Which do you prefer and why - Kodak E100VS or Fuji Velvia?

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Hi all,

Looking for opinions, observations, comparisons, comments, subtle pros and cons of these two transparencies films, especially for landscape photography. Let me say that I have used Velvia almost exclusively for the last several years, but have recently gone through a couple hundred sheets of E100VS. In direct comparisons from the same composition, I'm seeing the VS pull out intense color in browns, reds, oranges that Velvia doesn't and to my eye the VS really pops on the light table. Jack Dykinga and other landscape pros have reported that VS is slightly less contrasty than Velvia. But we all see differently and I would love to hear from some of you regarding one or both of thes two films, which one you prefer for landscapes and why.

Thanks for your input to this discussion,

-- Ross Martin (info@rossmartinimages.com), January 27, 2002


I am nont thrilled with either of them for shooting large format, actually. I prefer Kodak Ektachrome E100S due to its lower contrast image and (still) high color saturation. I also appreciate its amazing reciprocity characteristics. To my eye the colors of E100s (or sw) are more real than Velvia or VS (some batches of which I found to be excessively grainy).

-- John Burnley (oreamnos1@fnol.net), January 27, 2002.

I tend to shoot Velvia because I get a huge thrill plunking my transparencies on the light box and looking at them with a fairly powerfull loupe. E100VS looks pretty grainy to my eye.

-- Nathaniel Paust (paustne@whitties.org), January 27, 2002.

I shot a box of E100VS when it first hit the market. I experienced a blue cast in the shadows and in low light situations. So I haven't used it since. I'm happily shooting away with Velvia, Provia 100F and E100SW. Perhaps Kodak has made some improvements since the first release? If you like you're results, by all means, keep using it! And maybe I should give it another try.

-- Scott Bacon (sbacon@naturalorderphoto.com), January 27, 2002.

Take a look at the article in this month's View Camera on this very subject.

BTW, why jsut those two? I used to use Velvia almost exclusively for landscapes but now find my self using Provia almost as much. 

-- Ted Harris (slberfuchs@aol.com), January 27, 2002.

I've tried E100VS and don't really care for it...anything illuminated by "blue sky" became overpoweringly blue, and red subjects such as red maples fused into a solid mass of red with virtually no shading or variation. It's also noticeably more grainy than Velvia.

I prefer Velvia overall, and consider it my standard, but if I need the extra speed I'll use Provia 100F. I haven't tried E100S - perhaps I should - but after trying E100SW in 120, I decided not to bother with Kodak color film anymore. IMO it gave everything a sickly yellow cast rather than the warmth that would come from natural early/late sunlight.

Regards, Danny Burk www.dannyburk.com

-- Danny Burk (foto28@aol.com), January 27, 2002.

Dykinga does deserts. Dykinga shoots browns, reds and oranges. That perhaps is when he finds E 100 VS useful. The landscape that I shoot is green. Ferns, mosses, foliage, green canopy forests, wet weather grasses. Velvia vitalizes green in a way that E 100 VS lacks. At 8 second exposure I open up 1 f-stop, the cumulation of using Velvia 40 film speed rather than the listed 50 ISO rating, and adding another 1/2 stop because of reciprocity failure. I stopped using the magenta filtration gels that I bought. For the forest/foliage scenes that I shoot, I like the green shift that Velvia (absent magenta filtration) gives with exposures longer than 1 second. Provia is a real contender especially when I need extra speed or depth of field. No reciprocity failure. Virtually no color shift with long exposure. Sharper resolution than Velvia. But greens are not as intense/vibrant. Where I live I do not experience the intense blue skies like you find in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico; here the sky tends to be hazy and pale blue, sometimes almost pastel blue-white. I am talking about at the coast, not in the mountains. Velvia boosts the blue at the coast just enough to render the sky more picturesque. Up high, say at 8000 feet, this boost might be unacceptable. Both Velvia and Provia are very demanding. If exposure is 1/2 f stop under or overexposed, it will be apparent. But I lack skill at measuring correctly. I usually bracket at + 1/2 f stops 2x above metered exposure. This compensates for the warming or skylight filter that I usually add. I would assume that with E 100 VS you would not want to use warming filters, as it already has a warming bu

-- Dean (djackson@333law.com), January 27, 2002.

