When Velvia first burst on
the scene more than 10 years back it created a revolution in the way
photographers related to slide film. I remember getting my first roll
into a camera in Las Vegas and immediately beating a path to Red Rock
Canyon. I made a series of bracketed exposures and got them processed
out on Industrial. When I opened the box my eyes popped--I had
never seen sandstone that way before. Ever since then I, and photographers
around the world, have sworn by Velvia as the film to pick whenever
color saturation, and lots of it, was the trick that would get the kick
into an image. The first editions of Velvia made good old Kodachrome
seem pale in comparison, and that was the slide film to beat in those
days. Well, Kodachrome is now a distant memory for most, and Velvia
is still around, and now it's gotten an update with double the
speed and a finer grain structure. But, I wondered, would we have to
change the old Simon and Garfunkel song lyric to "Please don't
take my Velvia away," or would we be singing a happier tune?
Catch A Rainbow: This shot was metered off the brighter
ground, which kept the dark clouds dark and helped catch
the rainbow. Shot at ISO 100 using a Nikkor f/2.8 28mm lens
with a Nikon FM2.
Photos © 2003, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved
Well, as far as we know Velvia
50 is still with us, and now we've got the film in an ISO 100 manifestation.
Why bother about a silly old stop anyway? For many shooters it might be
more than a stop, with buddies reporting that they religiously shot the
50 at 40 or even 32. I never held with that and found shooting at the
rated speed was just fine. I might even drop about a third of a stop in
certain situations just to boost the contrast on the push to EI 64. But
there are two things I never did with the old Velvia--I never shot
pictures of people I liked and never forgot to include a few rolls on
any trip I have taken in the last 10 years.
So what's the deal with the new ISO 100 emulsion? Fuji says that
there's finer grain (an RMS granularity of 8, which matches their
new Astia 100--another great film that's a tad tamer in color),
the same rich color as the ISO 50 version, new color couplers with a fourth
color layer and "improved color stability." The grain structure
is impressive for an ISO 100 film, but fine grain is much less of an issue
than it had been in the past. This is not to diminish what Fujifilm has
done here, and I guess we're just getting jaded about film quality
Using a center-weighted metering pattern on a Nikon FM2,
I made a one-stop bracket of this old truck in Arroyo Seco,
New Mexico. The "normal" (1, above) shows the
great color response of the film, giving the faded paint
on the truck a real kick. At one over (EI 50) (2, below)
the colors wash out but they still record well. At one stop
under (3, below) the incredible vibrancy of the reds and
greens really jump out. This film, in my opinion, might
benefit from slight underexposure, although the speed you
choose depends on how you meter and should be set according
to your own tests.
100 Vs. 50
As to matching the color vibrancy of Fuji 50, we thought the only way
to tell was to shoot a roll of 50 and 100 side by side. When we first
got the film back without doing the side by side we thought that the colors
were very rich and glorious, but that it wasn't the Velvia kick.
In fact, Velvia has been tamed somewhat over the years (not by too much)
and we liked the first Fauvist, on the edge colors the first batches gave
us. It wasn't that the colors were just wet paint red--there
was a warmth about them that made the then Ektachrome look bluer than
we thought it was anyway.
The color and vibrancy of 50 and 100 are close...so close in fact
that showing you side by side comparisons in the pages here wouldn't
be of much use, due to the vagaries of magazine reproduction. But take
my word for it...Velvia 100 will not disappoint when it comes to color
richness. It looks a tad contrastier and colors seem truer than with Velvia
50, due to the fourth color layer in the 100 speed. Fujifilm has paid
close attention to response in the red and green
layers, and the accuracy of colors comes through. I still would not choose
this film for portraits and would use their new Astia 100F for that function
What about speed? As mentioned, we know many photographers who shot the
50 at 40. But speed settings for chrome film are almost subjective, within
limits, and what speed you set has to be determined by your own tests.
The speed depends on how you read light, the way you bias highlights,
and what type of metering practice and pattern you choose. For my money
I'd shoot this film at 1/4 to 1/3 stop faster than its rated speed,
as this seems to enrich
the color further. And that's why I shoot Velvia...for rich,
saturated colors that enhance certain subjects unlike any film on the
So is it Velvia 50 or 100 for
I'd say stick with the 50 for the incredible color richness it delivers
and go with the 100 for the extra stop with vivid colors included. I plan
to work with both, shooting the 50 at 50 and the 100 at 125. Fujifilm
made their mark among stock, location, and nature shooters with the Velvia
brand, and they should continue to hold their loyalty with the new 100
speed Velvia as well.
For more information, visit Fujifilm's website at www.fujifilm.com.
This shot was made under bright conditions near midday and
shows the sharpness, fine grain, and beautiful color richness
of the film. It does seem a bit tamer than Velvia 50, but
it's not a color response that anyone could complain
about. This shot was made with a Nikon FM2 with the metering
made straight ahead with no compensation.
no blue shift in the shade with Velvia 100. This shot
was made in open shade on a slightly overcast day. I'd
keep the speed at 100 under such lighting conditions and
only go to 125 in brighter light.