Agfa Vista films were my favourite choice for colour 35mm emulsions in the late 2010s — until they were unceremoniously discontinued in 2018. Many prominent film photographers still remember and miss this film despite it being rumoured to be just a repackaged Fujifilm photographic product.
✪ Note: The proper name of the film reviewed is Agfaphoto Vista Plus 200. I’m abbreviating it for brevity.
Agfa Vista films were never sold as high-end emulsions — which was part of the appeal. The colours and grain they rendered were known for their alluring warm palette rather than precision and definition. Agfa Vista 200, in particular, was the cheapest colour film you could buy in Thailand, which was certainly helpful to me. But more on that later.
The origins of the ‘00-’10s Agfa Vista film series.
The name Agfa was founded in 1867 as “Aktien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrikation,” a colour dye factory near Berlin. From its inception, the business aligned itself with the photography market, eventually developing many of the “firsts” of colour photochemistry in the 1930s.
Despite its consistent focus on imaging technologies, Agfa’s business history is diverse and convoluted. The company was split, merged, became a subsidiary, and split again since its foundation. The film reviewed in this article is actually created by Lupus Imaging Media (an unassociated company), most likely via Fujifilm’s film factories and expertise under the name Agfa — licensed from AgfaPhoto Holding GmbH.
Come to think of it, the fact that this stock was sold under the name Agfa has a lot more to do with a chance marriage of available corporate assets rather than a pedigree of chemical know-how dating back to the mid-nineteenth century.
☝︎ Further reading: Who made your film? The answer will almost always surprise you. Learn about the various ways emulsions come to life in “Rebranded Film: Good or Bad?”
As boring as the origins of this discontinued film brand may sound, its sudden disappearance in 2018 caused turbulence in the film photography circles, the ripples of which still echo today.
A reasonable assumption as the announcement of Vista’s demise came at the same time as Fujifilm announced massive cutbacks to its colour film portfolio.
Is Agfa Vista 200 the same as Fujicolor C200?
Saif Rahman compared both films in his video, noting that the markings on the negatives differ slightly. So there may be something different about them after all. But it’s hard to tell if it’s anything other than packaging.
You could say that the data sheets won’t tell the entire story and that you can actually see the differences between the films. You may also add that Fujicolor C200 film is still for sale — four years past Agfa Vista’s demise!
But that doesn’t change the fact that Agfa Vista 200 and Fujicolor C200 produce similar results, and their datasheets indicate that they are the same — perhaps with some tweaks. Yet there’s still more to this story.
This year, Fujifilm rebranded its Fujicolor C200 line, and some have noticed that it’s no longer the same film, according to the datasheets. And so, while the origins of Agfa Vista 200 and the original Fujicolor C200 may have had something in common, they certainly diverged in 2022.
So is Fujicolor C200 the same as the discontinued Agfa Vista 200? No.
Well, not anymore.
Grain structure, resolution, sharpness.
Agfa Vista 200 films aren’t particularly grainy. Better yet, they are quite sharp, so much so that even the oldest lens in your collection will create well-defined renderings. Alas, this level of microcontrast may take away from the realism of your scene, giving it a bit of a “graphic” appearance.
Dynamic range and contrast.
Agfa Vista 200 appears to be a fairly contrasty film when you scan or print it.
Like its slightly unnatural level of sharpness, its contrasty side takes away a little from the renderings’ realism. But that’s not what this film is for. So instead, if you’d like an accurate colour and contrast reproduction, check out Kodak’s Ektachrome E100 or Fujifilm’s Provia 100F.
In its heyday, Agfa Vista 200 sold for £1 in the UK — as I was told — and just over 100฿ in Thailand, where I was beginning my journey as a film photographer in the late 2010s.
Whereas its price was a big part of the appeal, the film’s contrast and sharpness have no doubt contributed to a few extra “keepers” in each roll — adding legibility and interest to shots that were slightly out of focus, washed out, or lacked appeal.
I am not saying that Agfa Vista had some magical properties that fixed my bad photography. It simply added a bit of contrast and hid a few things that I feel made some images slightly more interesting to look at.
In addition to its slight “pop” of contrast, Agfa Vista has a great dynamic range — over 9 stops, as seen from the film characteristic curves:
Here’s how I converted the lux-seconds to stops.
…Another reason this film is capable of great results even when mistakes are made.
But whereas you may get similar levels of contrast and dynamic range from other C-41 films (i.e., Kodak Gold), the colours that you get with this film are a little different.
Saturation and colour balance.
In preparation for this article, I’ve examined a few folders of scanned Agfa Vista 200 negatives dating back to 2017. I wanted to see how the film’s colours behaved under different scanners and when processed by varying software methods. I’ve also browsed a few samples uploaded online by others.
Though there was considerable variance across the above sources of Agfa Vista samples, there were some commonalities.
All the Agfa Vista 200 samples I’ve seen show a slight purple undertone in the mid-greys. This is less evident when the image is near overexposure. This film often produces results with high colour saturation; I think that the colours look pleasing, although I would recommend going with another emulsion if you are looking for realism.
Like some other C-41 emulsions (i.e., Gold, Portra, 50D), Agfa Vista 200 tends to shift its greys towards the teals; in Agfa’s case, they appear to be particularly “airy.”
And when it comes to the reds, Agfa Vista 200 delivers high-resolution crimsons that seem to stand out slightly when printed next to other colours. Especially when the reds in the actual scene are deep and slightly underexposed.
You can certainly play with the film’s saturation, contrast, colour balance, and colour temperature after scanning. Though if you leave those controls untouched, chances are you’ll notice warm tones with slightly subdued greens in the shadows.
C-41 negatives can be tricky to scan. The orange mask makes inverted versions of your scans blue and mostly unusable. Scanning software often does a lot more than that, and the methods it uses to clean up the blue cast are numerous. This is why the results you may get from your negatives can vary depending on the scanner and the software you used to digitize them.
I’ve had good success using this method for converting negatives into positives. It’s laborious, but I like it for the amount of control I gain over the results. It works well with my PrimeFilm XAs.
At its best, your Agfa Vista scans should appear cast-free (watch out for both blue and yellow casts with this film) with lots of contrast and resolution. This emulsion isn’t meant to appear abstract like Lomochrome Purple or even off-tone like Metropolis, yet it still comes with its own way of displaying colours that is not at all like what you’d expect from a digital camera.
Alternatives to Agfa Vista 200 film.
Agfa Vista 200 was a cheap colour film that made making contrasty and nicely-coloured pictures easy. It was my daily favourite; looking back at the photos I took on this film brings memories of my past life in Southeast Asia’s tropics and the exciting trips to numerous cities.
Seeing how Fujicolor C200 is about to undergo some changes, there are no more fresh film stocks with that Agfa Vista look. However, there’s one film I’ve tried recently that has some resemblance — although not an exact one.
Adox Color Mission produces similar levels of contrast and sharpness as Agfa Vista 200 — with a fair bit of extra grain. The Mission’s colours are also warm; however, it shows a lot more saturation in the reds and the greens.
Where to buy Agfa Vista film.
Follow the link below if you want the “authentic” Agfa Vista experience, including the bright red canister with goofy-looking fonts. The film is long out of production, so it’s naturally not available at all times. But if you’re lucky, you may be able to snag a brick. At the time of this writing, the cost per roll may range from $15 to $25 per roll.
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Agfa Vista film purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!