Contrast and film speed

Traditionally, slow films showed greater contrast than did faster emulsions. This was acutely so in color material. Slow black-and-white film, although more contrasty than faster films, did not present as many problems because contrast could be controlled or altered in either processing or printing. For those who preferred to work in color, controls were just not available, especially if the film they chose was slow. Until very recently, contrast control of color material has been strictly limited; for the non-darkroom worker, nonexistent.

After a while, film-makers tried to make things different, having begun to offer emulsions that are custom-designed with a nontraditional mix of characteristics. No longer do slow color films need to be more contrasty than their faster siblings. Although an ultra high speed ISO-1600 color film is still not the same with the contrast qualities of an ISO-100 emulsion, the gap has been narrowed considerably. Fortunately, we are no longer saddled with high-speed color film that betrays its user by delivering tell-tale, muddy black-brown shadows and detail-less highlights. The old axiom of "faster film, less shadow detail" is far less true today, as it is harder and harder to tell ISO-100 negatives or slides from ones generated from ISO-400 material.

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