Film Photography, Travel

Shooting Fujifilm Superia Venus 800

Palmer House lobby

The whole point of fast films is to let you get shots in challenging light. Not just indoors, as in the photo of the stunning lobby of Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel above, but outdoors on overcast days too. Fujifilm Superia Venus 800 did a fine job on a Chicago weekend getaway my wife and I made early in January — prime time for dim, gloomy days in the Windy City.

aw_logo

The generous folks at Analogue Wonderland gave me this roll of film to try in exchange for this mention. I wish I had shot it earlier, as Fujifilm discontinued this film late last year. It’s out of stock at Analogue Wonderland (check on it here). But fear not, they have more than 200 other film stocks to choose from. If you can’t find the film you need at Analogue Wonderland, you should question whether you need it at all.

Red Line

Oh my gosh is it ever great to go into the Chicago subway and make a perfectly exposed photo with all the depth of field you can ask for. Also, the Venus 800 seems to be less grainy, and tolerate greater exposure sins, than Fujifilm’s Superia X-tra 800. That was my go-to ISO 800 color film until it was discontinued in 2016. I shot my last roll of X-tra 800 on this trip, too; I’ll compare the two in an upcoming post.

Central Camera

I shot my Nikon F3 with a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens on this trip. I hadn’t shot the F3 in a year, and in that time its light seals finally degraded enough to leak a little light. You can see a faint red band on this photo of the iconic Central Camera sign. The longer I went between shots, the more pronounced the red band. Time for new light seals. I didn’t know this as I shot the roll, of course. When the leak intruded too much, I cropped the photos to remove it, as below.

River view

It was great to to shoot at f/8 for good depth of field, at shutter speeds fast enough for me to hold the camera in my hands. It may have been unusually warm for the first of January in Chicago — temperatures above freezing — but the days were plenty gray.

River view

One day we did get a few hours of partly cloudy skies. The Venus 800 let me choose even faster shutter speeds. It rendered Chicago’s colors beautifully — not too saturated, not too muted. The photo below lines up with my memory of that moment. That’s my favorite outcome for any film.

State Street

Even on a heavily overcast day, the Venus 800 got accurate color while delivering managed grain. My big beef with Superia X-tra 800 is pronounced grain. The Venus is a welcome improvement.

State Street

I’m super happy with the excellent color I got from Venus 800. I shot a roll of X-tra 800 right after I finished this roll and the colors were just meh.

Miller's Pub

Let’s take one more look at the spectacular Palmer House lobby, and pretend the light leak didn’t leave a red streak on the image. I’m used to my digital cameras being able to handle this shot, which I’ve made many times as the Palmer House is my favorite place to stay in Chicago. Only at ISO 800 have I been able to get a credible film photo here.

Palmer House lobby

Finally, I made this mirror selfie in our room on the 20th floor of the Palmer House. Those are my skin tones, all right. Not bad.

Selfie

Fuifilm Superia Venus 800 is a lovely fast film. It’s a shame it’s discontinued.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Last updated on 14 February 2020 by Jim Grey

Standard

14 thoughts on “Shooting Fujifilm Superia Venus 800

  1. P says:

    I always wanted to try Fuji’s Venus 800. The grain structure is beautifully organic in my eyes. Sadly, I never picked any up so I guess now that it’s discontinued I’ll never have the chance to shoot a roll. What a shame. Great photos, Jim.

      • P says:

        Yep, it’s a bummer. If C-41 lab processing hadn’t become so expensive I’m sure I would have bought and shot a lot of this stuff. I find it to have just the right amount of grain and it marvelously renders colors. Saturation is perfect. Simply put, it looks the way color negative film should look in my opinion. It just looks and feels right. They’re great films, but I find the Portras (except for 800), Ektar, and 400H to be far too perfect. And I find the Lomography stocks to be overly saturated. The number of color negative stocks I actually care about has dwindled down to very nearly nothing.

        Your symmetrical photo of the Palmer House lobby is absolutely beautiful. I also love the way Venus 800 rendered greens, oranges/reds, and the neon of the Central Camera sign. The shots from this roll are at the top of the list of my recent favorites from your body of work. Excellent stuff, Jim.

        Take care!

        • I *didn’t* love X-tra 800. It was pretty good, but it wasn’t great. Muted colors and too much grain, at least in the scans. I sometimes had prints made, and everything looked a lot better on those.

        • P says:

          If your scans from this roll are straight, unedited scans (or just slightly edited), then I don’t think the colors you got are muted at all. And sure, the film is definitely grainy, but the structure of the grain is very organic and appealing (unlike some other films, such as Kodak Ultramax 400), at least in my opinion. I can appreciate that others might not have the same threshold for what is considered an acceptable level of grain, especially in digital scans where it’s more pronouncements than in prints.

          Back to saturation, I actually think most of the more “modern” (obviously nothing is that new) color negative films are way too saturated. This includes the final/current variant of Kodak Gold 200, ProImage 100, etcetera. They have their uses and I like them for certain situations, but I don’t think they look very natural. It’s almost like they were designed to try to mimic the high saturation/contrast look of late 90’s/early 2000’s digital images. And that’s not a look I’m after if I’m shooting film. It’s kind of counter-logical.

          When it comes to color saturation and contrast, I actually find the older Kodak ColorPlus 200 (formerly VR 200 from the 80’s) to be a much more natural looking and appealing film stock than its newer replacements. If we add pro stocks to the discussion, Portra 400 and 160 are less saturated, but I don’t much care for their grain structure. Plus, paying roughly $10 per roll is outrageous. I’m just sad so many C-41 emulsions have disappeared these last few years. Nothing that’s left does much for me. Between that fact and how expensive processing has become, I pretty much just stick to B&W now.

          On that note, when can we expect to see some more of your home-developed B&W work? ;-) Those are some of my favorite posts of yours.

          Take care, Jim.

        • P says:

          Oops, there’s a typo… That should be “pronounced,” not “pronouncements.” Auto-type messed up…

  2. The Superia line is a truly beautiful collection of films. I never tried Venus but shot a lot of X-tra 800 back when I couldn’t afford the professional films, no complaints with it at all. These days if I need the extra speed I’m most likely indoors shooting Cinestill but I miss the Fuji colors.

    • I’m used to the Fuji colors now, they seem normal to me. I love the 200 and like the 400, and am so-so on the 800 because I tend to get a lot of unpleasant grain from it. But until it disappeared it was the lowest-price 800 out there and that’s why I shot it.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.