Velvia 100
A Venerable Classic Gets A Speed Boost

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.

Finer Grain
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 expectations.

1.

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 instead.

2.

True Speed?
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 market today.

3.

So is it Velvia 50 or 100 for you?

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.

There's 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.

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