Agfachrome RSX II 100 And CT Precisa 100

The new Agfachromes offer clean and pure white tones without any color caste while greens tend to be subtle and accurate rather than "striking." And even in harsh midday light, the overall result is pleasing though not "dramatic" as with some other films. (EOS-1N with Tamron AF 20-40mm zoom; B+W polarizer; CT precisa 100.)
Photos © 1999, Peter K. Burian, All Rights Reserved

Although the slide films of early 1998 were already excellent, the "big three" manufacturers continue to enhance their emulsions. Agfa for example had a winner with its Agfachrome RSX 100 Professional, which won the prestigious European Photo Awards' "Color Slide Film of the Year" ('95-'96). Even so, its designers have not been resting on their laurels. In the spring of '99, they released an improved version--RSX II 100 Professional--as well as its consumer counterpart, CT precisa 100. Citing "even greater precision, perfection, and accuracy," Agfa has high hopes for these new products in the fiercely competitive market.

Technical Enhancements. Agfa's Tech Notes indicate the following improvements over the previous generation of Agfachromes:
· Higher maximum density for richer, more saturated blacks and dark tones. Greater color accuracy in shadow areas; (this is indicative of excellent overall color balance and reducing the need to use filters when shooting in shaded areas).

Nature photographers who prefer a "natural" vs. super-saturated color rendition will appreciate either of these new Agfachrome films. Unlike some older emulsions however, they do produce vivid colors for a more pleasing overall effect. (RSX II 100; Canon EOS-1N; EF 70-300 f/3.5-4.5 IS lens.)

· More exact linearity of the color density curves for more faithful color rendition. "Both strong and soft shades are reproduced even more accurately."

· Greater neutrality in chromatic colors; "any shade of gray, from white to pure black--is reproduced without color castes."

· A Super Active Inhibitor Sys-tem improves definition and color brilliance, especially in greens and blues.

· A greater ability to hold detail in highlight and shadow areas. (Expanded contrast.)

· Improved stability in extended (push) processing when higher effective film speed is required. Brilliant, neutral color rendition is maintained even in shadow areas, avoiding unwanted color castes, good maximum density is maintained, and gray balance is stable. Agfa maintains that at EI 200 (one stop push processing) "the results hardly differ from those obtained at ISO 100; at EI 400 (two stop push) it still yields results with outstanding color brilliance."

· In terms of visible grain, a granularity rating of RMS 10 indicates ultra-fine grain. Resolving power is 130 lines per millimeter with a high contrast target and 50 lpm with a low contrast target. In layman's terms, these ISO 100 films are comparable with the previous generation Agfachrome RSX 50 film in these factors.

This photo of Nicolle Gray dressed in funky, '50s clothes shows how Agfa's new RSX II 100 handles medium skin tones. Nicolle was somewhat tanned at the time, but not heavily. The film has produced excellent skin tones while keeping the white of her blouse neutral and clean, and has accurately rendered the color of her skirt, shoes, and hair. This is exceptionally good performance. This photo was taken with a Canon EOS-3 and 28-80mm L series zoom lens. Exposure was determined with a Sekonic L-508 meter in incident mode.

· The "Pro" RSX II film "made with extremely narrow production tolerances to ensure maximum consistency as required by professionals" does not require refrigeration except in hot/humid conditions.

Film Test Results. During two trips to the San Diego area for stock photography, I often used these Agfachrome films for a broad variety of subject matter: the white Spanish Missions (indoors and out), flowers and trees, cityscapes, and various travel subjects including my favorite color test "charts" used for several films--a multicolored Spanish style home and the spectacular Hotel del Coronado. While also testing Agfachrome RSX II 100, Editor Bob Shell photographed models in order to provide additional evaluation as to skin tone rendition.

Color Rendition. As in all test reports, assessments of color rendition may be somewhat subjective. As well, color balance/fidelity and contrast can differ to some extent depending on the quality of E-6 (or AP 44) processing. My findings are summarized as follows, based on viewing numerous slides under an 8x loupe on a color-corrected light box and while projected.

· Color saturation is high, but not "enhanced." Reds, yellows, and blues are particularly vivid, but not over-saturated. Hence, they hold subject detail very well (as in the petals of individual flowers), and the subject is not rendered merely as a blob of exaggerated color. Greens are more neutral and more subtle (accurate) than with some of the other recent films; reminiscent of Kodachrome 64 but more striking. Pastel shades are very true to the original. These factors should be appreciated by nature and landscape photographers who prefer a faithful rendition of a scene.

· Yellows and other light tones are pure, bright, clean, and appealing. These are fine films for flowers, fall foliage, and other pink/ red/orange/yellow subjects. A good D-max produces rich and dark blacks (perfect), never rendered as "smoky" or dark gray.

When photographing a subject with a very fair complexion like Swedish model Anna Lieb it is difficult for a film to hold detail in both the highlights and shadows. Even in the somewhat harsh desert light the Agfa RSX II 100 has done a remarkable job of this, giving lots of detail in the shaded side of Anna's face as well as detail in her black leather jacket and separation between the black of the jacket and her pants. This may not come through in reproduction, but all detail is clearly visible in the original transparency. Canon EOS-3, 28-80mm L series zoom lens; Sekonic L-508 meter in incident mode.

