I first tried Fujifilm’s Superia X-tra 800 a couple years ago when I was going through a phase of photographing every activity at church. We usually meet in our large, dim basement. I had reasonable exposure luck with Tri-X and an f/2 prime lens on my Pentax ME, but the in-focus patch was super narrow and hard to work with. I wanted a couple more exposure stops as a buffer. One stop came in the form of a sweet f/1.4 prime lens, the first one I ever bought that wasn’t already attached to a camera. The other stop came via this ISO 800 film.
This combination was perfect for the church basement. Just check out the good color and skin tone. The two extra stops hedged just enough against focus error without eliminating that creamy background that made my subjects pop.
I also tried a roll in my Olympus XA one evening at the Indiana State Fair. I just love the color in this photo. I’ve used a crop of this on the background and lock screen of my iPhone for more than a year now.
I was so happy to get pleasing results in the evening and in low light that I bought a four pack of this film … and then never found a reason to use it. It’s been in the fridge for a year. What a waste! So I dropped a roll into my Nikon F2AS late this summer for some general-purpose shooting. It yielded mixed results.
That camera went along on my recent road trip to Delphi and Roann. That red is just wonderful. Flickr apparently thought so, too, because they included this photo in their Explore feature on October 1.
But I found that Superia X-tra 800 behaves unpredictably when bright sunlight reflects strongly off a subject. The slower films I usually use manage that situation well enough, but Superia X-tra 800 returned wonky, washed-out color. Nine such shots on this roll were beyond rescuing. This bright-light photo of Stockdale Mill turned out all right, though.
This bright-light photo also turned out, but it suffered from super-saturated color. I reduced it to a dull roar in Photoshop.
When we were under diffuse light, however, this film did all right. But my old standby, Fujicolor 200, would have handled this just as well.
Here’s a shot of the Houck Iron Bridge at a rare moment a little sunlight peeked through the clouds. This lens and film handled the subtle lighting well.
What I’ve learned is that this film has some real limits on a sunny day. Any number of great sunny-day films are chilling in my fridge. I’ll let the Superia X-tra 800 wait for the next church pitch-in lunch.
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Last updated on 20 March 2020 by Jim Grey