Simple Film Lab: Announcing C-41 Color Negative Film Processing

Kodak Ektar 100 Sample Images
Kodak Ektar 100

Yes, it’s about to be here. Simple Film Lab will start accepting C-41 color negative film for processing and scanning in the month of June, 2018.

Color is a lot harder to do than Black and White, and it took a while for me to figure out how to do C-41 color negative film in a way that would be repeatable and have fairly accurate colors, but still allow the character of each film to come through once scanned in.

I’ve been able to process C-41 film for a long time and even had my own Adobe Photoshop based color workflow, but it really only worked for one film: Kodak Ektar 100, and it wasn’t really viable to do on a large scale or for other people. If this is to be a service I want to offer to others, then I need a way to provide an equivalent to what you get with RA-4 analog color prints, but digitally in Adobe Lightroom which is a fully color managed environment.

So, lots of research, lots of testing, lots of studying the DNG spec, lots of code tweaks to Simple Image Tools (the film scanning toolset developed by me for Simple Film Lab), and a lot later than I would have preferred, it’s done. And it works.

So, what do you get? Basically, the same as my Black and White film processing service, except the output is in full on, glorious, 32 bit floating point, linear light color, as an Adobe Digital Negative file. It is the color film vision that I’ve had for a while, and in my humble opinion, is the best hybrid workflow for color negative film. Bar None.

What you get from other labs is inferior if it is not at least correctly color conformed Adobe DNG files. Jpegs and tiff files have their uses, but frankly, if that’s what the lab you’re using is offering as the output of scanning your film after processing it, then they are not doing you or anybody else a favor. Like it or not, anybody who takes any serious amount of pictures uses Adobe Lightroom and should demand to get Lightroom native DNG files of their film scans. Anything else can be an option, but should not be the default. Period. End of Discussion. If you are a film lab and you are reading this, consider this post as a notice. The film scanning gold standard is correctly color conformed 32 bit floating point DNG files that behave the same way as a DNG file from a digital camera. If you don’t know how to do that, then please go figure it out and start doing it before your customers figure out that what you are giving them could be so much better and become my customers.

Film scans from Simple Image Tools does things like make Lightroom’s color temperature and white balancing actually accurate. A daylight film shot during the day has whites that look white. Did you shoot your daylight film indoors under fluorescent lights? No problem, just select that type of lighting under the Lightroom WB drop-down, or use the eye dropper to change it. Did you shoot your Tungsten balanced film outside during the day? Also, no problem. Just select “Daylight” in the WB dropdown tool. It actually works the way it’s supposed to work.

The same goes for the exposure. In fact, all of Adobe’s Lightroom Develop Module tools work the way you would expect them to work as if you shot the picture digitally, but in reality, it was shot on film.

So what is this going to cost? Well, I’m still crunching the numbers. C-41 chemistry is quite a bit more expensive than black and white chemistry and I’m still working out what the real cost per roll is, however, expect me to have it worked out and have an order form available for download within the next few days. I’m looking to follow the same model as I do for Black and White film processing, just to keep things simple.

With that all being said, yes, C-41 color negative film processing is about to happen at Simple Film Lab.

Kodak Ektar 100? Yes.
Kodak Ektar 100 Sample Images

Kodak Portra 400? Yes.
Kodak Portra 400 Sample Images

Kodak Portra 160? Yes.
Kodak Portra 160 Sample Images

Fuji PRO 400H? Yes.
Fuji PRO400H Sample Images

Pretty much any C-41 film? Pretty much Yes.
Kodak ColorPlus 200 Sample Images

The above image is super cheap Kodak ColorPlus 200.

Color checker charts are one thing. What about real pictures? I’m glad you asked. I’ve been uploading sample images to my Flickr account and plan to create tech sheets with full DNG sample files to download for all the Color negative emulsions currently on the market today.

I’ve already shot Ektar 100, Portra 160, Portra 400, PRO 400H, Gold 200, Ultramax 400, and ColorPlus 200. I have Portra 800, Fujicolor 200, Fujicolor 400, Fujicolor 800, Lomography CN100, CN400, and CN800 in my possession and queued up have sample images shot, developed, and scanned and plan to search out and acquire as many other C-41 emulsions as I can to generate sample images for.

If you have a preferred C-41 emulsion that’s not on this list that you’d like to see, then let me know via the contact form and I’ll see what I can do about it. That being said, C-41 is very standardized, and once you get one emulsion working with Adobe Lightroom, the same thing pretty much works for every emulsion. There are differences between the emulsions (just like there are differences between digital cameras), but once you understand what those differences are and how to deal with them in a standardized way, it stops mattering and just works.

So, keep an eye out for an updated order form, and I look forward to processing your C-41 color film really soon.