Matching Film, Paper, and Labs : LUSENET : Photography In The Phils. : One Thread

I just corresponded with a very helpful person who has worked in commercial labs for several years and thought I'd share it with the rest of the forum. Its interesting since I (and I'm pretty sure most of you) are very critical as to the kinds of films you shoot. Did you ever stop to consider what paper it would be printed on asides from the perennial 'matte or glossy?':

"Always be critical of your film choices Tommy, but be equally critical of your paper choices. I spent several years mapping paper responses for pro labs and they aren't all created equal.

Rule 1: Mini lab papers suck. They have harsh contrast and poor color rendition. If you must, Kodak glossy Royal or glossy Agfa are the best of the amatuer lot, and that's not saying much.

I love Fuji Crystal Archive pro. for an example. It's an awesome paper. But because it drives colors so hard you have the drawback that it doesn't render some film from other manufacturers correctly. For this reason I advise sticking to Fuji films and crystal archive and only mix other films after experimenting. Crytal Archive type "C" has the same contrast as Kodaks Portra III. Crystal Archive type "P" has the lowest contrast of any color print paper - much lower than older Fuji FA 5 type "P". I liked Kodak VPS III on FA 5 type "P", but the Crystal Archive is TOO flat for my taste. For knock-out drag out color saturation Fuji makes a hyper glossy polyester stock material that looks and feels like Ilfochrome, yet is for printing from negs. Few people know about it yet many pro labs carry it.

Kodak's main pro paper is Portra III. Portra is OK, but contrast wise it's inbetween a commercial and portrait grade. It's the "hardest" looking of the big three portrait papers. Portra has very dense blacks and exellent blues and greens, but it's red and warmtone repsonse is poor. Portra is really stroked for VPS III and I haven't seen any of the new Portra films on it, but I probably wont be impressed, even though Portra paper is more compatible with a larger variety of films and doesn't seem as fussy as Crystal Archive with other manufacturers films. Kodak's commercial papers are Supra and Ultra - avoid them. They seriously suck next to Crystal Archive. Dull and murky.

(At this point it would be interesting to note that most of our stuff is printed on Fuji Crystal Archive and Studio 58 lab 10 uses Supra paper--Tommy Z.)

Agfa is the one to watch. Agfa's portrait paper fixes all the problems with Portra but doesn't get as fussy as Crystal archive. Agfa portrait is warmer than Portra and doesn't have the dense shadows and blacks, but for people pictures it looks a helluva lot better and the secondary pastel colors are more subtle and accurate. Both Fuji and Kodak films I had proofed on Agfa pro were perfectly neutral and had more depth than portra. I haven't tried the Agfa commercial grade, but I would suspect it's better than Supra or Ultra for commercial work."

I wrote:

> Hello, > > You wrote: > > " The difference between Portra III and Fuji Crystal Archive type "C" > paper are greater than the dye set difference between Potra > VC film and VPS III. " > > I do have a fair grasp on how to select films but sadly am not aware of > how to select paper (I don't have a darkroom and have labs do the > print), save for the occasional trial and error discovery. > If you have the time, I was hoping you could give me a brief explanation > or some kind of framework to base paper selection on. If what I > understood from your statement is correct, then it would be a waste to > be so meticulous about film choice without giving some thought as to > what paper it would be printed on. > > Thanks.

I guess my point is there is much to learn regarding what goes on and the materials involved in color negative printing (which is exactly one half of our work whenever we have it done in a lab). For example, sooner or later I'd like to know
1) the characeristics of the papers they use in Fuji Image Plaza (does crystal archive really suck?) and Island Photo.
2) what is there to look for in papers? we know film (astia vs. velvia vs. provia or reala vs. superia vs. NPS) but don't know much about the papers used (which obviously would play at least just as big a part in the appearance of the final print as film selection does).

This way, we won't be ignorant marketing victims to the film companies. Don't you consider it strange that they spend so much advertising/marketing money on conveying how much better this or that film is? Of course it would be a profitable for them if we bought their film. But the other half (the printing), and the differentiation of the kinds of paper they use, which play as much part in the final output, isn't even mentioned?

I hope to gather enough data on this to write an article and would appreciate some help.

-- Tommy Zablan (, March 02, 1999


"For knock-out drag out color saturation Fuji makes a hyper glossy polyester stock material that looks and feels like Ilfochrome, yet is for printing from negs. Few people know about it yet many pro labs carry it."

This sounds like the FUJIFLEX SFA 3 SUPER-GLOSS Printing material which is supposed to give you: a)high quality color negative to positive printing with polyester base gloss quality and sharpness enhancement b)Suited to the production of professional level display and salon prints through contact printing and enlarging from FUJICOLOR professional negative films or similar films. c)Provides rich gradation, regulated gray balance, enhanced image stability, good color reproduction and gradation, high sensitivity, excellent reciprocity characteristics, latent image stability, physical and enhanced gloss polyester base.

-- Carlo Ma. Guerrero (, March 03, 1999.

Carlo, do yo know if FUJIFLEX SFA 3 SUPER-GLOSS is available for use locally? I called Fuji today and someone I know over there said only the consumer type of Fuji Crystal Archive was being used locally. Furthermore, he doesn't think even pro labs have the Crystal Archive pro type "P" or "C" papers since they don't carry it locally.

It's funny since the 'consumer' paper is reputedly bad. I've had some 'good' results with this paper though (but maybe it's because I don't have a point of comparison that is actually superior to it and for much of my shooting, true to life color rendition isn't my top priority since I like and use chromogenic B&W film). It's all relative I suppose.

The B&W zone system advocates have been doing for decades what most color neg shooters largely ignore; that is match a film to developer to a paper at a particular E.I.. Despite the differences in the processing of B&W and c-41 (which is less interpretative), the film and paper matching makes sense. Buying a particlar film for true color rendition (such as Reala) or good skin tones (NPS) and then printing it on a paper that has 'harsh contrast and poor color rendition' is contradictory. I'm sure the prints will look different from those shot with say...YKL Bravo, but then its still a question of whether the effects we wanted to achieve by using a specialized film such as NPS are actually achieved. The implication is: We really can't look at a print and say "hey...the film I used is good" since a lot of it depends on the particular paper it was printed on, and the same negative printed on a paper with a different dye set or contrast will look different. Instead, it should be "this particular film looks good when printed properly, with this kind of lighting condition, on this particular paper".

I have to admit I'm guilty of taking much of the above for granted, despite being meticulous w/ film selection. Then again, the local labs don't really give us much of a choice.

-- Tommy Z. (, March 03, 1999.

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