Wide angles on film

I have started shooting the recently introduced Kodak Portra 400 Professional, a film that replaced the previous NC and VC series. It’s a modern emulsion which I have to admit scans very nice and the grain is very good (if you consider it’s a 400 ISO film on 35mm).

During the past months I have used my Leica M7 almost exclusively with very wide angle lenses and this time I uses both the 15mm and 21mm Voigtlander lenses. The 15mm remains my favorite and will get the most use of the two.

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander Skopar 21mm f/4, Kodak Portra 400, panoramic crop)

The use of 15mm and 21mm requires external viewfinders on the Leica M, which means you first focus using the cameras viewfinder and then frame the image using the external viewfinder. Of course at these focal lengths pretty much is in focus anyway so I will just zone focus most of the time.

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f/4.5, Kodak Portra 400)

Shooting a very wide angle lens requires great attention since leveling has to be very accurate in order to avoid distortion. In many cases you have to find the correct spot in order to minimize distortion and at the same time avoid having a very large foreground area, although some times a large foreground can add to the look of the image.

I consider the 15mm and 21mm Voigtlanders to be exceptional lenses especially if you consider the price which is way cheaper than the Leica or Zeiss wide angles. Especially on film they look superb. On my M8 due to the 1.33x crop factor they still are great lenses but on full frame Leica corners are weak and require post processing. Since I love the look of film there’s no problem from me !!

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander Skopar 21mm f/4, Kodak Portra 400)

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander Skopar 21mm f/4, Kodak Portra 400)

Once again I have to write about the wonderful color that film produces. I get much better results when shooting film as far as color is concerned. I find it hard to replicate this look with digital and I am sure with a good post process it can be done to some extent but I don’t really like spending hours in front of my computer to replicate something I can have straight out of the camera with my film gear. The same goes for black and white images, trying to get close to the wonderful b&w tones of film with digital requires serious efforts in post process, so I just shoot b&w film. It’s all a matter of personal taste, not the eternal digital vs film discussion, those two medians produce different results and you choose what’s best for you.

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(Leica M7, Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f/4.5, Kodak Portra 400)

Color negatives have a very large dynamic range and that helps me a lot when shooting contrasty scenes, especially in the highlight areas. The don’t have the great looks of a slide film, but try to shoot the image above with a Velvia without filters and you have lost a great amount of information which cannot be recovered in post process.

Concerning the new Portra 400, it lacks the virtues of the VC version (at least for me) but its great to have a modern emulsion to work with, especially now that many films get discontinued. It’s a great film and the 400 ISO in combination with a fast lens can help a lot in available light photography.

Enjoy the rest of the images.

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(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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