A reader who comments here as tbm3fan contacted me recently and asked, “What are the best medium-format cameras you own?” I replied “my Yashica TLRs.” He responded, “That’ll work. I’m going to send you a whole bunch of film. It’s good stuff you can’t get anymore. It’s always been stored frozen. Shoot it on subjects that matter in those Yashicas.”
A box soon arrived containing a whole bunch of film in both 35mm and 120, two rolls of each emulsion he included. All of it is negative film; some of it is color and some is black and white. The first roll I shot, while in Madison, Indiana, recently, was Fujifilm Reala 100 in 120 that expired in April of 2005.
I’ve loved Fujifilm’s ISO 100 color negative films when I’ve gotten to shoot them in the past. Those rolls were always 35mm, though, so I was excited to try a roll in 120. Interestingly, there was no film called Reala 100 in 35mm. There was a Superia Reala 100 in 35mm, but not plain Reala 100. The word Superia does not appear on my two boxes of Reala 100 in 120. Some light Googling did not find data sheets for either film for me to compare them.
No matter; the fun is in the shooting. I shot the whole roll on a long walk along the Ohio River. This is the Lanier Mansion, Madison’s most famous house.
I shot the roll at EI 50 to hedge against the effects of age. The whole roll delivered very good color, fine grain, and good sharpness. Straight off the scanner, you could hardly tell this film is expired. Dark areas tended to be a little too dark for my taste, so I lightened them in Photoshop.
Despite having mounted a lens hood onto the taking lens, I got a lot of haze and flare unless the sun was well behind me. It tended to wash out images on this roll. I rescued this one in Photoshop, but it rendered the earth tones extra earthy.
There’s lots of old houses around Madison, and many of them are painted in bright colors like this. I’m not a fan of painting brick — the whole point of brick is that it needs little maintenance, and once you’ve painted it, you have to keep painting it.
My experience with Fujifilm’s 35mm ISO 100 color negative films is that the colors are candylike and bright. I found that this roll also returned earthier, burnt colors that were true.
But it still faithfully renders the primaries.
In all, this film is a winner.
I’m thrilled to have all of this film to try. But I have a sinking feeling that the more I shoot it, the more I’m going to realize just how much we lost in discontinued films. So many of them did not survive the early digital era, and few if any will ever return.
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