Film Stock and Exposure Comparisons | Kodak Portra and Fuji

Every film photographer we know loves a bit of film stock comparison…at UK Film Lab we certainly do!

This is an exciting little project that we thought would help to answer some of the most commonly asked questions of film photographers…What’s the difference between the film stocks? And what difference does changing my exposure make?  Those with a passion for the technical detail might first like to skip straight to the bottom of this post before reviewing the images, where you’ll find all of the information about how we exposed, shot, scanned and edited these images, and what our aims were.  These images were shot in pretty ideal light and the results definitely can’t be generalised across all lighting scenarios but it’s a great place to start!

In each case you can click on the image to see a full size version. We highly recommend viewing these images from around 3 feet / 1 metre away…the (sometimes subtle) differences are more apparent this way.

So first up, we’ve selected what we would consider an optimum exposure for this type of light (+2) and shot the following film stocks: Fuji 400H, Portra 160, Portra 400 & Portra 800:UK Film Lab Kodak Portra and Fuji 400H film stock comparisons

This is a direct side by side comparison of Fuji 400H and Portra 400, the two colour films we most frequently handle at UK Film Lab:
UK Film Lab Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji 400H film stock comparisons

This next shot is a great way to see the hugely important role that good exposure plays in the final look of your images. Here we have Fuji 400H shot at 2 stops under box speed, and 2 stops over box speed:
UK Film Lab Fuji 400H under and over-exposed

We thought you might also like to see how each of the film stocks in our experiment, react to different exposures.  In each case we shot at -2 stops, box speed, +2 stops and +4 stops.

Fuji 400H:
UK Film Lab Fuji 400H exposure comparisons

Portra 160:
UK Film Lab Kodak Portra 160 exposure comparisons

Portra 400:
UK Film Lab Kodak Portra 400 exposure comparisons

Portra 800:
UK Film Lab Kodak Portra 800 exposure comparisons

And for the grand finale, ultra film geek experience…we shot a few other exposures too, ranging from 3 under to 4 over, for Fuji 400H, Portra 160, Portra 400 and Portra 800. Even in the large version the very fine detail won’t be visible but we thought it was useful to give you a general feel for the changes at different exposures for each film stock:
UK Film Lab Kodak Portra and Fuji film stock and exposure comparisons

So, how did we do it?

We wanted the comparison to be as direct as possible (without getting into full blown controlled experiment territory!) so we shot on a fairly settled weather day and chose a softly shaded area, setting the Contax up on a tripod.  Where possible we kept our aperture at 2.8 although for the more underexposed shots we had to narrow this.  We spot metered using an external light meter.

We didn’t scan and edit the images to try to match the film stocks to each other…rather we aimed to keep a natural look in keeping with the nature of the light (soft shade naturally gives a reasonably contrasty look, with bright colours in well exposed images) and the film stock.  Our main aim was to correct the images as necessary in the scan and edit to create a neutral and pleasing skin tone. Our overall objective was to help photographers see the benefit of exposing their images well and avoiding underexposure, and to help give you a feel for the look of the different film stocks.

As you’ll see, at the more significant levels of underexposure it really becomes impossible to create a natural and pleasing look.  These lighting conditions are pretty much ideal, and the detrimental effects of underexposure in less than ideal light would be exacerbated.  As you’ll see, the stocks handle the different exposure levels differently.  Even at 4 stops over no highlight detail is lost but in some cases there is a slight colour and/or contrast shift.  At higher exposures (generally +3 and +4) the magenta tone in the highlights increased across the film stocks and required more correction.  With this type of light and backdrop this hasn’t posed a problem, but in a different scene the need to remove excess magenta could cause unwanted colour shifts that adversely affect the result of your image.  And in full direct sun for example, you would definitely risk losing detail at the top end of the exposure range.

These are all excellent quality pro films that when exposed and handled correctly by the photographer and lab, give excellent results.  All images were shot by Christian with Erica modelling (yes, I have a very spooky knack for standing and smiling in exactly the same way over 32 shots!) and developed, scanned & edited back at UK Film Lab.



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Panos Voudouris | UK Film Lab Spotlight

It’s been a little while since we turned on our Spotlight here at UK Film Lab, so here we are with a new one and we have lots more lined up! Our latest UK Film Lab Spotlight is on Panos Voudouris a talented photographer who we’ve known for some time. Panos has been shooting a lot of b&w film lately – a range of different film stocks and a great deal of experimentation with pushing and pulling. It’s fair to say we’ve really enjoyed working on his film and seeing what he’s been out shooting and we’re particularly struck by his b&w work. Here’s a little Q&A with Panos, including a new ‘Tips’ section with some particularly useful insight into Panos’s journey with film, and then you can see a selection of his b&w work below. Check out Panos’s website to see more of his work:

1. Why do you take photographs?

I take photographs for myself, it is not a profession for me, so in a sense it is relaxing. I can pick up the camera and wait/look for a shot which means while I’m doing that I can forget about everything else. I am also fascinated by the cameras themselves, particularly as I seem to amass various old mechanical ones.

