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Old 21 Dec 2001
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What to look for in a 35mm slide film (for africa)?

I'll soon be off on a trans african trip and I want to use slide films throughout my trip. What should I look for in a film, (I am using an old Canon A1 so less fancy digital stuff to help me with exposure). Someone mentioned that somthing about a film's latitude.. or how sensitive it is to over/under exposure.
What about colour bias(?) ?

Please help!

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Old 21 Dec 2001
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If I had to use only one film, I'd use Fuji Velvia. This 50 ISO film is slightly biased towards the red end of the color scale, which should be perfect under African skies (and useless for portraits of Caucasians...). It is relatively slow, but I imagine light will be no problem in Africa. The reddish cast will make your pictures glow!

If you feel you need just a bit faster film, Fuji also provides the extremely sharp and contrasty 100F. Some claims this is as grainless and sharp as the Velvia 50, and more neutral. You might want to check that out yourself.

If you need still faster film, Fuji also provides "Slide Film of the Year 2001/2002", the 400F. I haven't tried it myself, but the reports says "small grains and contrasty to be such a fast film".

Then you have the 1000 and 1600 ISOs, but these are - in my opinion - so grainy they should only be used as special effects.

You might want to use an amber filter, like the 81C. This will add that gentle touch of amber to your pictures, and people tend to favour pictures with a warm color cast. After all, if you should describe Africa with one color, which one would you choose if not amber? Also, polarizers will enhance contrast, so you might want to bring one along. As you have a manual camera, it shouldn't matter if it is a circular or linear pola-filter. Be aware of some light loss when using it.

As you probably have noticed, I prefer Fuji films. Of course, other film manufacturers have good films as well. However, most - if not all - slide films have next to no exposure latitude. If this is a major issue, go for negative film, which has bucket and loads of latitude. But if you want the best results, you can't beat slide film. Use a hand held light meter if you do not know your camera's on-board light meter well enough (if I remember correctly, your A-1 has only centerweighted average metering, no spot.)

Of course, the best bet is to load up with several ISOs. But remember: Pro slide film usually needs to be developed fast, due to short storage limit.

And before heading off, you might want to try a couple of films. Maybe you find the one that suits you best.

Hope this lengthy reply is to some help.l

Best of luck on your journey.

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Old 21 Dec 2001
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Thanks for the quick and indepth reply. I'll have a look at the different fuji films you mentioned.

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Old 21 Dec 2001
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I've used Velvia (asa50) a couple of times in Africa. I had mij camera (Canon AE1) set on 100 asa and had the film specially developed. The Velvia is a great film for (very) bright light, like in the Sahara. But remember that inj Africa (even in the Sahara) its not always sunny and bright. On a overcast day in the more equatoriel AFrica I wouldnot recommend the Velvia because it wil ussualy produce slide that are too dark. It also doesnt work very wel for taking pictures of (dark) people. But take a picture of the redyellow citywalls of Marrakech, sandunes in ALgeria or the Atlasmountains and it looks even better then real.
Peter Kik
Zaandam, Holland
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Old 21 Dec 2001
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I too use exclusively Fuji in my business (except for black & white). They are great films and well proven in difficult shooting and storage conditions. However, if you're not too well versed on absolutely nailing exposure, or using older equipment like your A1 (excellent otherwise), I'd recommend not to shoot so much Velvia, and more Provia 100F.

Provia 100F has a bit more latitude (read room for error), a little less contrast and is one stop faster. Less contrast will work better on sunlit portraits and offer better skin tones. Also remember the sun also sets in Africa, and quite fast at that, so you'll find good use to the extra stop and even the 400 ISO film. Color is excellent in these films nonetheless.

Then again, I have a friend who's a top-class photographer (published in National Geographic, Geo, Time, etc.) who uses nothing but Ektachrome 100SV. And he does wonders with it!

Hope this helps,

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