8.29.2016

A Highly Unlikely Kodachromic Experiment

If you have ever perused the entries of  this blog, it is readily apparent that I have a huge reverence for Kodachrome film.  And this reverence is particularly strong for the first stable emulsion that was produced between 1938 and 1962.  The colors rendered by this "Red Border Kodachrome" tend to really favor the often nostalgic settings they are used to portray.

At times, I have gone through various efforts to replicate this look, either through attempts of digital manipulation or through carefully selecting my subject matter to try to exclude as many tell-tale modern anachronisms as I can.  The results have shown hints of promise, but were largely lacking to me, and as a result, I tended to shelve the efforts.

My conclusions of my first attempts were that the best starting point to replicate this nostalgic look was a film image taken on a vintage film camera.  However, my attempts on the few other transparency films left did not render a palette close to the Kodachrome hues that I'd seen.  In fact, I'd only seen one current film that gave me a hint of a Kodachrome look.

A little while back, I tested a new camera which, despite its operational quirks, did deliver a very retro looking vignetting in its results, while still giving off a sharp central image.  I was at least impressed with this aspect of the camera, and wondered where else I might use this to my advantage.

Which leads me to this - another completely blind stab at replicating the look of Kodachrome using the following as my ingredients:
  • A film not made by Eastman Kodak
  • A film that is not even a transparency film
  • A camera using a format for which Kodachrome was never made.
  • A significant amount of foolhardy faith. 
  • A limited amount of digital intervention in case the above doesn't pan out.
My film for this experiment is Fuji Pro 400H, the last color negative film made by Fuji in the 120 format, and one pretty well known for its rendering of nice green tones.  In my usual oddball way, I'm not even using it in the 120 format.  Rather, I am cutting this film down to 127 format instead.  The traditionalist in me would have cut this down to 828 instead since it was technically the first format for which the early Kodachrome was made.  However, since this is a 400 speed film instead of a 10-12 speed film like the original Kodachrome, I need to use a camera with adequate enough of a top shutter speed to accomodate such a fast film.

And just which camera might that be?  Why the Foth Derby of course, somewhat appropriate for the course since it was in production when Kodachrome was first released in the late 1930's.  The 1/500 top speed will allow this fast speed film to be used in full sun with the camera stopped down to f/16, something that would not have been possible on a Bantam. Besides, since the Foth is a half-frame 127 camera, it has a 30x40mm image size nearly identical to the 28x40mm image size of the Bantam 828 format.

A couple of lovely days over the Fathers Day Weekend in 2016 delivered some picture perfect weather, so I brought out this classic camera with its unusual film choice to see if I could get results that resembled the Kodachrome of decades past.  Here are some of the better results:




A stopover on a trip back from Gettysburg provided the following two photo ops.  I did some toning down of the luminance of green tones in Photoshop, and admit the results are somewhat convincing in so far as resembling vintage Kodachrome.  


Some Foth vignetting is quite evident in this photo.  Overall, the result is decent, but there is no pop of the red color as there would be with Kodachrome.

Light leaks make this image fill with distraction.  Sure, it's vintage in effect, but I can't say that gives off a distinct signature of 1950's Kodachrome.

Thoughts: It was an interesting experiment, but I admit that it took more post-processing than it should have to get an image that somewhat resembles my slides taken in the 1940's and 1950's, and I didn't even really try it away from a natural setting to get a good rendering of man made objects to see if they convey similarly to Kodachrome.  

Maybe at some point I will revisit this, but for now, I'll focus on other novel things than trying to go to excessive lengths to recreate the look of a film that hasn't been around for some time.