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