Is there any reason to stick to Velvia ? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have been using Velvia since its introduction and I really like the saturated colors and sharpness which add depth to landscape. I know that many many color photographers think the same. However in light of recent developments in imaging, I've been wondering about this choice.

The developments I have in mind is digital printing. It seems that with the exception of a few notable and very skilled printers (such as Burkett or Fatali), most other color photographers, including Muench, Neill, Crammer, etc... have switched to Lightjet printing. I have also done so four years ago, and I am convinced by the advantages of this technology.

If you print digitally, you can enhance color saturation and contrast as much as you want. True, the original transparency might not look as good, but unlike in 35mm where it is often what you show to clients, in LF, the transparency is just the "score" to be played.

What you need is a film which records as much information as possible. With this respect, a film like Astia is much better at maintaining shadow/highlight detail. Besides, the extra speed is very useful for the landscape photographer to combat wind blur or reciprocity failure. The paradox is that although we all use tripods, we need the extra speed for LF much critically than in 35mm where one doesn't stop down so much ! Velvia is sharper, but again, this might be more relevant to 35mm. With the large chunk of film that we use, this doesn't seem so critical either.

What do you think ? Do you see any compelling reasons to stick to Velvia in view of the above ?

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, May 19, 2001


I have had the same thoughts but I hedge my bet by using Velvia if conditions permit; otherwise Provia or Astia. I have been meaning to deliberately experiment by using two or three films on the same subject and then trying a blind test of all three in Photoshop and with a Lightjet prints to see if I like one over the other or if any differences have been obliterated by the process.

My instincts tell me to use Velvia if that is what I like on the light table but it more speed is needed then I just go it. I wish there were an even faster positive 4x5 film I could like.

-- John Hennessy (, May 19, 2001.

I, as well, have thought of the same situation. I have found that the new RDPIII (Provia 100F) is a great film to work with. This way, I use it in both my 35mm and 4x5 gear.

With my 35mm gear, I love to shoot wildlife, and Velvia would need to be pushed 1 stop to get me there. This way, I can really learn the film well, while satisfying both large and 35mm formats, and subjects.

Anybody else in the same situation?

I am heading out today to Costa Rica for a week with my wife, and I am actaully leaving behind my 4x5, and opting for my Nikon gear. I feel very confident that lighting will be incredibly difficult under the rainforest canopy, so I am taking some higher speed films. I testing the new Provia 400 last week. Not the greatest film I have used, but it can be pushed to ASA800 if needed. I figure I would rather have a decent photo on crappy film, than a crappy image on great film.

-- Andy Biggs (, May 19, 2001.

Hi all

I don`t work with Velvia anymore since 2 years! I prefer Provia and Astia and the thungsten 64 RTP II. In Negativ I like very much the Kodak Portra family! Good light!

-- Armin Seeholzer (, May 19, 2001.


I have been thinking about the same thing since I made my first digital print last fall, and it became apparent to me that the old status quo is no longer the best way to work! (for me, anyway)

If you make submissions to publishers, I think you may still want to use Velvia, to have the 'pop' on the light table. If not, then I think you are exactly on track.

One additional note is that the use of another film may be beneficial for other reasons. The additional speed is one reason, but the great reciprocity characteristics of Astia, may be another, and the slightly lower contrast is a third.

However, I suspect that this could be taken a little further, shouldn't you consider using a print film? Assuming you can get a good quality scan (some people have reported difficulty with negs) print film has the widest latitude, and a great deal of exposure tolerance. I'm not too familiar with the available negative films, but it seems that there might be one that would be able to produce a better digital print than any of the slide films out there.

Any thoughts, anyone?


-- Michael Mutmansky (psu4ever@IX.NETCOM.COM), May 19, 2001.

hallo Quang and everbody

there are still reasons to use different types of films, therefore I have the Velvia in the fridge, but I admit that the RDP II (exposure untill 5 min, without color shifts !!) is much more in use now:

If you can't really control the contrast of the light, cause you have to shoot outdoor on a day x (thats part of Pro live) , the wheater report is never really precise, Velvia can help you to enhance the contrast, if the light is getting "foggy" .

