Fujifilm discontinued its Superia X-tra 800 film in 2016, so I’m four years late with this Goodbye post. I’m not sure what took me so long.
I’ve made a few truly lovely images with this film. But for the most part, its pronounced grain disappoints me. I kept shooting it because it was the least expensive ISO 800 color option while I lived on a tight budget.
I bought it primarily to make portraits of members of my church. We have occasional pitch-in lunches in our dim basement. I’ve tried ISO 400 films and an f/2 lens, but ISO 800 and an f/1.4 give me more margin for focusing error. My kit was always my Pentax ME with my 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M lens.
I also made candids at these lunches, trying to build my skill at capturing an interesting moment.
This may be the film I’ve had printed most often, as I like to give prints to my portrait subjects. I am always surprised by how much better the prints look than the scans from which they’re made. It’s true when I have my usual pro lab make prints and it’s true when I upload jpegs to Walgreens for quick turnaround. The colors are richer, and the grain largely disappears. I would love to understand why.
I’ve also used Superia X-tra 800 whenever I knew the light would be challenging. I rather prefer it for that application. Here’s my all-time favorite photo I made on this film, from my Olympus XA. The grain is still omnipresent, especially at the bottom, but the film’s muted palette worked very well with the setting sun.
Here’s another good State Fair shot on this film, from the Pentax ME and that 50/1.4. I featured it in my book of photos from the Pentax ME — you can still buy a copy here.
Sometimes I pushed this film too far. I know many people like a look like this, but it’s never what I envision when I compose and shoot. Pentax ME and 50/1.4 again.
Superia X-tra 800 was at its best in diffuse, even light, as here. This is where the film delivers its best color. Nikon F2AS and 50/2 AI Nikkor.
It even works fine in full sunlight, as here. You just get tiny apertures and gobs of depth of field. Still Nikon F2AS and 50/2 AI Nikkor.
Looking back, I’m not sure now what made me choose this fast film on such sunny days! Olympus XA.
I did some nice close work with this Superia X-tra 800. I shot these flowers in a hothouse on a gloomy day. Pentax ME and 50/1.4.
This film looks especially good in this photo of some phlox on the grounds of Newfields. It was known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art then. Pentax ME and 50/1.4.
I think I expected this stuff to look just like Fujicolor 200, the color film I shoot most. That’s not a great way to approach any film. If I had it to do over again, I would have spent more time figuring out what situations this film excelled in, and I would have found a film that came closer to delivering the look I wanted in my church’s basement.
We’re not at a loss for ISO 800 color films despite Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800’s exit. Kodak Portra 800 is the obvious film to try next at a pitch-in. It is famous for its fine grain, and I can afford it now. I know CineStill and Lomography offer ISO 800 color films and it would be fun to try them someday. Also, I’ve heard of people having good luck shooting Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 at EI 800 and then push-processing it by one stop.
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