Recently, I wrote about the confusion some amateurs have selecting the right film.
Most shoot only one or two rolls of film a year, and when it's time to buy more, they look for an old familiar package or name, whatever it was they used before.But in the past few years there has been an avalanche of new films from such giants as Kodak, Agfa, Scotch, Konica and Fuji. Most have introduced not just one but many new films, ranging in ASAs from 25 to 3200. Some are intended for use by amateurs, while others are for advanced amateurs and pros.
This plethora of new films has led to confusion. The old brand has been improved and is no longer on the shelf, or its packaging has been changed and it no longer looks familiar.
There is a new line of improved negative color films from Fuji, some for amateurs, some for advanced shooters.
The new films are: Fujicolor Reala, Super HRII 100, Super HG 200, Super HG 400 and Super HRII 1600. Reala is an ASA 100 film; the others have their ASAs as part of their names.
Fuji claims that these new films, like those recently introduced by other manufacturers, are all finer-grained, and contain brighter colors and more sharpness than their predecessors. The company then goes one step further, claiming that the new films have a longer shelf life because of a formulation that resists heat, humidity and formalin gas, which often contribute to film's deterioration.
Reala, the company's new premier film, is touted as the first film to see color as the human eye sees it. This is done, they say, by adding a cyan-sensitive layer in the film, in addition to the conventional blue, green and red layers. This new layer, which responds to blue-green light, triggers a development inhibitor, primarily in the red-sensitive layer, to mimic the way we see color.
The result, Fuji claims, more closely replicates in the photograph what the eye sees, even when the picture is taken in fluorescent light - which, in a photograph, normally appears green.
All five of the new films incorporate a frame number print system built into their DX codes that will, with a new generation of Fuji minilabs, print frame numbers on each print, so you won't have to look for the number on the film when ordering reprints.
Fuji is also going on the attack to gain a larger market share of amateur film sales by addressing that confusion among amateurs about which film to buy. Look soon for plastic, wallet-size cards at Fuji film dealers. Called "Film Facts From Fuji," the free cards simply advise using 100 film for brightly lit subjects or with electronic flash; 200 film, which they say is "Your best bet for 35mm compact cameras and all around use for still or action shots"; and 400 film for "moving subjects to stop action. Or outdoors with limited light and indoors with flash."
You'll find these reminders in a small countertop dispenser that shows an amusing cartoon of a confused couple labeled: "Confused about which film to buy? Fuji has the answers. Take one."
If you are the typical amateur photographer who shoots only a few rolls a year and has them processed locally for postcard-size prints, I doubt that you will be able to tell the difference among the brands of new films.
However, you will have to choose film with the appropriate ASA. Your best bet is probably ASA 200 film. Very few amateur point-and-shoot cameras can use any film with an ASA lower than 100 or higher than 400. Consult your camera instruction manual before you try a film outside this range.
Remember: the lower the ASA, the more light you need. The 100 film is great outdoors, on sunny days, at the beach or snow scenes, and the prints will be very fine-grained and sharp. ASA 200 film is twice as fast and a compromise. ASA 400 is twice as fast as 200 film and is good for dull days, action shots or shooting indoors with flash.
Each time you increase the ASA number, you also increase the grain in the picture and reduce sharpness. But if you are only going to make postcard-size prints, I doubt that you will notice the difference.
If you plan to make enlargements of your pictures, it wouldn't hurt to compare the various brands for yourself to see which pleases your eye the most.