Both look like the old Las Vegas strip to me. Absolutely lurid except in the the flattest of light, and then maybe not even then.

I like more neutral films like Provia 100F, Astia even, EPN. They look more like the world to me.

The super-saturated films might sell more to tasteless art directors and calender publishers, but I'm not shooting for them.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), January 28, 2002.


I agree that E100VS "pops on the light table", even compared to Velvia. But unfortunately is this not the usual way to look at pictures. On the one hand, it is very difficult to transfer this impression onto paper. On the other hand, in a digital print / on a monitor any film may yield any color saturation.

Because of the Color Side Densities, conventional prints from slide film usually look not as good as those from color negative film, especially when looking at the deep saturated colors that look so good on light tables.


-- Thilo Schmid (tschmid@2pix.de), January 28, 2002.

I use mostly Provia and Velvia and tried E100VS a few times and it seems to me the saturation is a bit too strong and yes, the colors lean towards warm tone...For consistency sake I use only Provia or Velvia...

-- dan n. (dan@egmail.com), January 28, 2002.

My experience parallels Dean's. I find VS does better in terms of saturation in the red-yellow part of the spectrum and Velvia does better in the green part. Take a look at Kerry Thalmann's article in View Camera this issue for some more information. Cheers, DJ

-- N Dhananjay (dhananjay-nayakankuppam@uiowa.edu), January 28, 2002.

Hi Ross, when the film came out, a friend at Kodak gave me a box and some some rolls to try. I have shot for a while using both VS and Velvia, to have a base for comparison. I did hope that I would be able to tell my friend that the film was great, but instead have come to the conclusion that VS was a bad caricature of Velvia, but in some situations could yell interesting effects. Rather than carry the two kinds, I kept within the 3 Fuji and never felt I missed the VS.

VS produces more accentuated images, which can be useful when the details need to be enhanced, such as in the desert at dusk as mentioned earlier, but you can produce a similar effect by pushing Velvia one stop, or in post production with Photoshop. The VS blue is too strong, too cyan and has little modulation, and the yellow is flattering, but far from truth. I have not found that the shadows were richer than with Velvia, which would have made it interesting. As mentioned, saturation can be easily corrected. The Fujichromes are very good in this regard, for their colors are balanced, and Astia is simply a desaturate, less contrasty Velvia. Both films suit certain lighting and color saturation and are very smooth. In comparison, the gamma of VS looks like it has been made to accentuate the shadows and produce eye pleasing results *on the light box* which has little to do with end results and can be rather annoying at print time. In closing, I would say again that I tested a first batch of VS, and it is possible that the film got fine tuned since and that it's quality is now better. If the results please you on the long term, why not give it a chance?

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), January 28, 2002.

"but in some situations could yell" *read yeld*, but it is true that the colors yell sometimes! ;-)

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), January 28, 2002.

It is worth notingthat Dykinga only must have switched to E100VS fairly recently. velvia is the film he made his reputation with. My experiences with E100VS have not been happy, in particular it very harsh looking if you have to push it more than 1/3rd of a stop. Velvia pushes quite well up to 1.5 stops, but that really works best when the light is not very contrasty or in other words on gray days, otherwise you run a high risk of blowing out your high light values through compression at the top of the scale

-- Ellis Vener Photography (ellis@ellisvener.com), January 28, 2002.

Shooting with JD this past July he was using Velvia quickloads. He did say he has used Kodak 100VS or Provia in harsh light as they give better detail in the shadows.

-- Dermot Conlan (dconlan@msn.com), January 28, 2002.

Thanks to everyone for the interesting comments and observations. I realize that many of you do not care for super-saturated films like Velvia/VS and I respect the fact that we all have our own tastes and opinions, but for the color landscape work I do Velvia has been a vital ingredient over the years, both to please my own eye and more recently to compete in submissions to publsihing clients. I have run my own personal tests on Astia, Provia F, E100S/SW, EPP and a few others, but every time it was Velvia that, for me, captured more of the heart and soul of the landscape I experienced. Apparently it has done so for other shooters as well, as Velvia is the film of choice for fine art master Christopher Burkett and for numerous other pros making their living from both fine art prints and publsihing clients (such as Dykinga).

