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Fujifilm Astia 100F 
by Jim McGee

When we covered the myriad of new product announcements at this year's PMA the big news was that Fujifilm was releasing a new version of Velvia. The venerable Velvia 50 would now have a faster sibling Velvia 100F. 

The fact that Astia was being updated with the same technology was almost an afterthought in most reports (including our own). But after shooting with the new Astia 100F I may have found a new favorite film - one that will replace even Velvia for outdoor work. (Look for a review of the new Velvia in next month's issue.)

Amazing Results 
Even after all these years of shooting I still get a bit of a rush when I pick up my film from the lab. I usually grab the nearest light box and a loupe and do at least a quick check of the results of a shoot. When looking through the test shots of the new Astia I was immediately impressed with the results. The fist thing that jumps off the light box with this film are the vibrant colors and perfect skin tones.

Pull out the 22x loupe and take a closer look and Astia starts to look even better. There is tremendous detail and the finest grain you've ever seen. In fact granularity is RMS 7, a dramatic improvement over the RMS 10 rating of the previous version of Astia. That makes the new Astia 100F the finest grain slide film yet produced - a title previously held by Provia 100F (RMS 8).

Despite the harsh light Astia held detail in both the bright white 
of the models shirt and in the dark blues of her skirt.

Lets stay in close for a minute. You can clearly see pore detail in the model's skin and tonality is impressive. Colors are vibrant and accurate and edge definition is excellent.

What is more impressive is the range of this film. Unfortunately I didn't have control of the time or location of this shoot and it took place in the worst possible light - 11AM with harsh light and a humid haze in the air. Most higher contrast films would have blown out details in the white of the model's shirt and in the dark areas of her skirt. The new Astia held detail in both. You can clearly see the white embroidery on her white shirt collar.

Astia was a joy to scan, requiring only the slightest adjustments to get scans that matched the slides on our light table. If only all films were this easy.

This film scanned beautifully on our LS-2000 scanner. Some films can be a bear to scan, and that has a bearing on how likely we are to shoot it. When scanning images of the models Astia 100F needed only a slight tweak to the curves to add a touch of contrast and we had scans that perfectly duplicated our slides. There was less fuss with Astia 100F than with any other film we've scanned to date. The deep forest shots such as the image of the falls below required a bit more tweaking.

How about pushing this film? This is a natural question since Astia 100F is based on the same technology used in Provia 100F and 400F films. Both of those films handle a two stop push well. The truth is that we only had a couple of rolls of this film to experiment with so we didn't have the opportunity to try rolls with one stop and two stop pushes; and while we had some literature from Fujifilm data sheets weren't available yet. We would assume that this film is pushable. We'll let you know for sure when we get a few more rolls in.

My New Film? 
That ability to scan easily and hold detail without blowing out highlights or blocking up shadows makes Astia an amazingly versatile film for just about any kind of shooting. Take a look at the forest images here. Just about any other film would have blocked up and lost detail here. This was a fourteen second exposure, taken at the bottom of a valley, under a forest canopy in the rain. You could say that the available light was less than perfect. I realize it's difficult to see on a small image on the Web but Astia's low contrast makes it seem as if you can see forever back into the forest. It's as if you could walk right into the image.

But what if you want higher contrast and more vibrant colors ala Velvia? Well the simple answer is to just shoot Velvia. That contrast and saturation gives Velvia real punch and we go through a lot of Velvia around here for exactly that reason.

However the new Astia 100f gives me some real choices when printing. Because it holds so much detail in the shadows and highlights I can make decisions about what I want to include in the print. I can simply amp up the contrast and let the highlights go. Or, because I have the information on the film, I can dodge and burn specific areas of interest. The same is true of the saturation. Astia's colors are vibrant and accurate but not nearly as saturated as Velvia's. But saturation is something I can easily adjust, if desired, in Photoshop.

Granted, it's not a solution for those folks who intend to project their slides or submit them for camera club contests. It all comes down to your intended usage.

An Amazing Statistic 
When reading through literature provided by Fujifilm I found an amazing statistic. Both the new Astia 100F and Velvia 100F use Fuji's new PSHC technology. PSHC is short for Pure, Stable & High-Performance Dye-Forming Coupler. To quote Fujifilm directly

The new couplers developed for Velvia 100F and Astia 100F combine exceptional color purity and stability with high color formation efficiency. In addition, this new chemistry significantly improves color stability and freedom from fading and shift over conventional films. Our dye stability is now increased up to 300 years.

The last sentence is the important one. A slide you shoot today will still be vibrant and clear 300 years from now!

In truth most of us won't really care about anything past 70 or 80 years because we won't be around to see the results. But this is an impressive number indeed and one that is especially important to fine art photographers and some pros who are concerned with preserving their body of work.

There has been a lot of discussion in the industry about whether digital images are truly archival because of changing file formats and technologies (see Digital's Dirty Little Secret Issue #15). With a shelf life of 300 years these two new films are sure to add fuel to the archival argument.

Astia 100F is making it's way into the pipeline as this is written and you should be able to find it at your local retailer within the next week or so with street prices of around $6 per roll. If you've never tried Astia before you should pick up a couple of rolls and give it a try. We don't think you'll be disappointed.

Shooting Data: All images shot with a Nikon F100. All model shots were done outdoors using available light and a Nikon SB-28 flash with a Lumiquest pocket bouncer for fill flash. Lenses used: Nikon 24mm f2.8, Nikon 28-105 f3.5-4.5, Sigma 70-300 f3.5-5.6.


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