Thoughts on Shooting Film

C41 or ECN2 to process Kodak Vision 3 250D movie colour negative? A quick comparison – by Phil Harrison

A little while ago I tried some 35mm Cinestill 800 colour negative, which is Kodak Vision 3 500 Tungsten movie film with the Remjet anti-halation backing removed. Exposed at EI800 with an 85B filter for exteriors and processed in C41. The results were very promising, fine grain, nice colours but the halation on highlights was a problem for me. Perhaps the Kodak Vision 3 250D 35mm movie film would be equally as good? I bought some 35mm cassettes that had been loaded from a bulk roll for a trial. The cost of the cassettes was nearly half that of Kodak Portra films, my usual colour neg choice, a handy saving. The films were processed at two different UK labs, one roll was put through ECN2, the others C41, then high res scanned. All the rolls were mostly exposed at box speed for shadow detail at EI250, but I also over and underexposed some negs.  The scans from both labs had a mild red cast, which could only be removed by slightly adjusting the red curve using Photoshop. Once adjusted it was plain sailing.

Please note that movie films must go to a lab that can handle Remjet backed films, most labs will refuse, or you can easily process it yourself. Remjet is a very heavy duty anti-halation backing applied to the movie film to help with the friction caused by the film moving at high speed through a movie camera. The backing must be removed in a pre-soak bath of baking soda or ECN2 pre-soak chemical. After soaking the backing sloughs off the film into a sticky mess. Once the Remjet is off the film, normal machine processing can proceed. The C41 lab was Exposure Film Lab, the ECN2 lab was Silverpan Film Lab.

Firstly the ECN2 images.

It became apparent that the speed of EI250 was too high for the film, it does not like underexposure in ECN2. The cathedral interior and person in the train images are very grainy, yet the robot and boat, exposed at EI125 exhibit fine grain. Supersalz in Germany, who are offering a new ECN2 processing service, state that the Vision 3 films should be shot at half the advertised speed. I would agree with them. The film tolerates overexposure well, it has a lower contrast and the colour palette is more muted compared to C41 processing.

Next the C41 photos.

In C41 chemistry EI250 is correct. The films also tolerates under and overexposure much better than ECN2. The underexposed images shot look no different from those at EI250. The two photos of the children were exposed at EI400, the canal and van at EI250. The C41 processed film has more contrast but with no detrimental effect and colours are natural. The grain is very fine and the film has high definition.

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My choice of process is therefore C41. It allows the full EI250 speed and good tolerance for incorrect exposures, it also gave colours that I find more pleasing. That said, if ECN2 processed film is exposed carefully at EI125, the results can be very good if you like softer colours.

All images were shot on an M6 with 35mm and 50mm lenses.

Thanks, Phil

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10 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Leo Tam
    July 3, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Ecn2 is supposed to be better for long term color stability compared to cross processing in c41

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    Reply
    Terry B
    July 3, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Phil, C41 clearly the winner for me. The EC2N images do lack colour and for me don’t look as natural as the C41 images. Love the pic of the Morris Minor van!

    I’ve always wondered about this film. In the movie industry, isn’t it used to make the positives for the cinema releases? Could its characteristics be really intended for the negative stock for the final positive and not strictly as a negative film for making paper prints? Just a thought.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Phil Harrison
      July 3, 2019 at 10:10 pm

      Hi Terry, this film is the negative stock used in the movie cameras on location. It has an orange base similar to the film we use in our still cameras. The sprocket holes are a slightly different shape and there are no exposure numbers on the edges of the film strip.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Alvaro
      July 4, 2019 at 1:17 am

      This is camera film, to serve as the original negatives the movie is shot on. Other films in the Vision lineup are used for such things as copying. When developed in ECN-2 the look of 250D etc is very flat, as it’s intended to be scanned and then undergo colour timing and the like, just like (some) digital video cameras have Log. SO yeah, not intended for prints!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Andrew walmsley
    July 3, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks for writing this,found it very useful.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Phil Harrison
      July 3, 2019 at 10:11 pm

      Hi Andrew, thank you.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Marc
    July 3, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Do check out http://www.silbersalz35.com

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Lori Brooks
    July 3, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Phil., That’s some good information to know. I got two 100′ rolls of 500T and 250D recently and have been trying to figure out the best speed to shoot it. I recently mixed up my own ECN-2 chemistry and Remjet remover so I can process my own. It very much sounds like you need to shoot with already knowing what chemistry you are going to use to develop and adjust accordingly, which I had not been doing.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Phil Harrison
      July 3, 2019 at 10:11 pm

      Hi Lori, thank you for your comments.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Alvaro
    July 4, 2019 at 1:11 am

    Weird results! One would expect ECN-2 to provide the better performance (specially since Kodak touts the exposure latitude of these films under ECN-2, the process it was designed for), though with flatter contrast and colours. I’ll conduct my own testing since I’m curious enough

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