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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    35mm RF

    understanding velvia; metering, contrast and color


    I want to embark into the world of color velvia and I have some questions;

    What exactly is the range in stops of Velvia? Four, five, six? I searched all over and found lots of different answers. Specifically I want to know how many stops do I have in highlights and shadows from zone five?

    How do I control contrast? I've read several varying opinions. Some say I cannot control it at all. Some say I can get an e6 kit and use zone system techniques just like b&w. Some say just to meter two stops above zone v and let shadows fall where they may but not knowing exactly where the upper limit is with the film I don't know?

    Assuming I sent it to a lab for the first rolls do I have to use color balance filters or will the lab correct it for me? Until I find a color head for my enlarger I'm restricted to a CD of images but I'm actively looking for one now. If I don't color correct will the results be dissatisfying? Even correcting the CD of images?

    If I had more disposable income I'd just buy a bunch of Velvia, e6 chemistry, color head and paper and figure it out but I can't afford to do that so I really appreciate your help. Thank you.
    I'm looking for;

    Leitz V35 color module
    E55 and E39 Red (090) and dark green
    Contact printing frame,
    One 11x14 tray with the pour spout corners,
    A grain focuser,
    Archival print washer 12x16 or 11x14
    Leica 12526 Rectangular hood, and hood cap for same
    Leica 12592 Hood cap
    User condition Leica 90 summicron or elmarit

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Large Format
    With any color transparency film, what you see is what you get after the film is processed. If you meter carefully and shoot in brilliant sunlight with lots of difference between the sun and shadows, the scene will be faithfully recorded with the high contrast just as it was. The highlights are easily “blown out” by overexposure if you don’t meter carefully and take steps to prevent it.

    If, on the other hand, the scene was hazy, or overcast, or foggy, the scene will be low in contrast compared to more standard lighting. Too, dull lighting conditions like overcast or fog will also cool the color considerably because such lighting contains much less warm, reddish light.

    I believe that thinking in Zone System terms isn’t really appropriate when using transparency films. You won’t be able to adjust development to compensate for particular lighting and exposure as we might with with B&W negative films. The old adage, “with transparency film, expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may” is pretty much the way it is.

    If you set the exposure for a darker part of the scene, the highlights will be overexposed and look like someone applied bleach to them. They’ll be too light and lack both detail and color. It’s a jarring effect that slide shooters learn to avoid.

    A transparency looks best if the brightest parts of the scene are more or less correctly exposed. The darker areas look darker than you remember. In this way, the overall scene looks natural, even if somewhat darker overall than you recall.

    The color you record is just how the slide will look—provided your scene is lit with the type of light the film was intended for. Most transparency films are daylight balanced. That means that colors are recorded accurately in 5500K daylight or electronic flash. Both sources provide about the same color of light.

    There is nothing that the lab (or you, if you do your own E6 processing) can do in the developing step to correct the color. For this reason, we use filters to match unusual light to expose the film to get natural looking color.

    For example, the blue 80A, 80B, or 80C will help balance overly red sources like tungsten lights. Light blue cooling filters like the 82A, 82B, 82C can compensate for the overly red light when the sun is near the horizon and overly red. This can be particularly useful for portraits where red, orange, or yellow tinged faces are not wanted.

    Likewise, the 81A, 81B, and 81C warming filters can greatly improve the color of transparency films when shot in cool light such as under overcast sky or in shade.
    The first 5 categories of filters listed here along with polarizers, UV, and skylight filters are the most useful filters for using with transparency films. There are brief descriptions of the use of each that help explain how they improve color and the situations that are most appropriate for their use.


    Transparency film exposures need to be carefully metered because, unlike negative films, there is no latitude. We can exploit this to lighten or darken a scene within reason by fine-tuning the exposure. Some folks used to underexpose a scene considerably to simulate nighttime or to create a darker, gloomy scene for creative effects. That’s easily done with transparency films.

    You’ll get the best results with an incident meter or a reflected-light meter referenced to a gray card. You need to expose and keep a record to learn how a particular film responds. It has long been a standard practice for transparency shooters to test a film at the box speed and then alter it as needed to fine-tune the results.

    For example, many transparency shooters find that the box speed gives them transparencies that are too light with unsatisfactory color saturation (not enough color intensity). By increasing the EI for the particular film, slightly darker, more saturated and satisfying transparencies result. It used to be common for users of Kodachrome 64 to expose the film at ASA 80, a 1/3rd-stop reduction from box speed, to give them the slightly darker, more saturated color they preferred. Of course, they still needed to mind the highlights so as not to overexpose them.

    Fuji Velvia is a good E6 transparency film. It’s subject to the same exposure constraints and color requirements that other transparency films are subject to.

    Each film has its own color palette. Velvia has attracted many with its particular color rendition. Just as Kodachrome had a unique look that wasn’t matched by other films, Fuji Velvia has its own unique “look” that many folks appreciate.

    The last I saw, reversal printing materials for making color prints directly from transparencies and the special chemicals they require have all gone the way of the dodo, passenger pigeon and thylacine, at least in the US. I haven’t seen Ilfochrome for sale here since 2009. Even then, it had become too dear for most users. So it’s not likely that you’ll find a practical way to print it with a dichoric color enlarger.

    If you want to make color darkroom prints, using C41 color negative films and printing them on RA4 paper is a much better choice.

    I don’t know the answer to “What exactly is the range in stops of Velvia?” More importantly, it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do to alter it. You can discover the answer for yourself by actually shooting this film of a scene that you’ve metered and recorded the various light intensities. In this way you’ll have the answer.

