What Film Should I Use: Print or Slide?
It's hard to answer this question when phrased so broadly. What film you choose
depends on what sort of camera setup you have, what sort of results you want, whether you
want prints or not, what types of photos you're going after, where you're diving, etc.
I'll try to present a short list of the choices, along with descriptions of
what each one is good for.
|Slide film ("E-6")
- Fantastic color saturation
- typically low grain,
- easy & cheap to process so you find it at many remote dive locations
- You see the film directly, making it easy to detect exposure mistakes
- Less exposure latitude than print film, so you have to be dead-on with exposure.
Mistakes easier to detect.
- Fewer choices in terms of film speeds
- Prints from slides are expensive
- Professionals and "serious amateurs"
- Nikonos V and/or housed SLR cameras
|Print Film ("C-41")
- Plenty of exposure latitude means you can make huge mistakes in exposure and still get a
- Lots of choices of speeds
- Prints are part of the bargain, and cheap to re-print.
- Unusual to find C-41 processing at dive sites or on dive boats
- Color saturation not nearly as good as slide film
- Snapshot cameras
- Share prints with friends
- Learning the basics
The choice of "print vs. slide" film is a tough one. If you are an
experienced photographer, you're probably going to pick slide film because it can be
processed on-site and because you want the bright snappy colors.
On the other hand, if you are just starting out, print film will give you a higher
percentage of usable shots while you are learning. This is good while you learn
composition, but not so good if you want to learn how to get good exposures. Print
film tends to mask exposure errors because it is so forgiving. That means that you
might be making exposure mistakes and never know it. If you really want to learn how
to get spot-on exposures, you have to use slide film.
Print film is designed for prints (duh). If you want to share vacation photos
with friends, print film is a good way to go. But if all you want is the occasional
print to hang on your wall, slide film gets better color, and you can have
"Ilfochrome" prints made from your slides.
Now that you've heard the pros and cons, I'll give you my personal opinion on the
issue. If you're a snapshot camera user, print film is really your only choice.
Slide film, if exposed less-than-perfectly, gives pretty bad results. You can
sweep a lot of mistakes under the rug using print film. Since the whole goal of
snapshot photography is to have fun and not think about the mechanics of taking pictures,
print film is the way to go. However, if you're using an Sea & Sea MotorMarine
II, a Nikonos V, or a housed system, you might want to give serious consideration to using
slide film. Sure, you will have technical problems at first, but you can learn your
way around those. In the long run, slide film will give you more pleasing results.
Also, given that you have chosen to go with a more complicated camera system, it's
a good bet that you're willing to learn how to use the camera properly, so slide film
should not present an insurmountable challenge--as long as you examine your slides
critically, recognize the problems, and learn from your mistakes.
Here are a few common print and slide films, and what each one is good for. The
topic of which film brand and type to use is so personal and fractious that I don't want
to get into making recommendations. This table is just my personal take on things.
|Kodak Royal Gold
||My favorite all-around print film. Good color saturation, accurate
colors, fine grain. Note that "Gold" film is not the same as "Royal
||Fuji's answer to Royal Gold. Colors are a bit off for my taste, but
great saturation and grain
||Extreme color saturation, very close to slide film. Too green for
everyday use, but underwater it works pretty well. If you shoot macro with print
film, this is what I would use.
||Kodak's answer to Velvia (see below): good grain (although not as good as
Velvia), great eye-popping color. Double the speed of Velvia is nice. My
favorite uw film these days.
||Long the macro-photographer's stand-by, but I just don't like this film.
Awesome grain, but too orange for me.
||The most popular underwater film for years. Awesome color, but some
people feel it is too much. Labeled "disneychrome" by its detractors.
Finest grain of any slide film (until recently; see below). ISO 50 sounds low, but the truth is that many
people shoot it at 40 !
||Provia is the "pro" version of Sensia II. Buy Sensia and
save the money. Good color, but film is too blue to use on land. Good
underwater. Many people (myself included) feel this film's 100 rating is optimistic and
shoot it at ISO 80.
||Fuji's most accurate slide film, color-wise, but it's too cold for my
tastes. Nice sharp images, but everything comes off feeling a bit too hard for me.
|Fuji Provia F
|Fuji's newest film, and a very exciting offering. The 'F'
stands for "Fine Grain," which is the hallmark of this film. It
has the finest grain of any slide film currently on the market, even
better than Velvia. Very similar to the original Provia in color response,
which is to say "very blue." Good saturation, although less than
Velvia. IMO more realistic than Velvia. Excellent choice for macro shots
due to fine grain. Also good for WA due to great blue response.
If I were going to put two types of film in my bag, those two would be Kodak Royal Gold
200 and Kodak E100VS. If I could have two more, Agfa Ultra 50 and Velvia would get
the nod. I used to be a Fuji fan, but these latest offerings from Kodak have changed my
mind. Now we'll see what Fuji does by way of competition.