Tag Archives: Kodak

Film Matters — The Choice of Film in a Digital Workflow

Film Matters

Text and images by Christoph Hammann for Japan Exposures

If you‘re using color negative film in a hybrid workflow, does it matter what film you use? Or is it true that you can do everything in post-processing? Essentially, in the digital age, what exactly does your choice of film itself bring to the table?

I had occasion to ponder these questions while testing the new Kodak Ektar 100 against DNP’s Centuria 100 film. While the former is lauded far and wide for it‘s fine grain and color reproduction, the latter is said to be a no-frills, mass-market oriented version of Konica‘s color negative film with high color saturation.

DNP Centuria 100
DNP Centuria 100

For the purpose of this comparison, I took photos of a field of crocuses in Düsseldorf‘s Nordpark at the beginning of February. In most shots, I used a Micro-Nikkor 105 VR and a R1C1 macro flash kit with colored gels.

DNP Centuria 100
DNP Centuria 100

I also used these two films in a studio lighting workshop held by Jens Brüggemann. This proved to be an excellent learning experience! The shot above shows a mixed light situation (daylight from above and the flashes modeling light out of a huge umbrella from front left) rendered by the Dai Nippon Printing film.

The lead image on top shows Kodak Ektar coping with light from two strip softboxes aimed at the model from 90 degrees left and right.

Apart from these single images, how did the test go?

Methodology first: I took care to develop the films the same way, putting one of each in a Jobo 1520 tank and developing them with the Naniwa Color Kit N.

Film Matters

The negatives were scanned with a Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400, using no anti-grain dithering and the same light grain reduction in both films.

DNP Centuria 100 at left, Kodak Ektar at right
DNP Centuria 100 at left, Kodak Ektar at right

Grain did indeed turn out to be a major difference between the two films. The 100% crops in the picture above had their levels adjusted, but were not sharpened or reduced in grain. Kodak‘s claims of extremely fine grain for the Ektar are fully justified.

DNP Centuria 100 on top, Kodak Ektar at the bottom
DNP Centuria 100 on top, Kodak Ektar at the bottom

Color balance was markedly different, too. The prohibition sign in the picture above was photographed with the macro flash (without gel filter, of course!) and white-balanced with a levels layer on the white circle denoting the bike‘s crankset. The sign‘s colors weren‘t nearly as garish as the DNP film makes them look, more faded and muted as in the Ektar version. So, a high saturation color negative film the DNP Centuria 100 surely is!

DNP Centuria 100 on top being color corrected with a color balance and a saturation layer
DNP Centuria 100 on top being color corrected with a color balance and a saturation layer

When I tried cheating and to adapt the color correction of DNP Centuria to match the one of Kodak Ektar with layers in Photoshop, the green parts of the sign quickly fell apart along the film grain. I could neither get the same yellow nor do much about the saturation. They don‘t call it a color balance for nothing!

DNP Centuria 100 at left, Kodak Ektar at right
DNP Centuria 100 at left, Kodak Ektar at right

Skin tones suffer under the DNP film‘s color rendering, while I find Ektar‘s skin tones to be quite natural. Granted, these are two different models with different casts to their skin, but the left one wasn‘t that orange-y. And to be fair, the all-rounder DNP 100 has never claimed to be a portrait film.

If all that sounds like I‘m slamming the DNP Centuria 100 film, making an easy target out of it, I‘m not. In the crocus shots, I actually prefered it‘s saturation and color rendition. I also see a role for it photographing urban environments in their multicolored facets and a kind of grainy hastiness. Kodak‘s new Ektar is more true to life, though — mind you, it‘s colors are saturated enough. It has stunningly small and unobtrusive grain. If you are attracted by peculiar color and light combinations and want to capture them just the way you saw them, this is the film for you.

You have the choice, and that‘s the beauty of using film for color photography. Your results don‘t have to be predetermined by the sensor in your digital camera. Film matters, so take your pick and have fun.


Christoph Hammann is a fine art photographer from Waltershausen, Germany. He works with traditional film and silver halide papers as well as digital post-processing and alternative printing techniques. His website is “Mostly Black & White”.



 We have DNP Centuria 100 film available at very attractive prices in our web shop. Why not treat yourself to an abundant 100 pack for summer?


