In search of a perfect colour film

Colour film is still not my thing. I don’t really know how to shoot in colour, how to scan it properly, how to post-process it. It’s definitely a different kind of fun than my beloved B&W. Trying hard, learning on mistakes.

The main problem is finding a film with satisfactory colours. Obviously, it’s a highly subjective matter. My preference is for muted and natural colours. Observations so far:

  • Kodak Ektar 100 – hyped, praised, and fails badly in all situations. Avoid like a plague.
  • Kodak Gold – When it’s good, it’s nice. When it’s not good, it’s just bad. Unpredictable, or someone sold me expired rolls?
  • FujiFilm Superia – reliable, beautiful colours in all kinds of situation. Just very difficult to get these days.
  • Kodak Portra 160 – my renewed hope for colour film

First, the Infamous Kodak Ektar 100

There was so much praise for this film that me, a humble beginner, just had to try it no matter the cost. And it’s not cheap to begin with, so I expected wonders. But it just won’t work for me. Maybe for you, maybe for someone else, not for me. Each time I tried it, it’s been an unmitigated disaster:

  • Outdoor photos’ colours are way off the chart – aggressive, flashy, unnatural
  • Large areas of the same colour are flat, all detail is lost. I suspected my glasses – tried cleaning my glasses, no improvement.
  • Human skin has all shades of red and orange and yellow but there’s nothing human in it. The Donald would love it though.
  • It gets better indoor with dimmer light, but humans are still piggy-pink.

Suddenly, I found an old post on an obscure online forum:

It requires a perfect exposure. Ektar will remind you in a painful way when your exposure is not right.

anonymous guru, loosely quoted

God bless you! This must be the case. As I’m a rather lousy photographer and always in a hurry, I expect the film to be forgiving. And this one is certainly not. Stay away from it, if you’re like me. See the examples below, I’m so ashamed of them.

Sandrine doesn’t like being a fiery-red blob, thank you Ektar 100
Shot with Bronica SQ
“Are you out of your mind!?” – Ela gasps, seeing me using Ektar 100 to make her look like she’s been drinking since Monday
Shot with Bronica SQ

Kodak Portra 160 Surprise

I don’t give up easily, so I bought two 120 mm rolls of Kodak Portra 160. And it’s such a difference!!! I’m happy again that it’s not just clueless me 😉 They say one picture is worth more than a thousand words and one Russian man is worth more than, ehmm, see for yourself, here’s my Russian man:

Dmitry showing great enthusiasm towards my newly found favourite colour film
Shot with Bronica SQ
Such was his enthousiasm that he decided to photograph this moment of a historic discovery of Kodak Portra 160
Shot with Bronica SQ

Kodak Gold 400, if it works …

I’ve shot a few rolls so far. I cannot understand where do get it wrong. One picture can be colour-perfect, while the next one on the same camera and the same day will be a disaster, either washed out like it’s from a disposable toy camera or flashy like our good friend Ektar.

Kodak Gold 400 is a perfect film for selfies …
Shot with Canon AE-1 Program
… and for lovely girls like Julia …
… but certainly not for university buildings …
… nor for happy girls on the occasionally sunny cliffs of Howth
Shot with Canon AE-1 Program

That’s all from one roll. Does anyone understand what’s going on with this film? I gave up, as one one roll I get all kinds of aberrations, intervowen with gorgeous photos every now and then.

Fuji Superia 400

Such a nice film. Soft, pleasant colours, vibrant but not overdone. It’s a pity this film is getting almost impossible to buy. I’ve heard rumours that it’s actually no longer in production???

Fuji Superia 400 at late evening in Clontarf, approved!
Shot with Praktica MTL-5B + Auto Sears f.1.4 wide open

To be continued!

(c) Tomasz Waraksa, Dublin, 2019

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