2. Why do you shoot film?

I was shooting digital till 2009 until one day I came across Jose Villa’s photos. I started looking more into other film photographers and given the tumbling prices of medium format equipment I decided to buy my first ever medium format camera: a Bronica SQB. I was hooked immediately! Within 6 months I sold all my digital stuff and have since acquired various 35mm, 6×6 and 6×7 cameras. I find the soft tonality of medium format colour negative film fascinating. It produces perfect skin tones, a radiant yet light and airy look that, for lack of a better description, just makes me feel happy. I also like that once I’m done shooting the process ends there: UK Film Lab takes care of the scans and all I need to do is pick and choose which photos I like.

3. Why do you use UK FIlm Lab?

I met Christian and Erica in 2013 during a film workshop and decided to try again getting scans from a lab. Before that I did try various labs in the UK but the scans I was getting back were mediocre at best and not worth the expense. When I got my first set of scans back from UK Film Lab I felt as if I was looking at somebody else’s much better photos! Since that day I have not wasted a single moment scanning myself, neither have I thought about sending my film elsewhere. Not only are the scans amazing but the feedback is also great, particularly when trying new films or shooting in under various conditions. Perfect scans, ready to print, every time.

4. Do you have any tips for other photographers?

I know everyone says shoot more to learn and while it is true that the more you shoot the better you get, I found that shooting more on itself is not that useful after a while. What made a real difference to me was getting the workflow right after the shooting is done, i.e. either learn how to develop and scan properly or find a good lab. For me, once I found the lab I immediately gained the confidence in my shooting as the buck now stops with me. No more doubting about “if I shoot like this then scan like that then photoshop x and y I might get a good result”. A great lab means I can concentrate on my shooting and improve on that, while having the freedom and confidence to experiment with more film stocks, cameras and shooting conditions.

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Film is beautiful – a little Monday pick-me-up

Some days a pretty picture is enough for a Blog post! This is one of Christian’s shots from last year, captured on the Contax with Fuji 400H film, developed and scanned back at UK Film Lab. We’re looking forward to wedding season getting into full swing again, both to shoot and work on our own film, and to see the lovely images that our clients will be creating!

Christian Ward UK Film Lab_0003

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Winter Competition – Film Giveaway | And the Winner is…

We’re excited to announce that the winner of our Winter film giveaway competition is Kerstin Weidinger! We just loved the way Kerstin’s image captures the crisp beauty of winter sunshine. Our Winter competition was sponsored with thanks by the lovely people at Kodak Alaris, and Kerstin wins a whole bundle of Kodak film, which we’ll be sending out to her very soon  There were lots of great entries and we couldn’t let them go without a little runner up prize…so Sonia Jansson, Chris Seddon, Jenny Owens, Kirstin McKee, Ferdinand Janco & Connor McCullough, keep your eyes on the mail too!

For now, we hope everyone enjoys Kerstin’s image, shot on Portra 400 film on the Pentax 645n…a little reminder of winter in all its glory. We’ll be running another competition soon so don’t forget to watch our Facebook page for details!

Kerstin Weidinger

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Pushing the Boundaries | TRI-X at 6400 and Reala at 800

It’s been a while since we posted any personal work on here, so we thought what better way to show some of Christian’s work than to share some of our recent results with pushing film in the lab. We are planning a more in-depth guide to pushing film at some point in the near future, but one thing that’s important to the success of pushing film is some form of light source on your subject: ‘low light does not mean no light’, and pushing film is not going to help you out if there is no luminance to your subject. Pushing film increases contrast and in doing so, you lose shadow detail….pushing film generally helps your highlights more than your shadows, so that’s something to bear in mind. Of course, pushing film does not always have to be something you do only out of necessity because of low light – you might choose to push film for the artistic effect. Something to bear in mind with the latter is that when pushing colour negative, the process starts to alter the colours and it can be difficult to attain the natural look that you will be used to with normally developed C41 – pushed film is always going to look different, but perhaps that difference is what you’re wanting to achieve. With careful choice of light and exposure, however, it is possible to achieve good results.

So this weekend, Erica put down her camera and took up her modelling duties for Christian who was behind the lens. We recently shot some Fuji Reala and loved the colours, so we thought this would be a good time to try something for artistic effect – pushing Reala. As Reala is a 100 speed film we rated it at 800 and consequently pushed it 3 stops in development. In terms of black and white, we shot TRI-X at both 3200 and 6400 (and pushed 3 and 4 stops respectively). There is also a shot taken with Neopan 400 (not pushed) for comparison. And for instant film lovers, you’ll find some FP3000B in there too!

Contax, TRI-X at 6400/pushed 4 stops

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Neopan 400, Leica M6, Zeiss Sonnar 50mm at f/1.5

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Contax/TRI-X at 3200/pushed 3 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 6400/pushed 4 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 3200/pushed 3 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 3200/pushed 3 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 3200/pushed 3 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 6400/pushed 4 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 3200/pushed 3 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 6400/pushed 4 stops

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Contax/TRI-X at 3200/pushed 3 stops

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Polaroid 600SE/Fuji FP3000B

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Polaroid 600SE/Fuji FP3000B

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