PIE 2009

I have missed it last year, for some reason, so wanted to make a special effort to see it this year: the Tokyo Photo Imaging Expo 2009, a consumer-oriented photo trade fair held in the Tokyo Big Sight complex on the Odaiba artificial island, a little off the centre of town.

Here are some impressions and very personal subjective highlights:

When you walk into the large halls you are greeted by the noisy and shiny big booths of the large players. Apart from the numerous booth hostesses with their uninterrupted smiles for the even more numerous unshaven, persistent male photographers, if that’s the right term for them, it almost seems like visiting a superlative branch of electronic mega-retailers Yodobashi or Bic Camera with their “maker corners”. Very, very unsurprisingly virtually everything is about showcasing the world of digital photo to the masses, some of which is useful, and quite a lot seeming totally useless or a desperate attempt to differentiate (Casio’s virtual studio where you can create digital composites in-camera is a main contender, unless combining photos of your family with a man in a spacesuit on the moon is high up on your feature list for a point and shoot camera).


PIE 2009

I always look forward to the Fuji booth because it has a variety of things on display, not just endless rows of camera bodies. There is usually a good amount of space devoted to film and film cameras, and this year was no exception. I was hoping to get a hands-on impression of the GF670 — I was not disappointed.

PIE 2009

Greeted by a jolly bunch of three middle aged oji-san, I showed my Contax G1 and asked “fancy a swap?” to which he responded “sure, of course” and we laughed. The camera itself is very nice. My first impression was how light it is. The finder is quasi identical to that of a 35mm rangefinder camera, large and bright with a good RF patch. On the right you see the shutter speeds displayed top to bottom (similar to the Zeiss Ikon, but on the right side not left), and on top when AE is used an A is shown.

The shutter is very quiet. I had to shoot it twice as I was not sure it happened the first time round. The whole thing holds very well in the hands, with your left you can focus and control aperture on the front, the right presses the shutter and winds. The three gentlemen seemed very pleased with the interest that the camera is getting. Obviously I am not familiar with the company internals at Fujifilm, but I would not be at all surprised if the analog division consists of a lot more of these kind of film nuts, who — I fantasize here — in the shadows of the workings of an enormous industrial corporation continue to enjoy making these products, even if it is at a much smaller scale than in the past.

Epson R-D1x

For me the R-D1 has always been an unfulfilled wishful dream. When I looked at it years ago I was not too excited, and nor I was today. It still seems big, and surprisingly heavy, almost heavier than the much larger dimensioned GF670, but above all somehow greatly lacking elegance. The chunky body with the tiny lens in front, it just does not appeal to me, but of course many others will like it just fine. But unless there is ever an alternative to it or the Leica M8, the dream will continue.

Custom photo books

Why, after years and years of print on demand photo books, isn’t there any decent domestic Japanese offering that at least comes close to the likes of Blurb and MyPublisher or even iPhoto books? It is a total mystery. Most of the books are obviously targeted at the wedding or family album market. For a start, there is no book in landcape orientation, but plenty of squares and portait formats. The paper is glossy and shiny, and either very thin or very thick. The images look not of great print quality. The typesetting, I assume not customisable, looks beyond terrible. Spiral ring binding etc., you get the idea. On the plus side, some of them can be made while you wait. Forgettable.


Good to see Mamiya active digitally. A small, but very focussed booth. It would be a shame to see cameras like the RZ67 become history. The digital back for it, not sure who makes it, appears to breath new life into it. Don’t dump your RBs and RZs for cheap yet!


PIE 2009

I was impressed by a very large print of a blossoming cherry tree (what else) made from the Pentax 645 Digital. One general gripe about digital prints on the show: they are all just too damn sharp! It looks great from a distance — go closer, as you naturally do with a fine print, and it all falls apart pretty quickly. Still sharp at close distance, but not pretty.

The Japanese Photographic Pinhole Society

PIE 2009

Not sure who they are, but they are funded well enough to afford a fairly large booth in the center of the hall.


PIE 2009

Away game for the yellow team. Nothing too exciting on display for me in the paper and finishing area, but some very good prints outside next to the Ektar promotion, taken on Portra, Tmax and Ultra. “Love Film, Love Camera” the booth says.


