Fujifilm’s Velvia 100 Professional; Replacing The Venerable 50

Many moons ago I was granted a few test rolls of the then-new Fujichrome Velvia 50. I happened to be in Las Vegas at the time, and curious just how saturated this touted high-saturation film might be I hiked around red rock country and exposed a few rolls. Having been a dedicated slide shooter and film tester for another photo mag I was pretty familiar with slide films and how Fujifilm had rocked that world with their first forays into high-saturation territory. Indeed, their first attempts were super-rich, but sometimes at the expense of detail in high-frequency colors like red and orange. It was like someone had poured wet paint over brightly-lit red subjects--lively, to say the least, but saturated often to the point of obscuring the texture of the subject beneath.

Canon W6400 large format printer.

The rest is history. As that first foray showed me, this was a new-age film that redefined color, color saturation, and rich, textural detail. It did have its flaws--skin tones often went magenta, especially in shade, but not many people dared to use it for portraiture anyway. Instead, it became the darling of landscape and nature photographers everywhere and took the slide film world by storm. Once touched few returned to other emulsions, and the converts were legion and loyal.

So, when word came that the new Velvia would replace the old a great sigh arose upon the land. Why, many wondered, would they kill the goose that...well, you know the rest. The new kid in town sporting the Velvia brand would have to prove itself as a worthy successor. Thus, when we got our chance to test out the new Velvia 100 Professional we were simultaneously eager and a bit wary. Nothing, we thought, could take the place of the king, a film we knew so well.

This close-up of a crop setting on an ancient reaper, along with green metallic stripe, gives you an idea of the sharpness and color response of the new film. The contrast makes color differentiation and shading remarkable.
All Photos © 2005, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

Fujifilm's rationale, as far as we can make it out, for replacing the old Velvia 50 is that technology has moved along. The official line is that these new technologies deliver finer grain and twice the speed along with the beloved Velvia 50 personality. Most folks actually shot Velvia at EI 40 and I didn't know too many folks who pushed it higher. This new film is said to be eminently more pushable (and pullable) from EI 64 to EI 200 (and, at a stretch, EI 400). When we pushed the old 50 it gained more contrast, great for wall murals but without the smooth color blends, and going to EI 200 or 400 would be just plain silly.

The new film is said to be eminently more stable, which affects both the fading of the dye sets and the ability to withstand a certain leeway in processing variations. It also takes from the grain technology of the company's highly regarded Provia 100F. Their Color Extension Layer technology represents a new generation of color couplers, said to yield both "natural" greens and intense, "dramatic" colors simultaneously. Mindful of Velvia's tradition, the emulsion makers at Fujifilm kept the saturation trademark as a guidepost in their design.

Want to really zap colors? Then expose the new Velvia at EI 125, a quarter stop drop, but enough to convince you that you've never seen color pop like this before in a slide film.

In all, it's great to see a new film come to market in these days of diminishing product offerings. And while Fujifilm anticipates that the 50 speed stock will be available throughout the rest of 2005, the new 100 is now the Velvia kid in town. But don't confuse this Velvia with the Velvia 100F (RVP 100F) that came out a few months back. Indeed, early adopters reported some disappointment with the "F" version, saying it didn't deliver the Velvia kicks. This new one is simply Velvia 100 Professional, known in stock and on the edge markings as RVP 100. It is confusing, I know, but the new stuff is RVP 100.

The etch-edged sharpness and contrast create a feeling of dimensionality I have rarely seen in a slide film before. Shot as the sun set, this old wagon literally jumps off the emulsion. Although its worn wood served as a reflector, and the reading was taken off the wagon and some background, the greens stay green, not muddy, and the sky goes an electric blue.