Like anyone new to photography, I used to be very concerned about metering. More specifically, I worried about inaccurate camera meters. When working on a studio still life, I remain particular about metering. However, I am more lax these days regarding shots taken around the city, in the garden, or in street scenes. Here’s why.
Recently, while testing Pentax 645 bodies to determine whether to keep them, I accidentally shot a roll of Fomapan 200 ISO at 400. Being lazy, I developed the roll normally. I knew the negatives would be less than optimal, but pushing the film was more effort than I wanted to expend. The negatives did look a little thin, so when I scanned them, I used the histogram in Epson Scan to account for the exposure error. The grain was prominent, but the images were usable.
This experience made me wonder how well various film stocks handle under/overexposure. I’d read that film had broad exposure latitude, and this Foma incident seems to have born this out. Naturally, I searched to see if anyone had tested the exposure latitude of various film stocks. I found more posts than expected. It seems many people are curious about exposure latitude.
Color stocks were the most surprising (here, here, and here). Porta 400 could handle 2 stops of underexposure and still give useable results. All color emulsions dealt with 2-3 stops of overexposure with ease. Black and white films (here (at bottom), here, here (at bottom)) could handle at least one stop of underexposure and up to two stops of overexposure and remain usable.
With this knowledge, life with my 1950s rangefinders and my SLRs with wonky meters has gotten easier. The rangefinders have 1/300 to 1/500 as their top shutter speeds, so even with 100 ISO film, shooting during the day can easily outstrip their fastest shutter speeds. However, with what I know now, reading the metering app at 1/500 while having 1/300 as my top speed doesn’t bother me. I know now even if the metering app reading were 1/1000, my film could likely handle the extra stops of light. On my recent outing with the Minolta A, I took advantage of the Lomo 100’s latitude. For many shots, I set the shutter at 1/300 and fired away.
I love film!!!