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Our Favorite Color Slide Films

The Editors, October, 2002

The best of the 35mm batch

None of the big three slide-film makers (Agfa, Fujifilm and Kodak, to list them in alphabetical order) has introduced a new slide film since the last time we surveyed our editors and contributors as to their favorite slide films almost two years ago. And one of our 10 favorites has been discontinued since then. We're not sure what this indicates, but we still love slide films, especially these 10.

As always with our top-film lists, we present the members from slowest to fastest, in alphabetical order by manufacturer.

Fujichrome Velvia Professional
For years after its introduction back in the 1980s, Velvia (RVP) was the sharpest (with high/low-contrast resolving power of 160/80 lpm) and finest-grained (RMS 9) color-slide film. It still offers the highest resolving power, although a newer member of our list, Fujichrome Provia 100F (to be discussed soon), actually has finer grain, and it's still a terrific choice when sharpness and fine detail are required. But its forte is color: Velvia's colors (and blacks) are super-rich, and its rendition of natural colors is very accurate, making it a favorite of nature and wildlife photographers. The film is a bit slow for some purposes (many photographers rate it at EI 32 or 40 instead of its specified ISO 50; it can be pushed to EI 100 when necessary), but it's a great choice whenever high film speed and a subdued rendition aren't requirements. About the only things we wouldn't use Velvia for are portraits (it's a bit too gaudy) and low-light work (it's too slow). Fujifilm, 800/800-FUJI; www.fujifilm.com. Photo by Mike Stensvold

Agfachrome RSXII 100 Professional
RSX II 100 produces lovely colors—even difficult-to-capture natural blues and greens reproduce beautifully. Skin tones are accurate. Neutral tones stay neutral even at long exposures—this, plus the film's ability to capture a wide scenic brightness range, makes it great for photographing white subjects. And these features are maintained even when the film is push-processed to EI 200. Tip for the budget-minded: RSX II 100 has a lower-priced consumer-oriented sibling, CTprecisa 100, which produces similar image qualities. Agfa Corp., 201/440-2500; www/agfa.com. Photo by Mike Stensvold

Fujichrome Astia 100 Professional
On our last top-color-slide-film list, this slot was occupied by Fujichrome MS 100/1000, a wonderful film that produced excellent results at speeds from ISO 100 to EI 1000. It's since been discontinued, probably due to the introduction of Fujichrome Provia 400F (to be discussed soon), which produces even finer grain and richer colors at speeds of 400 and beyond. Anyway, our new list member, Fujichrome Astia 100 (RAP), is a great ISO 100 emulsion featuring smooth, natural skin tones and a natural rendering of delicate hues without compromising bright, saturated colors. Designed for portrait and commercial applications, Astia 100 can be pushed to EI 200 with excellent results, and even further with good image quality. For the budget-minded, Fujichrome Sensia 100 produces similar results at a lower price. Photo by Lynn Eodice

Fujichrome Provia 100F Professional
It's the finest-grained color-slide film on the market—even finer grained than long-time fine-grain champ Velvia—yet, at ISO 100, provides enough speed for the vast majority of shooting situations. Provia 100F's RMS granularity of 8 is two steps finer-grained than Fuji's excellent Astia 100 (RMS 10), and one step finer-grained than ISO 50 Velvia (RMS 9). But incredibly fine grain isn't all this great film has going for it. Colors are bright and saturated, contrast is crisp, and sharpness is outstanding. Provia 100F works well with both daylight and electronic flash, and can be pushed to EI 200 with excellent results. A terrific general-purpose film, Provia 100F is ideal for those who want to project their slides huge, or who want their work published poster-size and larger. If we were forced to use only one slide film, we could be happy with this one. Photo by Mike Stensvold

Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100S
Kodak's Ektachrome E100 family originally had three members—straight E100 (since discontinued), with normal saturation; E100S, with increased saturation; and E100SW, with increased saturation and a warm balance. All are finer grained (RMS 10) than the most recent member of the E100 family, E100VS (see next item), but not as vividly saturated. Our favorite of the original trio is E100S, which provides great image quality and natural-appearing colors, and pushes well to EI 200—in fact, we often use it pushed when we need an EI 200 film speed. Eastman Kodak Co., 800/242-2424; www.kodak.com. Photo by Lynn Eodice

Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100VS
The VS stands for Vivid Saturation, and this newest member of the E100 family has plenty of it. If you like rich yet accurate colors, along with a neutral gray scale and excellent image quality in terms of sharpness and grain, E100VS is well worth a try. You can push it a stop for really punchy colors and contrast, and its reciprocity characteristics are amazing—no compensation is required for exposure times from 10 seconds to 1/10,000. E100VS is a little grainier than E100S, but still very fine-grained at RMS 11. Note to the budget-minded: Ektachrome Elite Chrome Extra Color 100 provides similar characteristics in a lower-priced consumer film. Photo by Mike Stensvold

Agfachrome CTprecisa 200
Also available in a pro version (Agfachrome RSX II 200), and offering very fine grain (RMS 12) for its ISO 200 speed, Agfachrome CTprecisa 200 also provides slightly lower-than-normal contrast, making it ideal for portrait and landscape shooting when you need extra film speed, along with beautiful, realistic color reproduction—vivid colors are vivid and pale ones remain delicate, while neutral tones remain that way. If you need more speed, you can push the film to EI 400 or even 800 with little effect on color balance. Photo by Mike Stensvold

Kodak Professional Ektachrome E200
Combining the look of a slower emulsion with the ability to be pushed to speeds as high as EI 1000, Professional Ektachrome E200 is a terrific film. No ISO 200 slide film has finer grain, and E200 maintains rich, accurate colors, natural skin tones and excellent image quality even when pushed. This is the film that changed our long-time practice of pushing ISO 100 films to EI 200 when we needed that speed—E200 produces better image quality at ISO 200 than many ISO 100 slide films pushed to EI 200. E200 is a first-rate general-purpose film as well as a terrific low-light film. If ISO 100 isn't fast enough, this is a great choice for any shooting situation. Photo by Ron Leach

Kodak Kodachrome 200
This film comes with some intrigue. For one thing, its status has been a bit murky. As of the moment, Kodachrome 200 Professional (PKL) has been discontinued, but the consumer version (KL) is still being made. For another, the film's RMS granularity rating mysteriously went from 16 to 19 a few years ago, then back to 16. In any event, this is a grainy film. But K200 has a lot going for it. It is very sharp. It has a beautiful palette. It reproduces nature's nuances (such as a clearing storm in late-afternoon sunlight) very nicely. And at ISO 200, it's fast enough for most shooting situations, including action and low-light work. We love it for aerial photography and general shooting, and like the "photographic" look the grain pattern adds to our images. Skin tones are lovely, making this a fine windowlight portrait film. Kodachrome labs can push K200 to EI 500 and even higher with good results—another plus. The minus? Few labs can process Kodachrome. Photo by Mike Stensvold

Fujichrome Provia 400F Professional
By far the finest-grained ISO 400 color-slide film at RMS 13, Provia 400F also produces excellent colors and could be used as one's only slide film if one were to limit oneself to one slide film (of course, one probably wouldn't, since 400-speed films cost somewhat more than their slower counterparts). Provia 400F pushes to EI 800 very well, and you can go to EI 1600 and even 3200 if necessary without being embarrassed about the image quality. This film probably was responsible for the demise of the excellent Fujichrome MS 100/1000, since Provia 400F produces richer colors and finer grain at the 400, 800 and 1000 speed ratings. A tip: If you're budget-minded, Fujichrome Sensia 400, the consumer version of this emulsion, produces pretty much the same results at a lower price. Photo by Ron Leach

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