Then along came the seductive Kodak E100VS...in my direct comparisons with my beloved Velvia, the VS was singing louder in the warm colors yet with bright greens that were also pleasing, and yes the blues were out of ths world. In a direct comparison shot of wild Rhododendrons in a forest, the brighter colors of VS stole the show and actually made Velvia look a bit dull! Other compositions produced similar results and I was soon enticed into using E100VS exclusively and enjoying the excitement of seeing the results after every shoot, much as I did years ago when Velvia first shocked and delighted the world.

But now that the honeymoon is over I have been hearing talk of VS having lots of grain, less color depth than Velvia, less effective rendering of subtle tones, an unrealistic blue, and a tendency to block up in saturated color. So I am re-examining all my comparison shots again and gathering observations from all of you, to see if there are indeed serious faults lying beneath the surface of this seductive film.

Thanks again for sharing from your experience.

-- Ross Martin (info@rossmartinimages.com), January 28, 2002.

Kerry Thalman just published an excellent article on this very topic in View Camera Magazine. Take a look. But which is best? Depends on what your parameters are. What color pallet is best for you. Do you need the extra stop of speed. Which is easiest to get. And many more. As with all subjective questions, the answer lies in what your preferrences are. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), January 28, 2002.

Lots of good answers, and as the diversity of opinions expressed indicates, such preferences are a highly personal matter.

As Ted and others have mentioned, I have an article on just this subject in the current issue of View Camera. Even though I've written an article on the subject, I don't consider my opinions the be-all and end-all on this topic. It is highly subjective with no rtight and no wrong - just different preferences, different applications and therefore, different opinions. I have used Velvia ever since it first came out, and E100VS extensively over the past year, so I'll add a few additional comments here.

First, some people love highly saturated films, some people hate them. If you hate the Velvia "look", you'll probably hate E100VS. On the otherhand, if you like the bold satutated colors of Velvia, for some subjects, you may like E100VS even better (or perhaps not).

Personally, I like E100VS for reds and oranges. My first experience with is film was in Southern Utah/Northern Arizona a year ago (Dykinga territory - in fact, the very first day I shot with E100VS, I ran into Jeff Foott at the trailhead waiting for Jack to arrive to hike into the same area the next morning). I was shooting snow covered sandstone formations, under mostly overcast skies (the sun did pop out briefly near the end of the day). Under these conditions, I found that E100VS brought out the red and orange tones in the sandstone quite nicely and had very clean whites (better than Velvia on both counts - I shot side-by-side comparisons with both films). That initial experience convinced me to do some more extensive testing with E100VS (which lead to my article in View Camera). Someone else mentioned that they found less separation in the reds/oranges with E100VS than with Velvia. My personal experience is exactly opposite (more on that below).

WRT to greens, as has been mentioned, this is one area where Velvia excels. I personally agree with this statement - and continue to use Velvia when shooting in the Columbia River Gorge and the rain forests of Olympic NP (two very lush, green areas). Based on side-by-side tests of E100VS and Velvia, I don't think it's so much that E100VS has weak greens. It does not. It comes very close to Velvia in saturation. I think the real difference is that E100VS is more saturated in the red/orange/brown end of the spectrum than Velvia. What this means is that any brown tones (tree trunks/branches, dirt, rocks, etc.) tend to stand out a lot more on E100VS than on Velvia. To me, this competes with and detracts from the over all lush greenness I am trying to capture on film (nobody visits a rain forest and says "Wow! look at those browns"). Velvia has the additional bonus (in this case) of a pronounced green shift for long exposures. To compensate for this green shift, Fuji recommends magenta cc filters for exposures of 4 seconds or longer. Since I also often use a polarizer to elminate glare on the wet foliage, and I'm shooting under heavy, dim overcast lighting, I often end up with exposures of 20 seconds or longer (considerably longer in some cases) when shooting the rain forests - even at mid-day. By 20 seconds, the Velvia green shift is pretty strong. Not a problem, IMHO, if you're shooting a predominantly green subject. In fact, I think these subjects benefit from this green shift, and I do not use a magenta filter to compensate. In this case, the brown tree branches/trunks, rocks in dirt that stood out so much with E100VS, blend in much better with the lush green of the ferns, mosses and leaves of the rain forest environment when shot on Velvia.

