In my first experiences with FilmLab for MacOS, I noted that it tends to absolutely crush shadow areas in some situations. It also likes to blow out highlights, but with much less regularity than it crushes the shadows.

I assumed this was due to my raw exposures and/or the negatives themselves. My historical set up has returned best results at about 1-2 stops overexposed, which compensates somewhat for overexposure (dark negatives) and helps overcome some base fog, without making things hard on my conversion process. I figured these two stops were causing the issue, and that FilmLab was just giving back what I gave it.

To test this, as I finished scanning a roll, I took 6 exposures of the last frame, essentially at +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4 using flash power only and leaving exposure set at 1/200th and f/8.

Ends up, FilmLab doesn’t care much about exposure…

As it churned through the 6 files, it quickly became clear that it’s not simply flipping the curve. Something else is happening.

Here are jpeg versions of the original scans next to jpeg versions of the FilmLab versions.

Flash at 1/2 power:

Flash at 1/4:

Flash at 1/8th:

Flash at 1/16th:

Flash at 1/32nd:

And, finally, at 1/64th:

The differences between different the FilmLab versions are very very slight. The most obviously different is first, overexposed one, and other images are virtually indistinguishable.

Part of me is deeply disturbed by this, but I can’t say exactly why. I would have a hard time processing some of these with my usual process, but FilmLab is different, and if it can get me from raw negative to editable positive faster than my usual process—and it can, though I have to watch closely to make sure it’s not crushing the shadows or blowing the highlights, as 8bit tiffs don’t retain any information from total white or total black, as far as I can tell—and if I can find a way to fit it into my process that saves me time and/or effort, then I’ll use it happily.

For now, though, I need to look at some other film stocks, older scanning methods, things I have problems with now, etc., and see what FilmLab can do. Stay tuned! Just one more to go… today, anyway.

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