8

Just bought an Olympus 35RC on the cheap. To try it out I bought a Kodak Ultra Max 400 (24 exposures), fired them off and sent them to be developed.

The photos I got back were... well... blue? The odd thing is that all the outdoor shots are very blue indeed, while the indoor ones (only two frames on the roll) look like they should.

Now, it was only a test roll so no biggie. But it's difficult to trace down the issue – was it the film, the camera or the photo lab? The negatives looks alright (I see the "bars" and everything).

Here is an example of outdoor vs. indoors (it was a rather sunny day, blue skies with bright albeit low sun):

Blue

Here is the full reference sheet of that roll.

Any ideas?

  • I don't think so, but is it possible there is a blue filter mounted on the camera? Where did you buy the film? How was it stored? What was the expiry date on the box? – osullic Mar 22 '18 at 18:23
  • Bought it in my local camera store, expiration date 07/2019. Just had it on top of a table for ~24h before loading it into the camera. – Marcus Olsson Mar 22 '18 at 20:56
  • So are we only seeing digital scans of those negatives? Have you tried having the lab print up an actual photo on paper. ? – Alaska Man Mar 16 at 0:03
18

It looks like the laboratory messed things up: the film you used is a daylight color negative film. Which means that basically, without (extra*) correction, the daylight images should have been ok, and the indoors way too orange.

But as it is a negative film, the lab can apply an extra correction for white balance (probably the reason there is no tungsten-balanced negative film).

Was the first image on the series perhaps taken indoors? In that case, the lab technician may have been lazy and applied the same correction to all images on the film, which would have made the outdoors images much too blue... I'd show this to the lab, and see what they are willing to do.

It's most certainly not the camera (film cameras simply don't do white balance correction) and the film would have shown strange colours in all prints (but see the additions below).

Note that for colour slide film such corrections are not possible, if you use a daylight film indoors, you'll have to use a correction filter.

(*: extra correction, as most color negative films have an orange filter layer that has to be corrected for as well for printing).

Edit after seeing the contact sheet: You might also have a problem with the camera shutter, the exposition looks very irregular on a lot of the images, with a visible band at the leftmost quarter. This could also explain some of the colour problems.

  • Nitpick, of course tungsten balanced negative film exists. – Aram Hăvărneanu Mar 22 '18 at 20:20
  • Great elaborate answer – thanks! Sounds like something to go by. Here is the full chart: user-images.githubusercontent.com/907114/… The "normal colored" ones are the ones either shot indoors, or when there was a heavy overcast (with the overcast ones there is still very much blue in the real photo copy). Does this still match your theory? – Marcus Olsson Mar 22 '18 at 21:04
  • 6
    I was a film developer "tech" back in the days of the one-hour photo finishing places. I didn't get a lot of training. My first ten to twenty rolls were not so great with the white balance before I figured out how to read negatives and what exactly the tungsten and fluorescent keys on the printer were for. All that is to say that error on the part of the person making the prints is a very likely explanation. +1 – Todd Wilcox Mar 23 '18 at 7:00
  • @AramHăvărneanu Nitpick-squared: sure but tungsten lights don't! (Any more, to a reasonable approximation. Usual disclaimers apply.) – David Richerby Mar 23 '18 at 10:38
  • @DavidRicherby Huh? Are you saying tungsten lights don't exist? – Michael C Mar 23 '18 at 12:20
3

You mentioned in a comment on another answer that outdoor photos of overcast scenes also look okay. If only the bright outdoor scenes have weird color balance, I suspect those frames were overexposed.

The density of a negative corresponds roughly linearly to the intensity of light, but only within a certain range. At the extremes, the density response becomes non-linear. If a negative is badly over- or under-exposed, color balancing the printer for the mid tones tends to produce wild colors in the highlights or shadows. It's practically impossible to get a good looking print, so the technician may not have even bothered to try on those frames. A digital lab may be able to apply a non-linear correction, but this is not possible on older printers where the operator just dials in cyan, magenta, and yellow exposure.

