Over the past few months I have been running various 35mm film stocks through my Nikon FE and more recently my Nikon N80 in an effort to find differences in the films. The film I was most excited about was Fuji’s Velvia 50. I know that professional landscape photographers that use Velvia 50 are using medium and large format films to get their stunning images but that didn’t discourage me from using the 35mm format.
The internet is filled with information about what makes Velvia 50 special but to boil it down the film favors reds and yellows and by extension adds warmth to the image. If you are planning on shooting landscapes in the morning or the evening this is the film to choose… or so they say.
Right off the bat you should know that Velvia 50 is slide film, not print film as most people are used to. This is a double edged sword. On the one hand most places that develop film will need to send the film out to be processed and it comes back to you mounted on slides. The upside here is that once you shoot the film what ever you captured will be what you get back. Unlike print film, slide film does not produce a negative, it’s produces a positive. When you drop the film off the processor doesn’t need to judge what the proper exposure for the image is or what the color balance should be, it is what it is on film. The film is less forgiving of over or underexposure by extension but if the shots matter slide film eliminates the concern of the processor having an off day or the computer guessing the exposure wrong. With print film if the film isn’t developed correctly the frames are lost, not so with slide film.
In my experience shooting a few rolls of this film it certainly does add that illusive warmth. I can’t see any appreciable grain in the image and it’s very sharp. For the most part I shoot this film with Nikon’s current 50mm f/1.8 lens stopped down to F/8 which did give the film the best chance of being as sharp as possible. It should also be noted that these images have had nothing done to them with the exception of being scanning into the computer which I had done at a local photo shop.
This first image is one of my favorites in terms of the colors. I love how rich they look. If I didn’t know better I would have thought this was evening sun in the fall, not mid afternoon in March. When I shot this image I was still adjusting to manual focus so the focus is farther forward then I would have liked but I think it still looks Ok. Based on this image I would have to say that Velvia lives up to it’s name.
This next image I chose to show what the Velvia does to skin tones… seemingly nothing. If you ask me, the skin looks pretty natural. There is a good bit of smoke in the image which is blurring around him but I don’t think that’s affecting the color of his skin. I can’t see any reason, from my experience to avoid shooting images of people with this film. If portraits were your primary goal I’m sure some other films could be found that are more suitable but for a mix of shooting this seems fine.
This last image is one that I find some how striking. The image it self is quite plain but the fact that the water and the riverside on the left of the frame looks interesting is due 100% to the film itself. This was shot as the sun was setting in early March (April Maybe?) way north in New Hampshire which means everything was still gray and dead from winter. Yet, there on the left bank is a little green peaking out. Sure, I blew out the sky in the top right of the image and I won’t be getting an enlargement or anything but it’s still good to see what the film can do.
Over all, I like the film and I do think it’s worth the higher cost to buy it and to process it. It does add a certain something to the images captured with it and if I were going out for an evening or morning of landscapes this would be my first choice. Grab the Velvia 50 and a polarizing filter and this would be an unstoppable landscape setup.