I continued to shoot both films (and Provia100F, Astia and E100S) through last summer and fall. My final tests were done at the Japanese Gardens in Portland, OR at the end of October. This was sort of the natural equilvalent of the MacBeth ColorChecker. Even at the peak of fall color (red, orange and yellow), the Japanese Gardens and still very lush and green. In fact, the only colors not well represented were the blues and purples. Given the specific differences noted above, I was actually surprised how close the Velvia and E100VS results were for this test with a wide variety of colors. I was quite pleased with the results with both films (the E100VS had slightly more saturated reds, but even side-by-side on the light table, the two were difficult to tell apart). However, during this final testing, the one big advantage of E100VS really came through. In addition to being over a full stop faster (I generally shoot Velvia at ISO 40), E100 VS has much better reciprocity characteristics. Many of my exposures on E100VS were 8 seconds (no compensation required). Equivalent exposures on Velvia required 25 seconds. If I stopped down for more depth of field, E100VS worked great at 15 seconds, but Velvia required over a minure of exposure. Even ignoring the Velvia green shift (quite strong at 1 minute), I found E100VS a lot easier to use for this situation. Although it was relatively calm, the slightest breeze would cause motion in the foliage I was shooting. Plus, being a public garden, people were milling about, in and out of my photos. So, 8 sec - 15 sec was much more manageable than 25 - 60+ sec. Reciprocity characteristics (both color shift and exposure compensation) is one area where Velvia is starting to realy lag behind the newer films. In addition to E100VS, E100S, especially Provia100F and even Astia are all much better than Velvia in this regard.

It has been mentioned that E100VS doesn't respond as well to push processing as Velvia. Given that it's over a full stop faster, and has much better reciprocity characterstics, I found the need to push this film much less frequently (almost never) than Velvia. So, it may not push process as well, but push processing isn't generally needed (at least not for the subjects and conditions I normally shoot - YMMV).

As has been mentioned, there is also the consideration of what exactly is your final output. Although I print some of my images (both digitally and traditionally), the primary output of my photograpy is stock sales to magazine, calendar, book, etc. publishers. In this case, the transparancy is the final product that is presented to potential buyers. Sales depend on how well that transparency looks on the lightbox. In this market, highly saturated colors grab the attendtion of the buyers and lead to more sales. If your goal is prints, whether they be traditional or digital, your choice in films might be different. Final intended output goes beyond just personal taste and includes things like ease of use and presentation. For me, the transparencies on the lightbox have to make the buyers say "Wow!". I don't get the chance to pump up the colors, contrast and saturation in Photoshop (nor to I usually have to struggle with difficult hard to print high contrast transparencies in the darkroom). So, for me, if I want vivid colors, I need to shoot with highly saturated films like Velvia and E100VS.

Finally, like any new film, there is a learning curve involved. I've been using Velvia for so long, I just intuitively know when to open up or stop down from my meter's readings based on the subject and lighting conditions. It took my a while to learn how to get proper exposures with E100VS. Like Velvia, for best results E100VS requires VERY accurate exposures - and it's sensitivity to different lighting conditions is much different than Velvia. A difference of even 1/3 stop can make or break exposures with this film (just like Velvia). I found that if underexposed, E100VS had a tendency to go too red. Slight over exposure tended to make blue skies look very unnatural (bright cyan). Although the shadows don't go completely black (like Velvia) when underexposed, in some ways, E100VS is even "pickier" about proper exposure than Velvia (depends on subject and lighting conditions). If your used to shooting Velvia, consistant proper exposure with E100VS is a little more involved than just "meter for Velvia and open up one stop".

Finally, both of these films are sensitive to minor processing variations. A little difference in the strength of the chemistry, development time or temperature can make a noticeable difference in the look of the processed film. My local pro lab runs two dip and dunk E-6 processing lines. Even though the equipment is identical (same brand, same model purchased at the same time) and the chemistry is mixed identically and the times and temps computer controlled, there are slight differences in the processed transparancies. The differences are subtle enough, that most people wouldn't even notice them side-by-side on the lightbox, but they are there and can be seen if you know what to look for. And this is a very competent pro lab with computer controlled equipment that is officially blessed by both Fuji and Kodak. Greater variations in processing will no doubt lead to even greater differences in the processed transparencies.

