Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

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.

Little boy at church

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.

State Fair at dusk

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.

Farmall

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.

Stockdale Mill

This bright-light photo also turned out, but it suffered from super-saturated color. I reduced it to a dull roar in Photoshop.

Flowers

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.

Roann Bridge

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.

Gray Bridge

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.

Standard

11 thoughts on “Shooting Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800

    • Thanks! I never shot those other films so I lack a frame of reference, but it’s nice to know that you like this film for some of the same reasons you liked those. And thanks for the props on the State Fair shot!

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  1. You’ve done some nice work with fast film. I’ve shot a fair amount of tri-x, but nothing fast in color. As you say, it’s nice to have an extra stop or two for better dof. Sharing pictures mostly on line really doesn’t require slower, fine grain films. I’m going to try doing some faster film, though I would be more enthusiastic about the idea if I could find some as cheap as the Fuji 200 I normally use.

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    • I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the least expensive ISO 800 film available. I ordered it from B&H. I recall it being noticeably more expensive than Fuji 200, but not as expensive as some of the so-called professional color films.

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  2. I have had the best results with Fuji 800 as an late afternoon, early evening film. It does a good job with that time of day as I think your state fair photo shows. I remember a few years ago taking some fall landscape photos with this film that I was very pleased with. Having spent my formative years with color film of 200 ISO being high speed, I have to remind myself that this 800 ISO film isn’t some crazy experiment.

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    • I vaguely remember when ISO 400 color film came out. 800’s debut escaped my notice but it has existed since I started collecting again in 2006. Thanks for the tips on when 800 color film is most useful!

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  3. bodegabayf2 says:

    I think Portra 400 is the fastest color film I’ve shot. Ever. I shoot a lot of Tri-X 400 and deal with grain. You’ve done a nice job with 800 speed my friend! The sun shines a lot in California, so I’ve got bricks of Ektar 100 in the fridge!

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  4. Lone Primate says:

    Wow, Jim, that fairground shot is astonishing. I had to stop right there and gaze at it. No wonder you’ve been using it on your phone. Spectacular and terrificly composed.

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  5. Pingback: VSCO FILM 02 - The Missing Guide - Nate Photographic

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