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Do film cameras have WB issues too?

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by GregR, Apr 4, 2007.

  1. GregR


    Feb 28, 2007

    I've search this forum and a few other places but cannot find a good answer. In a nutshell, do film cameras suffer from white balance issues too? Or is it just a digital thing?

    I understand how incident light can affect the perceived color of objects. So I'd expect film cameras to accurately capture a scene, or not?
  2. Films are made for a specific colour temperature (white balance to digital people :) . You get different films for different light sources or you use colour correction filters. There's normally only two types though, "daylight" for "normal" use and "tungsten" for use with incandescent light. It's not the camera that has the "white balance" problem it's the film.

  3. Human vision seems to be very good and making colors appear "normal" to us in all but the most extreme lighting conditions. The Digital sensor (or film) attempts to record the actual color. So the colors in the captured image often look very different from what we saw when we took it.
  4. Iliah


    Jan 29, 2005
    Dear Greg,

    Accuracy of captured colour was never among the goals of photography, except when doing repro work. Many years ago Kodak hold a seminar on which they put it very simple - "we give you the pleasing colour, the colour your clients will like - but not the accurate colour".

    Colour films have horrible issues with white balance. Slight errors in exposure result in uneven white balance with colour film. Digital is linear and much more flexible. Colour films are balanced to a very narrow range of lighting conditions and colour temperatures of light sources. To get good colour from film you absolutely need to use colour balancing filters if light is different from the "nominal".

    The biggest difference between film and digital is in processing. If you look at out-of-camera jpgs from Fuji or Kodak cameras, those companies having a lot of film experience, you will see how their automatic processing mimics the colour from film printing machines in auto mode. It took them many years to get to that point. Nor Nikon, nor Canon have that experience. Canon is basing their colour on their video experience, Nikon did a great job creating their colour transform, which is accurate but far from photographic rendition.

    Effectively with both "major" camera brands we are thrown 20 years back in terms of workflow, back to processing and printing our films in our own labs. Which some of us enjoy, even today, even with the film. :biggrin:
  5. I definitely go along with this. I haven't done much scanning of my transparency stock but one bad area seems to be clouds composed of many shades of grey. Get the colour balance right for one shade and another has a horrible cast. The hues wander all over the place and you can't create curves that can correct them.
  6. There were two things that quickly drove me to digital, after I "borrowed" my dads camera equipment from mom. One and extremely critical, was the inability to get film consistently processed. I couldn't learn when the labs were inducing so much variation. The second was each lab handled jpg differently, to the point of frustration.
  7. GregR


    Feb 28, 2007
    Thanks for the replys everybody. So if I understand correctly, digital has a distinct advantage over film when it comes to white balance, especially as it can be altered in a RAW editor?

    So far I've found that changing the WB in CS2 is the single biggest factor to making my pics look better.

    Although my I've never really had proper experience with film, I'd like to learn more about the differences between it and digital. I feel that having a knowledge of traditional film photography will help me better understand digital - I think :tongue:
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