Taking pictures with the Fujichrome Velvia

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This review has been frozen: For an up-to-date version, please go to the resources section at Nikonians or click here. Thanks, Bo [29-APR-2000]


Velvia is a great film. I've just recently started to use it, though I am already quite impressed. You don't use Velvia handheld too often (it's an ISO 50 film) - I used my lightweight Bilora tripod or the Manfrotto Carbon #1 (441) for most of the pictures on this page.

 
An apple tree. Click for 1024 x 768
An apple tree. November 1999. Nikon F5 and Nikkor AF 80-200mm/2,8D hand held at close to 200mm.

 

Fujichrome Velvia - an overview

There are most definitely not only pro's, but also some con's with this slide film. Meanwhile, I have probably shot some 30 rolls of Velvia, ok, that's not much, but I slowly start to get a grip on it. Maybe what I have learnt so far might be interesting for others to hear about as well.

As always, if you have any comments on this page, please us the comment possibility at the bottom of this page or send me an e-mail.

There are a couple of negative things about this film

1. The price tag. You pay some DM 16,- per roll (approx 9 USD or 8 EUR) here in Germany. This might not be an obstacle for the professional or for amateurs with a good income :-) Compared to the consumer grade Fujichrome Sensia II (100 or 200 ISO), this is the double amount.

2. Poor light. It's useless in poor light or for motives with lots of shades. This is not typically a Velvia phenomenon, but rather a problem with all slide film. At ISO 50 you don't have any reserves in poor light, no matter if you're using 1.4 aperture or not.

3. Skin tones are sort of crappy. Don't use it for shooting portraits (you're probably not thinking of portraits anyway when you're into Velvia).

4. UV. It's a heck of a UV sensitive film. I made the mistake of shooting some Velvia without UV filter having my Nikkor AF 20mm/2.8D attached to the F5. Most of the pictures turned out to be no-nos.

Note on statement (4): As several readers have commented, this may very well not be a Velvia problem, but rather something else. I have only have had problems with the following combination:
Velvia inside using the 20mm Nikkor and that in strong sunlight without UV filter. I am still not sure what this is all about, since any other combination seems to work ok, e.g. using the same lens and Velvia on Ilford Delta 100. I will most definitely investigate this further and post my results on this page. The problem itself is that the film looks similar to an overexposed one, details are partly washed out and colors are not ok.

5. It screws up the AF of the LS-30 Nikon Coolscan every now and then (!). This is really an interesting phenomenon. I'm not sure if I should really blame the Velvia for this, but it seems like the AF of the Coolscan goes weird every once in a while when there's Velvia inside. Framed or not, it doesn't matter, sometimes I must manually adjust the focus of the scanner as much as some 30% when I use Velvia. This does not happen with the other film I am using, such as Sensia II, Superia, Ilford XP2 or Ilford Delta 100. I have thought about if this may have to do with the number of layers (19 in all) of the Velvia.

 
A strange looking tree: Click for 1024 x 768 pixels
An old tree at the Fürstenberg Mausoleum in Neudingen, Germany. July 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8D. This may be an example of Velvia misbehaving. This image has been modified in Photoshop to be somewhat decent (it still isn't). Looks like it would be completely overexposed.

 

The positive things about Velvia

There is a whole bunch of stuff that I like with Velvia and they outnumber the negative part. This is actually the best slide film I have ever used. Some of the stuff I like with Velvia:

1. Grainless. At 2700 dpi scans it's still marvelous and no grains to be seen.

2. Color. The color is vivid without being unreal. Ok, a whole bunch of people have been complaining about "Micky Mouse colors" using it, i.e. unreal colors, but I don't think the colors are unreal, just very vivid.

3. Shining surfaces. All motives I have taken where there's a shiny surface, such as equipment, gold or silver, have turned out very well. To get a feel of this, check out the altar picture at the top of this page.

 
Before sunrise: Click for 1024x768
Some time after five o'clock in the morning with the sun still being below the horizon.
The picture shows a part of the Baar-plateu, some 750m/2300ft over sea level, looking direction south east.
If you look at the larger picture (click on the preview), you can see the condensation trail of an aircraft likely coming from Zürich, Switzerland. May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8D.

 

 
A fence. Click for 800 x 600
A fence. November 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 80-200mm/2,8D.

 

Data

ISO 50 (18 DIN) in daylight or ISO 16 (13 DIN) with 3100K Tungsten lamps and a Kodak Filter No 80A (or eq.). Can be pushed one stop (to ISO 100) without loss of color balance.

Film structure
19 layers (incl. protective layers etc).

Base material
Cellulose Triacetate

Resolving power
At a chart contrast of 1,6:1 80 lines/mm
At a chart contrast of 1000:1 160 lines/mm

Manufactured both as roll and sheet film.
Rolls
135 (24 & 36 exp). Latter in 5 and 20-roll packs
35mm x 30,5m (100 feet)
120 (12 exp) in 5-roll packs
220 (24 exp) in 5-roll packs

Sheets
4 x 5" (10,2 x 12,7 cm) as 10 and 50 sheets
5 x 7" (12,7 x 17,8 cm) as 20 sheets
8 x 10" (20,3 x 25,4 cm) as 10 sheets
11 x 14" (27,9 x 35,6 cm) as 10 sheets
9 x 12 cm as 10 sheets
13 x 18 cm as 10 sheets
QuickLoad (4 x 5") as 20 sheets

 
Before sunrise: Click for 1024x768

Same morning, same sky, same location as the other morning sky pictures though looking south. On the large picture (click the preview) you can see that I've overseen some dust pecks during the scan. I didn't have the dust removal feature of the LS-30 turned on for any of the pictures here btw, and the only post-processing done was to crop them in Photoshop. May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8D.

 
Sunrise: Click for 1024x768

Moved to a new location and caught the sun rising. It had been raining heavily in the night, hence the interesting clouds. May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8D.

 

Altar. Click for 1024 x 768
The altar of the Roman-Catholic Chapel St.Leonard in Hüfingen, Germany. August 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 80-200/2,8D at some 150mm. Handheld with no flash fill.

 

Cold, early morning: Click for 1024x768

Sun is now up, but it's still fairly dark in the small villages. The water in this tiny river is warmer than the air, creating a light fog. May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 50mm/1,4.

 

River in the early evening: Click for 1024x768

A "side river" to "our" river Breg, early evening in May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 50mm/1,4.

 

Gates at the Fürstenberg Castle: Click for 1024x768

An entrance to the Fürstenberg Castle of Hüfingen, completely renovated in 1997 and meanwhile a home for elderly people. Picture taken early in the evening and the warm light makes it inviting. May 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 50mm/1,4.

 
Baar an sun rising: Click for 1024 x 768 pixels

A field on the Baar, Germany while the sun is rising. Technically not a good one, but sort of interesting. July 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8 D.

 
A field in Alsace: Click for 1024 x 768 pixels

A field in Alsace, France. July 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 20mm/2,8 D.

 
Butterfly bush. Click for 1024 x 768
A "Butterfly bush" in our garden. August 1999. Nikon F5, Nikkor AF 80-200/2,8D. The picture is unsharp due to a slight wind making the bush move.

 

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All pictures on this page Copyright (C) by Bo Stahlbrandt 1999, 2000.