You are right about saturation and contrast control about computer. Yet, my experience was, that digital image data will be read very different on the different screens and systems, i.e. contrast of mac vs. win. If sending some datas to someone to print (in books & magazines), ist always good, to add a slide, because they have then a precisley defined reference.

Using-neg films makes sense to me in lightcritical shootings, (color balance, night shootings, etc)

-- (, May 20, 2001.

Clearly, lots of people are thinking along similar lines here. I spoke very recently to a magazine editor with considerable experience of scanning transparencies, and he commented that Velvia trannies are not the easiest to scan. I already felt dubious about the performance of Velvia in high contrast lighting conditions, where the shadows block up into dense black - only yesterday I carried Velvia and Astia on a small outdoor job (shooting a couple of commercial exteriors) so that I could use the Velvia in case of cloud and soft, diffused light. Otherwise, I'd use the Astia. The latter and Provia F are excellent films, and the saturation is very easily enhanced in Photoshop. Velvia is incomparable to inspect on the lightbox, but increasingly it is no longer king of the hill.

-- Anthony Harrison (, May 20, 2001.

While in theory the idea to have a "palette" of different films to use is an advantage of LF, I found that for myself, especially if not using quickloads, having films of different speeds is an invitation for exposure errors. Maybe it's just me who is always rushed and forgetful.

Negative film ? I really want to have an original I can view. A small fraction of my transparencies end up enlarged, and I don't think I would be happy looking mostly at contacts. Besides, negatives are much more difficult to market.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, May 21, 2001.

I recently asked some people about this as well. The reason for using negatives when you know you will be scanning is that they have far less contrast to begin with, a little over half. That means you need to increase it when scanning, but you have that control. Negatives also do not block up extremes anywhere near as badly as slides. Just like in B&W, a color negative can hold highlights on the film far above what papers can reveal. But, they can be scanned! Same goes for shadows. Their range allows a much broader scale, one that can be defined as needed.

-- E.L. (, May 21, 2001.

I'm tired of Velvia for other reasons. Since I print everything on Ilfochrome, I grew wary of battling the contrast. Almost simultaneously I realized that the Velvia-Ilfochrome combination was giving me saturation that was way beyond what I was seeing in the field and really wanting. I sort of fell under the Velvia-Ilfochrome spell, I guess, and didnt realize what I was doing for about 5 years there. But I really dont see color like that in the field or in my head so now I'm going for a more subtle look. Astia will be my film of choice for a while, and hopefully I can kill (or wound) the saturation and contrast birds with one film.

-- Wayne (, May 22, 2001.

Q.-Tuan You may already be familiar with this, but here is a commentary comparing Provia to Velvia for scanning: http://luminous-

-- Roger Rouch (, May 24, 2001.

Roger, in 35mm (and possibly MF) Provia F is a better choice than Astia for scanning because of the finer grain. However, in LF (and especially 5x7 and up) grain is not an issue, and Astia has a wider exposure latitude than Provia F, whose characteristics are mid-way between Velvia and Astia. Otherwise, the article supports my thinking. I have decided on Astia for my next 500 LF exposures.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, May 25, 2001.

I just got finished editing 10 rolls of 35mm film I shot last week on a quick trip to Weisbaden, Germany. Some was Velvia, some was RDPIII and a couple were Provia 400F (it would be great if that film was available in Quickload!).

The Velvia really stands out even with a quick glance: the colors are more emotionally vivid and appear to have more depth, especially for scenics and details of trees and plants and cityscapes. BTW: this was the first RVP I've put in any camera in over a year as I have been relying on RDPIII for the bulk of my color image making

Astia is about the last film I would choose for landscape photography. While it would be great to have the addtional shadow detail, you gain that at the expense of of saturation & seperations in the mid tones and that is where most color exists. ithink if you are pretty cognizant of what a film is going to do, something that comes from experience, Velvia is still a great choice. I hate it for the slow speed, but

BTW:Making Cibachromes is a horrible thing to do to a wonderful image, unless of course you enjoy making contrast and red masks for each and every image you print.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, May 27, 2001.

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