The King is dead, long live the King...
I've been given some of the NEW Velvia 50 to try by Fuji and want to share my findings (so far).
For landscape photographers the prospect of the sun setting on the Golden Age of Velvia has been traumatic to put it mildly. There was a brief glimmer of hope a couple of years ago, a false dawn as it turned out, when Fuji announced a "replacement" in the guise of Velvia 100. I say false dawn because 100 could never be described, even by the most charitable of photographers, as a replacement for 50. The magic of the original Velvia 50 was that it was a saturated film that still rendered realistic colours. It gave the scene a bit of ooomph without the cloying effect of some emulsions from other manufacturers (you know who you are Kodak!). 100 has none of the delightful subtlety of 50, in fact it has been described by some as Redvia for its strong tendency toward overcooking the warm end of the spectrum. Kyriakos Kalorkoti has written a very insightful review of the differences between the two emulsions on his website – follow the links to the articles section and read his review.
So it was with considerable trepidation that I approached my chance to try the new 50. I didn't want to be let down again!
I only had a chance to make two comparison images on my first outing with the new 50 and I've chosen to show this one as it was made in overcast conditions, my favourite light for the original 50.
The first thing that struck me when I placed the two transparencies side by side on the light box was how red / magenta the old 50 looked next to the new. In contrast, the new emulsion appears neutral – certainly not cold as I would have expected from that famously 'neutral' film Provia. This bodes well for my photography because these are the conditions in which so many other films would require an overall warm-up to make them acceptable. I try and avoid using a filter in this way. Its global effect, enhancing the warm tones and neutralising the cold ones, is fine except when you want to emphasize colour contrast in an image, something I do quite often. The warm-up kills or severely diminishes this effect and thus restricts my options for creative use of the colour of light. It's much better to rely on the broad colour response of the original emulsion if you can find one to suit your taste. The old 50 hardly ever needed a warm-up, it just subtly enhanced the colours that were there. The new one looks at first try like it may follow the old's lead.
I had been forewarned by Joe Cornish that his first tests had shown that, unlike its predecessor, the new 50 was near to its advertised speed rating. So, I exposed the original stock at ISO32 – as I usually do – and simply changed the ISO on the meter to get my exposure for the new film. The two images are almost exactly the same density so I've concluded that Mk2 really is ISO 50.
My first impressions (and I only got the film back today!) are favourable. I need to shoot much more film in a variety of different lighting conditions before I can accurately assess whether it truly is a worthy successor. I'll let you know how things develop (sic) and post some more images as I make them. The new film may not quite be the King yet but it certainly doesn't appear to be a hopeless pretender.
Now, anyone interested in a freezer load of 50 Mk1...
Workshop at Linhof & Studio
Paula and I will be running another LF workshop in Leigh on Sea in spring 2008. Details will be posted on the Linhof website in due course or if you just can't wait contact Paula on +44(0)1702 716116 for further details and to reserve a place.