Basic ISO question


TPF Noob!
Dec 9, 2007
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Hi All,

I'm a relative beginner to film in general, and most recently began using E-6 slide film... It's easier to scan and I really like the editing process of slides.

My question is, how do film users deal with varying ISO conditions and swapping film?

For instance, today I loaded a roll of Kodak E200. I was able to shoot until about 4:45pm, when I went indoors and things got darker (even at f1.4). My choices at that point were to stop shooting until the following day when I could use the remaining 20 shots left on my roll, blow 20 shots and waste the roll... or...

...well, what do you all do? I suppose I could just load iso 400 Fuji in there and shoot that all the time, but sharpness will be lacking...

Based on my shooting style, it's hard to judge what'll be coming up all the time.

I shoot digital as well (and thus have complete ISO control) - but I really love shooting film... my camera is much quieter and the process of shoot and scan fits my art style.

So, to summarize: How can I handle varying light conditions without having to swap film constantly or lose portions of rolls...

Any help appreciated,
Hi All,

I suppose I could just load iso 400 Fuji in there and shoot that all the time, but sharpness will be lacking...

I have only used Fuji 100 ISO slide films, and mostly in 120, so I can't speak from personal experience, but I would be surprised if there was that much of a sharpness difference between those and their 400 ISO versions. Why not just try a single roll and see how you like it? The only alternative that doesn't involve changing films mid-roll is to carry 2 cameras - not necessarily a stupid idea given how much analogue equipment is available at bargain prices these days.

If you don't want to swap film, then you just have to deal with what you have in the camera at the time. If you shoot during the day, then go indoors, you will just have to use a slower shutter speed which might mean using a tripod etc. If you are shooting handheld or shooting moving subjects...then you may have to add light (flash etc.)

Or just use new film...
You could finish off the roll or you could wind it into the canister and then use a leader retrieval tool to get it out again...just make sure to remember what frame you were on.
Thanks for the feedback and the support for these newby questions :) I shot a roll of 400 today and indeed the sharpness is quite good for most light. It's not like shooting 50, but still quite good.

Big Mike, how reliable is the leader retrieval tool? Are there any downsides to this approach? I can see a use for this next week when I will be switching between 50/400 for a studio shoot.

Thanks again,
I've actually never used one...I just use up the film...but it's a fairly simple plastic tool that you use to get the leader back out of the film, so that you can re-load the film back into the camera. You then cover the lens and advance the frame (fire the camera) until you get back to where you were on the roll (maybe plus a frame to be safe). could just get a 2nd film camera. They really aren't that expensive.
I use one often. It has never failed. If you are rewinding manually you need not rewind the film right back into the cassette - I only rewind into the cassette when the roll is finished, so there can be no mistakes.

If I have only partially exposed a roll, I write the number of exposures taken and the EI on the film tongue, then fold it back round the cassette so that I don't mistake it for an unused roll. It's easy to write on the emulsion side.

I use Portra 800 as an all-purpose film. You can set the meter anywhere between 200 and 800 and get good, usable results, with no need for change in development or daylight/tungsten filtration.

Seconded on Portra 800, though some scans can look awfully noisy.

When you have film loaded and you want to shoot indoors, perhaps purchase an external flash and use that, or just wait. I usually wait. But occasionally use the flash.

I do often shoot Fuji Pro 400H in 120 roll for the cheapness and quality. It's a fine film and I love it. I would recommend it, though you still might have some trouble indoors in low light situations.
Great info, Helen: I'll try this method.. You're obviously good at rewinding in-camera without rewinding too far. I just tried it on a junker roll and accidentally went too far and sucked the film back into the canister. I'll practice.

Mike: I can use a second body, though one is a super nice body with Leica glass that I couldn't afford to buy a spare... it'd be lame to shoot with one great body and one... not so much... but it's an option. I always have digital around as a backup in case I miss things in my newb state, so this translates into 3 cams for every shoot. Yuk.

Doobs: 800 is a good option as well... Though I can shoot at f1-ish if need be, so all of a sudden 400 turns into a reality. And then there's push processing, right? I have a roll in this state now and will check out the results and see how it looks.

Now, if I could only develop my own E-6 quickly without having to drive to NewLab constantly... Damn that Jobo, I want an ATL-1500 :)

Easiest answer is the same as Thom's. Buy a second camera body. It can't hurt if you need an emergency back-up either. I used to load one camera with B&W and one with color. At one point I owned three different models of the same Canon camera series. A FT, a TL and a FX. First one went up to 1/1000th and had some other features. Second topped out at 1/500th, which meant it didn't cost as much. Both TTL metering. Last one had a light meter on the body, so it was even less expensive.

The leader retrievers seem to work well, for other people. :lol: I think I never took the time to learn how to use one right. Besides there's an easier way, if you want to roll the film back and restart it later.

The release button you push on the bottom of most cameras. (all that I ever owned) has a dot on it, and rotates as you rewind the film. You watch very carefully, and when it stops going around, the leader has left the take up spool.

Unless you are very good and accurate at re-threading, which is hit and miss in my opinion, you should waste one shot, so you don't ruin the last photo you took. So if you shot frame 10 last, shoot in the dark, with the lens cap on, up to 11, before you start again to prevent accidental overlap.

If you know you are only going to shoot a partial roll, you can use a sharpie to mark the sprocket hole that lines up with the tooth on the film advance gearing when you start, then try to get it in the identical position when you reload. I tried shooting double exposures this way.

Considering the space between exposures, it's not precise enough for perfect registration, and you might still get a small overlap. It's easier to just shoot a blank and avoid the problem.

With two cameras, you don't have to change lenses out in the field. You could also load faster film in one and finer film in the other, and you are ready for whatever comes your way.
I took this advice and bought a cheap(er) second body. So far, so good!

I'm very grateful the advice here - thanks for the stellar forum.


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