Running out of Astia, is Provia an alternative?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Slixtiesix, Apr 17, 2013.

  1. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Hi all,

    I have only 5 rolls of Astia 100F (120) left in the fridge, so what should I do? I do not want to buy the insanely priced stocks that are left, nor do I want to buy rolls 5-10 years beyond expiry off ebay. I´m looking for a true alternative. How about Provia 100F? I never tried it, but the Provia 100F pictures I´ve seen on the web all seem to have a bluish cast and many people who use the film seem to confirm that. I used a lot of Provia 400X and like the color rendition a lot. It really looks like a slightly more punchy 400 version of Astia to me (they should have named it Astia 400X), but is expensive and has visibly more grain than Astia. What to do? Is Provia 100F really that bluish and can I tweak it (e.g. by overexposing or using a filter) to look like Astia? How is the grain compared to Astia? Any other alternative? I´m looking for a slide film with low contrast, neutral color rendition, good for skin tones, fine grain.

    Greetings,
    Benjamin
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2013
  2. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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  3. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    Hello Benjamin,

    I am a fan of Astia 100F, too. One of my favorite color films. I still have enough of it in the fridge for the next three years.
    Nevertheless I have used Provia 100F a lot, too. Like Astia 100F and Provia 400X, one the best color films ever made, outstanding material. When this film was introduced 1999, it has set the benchmark for professional color films.

    In addition to all the shots with these films in daily shooting, we've also tested all of them in our test lab. Short summary:
    The main differences between Astia 100F and Provia 100F:

    1. Color:
    Provia 100F is strictly neutral balanced, with a very accurate and natural color reproduction. If you shoot it under norm light with 5600 °K color temperature, and then compare the result of the Kodak color test chart with the original, you see that the film result is an excellent match to the original.
    In comparison Astia 100F is bit more warmer balanced, with a bit more saturation in yellow and red.
    That is the main, most obvious difference.
    Rendition of skin tones is excellent with Astia, and still very good with Provia 100F. We've found skin tones of Provia 400X very similar to Astia 100F, therefore using 400X very often and successfully for Portrait and fashion shots.

    If you use a Skylight 1A filter with Provia 100F, you get very close to the bit warmer balance of Astia.

    In all the years I've never had problems with a general bluish cast with Provia 100F.
    Well, if you shoot it e.g. in midday sun, when color temperature is extremely high, then of course you will see more blue. But that is just because the light is blue. The film renders it in a natural way. Nothing wrong with that.

    But in this digital age, when photographic knowledge is in free fall :wink:, and lot's of people don't know anything about the huge changes in color temperature of natural light during the day, lots of photographers accuse the film for a certain color shift.
    But in 99% of the cases it is not the film, but the color temperature of the natural light......

    Another factor concerning color rendition which is mostly overlooked:
    The color transmission of the lens!
    Lenses do significantly vary in their color transmission:
    Some have a very exact and neutral transmission, some have a slight warm or cool (blue) cast, some have a slight magenta cast. And some have some very heavy color casts.
    We've tested various lenses from different manufacturers under norm conditions (5600°K color temperature, Kodak color test chart), and the differences between the lenses (even from the same manufacturer) are clearly visible.

    Interesting result:
    The differences between color rendition of different lenses can be bigger than the difference between Provia 100F and Astia 100F!
    E.G. my older Sigma 28-70 zoom has very heavy yellow (and a bit less green) color cast, making Provia 100F looking like a different film, very warm balanced. In comparison Astia 100F shot with my Nikon 1,8/85 looks like cool balanced film.

    2. Contrast:
    Astia 100F has a bit less contrast compared to Provia 100F: But the difference is subtle, about half a stop. In the dynamic range test we've got 8 stops with Provia 100F, Provia 400X, Elitechrome 100, E100G, and 8,5 stops with Astia 100F and Sensia 100 (in this test we've tested the range, where still a bit detail is seen in both the shadows and the highlights).
    Provia 100F has a bit higher MTF in the spatial frequency range of 5-20: If you project Provia 100F and Astia 100F in direct comparison, you will see that Provia 100F looks a little bit sharper.

    3. Grain, resolution:
    Due to the data sheet Astia 100F should be even a bit finer grained than the already extremely fine grained Provia 100F. But in practical photography there is no visible difference: At 40x enlargement (projection on a screen with 1m x 1,5m) no difference can be seen.
    At 100x enlargement (under microscope and on very big projection screens) a tiny advantage for Astia is visible.

