Traditionally, I've been a fan of contrasty films, like slide film and UltraColor 400. However, UltraColor 400 is off the market in 120 format and sometimes I need a little more speed than ISO 100 slide film.
As a result, I like having a good 400 speed print film for my RB67.
I found something interesting when inspecting the rolls I developed from Kodak's new Porta film giveaway. I like 400NC, the most neutral film possible, more than 400VC.
I'd been saving the free rolls for when I could adequately compare them, which meant they sat around for a few months. I shot the two rolls of 400 with Ella Elin (who, I might add, is a truly magnificent model). She climbed up in a tree and I realized that I just shot the tenth and last shot of the roll, so I had her hold really still while I swapped rolls and took another shot.
I started out scanning the both of them in a fairly neutral fashion as per my usual routine, using the auto-adjustment mode on the Epson software, and then correcting any gross color imbalances in the software. I popped them both into Photoshop and found that it was faster to adjust the 400NC scan to get the desired results and that, even after I'd spent some time with the curves, I just liked the 400NC image better.
One should note that I like the earlier image better and the light was getting better and better as time went on.
I'm quite surprised. I had assumed that I'd either prefer the 400VC (because it's most like slide film) or that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference (because I'm scanning them and can adjust the response curves as desired)
I am pretty sure that it's not a change with the overall contrast. I can bump both images up to arbitrary levels of contrast and still like the 400NC more. This has something to do with the colors, because it doesn't seem to hold with black and white films.
I suspect that the difference is beneath the level that the charts on the datasheets will show me, either in terms of spectral sensitivity or different contrast between the layers -- remember, Kodak wants to give useful information about a film, not enough information to allow another company to replicate a film exactly, so they aren't necessarily interested in giving an exact scientific-grade treatment. If it was the contrast levels, I could get the two images to match each other perfectly if I'd spent more time in Photoshop. Which is counterproductive -- 400NC and 400VC cost the same, so if 400NC works better, I'll just use that. If it was the spectral sensitivity, I would not be able to accurately "modify" the curves in Photoshop to make them match.
I've got a four part comprehensive series on the films available today that's getting close to being done, but I'm still trying to get all of the tests together.
I've said it before and I'll say it again... When you shoot 120 film, you can get away with a lot of grain. I have a 90mm 3.8 lens on my RB67 and a 50mm 1.8 lens on my 35mm camera. This is a difference of two stops in terms of light gathering ability, plus one stop of camera shake... so I need 800 speed film on my RB67 to match the results from 100 speed film on the 35mm camera as far as light capturing ability.
Here's the thing, however. 400 speed print films are pretty damn good, so much so that you have a hard time telling them apart from 100 speed print films. So, the 35mm camera is going to be running right up against my scanner's maximum optical resolution to get a decent big print, wheras the 6x7 isn't.