• Looking for advice - E-6 slide film

  • Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.
Discussion of photography and videography techniques, equipment and technology, and links to personal railroad-related photo galleries.

Moderators: nomis, keeper1616

  by RailBus63
Hi folks,

Well, I'm getting ready to make the leap. I've been a Kodachrome shooter for almost 30 years, but I'm just getting sick and tired of the hassle and time involved in getting this film developed. I'm ready to make the jump to E-6 slide film.

What 100 and 200 speed slide films would you recommend? I have two Nikon SLR cameras I usually regularly - I keep one loaded with KR 64 for general roster and sunny day photography, and a second camera loaded with KR 200 for telephoto shots, available light situations, etc. Sharp slides with minimal grain are the goal, of course. I've always liked Kodachrome's warmer tones, as compared to the old Ektachrome blue tint. I tried Fuji films back in the mid-1990's and wasn't impressed, but I've read about some of the newer Fuji and Kodak Ektachrome slide films and they sound interesting. I don't want a saturated film like Velvia - ideally, I'd like to find a film with good sharpness that has a neutral or slightly warm color balance. I've also read that some films such as Fuji Provia can be unforgiving if underexposed and would prefer to avoid films that must be perfectly exposed or else they'll produce junk.

Any advice would be appreciated - thanks!


  by railohio
I don't think you can have your cake and eat it, too. Popular lore is that Kodak slide films have slightly wider exposure latitude but to my eye this isn't the case anymore and their grain doesn't begin go compare to the competition. I've always thought the E100-series films were a bit "off" in color as well. For the money Provia 100F really is the way to go. It has as fine grain as the beloved (and now dead) K25 but with more natural colors. Provia really is the way to go these days. If you need more versatility Provia 400F is widely available as well. In a pinch both varities push two stops very well. You won't make poster-sized enlargments rating it at 1600, but at least you'll have the shot. My only complaint about the Provia line is the emphasis on greens in night photography. Any yards lit with sodium vapour lights look like Martian landing pads. Stick to the new Astia 100F if you're you're going to be doing a lot of available light night photography. I started shooting with K64 because that's what all my friends used but I soon "saw the light at the end of the tunnel" and went with Fuji's line. I've never looked back.

  by MEC407
A few things I'd like to state right off the bat:

There is no film on the market that looks like Kodachrome 64. Some people may tell you "If you shoot ____chrome 100 and rate it at 125 and put a ____ filter on the lens and click your heels three times and say the magic password, you'll have a K64 lookalike." But that's baloney for the most part, and I'm not sure why anybody would want to go to all that trouble just to make their pictures look like they came from the '70s.

The Ektachromes and Fujichromes of today are vastly different from the ones that were available just 10 years ago, and much, much different from the ones that were on the market 20-30 years ago or more. You'll hear plenty of grizzly horror stories about slides that have faded to pink or orange or blue or green or faded completely clear, but that doesn't mean that the E6 films of today are going to do that. In fact, both Kodak and Fuji estimate that their latest E6 films will last 75-100 years in proper dark storage without noticable fading or color shift. It's too soon to tell for sure, but some independent testing has been done that backs this up. Also, if you love to project your slides, it's worth mentioning that Kodachrome actually fades faster than E6 when it is projected or otherwise subjected to anything other than dark storage.

For what it's worth, I have early E6 slides from the late '70s that still look perfect, and they've been projected many times over the years.

Kodachrome 64 is grainy by today's standards, and in fact, Kodachrome 25 was too. K64 has a grain rating of RMS 13 -- the same as Fuji Provia 400F. K25 had a grain rating of RMS 10. Kodak E100G and E100GX have grain ratings of RMS 8, and Fuji Astia 100F has a grain rating of RMS 7. By switching to a modern E6 film, you'll be getting much better grain than you were getting with Kodachrome. K200 has a grain rating of RMS 17 -- grainier than some ISO 800 print films.

Now, having said all that (and hopefully not pissed you off!), here's what I recommend:

Kodak E100GX would by my first choice for general shooting in good light. It is very sharp, has very fine grain, rich-but-accurate saturation, enhanced-but-not-excessive contrast, and a very pleasing warm-neutral color balance. Whites and grays stay neutral, but the shadows are warmed up a bit.

