A trouble for a photographers taking pictures using film is they often find themselves apologizing. They make mea culpas for using a cumbersome, sometimes stinky, and even downright toxic process. This is compared to their digital, comparatively unfettered photographic brethren, who can take oodles of pictures, and then never have to spend a dime or a moment in the darkroom to develop what they have taken. The analog photographer knows that they can get good results using digital cameras, and yet they cling to their antiquated film, mumbling shamefaced apologias about higher dynamic range, and making preposterous claims of deeper material authenticity for film, versus ethereal digital pictures… Bah… What nonsense…
Yet, one of the claims to fame for film had to do with the much-vaunted Kodachrome process. Introduced by Kodak in the 1930’s, and used to great effect, the process finally ceased to be available three years ago. Kodachrome died a quiet death, and so it seems has a certain type of image with a nostalgic tinge.
Kodachrome was positive, or reversal film, made for transparencies, or what are called “slides”. There are still some manufactures of slide film around, but there is no direct-to-positive photographic paper on which to enlarge images from slide film, leaving a gap, and a big one considering the time and expense it takes to develop film, and the fact that one still has to kowtow to the digital machine, and scan film, in order to print anything at all.
Still, Fujifilm produces two positive type films today, Astia, and Velvia. Astia is the softer, more subdued variant, and Velvia is the more electric, and brighter looking film, both are emulated on the new X series of digital cameras from Fuji, including the subject of this review, the Fuji X100s. In my opinion this is the best substitution camera for the digital photographer who wants to see what these film types may render, which is to say, dreamlike, imaginary colours.
The X100s is limited to a minimum ISO of 100 using the Velvia selection in the film emulation setting. Velvia at ASA 50 is stunning, so this is a bit of a limitation. Still, the color is still beautiful at ISO 100. The 100s sports a 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens that stops down to f2, and the lens has an excellent coating, resulting in pleasing contrast with very little aberration. I tested the camera against a roll of Velvia 50 in a point-and-shoot Olympus film camera with a legendary, ultra-sharp f 2.8 lens, and I have to admit (though I am loathe to do so) that the Fuji makes a lovely picture.
I had to retake the pictures using film in the day, as the slower emulsion seemed to cast a reddish hue in the dark, but the digital camera worked well in the nighttime, and produced a picture-perfect, chrome-like image. The 100s does a great job of retaining shadows and detail, and the film has only as much contrast and “texture”.
“John was born and raised in Calgary. For a decade he moved about, with various stays throughout Europe, then Central Pennsylvania, Vancouver, and New York City; selling books, digitizing books, making books, and reading books (especially photo and art books). He has studied a little about English, Publishing, and Art. He takes photographs, using a variety of 35mm film cameras, and uses a scanner and Photoshop to make pictures. Every now and again he’ll break out a digital camera, sometimes even without whining. He can be found in the Camera Store’s book corner, or, in his spare time, talking about photography, reading about photography, or writing about photography.
He is a very serious guy.”