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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last updated on 19 March 2020 by Jim Grey