Tuesday, August 25, 2009

True Color Rendering: The RED Test

I remembered that I really didn't need to shoot new photos for this comparison. Donald and I have been in the same places photographing the same flowers ad nauseum for our wild flower and gardening collections. And I just happened to have Red Poppies and Red Tulips from my garden that we have both photographed recently. I'll dig further into our archives for purple flowers, but lets start with Red. I think that the results are interesting, and yes, film renders RED better (as in more accurately) even with the color distortions introduced by scanning!

Unfortunately the contrast in color balance is not as strong for the Poppies because it is an orange-red to begin with, so the difference here is more subtle. You'll have to trust me when I say that the film (my image) is closer to the real color than Donald's digital image (I didn't do any color or contrast corrections). My greens are also truer to the actual foliage.

I think the difference will be more obvious for a RED that has more blue in it. So let's compare the Tulips, which are closer to a 'Fire Engine Red':

Camera 1: Mamiya 645 Pro TL
Lens: Mamiya Sekkor f/2.8 80mm with macro
Film: Kodak E100GX

With a richer, darker red we see the obvious difference! Can't believe that it is the same Tulip can you? Digital does make every RED more Orange-Red. The richer the red, the worse the problem. And again the foliage color for the film is also more accurate. So just be careful when you are photographing richer darker reds. For example, I can see that this would be a real problem when photographing crimson! There are software corrections available for Nikon cameras. I'm not sure about the others.

Camera 2: Nikon D40
Lens: Nikkor 18-55mm Zoom


  1. The reds are wonderful indeed, and very close to the real color. Yes you are right film render better the red.

  2. I love taking photos but don't know much about cameras and the difference between digital and film as far as colour goes. Thanks for the lesson.

  3. The thing to remember is if you have a Poppy red, you are OK; any other red may need a color correction in Photoshop.