If there’s anything that makes our lives quite stressful recently, is that we are cluttered with a lot of varieties to choose from. Well you could say this is just normal in the modern age we are in, but it’s taking lot of our time and energy when making up our minds about a certain thing and it’s frustrating. So if you’re in need of an enlightenment, here’s a lecture that you should read by our Tipster of the Week!
Don’t Worry, Be Snappy submitted by gvelasco
Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about what kind of film to use with our snapshot cams. Modern color negative emulsions are very forgiving with respect to exposure. I tested four different film speeds under the exact same lighting conditions to see how much of a difference it really made. The results might surprise you.
The Diana MINI has two apertures – Sunny and Cloudy. The “Sunny” aperture is f/11 and the “Cloudy” aperture is f/8. According to the documentation, the shutter speed is fixed at 1/60", but I suspect it’s closer to 1/100". A common question with the MINI is “What speed film should I use?” Occasionally someone will point out that modern color negative emulsions have a very wide latitude. The technical definition of latitude is a bit complicated, but the most important thing to us is that you can get decent exposures across a wide range of lighting conditions. Another way to think about it is that you can be “off” on the exposure by quite a bit and still get usable negatives. You might have to do some tweaking in post processing, but you can often salvage a picture that might have been over- or underexposed.
I went out close to noon on a cloudless day and shot the exact same subjects from the exact same location with the aperture set on “Sunny” using four different speeds of film – Fuji Reala 100 ASA, Fuji Superia 200 ASA, Fuji Superia 400 ASA, and Kodak Max 800 ASA. I took one more shot with Kodak Max 800 ASA on “Cloudy”. That gave me a bracketed exposure of five full stops with 400 ASA on “Sunny” right in the middle.
I took lots of pictures of lots of different things. I don’t want to bore everyone with all of the pictures, but the results were all similar. I picked the one set of pictures that had a decent range of highlights and lowlights. This isn’t a great picture, but I think it’s a good picture to use as an example here. This is what the negatives looked like:
Fuji Reala 100
Fuji Superia 200
Fuji Superia 400
Kodak Max 800 on “Sunny” (Left) and “Cloudy” (Right)
It’s often helpful to look at the negatives rather than the prints because there is actually quite a bit of processing between negative and print whether you’re using chemicals or digital algorithms. There are even some tricks you can do when you’re developing the negatives, but that’s outside the scope of this discussion. I disabled as much processing as possible and scanned the negatives as positives to get as close as possible to what you would see if you were looking at these negatives on light table.
These are negatives, so darker spots are lighter in the final picture and lighter spots are darker in the final picture. Starting from top to bottom, you can see the average darkness of the images increasing. That means that the average lightness of the final pictures is increasing. You can see that as the average darkness of the negatives increases, you lose some details in the darkest parts. That means that you will lose some details in the lightest parts of the final picture. That is called being overexposed. If a negative is to light, then you lose details in the lightest parts of the negative. That means you lose details in the darkest parts of the final picture. That’s called being underexposed.
Interestingly, even though I used four different speeds of film and five different exposure values, the results are all pretty close. None of these negatives are too bad. They’re all usable.
This is what the final pictures look like after post processing:
Fuji Reala 100
Fuji Superia 200
Fuji Superia 400
Kodak Max 800 on “Sunny”
Kodak Max 800 on “Cloudy”
Notice that all the negatives yielded similar final results. With digital post processing it was easy (automatic, in fact) to adjust the levels to get a decent exposure out of every negative. Actually, the default settings on the scanner yielded fairly satisfactory results.
You might also notice that the slower film resulted in more vignetting. Slower films also have smaller grain and better color saturation. It’s usually best to use as slow a film as you can get away with. Since we don’t have much control over the exposure with a MINI, I usually keep it loaded with 400 ASA to cover as many lighting situations as possible. If I know it’s going to be darker – overcast or late in the day – I’ll use 800 ASA. If I know I’ll be using the entire roll outdoors on a bright day, I’ll use 100 ASA for the nicer colors, grain, and vignetting.