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#1 John Adolfi

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 08:15 AM

As I was perusing the Super-8 forum recently I happened upon a dicsussion on the softness of the Kodachrome picture that someone other than me had been plagued with. Here's what I mean. I've been shooting Kodachrome on and off since 1973. In 1979 I got a Nikon R-10 and shot some unbelievable stuff. Sharp, colorfull, beautiful. I purchased a Nizo 6080 in 1998 and shot some more unbelievable kodachrome sound home movies. Just as sharpe and clear as the stuff in 1979. Then in 2004 with an Elmo 1012 and a Nikon R-10 I shot 12 rolls of Kodachrome. Had it processed by Dwyanes in several batches. I used the Andrec stabilizer plate. Other than the annoying railroad tracks down the middle of the picture (Thanks Dwaynes) there was a noticable grain and softness to the entire project. I used both caqmeras and whether I used it indoors, outdoors it did not matter. Grain and soft focused pictures. Kodachrome was fresh stock. The unprocessed rolls were shipped off to Dwaynes promptly. Then I thought the Andrec stablizer pushed the film closer to the lens? Resulting in a softness of focus issue? Here were my conclusions until yesterday. That is was all Dwyanes fault. Maybe it was for the increased grain and tracks running through the film. However the other post I read made me rethink. This guy was running a Leicina and had some trouble at times keeping a sharpe focus too. Especially in Macro. He was not taking any chances and used a tape to measure and still felt insecure about his results with soft focus.

So let's review. Sharpe focus and no grain from 1973-1998. All processes at Kodak.
1999?-present. Grain, soft focus, same cameras, processing by Dwyanes. Who's to blame? Not sure, let's keep dialoguing.
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#2 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 12:45 PM

As I was perusing the Super-8 forum recently I happened upon a dicsussion on the softness of the Kodachrome picture that someone other than me had been plagued with.  Here's what I mean.  I've been shooting Kodachrome on and off since 1973.  In 1979 I got a Nikon R-10 and shot some unbelievable stuff.  Sharp, colorfull, beautiful.  I purchased a Nizo 6080 in 1998 and shot some more unbelievable kodachrome sound home movies.  Just as sharpe and clear as the stuff in 1979.  Then in 2004 with an Elmo 1012 and a Nikon R-10 I shot 12 rolls of Kodachrome.  Had it processed by Dwyanes in several batches.  I used the Andrec stabilizer plate. Other than the annoying railroad tracks down the middle of the picture (Thanks Dwaynes) there was a noticable grain and softness to the entire project.  I used both caqmeras and whether I used it indoors, outdoors it did not matter. Grain and soft focused pictures.  Kodachrome was fresh stock.  The unprocessed rolls were shipped off to Dwaynes promptly. Then I thought the Andrec stablizer pushed the film closer to the lens? Resulting in a softness of focus issue? Here were my conclusions until yesterday.  That is was all Dwyanes fault. Maybe it was for the increased grain and tracks running through the film.  However the other post I read made me rethink. This guy was running a Leicina and had some trouble at times keeping a sharpe focus too. Especially in Macro.  He was not taking any chances and used a tape to measure and still felt insecure about his results with soft focus. 

So let's review.  Sharpe focus and no grain from 1973-1998.  All processes at Kodak. 
1999?-present.  Grain, soft focus, same cameras, processing by Dwyanes.  Who's to blame?  Not sure, let's keep dialoguing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Global Warming.
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#3 sparky

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 01:04 PM

Are you confident that you have the dioptre adjustment on the viewfinder set correctly? Correct focussing is totally reliant on that if you dont go by the lens markings.

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#4 A.Oliver

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 02:23 PM

pitfulls of k40, i found in both super 8 and 16mm k40 yeilds amazing results, but in certain lite, the film looks grainy and soft. Hazy sun, landscapes, sun over your shoulder, k40 struggles. Spin the camera so the landscape is backlit, sharpness improves a lot. K25 however does not suffer.Couple of months ago i ran k25 ds-8 in a bolex side by side with a leicina special in grubby lite conditions. The k25 images were miles ahead of the k40. Is this why standard 8 always looks more colourfull and sharper than super 8, most std 8 films were on a proper daylite stock. Super 8 can look amazing using k25 on a converted bolex. When 16mm k25 came to an end i switched to 16mm k40, k40 looks softer, more grainy and is not good as k25 in daylite.
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#5 sparky

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 02:36 PM

Couple of months ago i ran k25 ds-8 in a bolex side by side with a leicina special in grubby lite conditions. The k25 images were miles ahead of the k40.


