Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Shooting Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400


I love a bargain. Whenever a store has a Clearance sign, I am drawn to it like a magnet to iron. So drawn one day at my neighborhood Walgreens, I found a four-pack of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 for $3.97. No matter that the box was pretty ratty, or that the expiration date was just a couple months into the future. A buck a roll!

I shoot a lot of Fujifilm’s Fujicolor 200 and figured the Superia X-tra 400 would behave much the same, except for being a stop faster. But it turns out that while Fujicolor 200 has the usual three layers of color-sensitive material, one each for red, green, and blue, the Superia X-tra films all add a fourth layer meant to render greens and violets more accurately. Apparently, fast color films often don’t get these colors right.

I dropped a roll into my Nikon F3 with the 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor lens and took it along on a trip to St. Charles, Illinois, with Margaret. She grew up there; it was fun to explore her hometown. The Fox River flows through St. Charles, and these twin bridges span it just north of downtown.


On the way to one of the houses Margaret lived in as a girl, we passed by a church with some interesting architectural features. So we stopped for a look.


A school was attached to the church, with this interesting cornerstone.

A.D. 1929

I have a little Potawatomi Indian ancestry, and so was delighted to find St. Charles’s main park named for the tribe. Pottawatomie is an alternate spelling.

Pottawatomie Park

I have no complaints about the color the Superia X-tra 400 returned. Just check out the blue in that sky, and the good detail in the shadows! But I’m coming to appreciate how films of 400 ISO and above are best for gray days and indoors no-flash work. If you look at this image at its full scanned size, the sky is mighty noisy with grain. On this sunny, snow-covered day, I would have been better off shooting something like Ektar 100. Even good old Fujicolor 200 would have been a lower-grain choice.


I finished the roll at home. I think I would have been better served reducing exposure by a half stop when photographing snowy scenes, as the snowy portions of these photos look blown out. This film’s grain really shows up on my blue car’s flank.

Snow-covered Matrix

It’s not entirely fair that I’ve compared Superia X-tra 400 to Ektar 100 a few times here. Superia X-tra 400 is a consumer-grade film meant to work in any camera, and is priced accordingly. You pay more for Ektar, which is marketed to professionals. But at any price, when shooting handheld with my f/2 lens, Ektar 100 is way too slow to get this photo of my living room in the morning.

Morning living-room light

I like this film well enough. I’ll enjoy shooting the rest of the rolls I bought. But I’m not sure I’ll buy Superia X-tra 400 again. For everyday color work the Fujicolor 200 works fine and is a little less expensive. And when I need to take candid shots indoors, this film’s faster brother, Superia X-tra 800, gives me one more stop of exposure with no noticeable increase in grain.

Recommended reading


A digest of well-written and/or interesting blog posts, direct from my feed reader to you.

Were all grandfathers of the Greatest Generation quiet and hard to know? Nguyen remembers her grandfathers, honorable men all. Read His Great-Grandfather’s Boy

Unless you live under a rock you’ve heard the national controversy around a law Indiana recently passed. My buddy Kurt considers this law and how it shows how the Christian faith is so often misapplied. Read WWJD without RFRA?

Michael Lopp, writing as Rands, considers a couple strengths introverts bring to leadership. Read Introverts as Leaders (Briefly)

Childless by choice, Sabine Heinlein writes a thoughtful long essay on why, and the challenges she faces as a result. Read The Answer is Never

How the dragonfly bowl found its place in my home


I liked this handmade bowl a lot better when I bought it at the American Indian market Downtown than I did when I got it home.

Dragonfly bowl

I really enjoy pottery, and thought this would look good in my home– but no matter where I placed it, it seemed to disappear. Its gentle design just didn’t stand out anywhere.

Dragonfly bowl

But then I figured out it made great remote-control storage on my family-room coffee table, and suddenly my buyer’s remorse disappeared. Sometimes something new just has to find its right use in a home.

Snow shadows

Snow shadows
Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 400



We were the last family in the neighborhood without color TV. Dad was resolute: “Our set works. We’ll use it until can’t be fixed anymore.” And so we soldiered on with a black-and-white console set through most of the 1970s.  It broke down occasionally, as tube-type sets did. Mom called the TV repairman, a small, wiry, salt-and-pepper-headed fellow who remembered our set: “Oh! The 1966 RCA black-and-white console! I’ll be over this afternoon.”

RCA-TVDad’s latent impulsive streak emerged one evening in 1977: he brought home a new color set. Surprised us all! It was a table model, metal cabinet, solid state and reliable. We never saw our TV repairman again.

I brought that old RCA to my first apartment in 1989. The picture was out. A buddy of mine with electronics skills came over to have a look. We pulled a bunch of suspect-looking tubes and carried them over to an electronics shop a couple blocks away. Their tube tester — an anachronism even then — told us that a couple tubes were bad, so we asked a crusty old fellow at the counter for replacements. “Tubes!” he said, shaking his head and smiling. “Bill! These kids are here to buy tubes!

Mom and Dad moved out of the family home last summer after 38 years. All manner of stuff emerged as Mom prepared to downsize into a condo — including a bag full of tubes. Were they from our old TV? Mom said she thought so.

Progress Is Our Most Important Product

General Electric is one of the world’s largest manufacturers, but in recent years the company has sold off most of its consumer products lines. For example, Electrolux makes and markets GE washing machines and refrigerators. Walmart slaps GE labels on coffeemakers and toasters that are probably made in China. I guess GE still makes light bulbs.

The Forgotten Network

DuMont manufactured televisions and television components, and even had its own fledgling television network in commercial TV’s early days. Wikipedia has a pretty good article about the network; read it here.

Raytheon, ISC, Tung-Sol

We associate Raytheon with government military contracts today, but apparently they were once in the tube business. I’d never heard of IEC or Tung-Sol before.

Tubes, Naked

I unboxed a few tubes and set them up for this photo. I was shooting my Nikon F2AS and my 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens, which focuses very close. I had a roll of expired Fujifilm Neopan 400 inside. I made all of these photos on my family-room coffee table with the blinds wide open on a gray day, with five incandescent lamps turned on around the room. Even with all that light, my shutter speeds were very slow; I put my camera on a tripod. All of these photos looked a little better in the viewfinder than they do here, but I’m not displeased with them.

You Can Be Sure

I lament how the red lettering (“Electronic Tube”) ended up a little washed out in this shot. I wonder what filter I might have attached to the lens to make those letters pop. But otherwise I like how all of these colorful tube boxes turned out in black and white.


That old TV is long gone; we never could get it to work. So I’m not sure what I’m going to do with these tubes. But I enjoyed their vintage package designs and had fun photographing them.

Locked door

Locked door
Nikon F2AS, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, Fujifilm Neopan 400


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,810 other followers

%d bloggers like this: