During the "Digital
Summit" panel discussion at the 2003 PMA Show, one of the speakers
offered an analogy that's certainly timely. "To paraphrase
Mark Twain," he said, "rumors of the demise of film have
been greatly exaggerated." Indeed, film sales continue to be brisk,
and some manufacturers, particularly Fuji, are aggressively expanding
their product lines. This makes sense, considering the billions of film
cameras still in use around the world, as well as a statistic quoted
by an Agfa rep at their press conference. "There were more than
twice as many film cameras as digital cameras sold in 2002," he
reported. While this includes single-use models, we do know that many
Shutterbug readers continue to use film. If you fall into this large
category, some of the following new products should certainly be of
interest to you.
Color Negative Films
Agfa recently upgraded its line of Vista films, with an enhanced Eye Vision
Technology plus new SXM (Surface eXtended Multistructured) crystals in
all dye layers. The combination should produce more accurate colors in
all types of lighting conditions, with results that "come even closer
to the color perception of the human eye." The new Agfa Vista films
are available in speeds of ISO 100, 200, 400, and 800 in the 35mm format.
Anyone who loves extremely bold and vibrant colors should certainly check
out Agfa Ultra 100, finally available in North America. Billed as "the
most color-intensive negative film in the world," this product combines
maximum saturation with the many advanced technologies developed for the
Vista line of films. These include the Eye Vision Technology for enhanced
color fidelity under a broad range of lighting conditions. Based on tests
published in other countries, prints from this film exhibit very high
sharpness, stunningly rich hues and tones, fine grain, and pleasing results
under fluorescent lighting. Agfa Ultra 100 is also said to be great in
low contrast conditions, such as cloudy or foggy days when a bold, colorful
image is desired.
Taking advantage of the technology
developed for its new 35mm High Definition 400 color print film (announced
in late 2002), Kodak now offers an APS format version of this High Definition
product. Available only in ISO 200 form, Advantix High Definition offers
the same enhancements. Advantages claimed for this new film include improved
sharpness and reduced grain, optimized skin tones, greater color consistency,
and "dramatically improved blues and purples." The 8x10"
test prints shown by Kodak confirmed these claims. In addition to rich,
gorgeous colors and attractive flesh tones, the prints exhibit image quality
comparable to what I would expect from a 35mm (ISO 200) film with very
high sharpness and an ultra-fine, very tight grain structure.
Fuji has upgraded two of its 35mm color print films, with new products
that will be available by late summer. The improved Fujicolor Superia
1600 promises finer grained images with a new Nano-Structured (SIGMA)
Grain Technology. Combined with the existing 4th Color Layer Technology,
the film is also said to produce improved sharpness, vibrant hues, excellent
gray balance, and natural color reproduction even under fluorescent lighting.
This ultrahigh-speed film will be great for low-light situations when
flash or tripod is not practical, or for high-speed action photography
on dark, overcast days with slow lenses.
The all-purpose Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400 will benefit from the same
technologies, but will offer other improvements, according to a Fuji representative.
"Smoother, more natural skin tones...vibrant, dynamic reds,
blues, yellows, violets, and greens with advanced fidelity" should
make this product even more desirable than its predecessor.
By far the most prolific in producing new emulsion, Fuji also introduced
three new color transparency films that will be available by the third
quarter of this year. All take advantage of the Multi-Structured Sigma
Crystal grain technology that was developed for the Provia F series. The
most noteworthy new product is Fujichrome Velvia 100F Professional, bringing
the ultrahigh color saturation of Velvia 50 to the ISO 100 speed class.
Great for faster shutter speeds, the new product boasts even finer grain
than the original Velvia, with an RMS granularity rating of 8. According
to Fuji, the new RVP 100F offers other advantages, too, including greater
color fidelity and superior resistance to fading, thanks to new color
coupler and color correction layer technologies. Said to deliver "the
same rich, beautiful color as the current Velvia," the new film
will complement--and not replace--RVP 50 in the Fujichrome line.
Employing most of the same technology, Fuji also developed the new ASTIA
100F Professional, for portrait, fashion, and advertising photography,
with "exceptionally smooth, natural rendering of skin tones and
textures." Offering extremely gentle contrast ("long tonal
scale"), Fujichrome ASTIA 100F should produce very attractive portraits,
with detail in both highlight and shadow areas. Another feature, "Highly
Tuned Inter-Layer Effect" technology should help to optimize smooth
skin tones "through a combination of color purity, delicate tonal
gradation from its MSSC technology, and precisely tuned inter-layer effects."
With an RMS granularity rating of 7--the finest available in ISO
100 color transparency film--ASTIA 100F should be ideal for oversized
reproduction. ASTIA 100F will replace the current ASTIA 100 in the pro
Similar in technology and some characteristics, the more affordable consumer
slide film, Fujichrome Sensia 100 (RA), will be available in 35mm format
only. This all-purpose product is an improved version of the previous
Sensia film. It was designed to produce ultra-fine grain (RMS rating not
provided), smoother, more natural skin texture and tones, and rich but
faithful color reproduction. A broad exposure latitude should maximize
the number of "keepers" and this film should be great for
people pictures, landscape and travel photography.
Other Film Products
In addition to color print and transparency films, several other types
of products were recently announced. Studio photographers will certainly
appreciate Fuji's new FP series of peel-apart Instant Film including
the FP-100C, a color film that incorporates a great deal of new grain
and color technology. Fuji's tech notes indicate that this product
will produce "superb quality prints with little to no gradation
imbalance from highlights to shadows" while offering "improved
reciprocity and lightfast characteristics, and reduced color variations."
The new FP line also includes black and white films: FP-100B Super (ISO
100) and FP-3000B Super Speedy (EI 3200). Both promise rich gradation
and high resolution plus high stability. The fast film develops in just
15 seconds, while the slow film was designed for excellent results in
varied lighting conditions and during exposures as long as 10 seconds.
While the black and white Fuji
Neopan 100 ACROS is not a new film, it will finally be available in a
4x5 QuickLoad format version that large format photographers have been
eagerly awaiting for some time. This "slow" film offers ultrahigh
image quality, rich gradation, outstanding sharpness, excellent reciprocity
characteristics in long exposures, and can be processed with a broad variety
of developers and fixers.
Although we do not generally cover single-use cameras, a couple of new
products are worth noting. Konica's Film-In Super Wide camera--with
award-winning Centuria Super 800 film--employs a 17mm lens for a
super wide angle of view. Its flash unit was designed for good results
with subjects as close as 16", allowing for tight close-ups and
even for self-portraits.
During the PMA Show, Kodak's new Plus Digital 35mm camera attracted
a lot of interest. (It costs about $10.) This is basically a Max HQ model,
with a 30mm, two-element aspheric lens, and flash. Also, it comes loaded
with Max 800 film. The "twist" is a unique coding system that
ensures that customers automatically receive a Picture CD of all images--at
no additional charge--when they purchase the Kodak premium printing
service. This approach is intended to interest more snapshooters in digital
imaging, in a simple and economical manner. Each Picture CD includes free
software that allows the consumer to zoom and crop, remove redeye, and
send images by e-mail in an uncomplicated and quick manner.