Interesting findings- is it the stock or the prism/beamsplitter/filter in the super8 camera? Does your Bole DS8 use a prism?

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#6 A.Oliver

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 02:54 PM

Hi, bolex has a prism which gobbles up a bit of lite also 3 prime lenses, 5.5,12.5 and 36mm. The images look cleaner imo,because of the daylite stock. It would be fantastic to see what the leicina special with 10mm lens could acheive with k25, or any daylite stock.
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#7 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 17 September 2005 - 04:34 PM

pitfulls of k40, i found in both super 8 and 16mm k40 yeilds amazing results, but in certain lite, the film looks grainy and soft. Hazy sun, landscapes, sun over your shoulder, k40 struggles. Spin the camera so the landscape is backlit, sharpness improves a lot.


I'm not in agreement with that.

On another note, I find that blue skys go a long ways towards nice looking Kodachrome images.
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#8 John Adolfi

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 06:14 AM

Here is the post I was referring to in my above post regarding soft focus and yes your are correct it could have been a diopter issue but with both cameras?

This is a continuing problem with so many super 8 projects you'll see and really the answer is contained in your post.

I had plenty of trouble with focus on super 8 when I first rediscovered the format for myself a little over two years ago. You would think that with super 8's enormous d.o.f. you'd never have a problem focusing. I tape measured, did everything right, and still lots of problems. I couldn't figure out why so many of my images were in soft focus. I went through a half dozen cameras and in the end it came down to the consumer grade zoom lenses from the 1970's which are fixed on most super 8 cameras. It's as simple as that. This is why you see so many amateur attempts at super 8 that are so uneven and soft to blurry -- I'm sure most of those people did everything else right, too.

Zoom lenses from that era are not anything like what we have today unless you spent a lot of money. Primes are just great from that era. Shooting at anything less than an f 5.6 with a 1970's Japanese home movie camera zoom and you're rolling the dice for image sharpness. Maybe you'll get lucky at an f4, maybe you won't. Get to an f5.6 and over and most of them show pretty well, though. Most interior situations make it hard to get into that territory unless you've got a lot of gear for lighting. Problem is, most people try shooting at an f2 or wide open and it's softy city.

So I ended up at a Special myself and use the Cinegon 10mm prime and Optivaron 6 -66 (it's a bayonet M mount). About 80 - 90% of my shots are done with the Cinegon or with the Cinegon with a Century Precision Optics .55x wide angle adaptor that was made for miniDV cameras. Fitted to the Cinegon, there is very little distortion. I simply epoxied one of the adaptor rings inside a Cinegon lens hood and screw it in when needed and have a 5.5mm wide -- just set the macro focus on .14 and keep the subject about a foot and a half away from the front of the camera and that's it. Using this combination I have a 10mm normal and 5.5mm wide and never have to focus and everything is sharp all the time. For close ups and a rare shot that requires zoom, I use the Optivaron and a tape measure.

The only time I get soft focus is when I'm taking a stab at doing a tough macro shot and do a couple of takes to get it right. But that's it! Everything sharp, all the time. No wasted shots or dissapointments anymore. I could see if I was using the wide angle lense with 6 -66 it might get tricky, looking at the focus mechanism. I don't have the schneider wide angle adaptor for the Optivaron.

So I advise people to avoid the Japanese prosumer super 8 cameras for serious work, based on my own experience and what we can see by examining any efforts in dramatic super 8 filmmaking that have used them that are available to us. If you can't find a legendary Leicina Special or don't like them for some reason, the Beaulieus are the only other professional design camera in the format and you can certainly set those up with c-mount primes and they came with a c-mount version of the excellent Optivaron 6 - 66 and what I've read is a terrific lens in the Angenieux 6-80 / 6-90 f1.2 designed originally for NASA supposedly.

