One more post concerning film for today. It seems that lately film has once again been my primary medium of photography. Despite the evolution of digital cameras (which I enjoy shooting very much, especially the Sony NEX 5N and the classic Leica M8), film remains my favorite.
I don’t know how much the arrival of the Nikon D800E (which I have preordered) will change that, I guess I’ll find out in a few days.
Today’s photos are from a a recent roll of Fuji Superia XTRA 400 color negative film. This is not considered to be a pro choice when shooting film, it’s one of the cheap emulsions with vivid color and a considerable amount of grain.
I consider XTRA 400 a travel film since its ISO 400 speed will allow me to shoot all day long and even make a few images after dusk with a fast lens. I normally rate it at either 250 or 320 ISO, since at box speed sometimes I get underexposed and more grainy images.
What I really like with this film, is the oversaturated results it can produce. The image below has not been post processed, what you see is what came out of the scanner.
Now, that’s pure vivid color, which I happen to like very much. I got the same shot with my Sony NEX 5N, and it didn’t even come close. Even with applying saturation and contrast in Lightroom, it could not reach this look. Basically that’s one of the main reasons I keep shooting film, it’s not that it’s better than digital (each medium serves its purpose and I never got involved in the never ending film vs digital debates), it’s just different. And for my tastes, it is just what I want from an image to look like.
Now, for great color and contrast combined with high quality I have always preferred Kodak 160VC (or 400VC). Unfortunately this emulsion is not produced anymore, the new Portra 400 is a great film with extra fine grain, but it does not look like the VC. The new Portra 160 is even more close to the NC version, so if I want a vivid look with top quality I must shoot Ektar 100. It’s a tricky film to expose and scan, and so far I didn’t get the results I expected. Also Ektar has a more limited dynamic range than other color negatives, so I just shoot the good old Velvia instead.
One other thing I like about shooting a color negative film is the very wide dynamic range. It’s always easier to blow out highlights with digital than with film. Even if you don’t nail exposure, it almost always retains information that can be recovered at post process. Also, the smoother tonal transition, is a great asset, and if you move to medium format film, that is even more evident.
The Superia XTRA 400 is also cheap, so I can shoot more rolls when traveling, that’s also a factor to consider when shooting film. And with wide angles lenses like the Voigtlander 15mm and 21mm it records light evenly with less vignetting than a full frame camera. On my Sony NEX 5N, I will notice from time to time a color shift in the corners (and I’ve read that on the Leica M9 the same effect happens, unless you invest on the new 6-bit coded Leica wide angles which are of course very very expensive).
When printing images taken with the XTRA 400 film, you will see grain, but also the sharp details are there. In many cases, the oversaturated look of this film combined with the grain, will produce very interesting prints. I have printed up to 20 inches wide and some images looked very artistic (if I can say that !). In cases where I have shot with a 81A filter (to add even more saturation) you can get painting like photos, and this combination also works great for overcast days.
Overall, the Fuji Superia XTRA 400 is a great choice for a cheap travel film, with the ability to produce very interesting images.
Enjoy the rest of the images.
(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.