· Overall color balance is very neutral with a very slightly warm effect. Some older Agfa films had a reputation for a "very warm" balance, and for favoring pastels, but this is no longer the case. Whites are exceptional: pure and clean without any color caste. This is an improvement over the previous RSX and precisa films; these new versions would be perfect for snowy winter scenes, for example.

· Bob Shell raves about the superior flesh tone rendition of these new films in his comments.

Other Factors. In addition to the rendition of hues and tones, consider the following evaluations:
Contrast/Latitude. The moderate contrast and wide exposure latitude allows these films to hold detail in shadow areas and in bright areas of a scene. This makes them ideal for high contrast situations such as harsh midday lighting often encountered in travel photography. The moderate contrast will be valued whenever both highlight and shadow detail must be maintained: in portraits, landscapes, architecture, sports, automotive, etc. And even with a 2/3 stop exposure error, projected slides are still quite satisfactory.

Reciprocity Characteristics. During long (5-10 sec) exposures indoors, I found little color shift or loss of film speed. When bracketing, a 1/3 to 1/2 stop of overexposure did help to maintain ideal results. These films are fine choices for anyone frequently shooting very long exposures.

Sharpness/Grain. When examining the slides for grain in a blue sky area (where grain is always most obvious) I found it to be noticeable under the loupe but almost invisible in a projected slide; the grain pattern is very tight and even. Definition of fine detail is high although a bit less so for extremely intricate details due to grain. Sharpness is high, but not excessively so; you should not need to use diffusion filters for close-ups of people. (The specs for resolving power and grain are competitive with several other ISO 100 slide films.) For slightly higher sharpness/finer grain, check out RSX II 50.

For very long exposure times, a bit of overexposure helps produce the most accurate exposures with the new Agfachromes. Tungsten lighting is reproduced in a pleasing manner so I preferred not to use filters for scenes such as this. (EOS-1N; Tamron AF 20-40mm zoom; Manfrotto/Bogen tripod; 5 sec exposure; +0.3 exposure compensation; CT precisa 100.)

Pushability. When rated at an EI of 200 (specifying a "one stop push" for extended processing by the lab) these films really shine. I'm hard pressed to tell the difference between the two sets of slides. In all aspects, the films retained their usual characteristics. A very slight increase in contrast--ideal in flat, overcast light--is noticeable, but color, sharpness, and grain remain very similar to the ISO 100 slides. These films are excellent candidates for push processing to an EI of 200 whenever a faster shutter speed is required for action photography, increased flash range, or for handheld work.

When RSX II 100 is rated at a speed of 400 (with a two stop push processing) the difference in these factors is visible but still highly acceptable. (I did not push CT precisa 100 this far.) Blacks, whites, grays, and colors remain quite accurate though a bit less saturated. Grain is more prominent and contrast boosted, factors to be expected with any film. It's nice to know that when extra film speed is required (when flash and tripod are not practical or prohibited) one can still get by without switching to a high-speed film.

Photo A.

Conclusion. Unlike negative films whose characteristics are heavily affected by the printing process, the "personality" of each transparency film is more distinct. Consequently, slide shooters have a greater ability to select those that meet their own set of preferences. In a nutshell, the new Agfachromes are multi-purpose emulsions, suitable for a broad variety of subject matter. They do have clear strengths in some areas, as discussed earlier, but are not intended to fill some narrow niche.

RSX II 100 or CT precisa 100 produce "memory colors" reproducing the scene as we recall it but with slightly more "punchy" saturation for a pleasing effect. They will be suitable alternatives especially to some of the super-saturated, contrasty, or very warm films. Although not sold by every local photo retailer, they are worth seeking out. Ask at stores catering to professional photographers or scan our mail-order ads and you should find them easily (particularly RSX II 100).

Photo B. My favorite subject for checking color and contrast with any film, this scene allows for both factors (plus grain) to be effectively evaluated. In order to maximize color saturation and color contrast for a more striking overall effect, I used a polarizer in Photo B. (Canon EOS-1N; EF 70-300mm f/3.5-4.5 IS lens; Manfrotto/Bogen tripod; RSX II 100.)

Do note that RSX II is also available in an ISO 50 and 200 version while CT precisa also comes in ISO 200. These were not tested, but all were upgraded as well. Although RSX II and CT precisa are nearly identical, the pro film is released at its aim point for optimum film speed, contrast, color rendition, and "pushability." For assurance that the film will exactly meet all manufacturer's specs, or for "pushing" it more than a stop, stick with RSX II 100. But for travel photography and hobby applications, the more affordable CT precisa 100 should satisfy most needs.

For further information, contact Agfa Corp., 100 Challenger Rd., Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660; (201) 440-2500; fax: (201) 440-6703; web site at: www.agfaphoto.com.

As described in the text, the new Agfachromes produce striking reds and blues, fully saturated but not "exaggerated." (EOS-1N with EF 70-300mm IS zoom; B+W polarizer; RSX II 100.)

Comments On RSX II 100 And Skin Tones

by Bob Shell

My concern with good skin tones in my photographs is well-known and long-standing. I have always liked the way the original Agfa RSX 100 handled skin tones while still providing a neutral color rendition of most other subjects. I took my samples of the new Agfa RSX II 100 with me to Nevada late last year for testing.

I will let the captions on these two photos tell the story.

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