  • Thanks for your comment! Hmm, could be – I guess. But could I really have had overexposed almost an entire roll of film that badly? I mean, I've overexposed by accident before without any big issues, this has to have been overexposed with quite a few stops to turn out like this? – Marcus Olsson Mar 23 '18 at 7:24
  • @Marcus You should be able to compare the density of the negatives by eye. If the ones that printed well and the ones that didn't look significantly different, this might be the problem. – TKK Mar 23 '18 at 14:02
2

The problem is the fault of the photofinisher who developed and then printed the film. The film is developed up to a negative image. This negative image consists of dyes that are laid down in proportion to the color quality of the exposing light. Daylight shots are rich in blue light energy whereas indoor lighting is generally deficient in blue light energy. The photofinisher uses a high speed printing machine that contains a specialized scanner. The job of the scanner and its associated software is to analyze the dye distribution on the negative. This data is used to custom modify the intensity, color, and timing of the exposure used to print the frame on chemical based photo paper. The same is true if the image is printed by inkjet print engine however in this case, the data is used to adjust the ink laydown. In both cases the objective is a print on paper with good color balance.

The photofinisher is required to do due diligence keeping the printer updated as to characteristics, past and present, of color films. We are talking about the various film manufactures film types and batches. Each will have different characteristics. Such due diligence is costly as test prints must be frequently made and test materials purchased. It is all too common for a photofinisher to fall down of the job. When this happens, poor quality prints are the result. Your remedy is to take the film and prints back and tell them you are dissatisfied. A reputable photofinisher will reprint the offending prints at no charge. Also, remind the photofinisher that they are not inspecting their work and you expect better.

  • Printing machines may have gotten much better over the years. Back in the late 1980s, they just couldn't do automatic color correction very well at all. Also, they would work based on average exposure and couldn't tell the difference between faces and background. Outdoor nighttime shots taken with flash had to be manually adjusted when printed to keep the faces from being all white, since they usually made up only a small portion of the image. Same with color correction. Back then, humans could read negatives much better than machines and test prints were too costly. – Todd Wilcox Mar 23 '18 at 7:04
  • @ToddWilcox Automatic scanning routines have improved significantly since the 1980s. – Michael C Mar 23 '18 at 12:22
1

Alternate theory: I have seen this type of colour shift in C-41 film that is drastically underexposed. (like 3-4 stops)

It really looks like something is up with your shutter, based on the reference sheet. (that is not a contact sheet, as the printer is still applying separate corrections to each frame)

Are the blue images also noticibly grainier than the others? If so it is probably that your shutter and/or light meter are functioning inconsistently, resulting in some frames being underexposed.

If you look at the negatives themselves (not that ref. sheet), you may notice that the bad ones are also fainter/thinner than the others -- this would point to exposure issues.

  • That does sound like a theory I can look into also. Most shots where manual where I myself set shutter and aperture – and I tend to overexpose more often than not. But some shots where definitely automatic with the light meter, which I'm not sure if I can trust yet. – Marcus Olsson Mar 24 '18 at 8:54
  • The wierd streaks in the centre of frames 7 & 13 for instance kind of look like the shutter is having issues -- if it is out of whack you would be over/under all the time regardless of your manual settings. I think that's a leaf shutter, so if it were failing to open all the way it could cause uneven exposure. Although if I had to guess those frames look more like light leaks -- have you checked the seals on the film door? – jkf Mar 24 '18 at 16:56
0

I assume you got prints, not scans.

Your lab simply screwed up the colour balance on your prints. You shot a colour negative film which is daylight-balanced, so the negatives are likely fine (C-41 process is a standard process regardless of the specific film). However, you can adjust the colour balance at the time of printing, and it appears the lab added blue to your prints. This would be correct for the indoor shots by tungsten light (tungsten bulbs have very warm light, as far as colour temperature goes), but outdoor light is much cooler and this would result in blue prints.

Normally the opposite occurs - indoor shots are too orangey-yellow and outdoor shots look fine.

I assume you didn't shoot through a filter. A blue filter of the correct tone would automatically record indoor tungsten light shots with the correct colour balance, but if used outdoors, would do the same thing. (Most point-and-shoot camera don't take filters, but I've seen a few that do. A filter of this type on the lens would be obviously blue.)

  • This seems like a fine answer, but how does it differ from the existing one by @remco? – mattdm Mar 23 '18 at 17:16

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