    Resolution at higher spatial frequencies is identical:
    In our standardized resolution test (object contrast of 1:4 = two stops; test lens Zeiss ZF 2/50, f5,6) we've got the following results:
    Astia 100F: 120 - 135 Lp/mm
    Sensia 100: 120 - 135 Lp/mm
    Provia 100F: 120 - 135 Lp/mm
    AgfaPhoto CT Precisa 100 (current Fuji made version): 120 - 135 Lp/mm
    Elitechrome 100: 120 - 135 Lp/mm
    E100G: 120 - 135 Lp/mm
    Kodak E100VS: 115 - 125 Lp/mm
    Velvia 50: 110 - 125 Lp/mm
    Velvia 100: 125 - 140 Lp/mm
    Velvia 100F: 125 - 140 Lp/mm
    Provia 400X: 105 - 115 Lp/mm
    Elitechrome 200: 100 - 115 Lp/mm
    Kodachrome 64: 90 - 105 Lp/mm
    Rollei CR 200 (Agfa-Gevaert Aviphot Chrome 200): 65 - 80 Lp/mm
    [for comparison:
    Kodak Ektar 100: 90 - 105 Lp/mm
    Fuji Superia Reala 100: 105 - 115 Lp/mm]

    Here you find further test results from other test teams (with different object contrasts; including results from Zeiss):
    http://www.aphog.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=401&Itemid=1

    These results are system resolution values of the tested films with the used lens in 35mm.
    We've also tested it in medium format:
    Lens: Mamiya Sekor C 2,8/80N, f5,6 (object contrast 1:4) with Mamiya 645 Pro TL:
    Both Provia 100F and Astia 100F: 115 - 125 Lp/mm

    If I remember right you're living in Northern Germany?
    Maybe we can meet and I can show you all the examples in real life.

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  4. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Subscriber

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    My slide film of choice lately has been Fuji's Velvia 100F but don't buy it, it's discontinued, and I can't afford to buy any of the remaining stock right now :smile:
     
  5. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    I've used a lot of Astia and Provia and I've never seen a blue cast in Provia. Seriously - would Fuji make a pro film with a colour cast? I agree with Henning - these reports are most likely coming from people who don't know about colour temperature.
     
  6. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Astia 100F was probably the best balanced chrome film ever made. I even used it for making 8x10 dupes under an enlarger and it was better than any official dupe film ever made. Provia 100F is more
    contrasty and in the case of sheets, on a distinctly inferior base material (acetate). The closest thing
    to the contrast characterisitics of Astia is Kodak E100G, itself now-discontinued, though it was about
    midway between Astia and Provia. There's nothing artificially "warm" about Astia. It's about as neutral
    as they get. Maybe some people are working with outdated roll film or some other issues. I've tested
    it under the most stringent lab conditions, along with all the other Fuji pro slide film. Like all Fuji chrome films, the greens were a little more yellow and a little less cyan than Kodak's latest films.
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Well, I think there's a difference between "technically accurate" and "perceptually accurate". The truth is, shadows *are* blue and a really accurate film reflects that fact; on the other hand, that same accuracy can create pictures that a lot of people will look at and say "The shadows look too blue". (As far as I'm aware, every comment I've ever heard about a blue "cast" in Provia 100F has really been about blue shadows---everyone seems to agree that it's accurate in the sun.)

    For my purposes, I've found that an 81B makes the shadows look more "natural" (contra "accurate") while making little or no noticeable change to mids and highlights.

    -NT
     
  8. ambaker

    ambaker Subscriber

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    Personally I like film because it is an accurate record of what was. Nothing like waiting hours for the golden hour, and getting the sun and shadows just so, and then having the auto white balance turn the whole thing bland.

    I shoot mostly B&W these days, but I do like Provia for color work.

    I've come to the point where I have decided to shoot what is still in production. If we don't buy what there is, how long can the manufacturers hold out while we use up the old stock?
     
  9. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Proper filtration for color balance applies to all color films. The only difference with chromes versus negs
    is that you can slap your results on a lightbox and instantly recognize whether you like the result or not - realistic or not. In this day of, "I can fix anything in Fauxtoshop afterwards" it's positively amazing
    how much elementary photographic technique has been instantly forgotten. There must be a "delete from brain" function somewhere in that program. But no film is truly accurate under all circumstances.
    Ya gotta learn the limitations.
     
