New Negative And Transparency Films
Reports of Films Demise Are Once Again Exaggerated

New Negative & Transparency Films

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.

Color Transparency Films
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 film line.

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.