Sticking With Film

Fujichrome Velvia, the perennial favorite emulsion of nature photography pros, is still going strong
This Article Features Photo Zoom
Velvia

For some nature photographers, the death of film has been greatly exaggerated. For as long as it has been around, Fujichrome Velvia has been among the most popular films, if not the most popular film, for nature photography. The emulsion’s rich, saturated colors and vibrant contrast have made it a favorite emulsion among top nature photographers who prize its unique characteristics. Several years ago, it looked as if Velvia would disappear forever, but the RVP faithful let out such an uproar that the film was quickly resurrected. Then in 2007, while the annual PMA trade show in Las Vegas was buzzing with talk about the imminent death of film, Fujifilm bucked the trend and announced a new Fujichrome Velvia 50 with improvements over the existing emulsion, clearly demonstrating a continued commitment to this long-running favorite.

Among the characteristics of Fujichrome Velvia 50 are extremely high color saturation, neutral gray uniformity and extremely fine grain. But those attributes do come with a price. Velvia has little tolerance for missed exposure. Unlike digital cameras, which have a fair amount of latitude, you have to be at the top of your game when you’re shooting Velvia or you risk getting unacceptable images. But when you do get it right, it’s like hitting a golf ball in the exact sweet spot of the club—you’re rewarded with a perfect shot.

The original Fujichrome Velvia was typically rated at an ISO of 40. Many photographers felt that a slight overexposure compared to Fuji’s ISO rating was called for. The new emulsion also seems to want a touch of overexposure, and many pros set their meters for ISO 40 or even 32. If you haven’t used it, a quick test is a good way to get your own rating locked in. While most hard-core professionals would buy in bulk and retest every batch, that’s probably overkill for the majority of us. Plus, manufacturing and lab chemistry have improved over time so that consistency from batch to batch is much tighter than in the days when all photography was film photography. There’s also a level of personal preference here.

Seeing the word “professional” in the name may make you think that this film is mostly for pros, but that’s a misconception. The main benefit one gets from using any professional film is in the consistency of the emulsion because of the manner in which it’s stored. “Professional” films are refrigerated and have a set shelf life, while “consumer” films can be stored in the back of a hot warehouse for weeks or even longer before they’re sold. Keeping tight storage parameters on the pro films keeps each roll in top shape by the time you buy it.

When it comes time to go digital with your shots, Velvia makes for excellent scanning. The film’s fine grain is a key reason why it does so well. In the nascent days of digital, some photographers had trouble making good scans because of the film’s contrast, but modern scanners have largely eliminated this issue. If you’re going for a high-end scan, the results are even better. In fact, many of the very best Outdoor Photographer cover images were scanned from Velvia transparencies. If you do your own scans and you have an older scanner, you can try a double-scan process to even out the contrast, to a degree. Make one scan at a normal exposure and make a second scan at a brighter setting, then combine the two in Photoshop.

The death of film isn’t here yet. Long live Fujichrome Velvia 50!

Contact: Fujifilm, (800) 800-FUJI, www.fujifilmusa.com.

11 Comments

    Pleeeeease don’t kill film,as I shoot with my T90s still going strong.I’m Also a film tech. I can do anything with film! Sorry to see that there is no verichrome pan film as it was the best B/W film ever produced. (Kodak) really screwed up by taking it off the market. I’ll bet if they were to reintroduce it,it would be an over night sensational market hit. Providing it was as it was in the 60s.

    I still shoot film and hopefully alwas will.

    I like Velevia it is a great film. The best (color slide) film ever is still Kodachorme. And, yes “I got my Nikon camera”.

    I’m thrilled to read that film is still going strong!!! While I do use digital on some occasions (ie: for documentation), my best images consistently are those I’ve made with film. For me, the experience of making images with film is deeper and more meaningful, too. As my mentor, Larry West, always says, “Process, not product.”

    I use film and do landscape photography, mainly when hiking in wilderness regions. For bigger prints, say 20x30in, drum scans are superior to anything else. But they are expensive. For my photography this is the only real drawback of film.

    Good to see/hear. There is no sensor (that most of us can afford, at least) that can produce the lush greens and vibrant blues of Velvia. I just wish it was more readily available in motion picture film.

    I’m rather surprised George Lepp didn’t kill this article since it seems his mission is to convert the remaining film users of the world.

    There are so many great films on the market. And quite honestly, there’s nothing like looking at big chromes on a lightbox.

    Great article! I’m sticking with film too!

    I use almost entirely film for all my pictures now. It’s just a lot more fun and more challenging than a digital camera. There’s something special about hearing the snap of a REAL mechanical shutter and knowing that you have just permanently burned a moment of time onto film. There is no delete button, it’s there forever.

    I can also get much better quality pictures with film than anything I’ve ever gotten with a digital camera. Especially black and white film that I developed myself, and real optical prints that I develop in my darkroom. The detail you can get from a black and white negative is incredible.

    Who needs megapixels when you’ve got silver halide!

    I tried digital for a while, but after struggling to reproduce the Velvia look in Photoshop from my digital image, I realized that going back to film was the answer. I’m using a Mamiya 645 and Velvia now and get that “wow” feeling every time a roll comes back from the lab, instead of the “bummer, what happened” feeling I got from digital. Plus, I really enjoy the slowness and deliberate nature of shooting film in a clunky medium format camera.

    For the past year I have struggled with the thought of buying a digital. Because I still use maual focus Nikkor lenses, I need to spend heaps on a D300 or D700. Then I read an article by Ken Rockwell, and he sold me back to film. My F3 works in ANY weather, -40 or 100, in no humidity, in 100% humnidity, and the pics come out great avery time! Nothing like opening a box of slides and saying AHA! That’s the one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Main Menu
×