  10. ME Super

    ME Super Member

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  11. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Well, of course it does, but different films have different response curves and impose different practical requirements to get an end result that you like. I read the OP as asking in essence "does Provia really respond that differently from Astia, and is it hard to compensate for the differences?", which seems like a perfectly valid question.

    Where did that come from? I don't get the connection to this thread at all.

    I'm not sure "elementary photographic technique" as it relates to color temperature was ever all that widely understood. A fair number of people knew to use tungsten-balanced film or the corresponding filter indoors, but did even that much ever filter down into vernacular photography? I think since the 35mm boom of the 1970s, most people just used sunlight outdoors and flash indoors and never thought about color balance beyond "use the flash or it will look yellow".

    -NT
     
  12. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Provia 100F has a bluish cast?
    That's entirely news to me after 20 years use! I use it side by side with Velvia 50 as conditions necessitate, even though the two palettes are poles apart.
    If you are working in shade on a bright, sunny day, Provia, like all E6 films, will throw up a cast. I don't believe in using filters to correct it; what I do believe is avoiding those conditions that cause the casts.

    If you're after the punch of Velvia with the additional speed, Velvia 100F might be worth trying; can still be bought as back-stock, at least here in Australia. However, I caution that it has a very oddball palette (a subject I have written about at length here and elsewhere) with peculiarly flat and pasty greens, unearthly yellows and browns but weighing up against it all very clear whites — and does not respond well under polarisation as Velvia 50.

    Provia is a soft palette and easygoing contrast. I would give it a try in conditions it is designed for (much more diverse than Velvia 50 or Astia) and come to your own conclusions.
     
  13. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    There was a time when certain outdoors photographers were furious when Ektachrome 64 was
    discontinued and none of the newer films had that same wonderful blue cast! But in this case, I suspect
    it's due to trying to scan into the shadows and retrieve something that's not really there. Astia could be
    pulled about half a stop, as could Provia II (with some inevitable blocking up of the highlights). The
    current Provia III doesn't pull successfully. But given the fact that Astia was a relatively slow seller, I
    have little doubt that some of it was anything but fresh when used.
     
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  15. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    So to speak...
     
  16. spatz

    spatz Member

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    IIRC Henning once mentioned in a post a few months back that there would be the possibility for fuji to start making astia again given increasing sales of provia. For me provia is a lucrative alternative to astia in so much as it brings hope to the return of astia.

    But it all comes down to whether you gel with provia or not. I find my photography is more fluid when I know the tools i use (film/camera) will interpret the scene and subject in a way that i agree with the most. So in short, just give it a try!
     
  17. j.c.denton

    j.c.denton Member

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    Thanks Henning for mentioning the medium format results. These were new to me.

    I've been stocking up E100G as I was too late to the game to stock Astia up. E100G was the most suitable replacement from my personal impressions. If they would start to make Astia again, I'd probably resort to it as my main film immediately.

    Christian
     
  18. Lionel1972

    Lionel1972 Member

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    Big thanks to Henning for sharing the results of his extensive tests on slide film and for his support of color transparency films. Now that we know the current Precisa CT 200 is actually Provia 100F, I'm going to buy lots of it regularly. It's more than half the price of regular Provia 100F in 135 here. I'll have to try out Provia 100F for 4x5 portraits and compare it with what I get with Astia 100F. Most likely I'll end up using mostly Velvia for landscape, Provia 100F and Provia 400X for everyting else in the future. I love Provia 400X in 120. I wish Fuji would make RXP in 4x5 also, it would be great for handheld 4x5.
     
  19. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Nicely done Henning!
     
  20. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Dear Henning,
    Thank you very much for your elaborate explanation! So I will order some Provia 100F to try it out...
     
  21. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    Hello friends,

    first of all, special thanks to Micheal, spatz, Christian, Lionel, Dave and Sebastian for your compliments.
    You are welcome!
    I am glad if my test results and experiences are helpful for you.

    @ ME Super:
    You say Provia 100F is almost grainless.
    Yes indeed.

    I permanently make 40x enlargements from 35mm film. That is about 1 meter x 1,5 meter:
    Every time when I project my slides, colour and BW on my big screen :smile:.
    From normal viewing distance I can't see any grain with Provia 100F.
    I have to go to the screen and have to 'put my nose' directly onto the screen to see grain, but even then it is extremely fine.
    The same is valid for Astia 100F, Sensia 100, Velvia 100, Velvia 100F, Elitechrome 100, Ektachrome 100G(X) (the differences in grain between these films are insignificant, Astia 100F having a tiny advantage).

