Thom's Favorite Slide Film (and why)

Here in the digital world, some film choices are starting to die off. Fortunately, my favorite still remains available: Fujifilm Provia 100F.

Why Provia and not Velvia? That's a tricky question, and trickier now that Fujifilm has messed with the Velvia formula a couple of times. Originally, though, it was two things that bothered me about Velvia: (1) the quick drop to black in the shadows, basically providing a slightly clipped dynamic range; and (2) the exaggerated colors. 

Now some like that pure black and color twist that Velvia gives. It certainly makes for very contrasty originals. If you're scanning or printing your work, though, that extra oomph starts to become a problem. That's why at Backpacker we settled on Provia 100F: it had less contrast build-up, no goosed colors we might need to tame, and it had very close to the grain structure of Velvia. Plus, there was ISO 100 instead of ISO 64. 

The Kodachromes were long known for their color shifts, but they died off due to very environmentally unfriendly processing, so you don't have to worry about them any more. 

Looking at the currently available slide films B&H still carries, I'd stick to this short list for most work (and in this order):

  • Provia 100F
  • Velvia 100
  • Ektachrome E100G (hard to find in 35mm any more; 120 still available)
  • Provia 400X

In color negative films, I like:

  • Ektar 100
  • Portra 400

In B&W, Tri-X Pan is still a good choice, and I've always liked most of the Ilford choices.

If you're a film fan and develop a favorite, I suggest you buy as much as you can afford and then store it in your refrigerator. Good film lasts for years when temperature controlled, and it seems like every year we're seeing the passing of some of our favorite film stocks. While I suspect that film will have a bit of a resurrection, much like record LPs did, the days of a wide array of choices is certainly gone.


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