After shooting film for a little while, I started to realize I was shooting a lot of the same film stocks and that many of them, regardless of price or brand, look pretty similar. I can sit here and review each and every one of them (like I have been doing), and tell you all the little differences that I see, but in reality – a lot of color negative film stocks will provide you with similar images.
Yes, using different ISO/ASA speeds will allow for more/less grain, but if you were to put two photos next to each other from Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Superia X-TRA 400, you wouldn’t be able to just tell which is which. And for the film heads that say they can tell a film stock just by looking at it – tell me which of these below is Portra 400 and which is Superia X-TRA 400.
All photos © Moloney Creative Agency.
Now, the whole reason I’m making a point about this is because of the film stock I’m going to be talking about today – Fuji Velvia 100. This film, along with Kodak Ektar 100, are two film stocks that really wow me every time I get some photos back from the lab, or when I finish developing at home.
The contrasty colors and the vivid, professional quality of the color tones – this is what sets Velvia 100 apart.
Fujichrome Velvia 100
The first time I ever shot Velvia 100, I had picked it up because I was looking for a new film stock to try out. I knew very little about developing film, other than most color film stocks can be developed with a simple C-41 process (a process that I knew how to develop at home). I saw some sample shots and loved the qualities the film had so I ordered a few rolls online and decided I would shoot them at the neighborhood block party in Dorchester.
I took them out and had a great day of shooting, so I came home and developed them, and they looked nothing like my normal photos. This is when I realized that Velvia 100 was a color POSITIVE film, not a color NEGATIVE film stock, which is what I was used to shooting/processing. The photos ended up turning out pretty cool, and this was my first (accidental) cross-process!
After shooting & cross-processing the few rolls that I bought, I decided I’d take a break for a little while, because processing the film at the lab would cost more for me. A few months later, I had the opportunity to go on a trip to Japan and document the cities and people. While on the trip, I visited as many camera shops and film stores as I could and I stumbled upon Velvia 100 and realized I had shot it before, but I never saw what it was supposed to really look like (properly developed). I picked up ONE roll just to see what I could get and when I came home and picked them up from the lab I was astonished.
Check out these photos below:
My first impression when I got the film back was – ‘wait, why did they give me a box of film? where’s the roll of film?’ I got home and saw that the images were cut and put into individual holders and after doing some more research, as this was all new to me, I realized that Velvia 100 is a Color Positive Film, also known as a ‘Slide Film’. Because it is a color positive film stock, when you develop the film properly with an E-6 process, you actually get real, visible photos right on the film.
Since you can see them so clearly on the film strip, when you get them from the lab, they will (usually) cut the photos out and place each positive image into a slide. In the old days, this made it super easy to put all the slides into a projector and slide through the whole roll to see all of your images.
This was my first experience with slide film, so I picked up a lot of information when I was figuring everything out. Even scanning the photos is quite different, but after loving the film so much, I decided I would learn how to develop E-6 film at home so I could shoot more of it. Check out my tutorial below:
Velvia 100 Features
Honestly put, Fuji Velvia 100 is one of those film stocks that you want to shoot more of because of how good it is, but it costs a little bit more and it uses a different developing process (potentially more $ to develop, too).
It’s one of my favorite film stocks because of how natural and raw the colors are, but for me, it’s not something I can shoot all the time. However, with that being said – I WISH that I could shoot this film more. It has so many good features, and it’s one of those things that you can share the joy with others. When people see their photo in real, physical format, it sparks an emotion that you won’t get from color negative film until inverting.
For me, the key features of Velvia 100 include:
- Super-Fine Grain
- Superb Push/Pull Processing Suitability
- Professional Color Reproduction
BUT… with strong pros also comes unwanted cons…. For me, although this film stock offers incredible color tones, there is one drawback to shooting this film stock:
- Minimal Dynamic Range
Some of you may not be 100% sure about what exactly ‘minimal dynamic range means’ but I’ll break it down below for you!
Similar to Kodak Ektar 100, and other 100 speed films, Fuji’s Velvia 10 offers an incredible fine grain making your photos look almost digital. When underexposed, this film stock will provide interesting rough textures in the shadows, but if properly exposed, you will come out with vivid photos with very minimal, small grain.
Superb Push/Pull Processing Suitability
This is something that I actually didn’t know about until reading further into Fuji’s data sheet for their Velvia 100 film stock. I tested this while developing a few rolls of this, even developing a roll of Vevliva in the same bucket as another roll of film that I was cross-processing. In the end, the photos come out great everytime. In fact, Fuji says,
Minimum variation in color and gradation during push/pull processing over a range from –1/2 to +1 stop, providing an expanded range of photo taking opportunities, as well as facilitating fine adjustments in exposure and density during processing and allowing an increase in speed of up to +2 stops (equal to EI 400), depending on the scene– Fujifilm Corporation
Professional Color Reproduction
Put everything else aside – all the features and other thoughts you might have about this film. I promise you, if you try this film out, the first thing you’ll notice is the color tones. First and foremost, you’ll see the colors a little more vividly just because you can actually see your photos in their slides, but once you scan them you will be amazed.
My favorite process is shooting this film with flash during the daytime to create extra bright, super contrasty photos. They look so sharp and colorful, and because of the minimal grain, the photos come out surprisingly sharp.
Minimal Dynamic Range
The one flaw, in my opinion, is the fact that this film has a very small dynamic range. Although it has a superb push/pull processing suitability, this film stock doesn’t offer much leeway while shooting.
As many of you know, Kodak Portra 400 is one of the film stocks that beginner’s can pick up and shoot, and regardless of camera settings and environment, you will most likley be able to get something cool with your photos. However, with Fuji Velvia 100, you can’t shoot and guess as much, and if you are, it’s a lot harder than with Portra 400.
Personally, I don’t enjoy using light meters, I just shoot with what I believe will be the best settings. Is it the smartest decision? Maybe yes, maybe no. It’s just the way I work, and that’s ok. But because this is the way I work, I noticed that the film doesn’t offer as much reach.
Certain times, I would be shooting in the shade, only a few stops off of being ‘correct’ based on the light meter in my camera (that I don’t really use, but judge light with), but because the dynamic range is so small, the photos are noticeably underexposed. Obviously this is what happens when you underexpose any film, but for Velvia 100 you will not only notice it, but because it’s color positive film, it is much harder to save in post-production. Check out some examples of this below:
Try It Out Yourself
My only consensus is that you NEED to try this film out for yourself and tell me what you think. It’s one of those film stocks that you’ll either love it or hate it.
For me, I’m on the fence – I love the fact that it’s color positive film and that is such vivid colors, but at the same time, it’s quite difficult getting the perfect exposure with this film. For me, I don’t want to worry about needing the ‘perfect’ exposure to create something cool. But when you get the ‘perfect’ exposure, you’ll really love the film. I guess I’ll just let you be the judge.