    I well remember the Kodak booth at Photokina 2008, when Kodak introduced Ektar 100 (in 35mm only at that time) and displayed huge prints of 80 cm x 120 cm there.
    They looked very good, and very fine grained for an ISO 100/21° CN film.
    But they could not match the performance of 40x enlarged (1m x 1,5m) ISO 100/21° slide films like Provia 100F, Astia, Ektachrome E100G etc.. Not concerning fineness of grain, and especially not concerning sharpness and resolution. ISO 100/21° slide films are the benchmark for very big enlargements
    (the intensive further testing of Ektar we've done after Photokina 2008 and in the last years has confirmed that).

    By the way, Provia 400X gives excellent results at 40x enlargements in projection, too (35mm).
    Grain is invisible in structured details at normal viewing distances!
    Only in even zones (like sky) grain is visible, but it is very fine and not disturbing at all.
    Outstanding results for an ISO 400/27° color film (make a 1m x 1,5m enlargement from 35mm Portra 400, Pro 400H, Ultramax or Superia 400 X-Tra in comparison, and you immediately see what I mean).
    In the beginning to mid-nineties we were happy to have an ISO 200/21° film with such a performance, and now we have it with 4x the speed!

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  22. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    Well yes, at last years Photokina the responsible Fujifilm manager explained that at Fujifilm there is at least no general "if one film is discontinued, it can never come back" policy.
    It would be possible for them to bring back Astia if they see enough demand.
    That means
    - sales of Provia 100F and 400X have to increase significantly
    - customers have to tell Fuji that they want Astia 100F back.

    In the end, it is in our (film shooters) hands.
    I am doing my part: From 2006 to 2012 I have increased my film consumption by the factor of 3,5.
    This year will probably my all time high, a new record year. And I am shooting more reversal film than ever.
    The picture quality of a projected slide (both colour and BW) with an excellent projection lens is absolutely unsurpassed (I say that as someone who also really loves making prints in his darkroom).
    It is "sex for the eyes" :smile:.

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  23. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    You're welcome, Christian.
    We are currently in a new test run including more medium format lenses, and film tests in medium format.
    It is planned to publish the results as far as the analysis is finished.
    I am also in permanent contact with my good friend Tim Parkin of 'onlandscape', and maybe it is possible to put together our results for a common project. As he is using different medium format gear than we that makes sense, giving a wider amount of useful information.

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  24. Henning Serger

    Henning Serger Member

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    Benjamin, you are welcome!

    In addition to using Provia 100F, I also recommend using Provia 400X as an Astia 100F replacement.
    It makes sense in several applications. For example skin tone rendition of 400X is excellent and very similar to Astia 100F.
    I am using 400X regularly for portrait and fashion, and the results are always excellent.
    400X has also this little bit more saturation in red compared to Provia 100F, which also Astia 100F has.
    That is clearly seen in comparison shots under norm light using the (Kodak) color test chart.

    Provia 400X is an excellent all around film. To my long experience (I am using it since its introduction 2007) one of the best general purpose color films ever made.
    I've shot landscapes, Portrait, fashion, wildlife (animals), architecture and air-shows with it.
    And the results have always been excellent!

    As you are (mainly) using medium format, grain is no issue at all. 400X is extremely fine grained for its speed, and as said in one of my earlier postings, projecting it on 1m x 1,5m is no problem at all with 35mm film, and with medium format, well, project it as big as you want....2m, 3m, 4m width, it doesn't matter.
    In medium format 400X is my most used color film (saying that as "a real film shooter" = someone who regularly uses all types of film: colour and BW reversal, colour and BW negative, instant film) .

    Best regards,
    Henning
     
  25. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I'm assuming you're referring only to modest levels of enlargement, Henning. "Fine-grained for its speed" is not the same thing as fine
    in the sense Astia 100F was. And you obviously have a radically different definition of what constitutes a crisp print than I do.
     
  26. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    It sounds to me like he's talking about projection rather than printing. I don't think there is a reasonable all-analog route from transparency film to a print for most of us.

    Astia and Provia 100F are of course very similar (and very low) in grain---online sources say Astia measured at RMS 7, Provia at 8. Obviously the faster Provia 400X is grainier than that, but for a 400 speed film it's quite fine (RMS 11, same as E100VS and a shade finer than RSX II 200), and anyway it's the only E6 film still standing in that speed. So I suppose you can curse the darkness if you like, but then what?

    -NT