When you need something faster, your best bet would be Fuji Provia 400F. It's comparable to K64 in terms of grain, and quite sharp for an ISO 400 film. Excellent saturation (not over-the-top), and a bit more contrasty than E100G/E100GX, but not quite as contrasty as K64. Tends to be a bit on the cool side, but that's easily remedied with a warming filter.

Also worth mentioning is Fuji Velvia 100F. I wouldn't necessarily shoot with this all the time, but in situations where you need to enhance the contrast and saturation of the scene, it can be extremely useful. It's marvelous on days when it's foggy, rainy, snowing, etc. I've actually found that it bears a slight resemblence to Kodachrome 25.

Now, in terms of exposure, almost all slide films -- E6 and Kodachrome alike -- do not like to be overexposed. You'll get blown highlights. However, underexposure is less of a problem. Sure, you'll get a very dark slide if you underexpose it by a full stop, but that's true no matter what slide film you're using, and especially with Kodachrome.

So, to sum things up:

E100GX for general shooting.

Provia 400F with a warming filter for when you need speed.

Velvia 100F when you want to enhance the colors and contrast of a dull scene.

  by RailBus63
Thnaks for the good info. I'm going to test both the E100GX and the Provia films and see how they come out.

Regarding filters - I have a typical UV filter on each lens. Which warming filter do you recommend, and are there any situations when you'd take it off?


  by MEC407
An 81A filter would be a good place to start. This is the most subtle of the warming filters. Next are 81B and 81C, which are each a bit warmer.

With the Provia series, you'll probably want to use the warming filter all the time, just as you'd use your UV filter. With E100GX, you won't need a warming filter, as the film basically has one built-in.

Here are some warming filters you can buy online if you can't find them locally:


Hoya is my personal favorite.

Be sure to use a reputable lab that does a decent volume of E6 work. Some labs only process maybe one or two rolls of E6 a day, which means they may not be using the freshest chemicals or have the tighest control over the various parameters of the chemistry. I send all of my E6 to A&I Color in Hollywood, CA. (You can buy prepaid A&I processing mailers here). It does take a week or two to get the processed film back, but their quality is unbeatable. Fuji Processing in Phoenix is also good, and can be obtained by dropping off your film at any Wal-Mart or Sam's Club. Kodak/Qualex E6 used to be pretty good, but I've had terrible luck with them the last few times, so I really can't recommend them anymore. They recently started outsourcing all their E6 to District Photo in Maryland, whose reputation for quality isn't exactly stellar, to put it nicely!
  by Don
I don't know what your problem is getting K64 processed but since Dway'ne's in Kansas has been doing the work, the slides are cleaner & the QC is better than what Fairlawn offered over it's final few years. If I take the film to a store that has Kodak courier service such as Walgreen's, the slides are back in about a week- by mail it takes about 12 days. As far as Fuji's Az. plant I've read a # of complaints over lost slides & a 2-3 week turnaround. So there can be issues no matter who does the processing. When I do shoot E6, I take it to a store that has Konica processing ( Eckerd's). A 24x roll is $3 & 36 is a buck more. Slides are back in about a week & I've had no complaints. As to K64's granularity rating -- it's 10 not 13. Yes the latest 100 spd E6 films offer finer grain than that but if you check the mtf curves that measure sharpness, K64 still offers excellent results & holds it's own against the competition other than perhaps the older Velvia 50. I've used Fuji Sensia w/good results & Kodak's latest E100 seems to be well liked & very fined grained but the mtf curve is'nt up to K64. I'll continue to use it as long as I can get it processed reliably thru Dway'nes. But I won't hesitate to try some of the newer E6 films as well. Think about this-if it was'nt for kodachrome , most of George Elwood's very useful site would be B&W.
  by MEC407
Don wrote:As to K64's granularity rating -- it's 10 not 13.
I have a Kodak tech pub from 2003 that says it's RMS 13, but I did visit the Kodak web site just now and the tech pub currently posted on the site does say RMS 10.