  3. #3
    markbarendt's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Beaverton, OR, USA
    Multi Format
    Blog Entries
    The reason there are different answers is because people do things differently and scenes vary too. The best way to figure out how much room you have is to experiment.

    The contrast of all film's can be adjusted in development. With color work this can significantly change the color balance/rendering. That said part of the magic of Velvia is the strong contrast.

    One alternative for contrast control is viewing Velvia, Provia, and Astia simply as contrast control choices.

    The other thing you might experiment with is color filters and polarization. Warming and cooling filters can make any of these films more or less vibrant.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Multi Format
    I have a whole bunch of old velvia that I find fun to shoot in toy cameras. It's very freeing and the colors from slides in something like a Holga are just so neat. Yea I have my blown highlights and my detail-less shadows but it doesn't matter to me. This image below was shot on a Holga with an 8stop ND filter and a circular polarizor fabricated to the lens.

  5. #5
    Diapositivo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Rome, Italy
    Velvia is a brand name that Fujifilm employs for three different products. I suppose you mean Velvia 50 or RVP50.


    From what I understand (and what I understand is not Gospel at all) look the graph "characteristic curves", page 8.
    The more-or-less straight portion of the curves goes from around 0.3 (right side, highlights, "foot") to around 1.7 (left side, shadows, "shoulder").
    That means 2.0 as measured on a log base 10 exposure scale. That means 10^2.0 = 100.
    In stop terms, that is between 6 and 7 stops. 6 stops would be 64, 7 stops would be 128.

    Outside of the linear portion, you still have texture, but the response of the film is not linear (which helps you in not burning the highlights) and is not chromatically correct (see in the shadows how the red layer clips much before the other two layers).

    The answer to your question would be that Velvia 50 (RVP50) has the correct and nice response that you expect some 3 and something stops on both sides of middle gray, after which the non-linear portion begins. Considering that highlights burn faster and with greater overall damage to your image, you can - as most do as I understand - consider the dynamic range as being 2.6 EV above middle grey, and 3.3 below middle grey, and still be using 6 stops of dynamic range (your film has something more in the quasi-linear portion, but not much, the rest is foot and shoulder).

    In practical life, in a contrasted situation, with this film you meter with a spot light reflected meter the brightest part of the scene which you would consider a failure if it came burned out (lacking texture, looking "washed") and open 2.6 stops more than what the meter measures. That places that brightest part of the image in the part of the characteristic curve where the film answer is still polite
    The shadows will fall as they will fall and if you are outside and have no control over light that's just a thing you stoically accept.

    In practical terms, you would "scan" with your spot light meter the shadows and see where they fall, and how large it is their extent. You pay particular attention to any spot which is darker than 3.3 stops than your previously calculated exposure.

    If the extent of those zones is too large and the final slide is going to come out a bit too sepulchral, you have three choices:

    - bracket a bit toward opening more, accepting some highlight burning and hoping the shoulder will save your picture;
    - wait for some clouds;
    - save film.


    PS People don't use slides because they guarantee better chances of success. They don't. Slides can be problematic and sometimes are a pain where it aches. People use slides because when they work, they work a lot. It's not important how bad are images that you don't show, because you don't show them. It's important how good are images that you show, because you show them. Slides are very good at producing very bad and very good images. Just toss the bad ones (or save film, or use negative).

    PPS If you consider your highlights limit to be 2.7 and your shadows limit to be 3.3 you are already "skewing" your measure toward a slight underexposure. I would meter film at its nominal ISO value. I never "rate" slide film any different than ISO value, but I do consider the dynamic range "asymmetrical".

    PPPS If you use an incident light meter, in low-contrast situation you just expose according to your light meter indication (at nominal ISO). If you have one of those situations with a lot of contrast and the brightest marble receiving the most abundant light, you might close some 1/3 or 1/2 stop to prevent highlight burning.

    (it goes without saying that if the frame matters, and if the situation is tricky, you should do some bracketing).
    Last edited by Diapositivo; 06-17-2011 at 09:47 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    Fabrizio Ruggeri fine art photography site: http://fabrizio-ruggeri.artistwebsites.com
    Stock images at Imagebroker: http://www.imagebroker.com/#/search/ib_fbr

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Multi Format
    Some very good answers here.

  7. #7
    segedi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Calgary, Alberta, Canada
    Multi Format
    What size film are you planning to shoot? And what's your location? I have some RVP 50 and some Agfa slide film I may part with so you can get your toes wet.


  8. #8
    benjiboy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Multi Format
    "You found lots of different answers to your question" and will get a lot more on this forum because to ask someone to test films for you is like asking them to have sex for you, you have to do it yourself you can't rely on other peoples experiences.

  9. #9
    36cm2's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Northeast U.S.
    Medium Format
    Quote Originally Posted by benjiboy
    "You found lots of different answers to your question" and will get a lot more on this forum because to ask someone to test films for you is like asking them to have sex for you, you have to do it yourself you can't rely on other peoples experiences.
    Benjiboy, you must be doing some serious film testing!
    "There is a time and place for all things, the difficulty is to use them only in their proper time and places." -- Robert Henri

  10. #10
    coigach's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Inverness-shire, Scotland
    Multi Format
    When using transparency film, ND Grads are essential in my opinion.

    You can use ND Grads on-camera to 'even up' the stop range to an amount more suited to the limited range of Velvia (4-6 stops). My 0.9 ND Grad (3 stops) is used very often in my landscape shots to ensure definition in the sky.

    These links on metering with ND grads might also be useful:



    Last edited by coigach; 06-17-2011 at 01:11 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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