Advertisements

Review: Fujifilm Natura 1600

Hello, everybody! How are you tonight? I am going to write something about a film stock I use occasionally here in Japan. This is my first film review here on my blog. I am not an expert in the field but I believe that I know enough about film to give you guys a general idea on how a film looks and behaves. Read along and enjoy!

Introduction:

Tonight, we are going to talk about that elusive film outside of Japan from Fujifilm and it goes by the name Natura 1600! It is a wonderful film for lowlight photography and is the only one I am aware of that isn’t exotic as far as C41 colour films are concerned. It does have it’s quirks and I will tell you what I have experienced with this film so far and after shooting a handful of rolls of this film, I think I now know how this film behaves under the conditions that it was meant to be shot. Again, take my words with a grain of salt!

IMG_4649Fujifilm Natura 1600 is unique and it occupies a niché market where it does not have any real competition. It’s a very good film for it’s price (at least here in Japan). Try it yourself!

(click to enlarge)

All of the images were shot with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S lens on a Nikon F4E camera. I chose to shoot with Natura 1600 because I bought the camera from the junk shop at night and I wanted to test it as soon as possible so I will expose any problems this camera has. I am thankful that the camera works as intended and is in better shape than the F4S that I had years ago! That’s what you call a junk-pot! The pictures were digitised with a DSLR, I then sent it to Lightroom and colour-corrected them a bit. I’ll show you how I do this on a later blog post because I have a few people asking me how I do this.

Fujifilm Natura 1600 is a film that was developed to work with the Natura 35mm camera. The film stock outlasted the camera and it is still around today for us to enjoy! I was told that this film can be hard to buy overseas and is sold at almost 2x the price (JPY750 here). This makes this almost as expensive as Cinestill 800 outside Japan but unlike the said film the Fujifilm Natura 1600 film doesn’t have any exotic features added to it except that it’s a good performing film as far as 1600 speed colour film goes.

HAW_5841A sample of an overexposed scene. See how Natura 1600 loves to be overexposed in night scenes. Sorry, no artistic value, just testing out my new camera.

As with most, if not all C41 process films, Fujifilm Natura 1600 loves to be overexposed a bit. I set my camera’s meter to overexpose by 1/3 of a stop but but I am sure that Natura 1600 will want to be overexposed by around 1/2 stop when you have plenty of lights in your scene. If you are shooting a city with lamps and signs, you will even want to give it a +1EV boost since camera meters are almost always tricked by this scenario.

HAW_5840This image should give you a good idea of how this film behaves because you can see 3 things going on here. You see the bright part to the right, the mid tones to the left in the area of the girl with the floral dress and shadows to the upper-part of the frame.

Underexposing Natura 1600 is not a good idea as it will give you some muddy highlights. Grain looks pretty good for a 1600 speed film and is the best in it’s class according to the photographers who rave about this film on the internet. Don’t expect it to look like a 400 speed film when it comes to grain, you will be disappointed. While I find it to be a more forgiving film to work with compared to E6 slide films like Provia, you still will want to be careful with your scene when it comes to shadow/highlight contrast or else you will end up with a muddy and grainy image that looks like it came out of a bad film stock.

HAW_5823.jpgThis is what I was talking about when I told you to be careful with your shadows and the highlights. To be fair, the film doesn’t look that bad. This was underexposed.

My images above are mostly shot with testing the Nikon F4E’s meter and seals in mind so they aren’t the best examples as far as aesthetics are concerned but they should give you a good idea as to how this film performs, grain and all. I know that the images aren’t big but at least you can inspect the shadow areas and see what I mean. Most of the frames in the roll were shot for testing purposes and a few were of my friends so I omitted them.

HAW_5821-2.jpgGreat for in-doors. This is from my favourite bar for photographers at Tokinon.

I will also advise you that you use a fast lens with this as you will probably not have a lot of light when shooting at night. A lens with VR/IS is probably even better when you have a modern film SLR. My images were shot around f/2.8-f/4. I have bad eyesight so please ignore the missed focus.

HAW_5850This looks insanely gorgeous for a 1600 speed film. Again, overexposing Natura 1600 by a bit is the way to go! The skin also looks natural and not magenta like most films tend to. Asian skin won’t look like peanut butter and white folks’ skin won’t look like that of a boiled prawn. The grain looks so organic. I bet this looks great in a 5R print.

I do not have any information on how to develop this film at home since I cannot process C41 at home because I have a young daughter at home. So far, C41 has a standard so you do not have to worry about having these developed in your favourite shop.

Conclusion:

I am liking this film a lot but I would just save my money instead and shoot with a DSLR for night scenes. Film is a lot of fun but it does have it’s limitations and lowlight or night photography is just one of them. Even when using a good lowlight C41 film can be hard if you do not have enough light reaching the film. Natura bridges that gap between digital and film for lowlight photography (without pushing) and will be a great choice for all the film purists out there.

Sure, there are many equivalent films out there and one of them is Cinestill 800. I do not have any experience with that product because they are so damn expensive here where I live (Japan) and I rarely ever shoot night photography with film so there is not sense for me to buy and learn how to use it. I am a family man and I do have budget constraints on what I can or cannot buy for my own pleasure.

Will I recommend this film? Absolutely, so long as you read my caveats and be prepared to think differently when shooting this film if you are coming from digital. I imagine that this film will make gorgeous pictures of Mongkok (Hong Kong) at night or just about any night markets here in Asia. You may want to carry an extra camera with a fast lens on it just for shooting it at night with this film if you are traveling here to Asia.

IMG_4648This picture should give you an idea as to how much Fuji’s films are here in Japan. Cheap isn’t it? The bad news is that imported films are sold at almost 2x their price elsewhere!

I told myself that I am not going to write film or gear reviews outside of my usual style of commentaries and short introduction for the equipment that I fix and show you here on the blog but I thought that the internet would be a better place if people will share their knowledge, thoughts, opinions and experience to the rest of the world.

I want to avoid reviews and those “how-to’s” article that many people seem to write on their photography blogs these days because it tends to be too preachy and annoying. I’m fine with my current casual way of writing. My style is very friendly, you can even think of it like you are talking to a friend in a bar. No pretensions, no filters and no bullshit. I’m not pressured into writing anything for anybody so you guys can enjoy reading my stuff and I can very much say what I want. You guys are also helping me out as well because I am using this blogging thing as some sort of a therapy for myself after a long day at the studio. Thank you very much and I hope you liked this and if you want to see more like this then please tell me. Love, Ric.

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my paypal.com account (richardHaw888@gmail.com). Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

Advertisements

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor 85mm f/2 Ai-S | Richard Haw's Classic Nikkor Maintenance Site
  2. Trackback: Review: Fujifilm Natura 1600 (continued) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikkor Maintenance Site
  3. Trackback: Articles Index | Richard Haw's Classic Nikkor Maintenance Site

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: