Monday, June 2, 2014

Kodak Color Plus - Two Cameras

2014 Smena Symbol, Kodak Colour plus 200

2013, FED-5 w. Industar-61 Lens, Kodak Color Plus 200
Last year I recall talking about Kodak Color Plus being the worst film ever. This was based on my observation of a very amber color caste when compared with a digital reference, both being made through Canon EOS cameras. Later last summer, I discovered how wonderful this film can be in a completely different camera, the FED-5, after spending a lovely afternoon photographing a tour at Open Sky Farms Co-operative Ltd. Now, a bit less than a year later, I have a fe more bits to add from open Sky, but this time shot through the Smena Symbol camera using the same film, Kodak Color Plus 200.

The results are indeed very interesting, and really demonstrate how important the film- lens combination was "back in the day" before digital. As you can see from the two shots above which are clearly labelled, this film (as all films would) behaves very differently between the FED and the Smena cameras. In theory, the camera body would have little to do with image quality in a film camera, although hopefully somebody out there might point out how erroneous this assumption would be. Certainly, as Russian cameras go, the FED-5 is the more preferable camera, simply because you can  equip it with different lenses. I still only have the one very cheap and inferior Industar 61 Original (50mm) production lens, which has a strange way of contributing uber-detail to the photo, whilst keeping the colors quite muted. With the Smena camera, it has a fixed 40mm Triplet (3 Element) lens which kind of does the opposite - low on sharpness, it is otherwise very rich when it comes to color, and allows the amber caste of the Kodak Color plus film to show through in spades. In both cases, the grain is quite pronounced with these cameras, but was much less so when I used this film in a Canon EOS film camera.

With film photography, the effect any particular lens has on the film in the camera is startling, and I would presume, all important. This is not seen at all with digital photography, in which there can only be one type of sensor in the camera, which also accommodates only one "series" of lenses (or just one single lens in the case of digital compacts.) You also have all digital camera systems striving for perfection, to "deliver perfect photos every time" regardless of camera brand, and the only reason for moving up-scale is to allow a photographer to improve upon perfection.

With the Smena Symbol, I've already seen the results from a very expired "no-name" ISO 200 film, with the results being very different from those produced by fresh Kodak Color plus. The low sharpness / vibrant color nature of the Smena lens really showed up here, but the color caste between the two films was completely different, as one would expect. But the most important thing I wish t point out here is that even using the best Emulation software available, you simply cannot get results anything like this from a digital camera. I happened to have my Panasonic DMC-LX5 in my pocket too...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Smena Symbol, Kodak Color Plus 200

So there you have it - digital perfection compared with low budget (Lomography) film with "the worst film ever". Like I said, you'll never get your digital to look anything like what you get out of an old plastic manual focus Russian film camera. Would you want to? That, of course is totally up to you. I personally prefer the film in this case - it changes things, and certainly creates lots of "character" which you simply don't get with "perfect".

Tomorrow, I'll share some more Open Sky pics from both the Smena and the Panasonic - maybe with a bit of B&W thrown in.

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