Nikon 105mm 1.4E on F100 and Portra 160

Nikon 105mm 1.4E on a Nikon F100 film camera

Film will always have a certain pull on me.  Even though I have tons of digital cameras that will produce instant pictures that I can edit immediately, the texture and process of film is something unique in this era.  One combo I haven’t seen any photographer online use is the Nikon 105mm 1.4E on a Nikon film camera.  This is a modern lens (2016) that I’ve used to create almost all of my favorite portraits on digital SLR’s. It works with full AF on the F100 (circa 2000), but you have to shoot it wide open at f/1.4.  Not a problem since that’s what this lens is designed for.  I’d wondered for a long time if this lens could get one close to a medium format look on a smaller format.  Here’s some examples from my first roll of Kodak Portra 160.

The film negatives were developed at Spartan Photo in nearby S.C.

Kodak Portra 160, Canon EOS RP and 100mm f/2.8 Macro, natural sunlight

I first tried “scanning” the negatives by taking a picture of it with a few cameras.  The above and below photos were shot with window light and a Canon EOS RP and 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

Quick curves inversion and color correction in Photoshop

Sigma SD14 and 17-70mm Macro lens. Sunlight out my back window, and yes I’m holding an envelope behind the negatives.

Having used the quick DSLR method to “scan” negatives many times in the past, I thought I would really take the time to scan them via the flatbed scanner.  It’s definitely time consuming, about 8 minutes per scan, and then maybe 15 minutes in post just to clean up the dust and hair manually.

Finished photo, scanned on the Epson V series flatbed, and cleaned up in Photoshop, and color corrected in Nikon Capture NX2

Being daylight balanced, the Portra 160 shots are much cooler than you see here, but I color corrected and warmed up the images to my taste.  At 100% it’s definitely grainy, but there’s always a realness to the photos.

Bear in mind these are many steps of degradation in the quality chain.  Scanning a tiny piece of film on a consumer scanner will never be the same as the ones I used to get on a photo CD, oh 15+ years ago.  Even at miniscule resolutions the lab provided, those always had a sharpness and crispness to the files that scaled quite well going up or down in resolution.

This blurry shot is pretty much out of camera/scanner and shows that film still has a wonderful way of rendering tones in low light. f/1.4 and ISO 160 was enough right before the sun set.

For this shot, I kept a bit more of the blueish leanings of the Portra film. With digital it’s so easy to fix different color temperatures that show up in shadows vs sunlight, but with film, it’s pretty much something you have to live with and just shoot.

The second frame on the roll of 36 shots.

Out of the 36 pictures I’d say about 12 are decent keepers, and maybe 1-2 that I really liked.  That’s actually a pretty good ratio when you think about it.  With film being so “precious” and limited, you really have to think twice about pushing the shutter button.

For me though, I’ve always felt that digital is the best workflow for me (shoot a lot and cull through them later), as this past year has reminded me that simple hangouts with friends can be few and far between.  Film is nice every now and then, since that’s the type of pictures I grew up with.  I kick myself and think back to all the random moments in the past 10+ years (when I could still get it developed at Costco for cheap) (also R.I.P. in person Costco Photo Centers 🙁 ), and it would have been nice to have brought along a film camera for at least one shot.  It would have been an interesting third or fourth option.  Even I could have managed at least one shot a month.

Is film here to stay in my rotation?  I don’t know.  It’s definitely a time and $ commitment.  But then again, my charcoal drawings on stonehenge paper weren’t exactly a fast turnaround either. 😉  But in going through my old work recently I’ve realized that almost anything that can record, capture, or make better the life experiences we have–I’ve probably bought or borrowed or tinkered with.  All for that art/creative life.  Not even to share with random strangers online, no, just to take a picture to keep and look at.  Ah, the joys in simply doing.

Nikon F100, Nikon J1, Nikon L35AF

Nikon F100 and 105mm 1.4E

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