Does anyone use colour print film? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Looking through the postings here it seems that everyone uses B&W film or Velvia. I have had moderate success using fuji print films (NPS, NPH) in the smaller formats and like the fact that they are more forgiving of my metering. I am shopping for my first LF camera so my experience level is non-existant. I was just wondering if there was any reason not to keep using my favorite films in large format.

-- Edward Kimball (, March 07, 2001


I use Kodak Portra VC160 about 50% of the time. I overexpose by 1/2 to 1 stop and this always gives me plenty of room for error. I use B&W (usually TMX) about 25% of the time and Velvia the other 25% of the time. I do my own printing up to 20x24 and I am very happy with the results from the color negatives. A well known photographer/printer Ctein often shoots color LF color negative, also.

-- Steve Baggett (, March 07, 2001.

I have recently been trying Fuji NPH in medium format in 6x9 roll film backs and also in my 6x17 camera. I'm cautiously pleased. I'm rating NPH at an E.I. of 320.

I was inspired to try this approach by a Robert Polidari portfolio on Brazilia in "View Camera" a couple of issues back. I'm also looking forward to seeing Fuji NPS (or NPC) in Quickload and Kodak Portra in the newly redesigned Readyload packets.

-- Ellis Vener (, March 07, 2001.

Edward, the majority of our stuff is done on either TMX or Provia 100, but we do on occasion shoot NPS (at 120EI), and NPL (tungsten, at 120EI or so too). Since we're a museum, we don't shoot a whole lot of color neg (stability reasons), but NPS looks great in 4x5. I don't think Fuji has any 400 speed color neg. films(4x5), you may have to check Kodak for that.

-- DK Thompson (, March 07, 2001.

Ellis, yeah that's a good speed for NPH, I've done alot of event photography on NPH in roll sizes. Looks great at 320.

-- DK Thompson (, March 07, 2001.

When I first started in LF, not all that long ago, I used NPS for the reason you mentioned - more latitude in exposure error as I got accustomed to handheld metering. The main disadvantage I saw was the cost of contact prints. My lab charges $1.50 to develop a sheet of Velvia and $3.50 for negative film plus a contact print. If you do your own printing, then maybe this isn't an issue. By getting contact prints I could still learn a little about my exposure technique and also have a negative for enlargement. I have a few very nice enlargements from this. Some would probably say that using Polaroids will get you to the same place in terms of getting the right exposure. Now I shoot reversal with bracketting and it doesn't save a whole lot. I use the Slideprinter for fairly economical enlargements when I want them. I think it sort of gets back to the arguement, regardless of format, that if your primary end use is prints, use print film. There are probably two sides to this arguement, especially with digital (and costly) printing.

-- Roger Rouch (, March 07, 2001.

DK, I would think that NPS/NPL and prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper are more stable and less prone to yellowing (the prints) than Provia or any other E-6. Granted, this is something of an extrapolation from Wilhelm's book (he hasn't tested the films lately, so I'm relying on Fuji's data and claims), but short of printing your TMX on fiber paper, or making pigment prints, you probably can't do better for photographic longevity.

-- Sal Santamaura (, March 07, 2001.

Sal, I'll have to dig out Wilhelm's book, but it really doesn't matter. We shoot for long term files. Unless we had a cold storage vault here, I don't think color negs are going to outlast chrome film. The majority of our transp. wind up printed in publications, and textbooks, or else we dupe them down to 35mm and send these out in mass publicity releases, or use in slideshows. When we do exhibit production, we make Cibachromes, or Cibatrans for this. I know it can be done digitally now, but we can get it all done cheaper trad. with the vendors we use. I know it seems like a no-brainer to shoot negs. for prints, but we shoot to document our collection, and as a long-term file, not necessarily a fine art print. The film is more important for a long-term file. The only drawback to Provia is that it's on an acetate base. Polyester based films have much better stability than acetate. But, like I said, with a state-of-the-art cold storage vault, all types of negs/prints last a whole lot longer. On a less than scientific note here, I can go to our pretty nice neg. files (not a cold vault) here, and pull out some VPL that's not too old, and it looks kinda crappy. Along with XP2 rollfilm that loses density with age, and gains contrast...

-- DK Thompson (, March 07, 2001.

nps quickloads have been out (at least in nyc) for a couple of weeks now. i used them on my last shoot and was happy to have them.

-- adam friedberg (, March 07, 2001.

VPL was just about the worst possible negative material according to Wilhelm, while VPS (if I recall correctly) led the pack. Fuji, to paraphrase its introductory material, claimed NPS "had the best stability of any color negative," which I interpreted to mean better than VPS. That would put in in the same class as E-6, and without Provia's - - at least the earlier generation's - - tendency to yellow. I suspect Crystal Archive prints would outlast Provia in room temperature dark storage by a wide margin.