PIE 2009

In a Micro Four Thirds display the well known prototype with the byline “On Sale Summer 2009”. Next to it a product covered by a blue cloth… and next to that a window celebrating 50 years of Olympus Pen — coincidence?
PIE 2009

And lastly…

PIE 2009

There are plenty of small booths with all sorts of things on display. Take for example the “Japan Photo and Video Small Accessory Industrial Association”, or “Japan Photo-sensitized Materials Manufacturers Association” advertising themselves. I noted an interesting booth by a small company making steps or “scaffolding” for group photographs, which are very common to do here (see also our review on Tomoko Sawada’s School Days). They had a sample photo with a huge group of people on it, perhaps a graduation. I asked them how many people were on the steps. The answer was three hundred!

Happy birthday

Megaperls Webshop turns one year old today! Big thanks go out to everyone who browsed, purchased, linked, recommended and inquired. In fact, October saw so much traffic, that for a period of 12 hours or so this site went unavailable due to all bandwidth of the hosting package been used for the first time. Apologies for the disruption, but it came as a surprise and the bandwidth limits are increased as a consequence.

It has been a successful year with several hundreds of customers and shippings to four continents of the globe. We have not had a single lost package or other problem in all that time, which is something I am particular proud of.

We continue to expand the selection. There has never been a better time to enjoy film photography, despite the gloomy news from other places (Agfa, Ilford, Kodak). Japan is still going strong, and with the very favourable exchange rates at the moment with US Dollar and Euro at a high, this is THE time to shop and stock up on film and other material.

Thank you for your patronage and trust since November 2004.

Drum away boy

Cibachrome Drum

The Megaperls Drum and Base in operational and sleep mode

In my quest for even development of 4“x5” sheet film, I have built an insert for an old Cibachrome print development tank I bought, errr, about 12 years ago. Not only lets that switch me from tray to rotation development (have to build a baseboard with some castors I bought as well), but I can also do the processing with the lights on and don’t have to step into spilled liquids in the dark.
Of course I still have to load that beast in the dark, so let’s see how that goes. At this point it can take four sheets, but I really would like it to take eight. Planned for Mark II then.

Downside is I have to to test out development times from scratch, although the Kodak Xtol sheet gives some times for rotation, however my rotation is by hand and probably fairly uneven, not necessarily a bad thing… I have to think of a motor drive as well, maybe.

Come to think of it, the other good thing about the drum is that I can develop prints in it. Err, that is what it is actually designed for at the first place.

Renewed developments

Used car sales

Used car sales in Tsukushino, Abiko

Storage building, part of traditional Japanese house, Tsukushino

Storage building, part of traditional Japanese house, Tsukushino

I could not wait for the full two days for the bond to dry, so I took the camera out this afternoon for some careful test shots, which I have just finished developing.

The negatives are still hanging to dry (naturally, on the brilliant Drying hangers for sheet film ;-), but I can already tell the difference just by looking at them.

Tasty, crispy, contrasty negatives with nice shadow detail and a clean look that I only knew from the trusty Neopan Presto. This is still Kodak Tri-X Pro. So looking good this far, to be continued tomorrow morning, when I will scan them.


Today is “Shashin no Hi”, the Day of the Photograph in Japan. My modest research skills in Japanese bring to light, that this day is held since 1996, with the intention to spread and grow photographic culture. Many shows and exhibitions take place during the core months May and June. Probably the Museum of Photography in Ebisu is a good place to start, or one of the many galleries and salons in Ginza, which is where I heard of it.

At lunchtime I pop into the Kodak salon from time to time. I have no real connection to Kodak, using none of their products, except lens cleaning paper maybe. But the Kodak and Canon salons are within walking distance from the office and shows change frequently, making it a nice diversion. In gallery 2 was a captivating series of images of a child, maybe the photographer’s son in different places or doing different things. Each frame on the wall actually consisted of one or two series of 5 or 10 images. In a way these are sequences of images, possibly taken with a 4.5 x 6 medium format camera, vertical format (maybe a MF rangefinder then). They are fairly small and arranged looking a little like contact strips. Unfortunately the show ends soon, but I recommend looking at it, because it is rare that what often ends up as family photos can rise up into the spheres of art. I wouldn’t have thought that it would work and I am surprised it does.

On the way out I notice the flyer for this year’s World Press Photo. I have to admit I haven’t been touched by an image for a while like I have been by winner Jean-Marc Bouju’s photo of “Iraqi man comforts his son at a holding center for prisoners of war”. It’s good to know that there are still moving images and people out there to get them. What could be better on the Day of the Photograph?