I think the above to points - exposure sensitivity and processing variations - when combined with personal preference can explain a lot of the differences of opinion that have been expressed here (I think processing and perhaps exposure can explain how one poster thought E100VS did a poor job of separating red and orange tones, and I found the exact opposite to be true). It also helps emphasize that no matter what I, or anyone else says here, you really need to test these films yourself to see which works better for your needs, your subjects, your lighting conditions, your processing, your personal taste, your intended application. etc. There is no right (or wrong) answer. Personally I was a one film (Velvia) photographer for over a decade. If nothing else, my film testing has opened up the possibility of matching different films to different subjects and lighting conditions. I now carry both E100VS and Velvia most of the time, plus sometimes Provia100F. It's nice to have choices. After testing these films for several months, I now feel like I know them well enough to choose the right film to match the subject and lighting and yield the results I desire based on my personal preferences and goals. Your mileage can (and will) vary.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), January 29, 2002.

E100VS is a dreadful film compared to velvia. I have seen it used extensively for innumerable subjects and find there are much better films available for all purposes. The VS was introduced to compete with velvia but has no comparison, notably when push or pull processing. Grain is bad, and although lower in contrast Velvia can be controlled better by pull processing. Provia is excellent too. I have worked in a pro lab and have seen the mess this film can make.Although some may like it, to most technicians it is a cheap film, unreliable to process and ugly. Colour shifts are very unreliable too. In general, Fuji make more colour saturated film, and Kodak usually hold the lead with skin tone...generally!

-- andrey belo (sabaca10@hotmail.com), February 01, 2002.

Hi Ross,

Well I can tell you that after viewing your transparencies on your portable light table I was certainly impressed, enough so that I grabbed a box of VS and tried it out for myself, I have been using it ever since our meeting along with E100s. As it has been stated more than once in this thread it all boils down to personal taste and to be honest I use both Fujichromes and Ektachromes it really depends on what mood I am in. All the films work well in certain light, I just use the film that I think will work the best in the conditions I'm faced with.

Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

-- Adam Gibbs (adsgibbs@telus.net), February 01, 2002.

Hi Adam! Look forward to shooting alongside you again this year! Thanks for thoughtfully weighing in on this issue.

And to everyone else who has shared, especially Kerry in his typically thorough and well-researched way, thanks again. All of your opinions have been valuable to me, though I got a chuckle at how "dreadful" these saturated films appear to some of you :)

I have decided that for now I will carry both E100VS and Velvia along with their respective Quickload/Readyload holders and will use both films as the scene and my personal taste dictates.

Best regards to all,

-- Ross Martin (info@rossmartinimages.com), February 02, 2002.

Kerry and everyone,

As a followup question to the excellent article in VC and the comments here, I was wondering if you could comment on two aspects of 100VS WRT Velvia.

I have been thinking about trying some VS for a while, primarily because of the additional speed of the film, but also because of the slightly different pallate. Now that they have finally worked the bugs out of the RL holders, I am going to try it for myself.

The first question is filtration. My experience with Velvia is that it takes filtration more readily than other films, presumably because of the higher color saturation. When I used to use an 81B, I now use an 81A, for example, because the 81B will be too much for Velvia. "Black Skies" is another example of the film taking the filtration more than another film would in the same situation, and is related to the higher contrast of Velvia. What have you seen in the 100VS? Do they take filtration in a similar manner? It'll require some retraining if they differ...

The second question has to do with UV sensitivity at altitude. Ths is tied to the above issue, I believe. I find that Velvia goes excessively blue at higher altitudes (starting around 7500-8000 feet). I always use filtration to counteract that effect, however, I don't like to do so, because it slows down the process, and puts another piece of glass in between the film and the subject. Unfortunately, this will cause flare problems at times. What is your experience with 100VS at higher altitudes?

I will try the film for myself, but I won't be able to try it at higher altitudes until I get out to Colorado this summer, so I thought I might gain some insight from your experience.

This discussion, and your article in VC is all that I needed to convince myself that it is worth the effort to try this film myself.

Thanks for any thoughts anyone may have.


-- Michael Mutmansky (mjmlighting@adelphia.net), February 02, 2002.

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