With that in mind, I used to shoot a lot of E100S and E100SW, both of which were RMS 10, and comparing them to K64 on the lightbox with a 4x loupe, the K64 definitely shows more grain in blues and grays... which makes it difficult for me to believe that it's really RMS 10... but you are correct that RMS 10 is what Kodak officially claims as of right now.

(I also noticed that they now rate K200 at RMS 16, rather than RMS 17 as seen on my Kodak tech pub dated 2003.)

  by RailBus63
My problem is not with Kodachrome – I’ve used this as my primary film since 1978 and have been very happy with the results. And I have no beef with Dwayne’s – the processing quality has been fine since they’ve taken over. My extreme frustration is with everyone else involved in the process between me and Dwayne’s.

As I write this, I am waiting on a roll of K64 slides that I dropped off on Sunday November 27th. It was one of two rolls of K64 I dropped off that day – the other roll was back in the store exactly one week later. As of this morning, the status for my other roll on Kodak.com’s Order Status website is “Order is currently being processed”. WTF? I don’t understand how two identical rolls of film dropped off at the same time can get separated, but I could live with a one or even two-day lag. But three or more days? That is ridiculous.

I never had a problem when I was dealing with a professional camera store – they not only know what slide film is, but also know that Kodachrome must be developed differently than other slide film. When I first started shooting slides, you’d get K64 back in two days. Over time, that stretched out to 3 or 4 days, and then a week. I’ve learned to live with that – I’d like faster service, but I understand that Kodachrome is a specialty product now in this digital age.

And I probably wouldn’t even be complaining now, if only I could find a convenient local camera store that handles Kodachrome, but the local place I go to doesn’t offer Kodak processing anymore – when I ask about K64 processing, they tell me I have to use a mailer. I’ve never used mailers before, and have been leery about them after getting too many damaged packages delivered by the Post Office, so I’ve tried several photo counters that will send Kodachrome out of Kodak/Dwayne’s.

Where do I begin? Well, let’s start with the teenagers who are being paid $7 per hour and have no idea what slide film is. The last few times I’ve dropped film off, I’ve been asked ‘Do you want singles or doubles?’. Yeah, that gives me a lot of confidence that my film will be handled properly. So now I have to explain to them that, no, slide film is different, and that it must be sent to Kodak. I also tell now to write ‘Kodachrome slides – K64 processing’ in the special instructions space, just to be safe. The time before this latest episode, I thoroughly confused the kid behind the counter and he put my rolls to the side, telling me he’d get someone to help him. I did some shopping, and when I was leaving almost an hour later, the rolls were still sitting next to the register. Frankly, when a roll is extremely late like the one I’m dealing with now, I just assume that it was sent to the wrong place and had to be rerouted to Dwayne’s.

I’m just sick of this. Kodak obviously does not value the Kodachrome customer anymore. At least with E-6 films, there are several professional camera stores that offer processing services that I can choose from. I still have five or six rolls of K64 in my refrigerator, but I’m planning to buy mailers for these to avoid future processing fiascos.
I’m not willing to put up with this crap anymore.


  by MEC407
For what it's worth, you can obtain Dwayne's Kodachrome processing via Wal-Mart, and it's only $4.88/roll. Same turnaround time as any other place that sends Kodachrome to Dwayne's.

I always made a point of writing, in big bold letters, "K14 SLIDE FILM" all over the envelope, and also on the film canister, which I tape shut. It's not that I'm worried about Dwayne's processing it incorrectly; I just don't want it to accidentally end up in a C41 processor somewhere between here and there.

Dwayne's did do a pretty good job with the last few rolls of K64 I shot. A bit dusty, but fine overall. The last rolls of Kodachrome that were processed by Kodak-Fairlawn came back scratched, fingerprinted, and with some frames mounted improperly or cut right down the middle of the frame. Their remedy? A free prepaid slide mailer. Gee, thanks.

  by RailBus63
Thanks for the heads-up about Wal-Mart - I used them a few times in the past and their Kodachrome service used to be slower than some of the other photo centers, but at this point they are probably no worse and their staff is usually more knowledgeable.

Still, this is the kick in the pants I've needed to go out and check out the newer E-6 offerings from Kodak and Fuji. There is also a reputable lab in town that does their own E-6 processing with a fast turnaround time, so it'll be nice having that option available if needed.