and understand its latitude better.
understand its latitude better>


A few years ago I telephoned Kodak and ask what the latitude for Porta 160 was. The gentleman told me 5 stops. After shooting Kodachrome slides for so long I felt that with 5 stops I could just click.
Please let me know you find out.

Thank You:

That's very interesting Gilbert. I plan to run a roll of 160 over the weekend, so will try that out and let you know.

I'll try a varied light exposure at 100, 125, 160, 200, 400, 640, 800, 1250 or so - process for 160 and see what happens.