Within the past year on this blog, I’ve made statements to the effect that (a) I was moving away from 35mm in favour of medium format, and (b) I wouldn’t be buying any more slide film, instead using negative film for colour work.
And yet, Xmas 2016 saw me the proud owner of a new-to-me 35mm SLR from the 1980s and four rolls of Agfa Precisa CT 100 slide film. Indeed, these were presents I selected myself, for the family to give me. How can this contradiction be explained ? Well the easiest way is just to recognise that rational behaviour is not essential when pursuing your hobby; I just felt like having an extra 35mm camera and some slide film.
I will write about new camera in a separate post to follow and concentrate on the Precisa film in this post.
Agfa Precisa film is much cheaper to buy than some other slide films. I paid just under £29 for four 36-exposure rolls, including delivery, from an eBay seller. By contrast, 4 rolls of Fuji Provia 100F would cost around £47 including delivery, from the cheapest supplier I can see on eBay right now.
The strange thing is, that Agfa Precisa is re-packaged Fuji Provia 100F …..
Every 35mm film canister has a numeric code printed next to the bar code. The number on this film is 105574. You can feed that number into the very useful and simple web site at https://dexter.pcode.nl and find out what the film is. The result looks like this:
Now somebody who created the dexter web page must have entered those codes into a database, and it is possible they could be using incorrect information. But it’s not just dexter that thinks Agfa Precisa = Fuji Provia.
The photographic supplier Firstcall states on their web site that “we were intrigued to try the new Agfa Precisa CT100 which is actually not from the old Agfa company at all. In fact it’s not even made by Agfa but actually Fuji Provia F in the box.” I am sure that Firstcall would not make that claim if it wasn’t true, as I don’t suppose they would be allowed to sell Fuji products much longer if they made a false claim.
Having established that we are actually dealing with Fuji Provia 100F, everything that I say below about Agfa Precisa would apply equally to Fuji Provia 100F.
I have used Provia before in medium format, but not in 35mm.
My first outing was a family walk in Rothbury, Northumberland, which produced a few snaps.
The next outing was a dedicated photography outing to Teesdale in County Durham, where I would be walking past several waterfalls, on the grounds that there would be plenty of things to point the camera at.
Problem is, waterfalls are a bit of a challenge for slide film, due to the typically very high contrast between the foaming water and the surrounding rocks – the brightness range of the scene will often be too wide to be captured in the limited dynamic range of slide film. In fact, I also prefer photographing waterfalls in black and white, another reason why colour slide wasn’t a particularly rational choice on that day.
Gibson’s Cave near Bowlees in Teesdale. The stone at the top looks like the underside of a bridge but it is a natural feature.
The last two images above give some idea of the difficulties in capturing such a wide contrast range on slide film. On the third image, the point where the waterfool enters the pool is very bright. Lightroom doesn’t give the flashing warning for burnt highlights but it must be very close. The dark rocks do have some details but they are a little “muddy”.
Low Force, on the River Tees.
I would have liked to have the ability to vary the tone on the rocks in the image above in Lightroom, by using selective exposure adjustments to make them lighter or darker. However, attempts to make them lighter just made them a rather muddy purple.
The scanned slide images (scanned on an Epson v700 as 48-bit Tiffs) had very little “headroom” for making adjustments, compared to colour negative film, before image quality suffered.
The top of High Force
Vintage post office set into the wall of a farm building at Bowlees
The experience of using Agfa Precisa just reminded me of what I already knew; that slide film doesn’t cope well with a broad subject brightness range; and that the exposure has to be spot on. It also became clearer to me that the scope for adjusting the images in post-processing is mich more limited than it is for colour negative film (in particular Kodak Portra).
I’m not seeking to put any readers off trying out Agfa Precisa; it’s a good film if you are aware of the limitations of slide film and can work within those limitations. If you already like Fuji Provia 100F, and you work in 35mm rather than medium or large format, then it makes a lot of sense to pay less for the same film packaged in an Agfa box.
For me there remain two other practical problems in using slide film. First, because of the limited dynamic range, I am reluctant to go out for a “serious” photography trip with just slide film. That means that the camera loaded with slide film needs to be a second camera, not the only camera, reserved for occasions when the conditions are suitable. So I might shoot the remaining rolls in a nice compact Olympus 35RC for that reason.
Secondly, when I use colour negative film I process it myself and the cost of the chemicals works out about £1 a roll. The developing and postage for one colour slide film cost me about £9.50. I have processed colour slide film before, but because of the limited shelf life of the chemicals it isn’t practical to keep both the E6 chemicals for slides and the C41 chemicals for colour negative in use at the same time, as they would expire before they are used up.
Finally, the film world is agog with the news that Kodak plan to reintroduce Ektachrome slide film later this year, which had been “retired” in 2012.