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#9 sparky

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 07:48 AM

Yes but Santo's post is about the superiority of certain lenses over others, but your point is that you think the film has changed somehow. Unless you are suggesting that the lens on your R10 has changed somehow?
Chances are that your lens might need cleaning, your built in filters and the prism are dusty and your dioptre isn't set correctly.
Macro photography is very difficult to get right- particularly with the optivaron on the Special and with most other cameras lenses which don't have distance markings for the macro setting. So you have incredibly small DOF and you are relying on the setup and accuracy of the VF. The Cinegon has markings to 12cm so you can focus by measuring and be guaranteed results. Otherwise a Beaulieu would be the better option as you are then focussing with a screen. I've given up attempting macro with the optivaron after many dissapointments!

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#10 santo

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 08:01 AM

I see this is my post. :)

Just to clarify things a little, using a tape measure is standard practice for focus on a film set. That's all I use my super 8 camera for, shooting planned dramatic short films on very modest budgets. It doesn't stem from any insecurity, but rather the requirement that shots be in focus as an absolute requirement -- there's a lot of money and hard work riding on every day's shoot/shot and proper focus needs to be a no-brainer and risk-free matter of course on any set, large or small. The only time you're not going to see a tape measure or electronic version of one on a professional set, is during some handheld improv stuff, probably. And then a lot of precautions are made to ensure proper depth of field is maintained. Very rarely will anybody be using the diopter and eyepiece of their camera for focusing unless they're shooting documentary on the fly stuff and there is simply no opportunity to do otherwise. Sure, now that I've wrote this, some name professional will come on and say they use it all the time, but they are very much the exception. I don't see how anybody could be shooting 35mm without measuring their focus in some way.

I see very little reason not to carry on with that practice with super 8 unless you absolutely don't need to. The Cinegon is focus free beyond 3 feet of the camera. Using the Century Optics adaptor, everything beyond 1 1/2 feet is always in focus. I use a tape measure with the Optivaron zoom because I'm operating the camera myself and directing my little projects. I have enough to worry about other than if my images are focused properly, as do people working on much larger and much more expensive projects. With macro, things get a little tricky sometimes, as focusing even in super 8 results in extremely narrow depth of field.

About the film issue:

I've been very angry with Dwayne's in the past as I too was victim of the blue streaks and splotches and uneven processing and once even had to wait 8 weeks to get a test cart of K40 back. However, in their defence, I know how unpredictable K40 is for softening up when not 100% fresh or at least properly refridgerated. And especially if that humidity protecting wrapper is opened -- it's a write-off. I left a few carts sitting around my little production office (no air conditioning at the time) during a sweltering summer and shot some stuff at the end of it, still well before the best before date. Awful soft images outdoors in bright sunlight. But you say yours was fresh, so I guess that's not the problem.

My tests from that period I describe in the original post, and first short experimental film I made with super 8 while working through all those cameras, were almost always with Plus-X. Only a few carts of K40. Like K25, original 50 asa Plus-X was way sharper and had far more detail than K40. Even in its new 100 speed form with a "slight grain penalty" it easily beats soon to be no more K40 all to hell. Anybody who has seen properly shot/transfered super 8 Plus-X projected on a big screen via, say, digi-beta, is always amazed at how good it looks. I have had all my black and white processed at the excellent Black & White Film Factory here in Toronto. I can't recommend that place enough. My current short is in Plus-X super 8. No soft focus images to be found in the 23 carts developed so far, no wasted shots/film/actor & crew time and good will. I screwed up a little in two or three shots with exposure, but that's my fault and likely they can be saved in post.

I don't have an answer for your soft focus shots, John, seeing as you shot outdoors as well. Though I often appear to derail Japanese home movie cameras like Canons and whatnot, I always clarify that I never had any problems getting nice sharp pleasing images shooting outdoors in daylight with them.

Edited by santo, 18 September 2005 - 08:05 AM.

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#11 A.Oliver

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Posted 18 September 2005 - 05:58 PM

reckon i have shot since 1986 at around 2500 rolls of 16mm k25, started using k40 last year, k40 is a lottery in certain lighting condition, it sometimes yeilds images which appear soft, i have had a lot of disappointing results in the past 18months with k40 in daylight situations, when i know k25 would have coped with the lighting condition. Since using ds-8 k25, image quality has improved, much sharper images and more consistancy with sharp images. K40 is a filmstock meant for artificial lighting and not daylite. Before i outed my canon ds-8, ran k40 and k25 thru the camera, again the k25 gave the better image in daylite. I wonder if someone can explain the technical difference between k25 and k40.
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