Interestingly, NPS and NPL sheets are on polyester bases...

-- Sal Santamaura (, March 07, 2001.

Yeah, VPL was the worst. But actually, I believe NPS might (boy, you've got to be careful with accelerated aging tests...they are not the gospel truth, so much depends on YOU & YOUR STORAGE ENVIRONMENT), so after that disclaimer, NPS beats out VPS. But, hey, VPS/VPL are history now. Look, I'm not laying down a definitive guide here, I'm just saying that in most museums/archives, documentation is done on B& W as the primary, and color transp. as the secondary film. To me, if I were faced with trying to reproduce an image 50-75-100 years from now, I would rather work from a neg/transp. than have to make a copy of a "master" print. Even taking into account "dark fading" in acc. tests transp. beat out color neg. Short of cold storage (which has it's pitfalls & pecularities) the best you can do is to keep your film cool & dry. If you bank on negs with "long lasting" prints, then what do you do when your negs crap out? You might have a "master" print in dark storage/cold storage. But what if you want more? Sorry, I don't buy any argument that color materials are longer living than b&w polyester base sheet films. If any of this still sounds crazy to you, how about considering what the HABS/HAER requirements are. What I'm talking about is a document for reference. When we shoot color neg. it's for a purpose that we deem "unarchival", i.e. not for the collection. Now, to the average person a 20 yr. (at 70% RH)--70 yr. (< 10% RH) at normal room temps., this is probably good enough. But, like I said it has to do with you, and your air quality, temp., humidity, enclosures etc. To me, archival goes beyond a fiber based print, or a good print material. It relies on the original film image. You have to look at dark fading, and work it from there (not counting yellow stain), the fact of the matter is, you're not going to find many institution shooting color neg. for long term use.

-- DK Thompson (, March 07, 2001.

I use and like Agfa's Optima for landscape photography. I was attracted to this film when I heard that it's optimized for daylight, not just for flash and portraiture. (e.g. skin tones under flash.) I find that I have to order Optima from Calumet or B&H.

-- neil poulsen (, March 08, 2001.

Sometimes I have to use the 100T in the studio and like it. Most of my work is with softboxes and Pro 100 and I recently tried the new 400 and will use that alot more because of it's tight grain, fine grain and really pretty nice curve. I first did some studio tests and liked what I saw so I took it out in the field and really liked that also.

-- Scott Walton (, March 08, 2001.

I too used Agfa Optima 100 for years, and while not perfect (a tendency to oversaturate blues)it was better balanced than and had more natural contrast than any of the Fuji or Kodak films available in 4x5. Unfortunately, Agfa has pulled 4x5 Optima from the market and it has not been available for some time. (They promise a new "professional" 4x5 product line in the fall, but........)So what's left? NPS lacks contrast. Portra 160VC has too much contrast. The best of a bad lot is Portra 160NC, and its reds and greens leave something to be desired, although they aren't bad in direct sunlight. So that's what I'm using while holding my breath for Agfa's new offerering, when and if.

-- Dick Deimel (, March 08, 2001.

Please don't misunderstand; I'm not trying to suggest anything other than black and white for archival purposes. And I use hardly any color negative personally. Just thought that, if one is doing color, the NPS/Crystal Archive route might be better than transparencies in some respects.

-- Sal Santamaura (, March 08, 2001.

Sal, I didn't completely misunderstand, I just think that we're talking about two different things here. For the average person who wants color prints, yes the NPS/SFA3 paper is a good combo. Especially if you're in a commercial portrait business. I found it interesting that those films are on a polyester base as well. But, that just means the base material will probably (?) outlast the dyes much longer. Depending on which dyes go first, you might have a weird color shift. The film base can fail as well, not just the dyes or emulsion. But, even in dark storage, the CTs outlast the neg. material by about twice as long. I think where you're coming from is thinking of a print as the final product, whereas I'm looking at making many prints, slide dupes, etc. over an indefinite period-well beyond my lifetime, certainly beyond the time I'll be here in this position. Now, that Crystal Archive print could be viewed as a reference print in someone's files. But, if the original neg. craps out, then that print becomes an "artifact". If you wanted more copies, you'd either have to make a copy neg., or scan the photo, both of which are not quite the same as having the original neg. I don't really need to look at accelerated test to see how various color materials have held up, I can go dig through some of our really old files and can see. All this doesn't detract from my original answer to the question. NPS does look great in 4x5.

On a seperate note, but for all those not bored to death about all this talk about stability, here's a good link to the Image Permanence Institute. Wilhelm might have moved on to inkjet stbility, but these folks are working on film:

-- DK Thompson (, March 08, 2001.

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