Fujichrome Provia 400X Slide Film Review
Ultra-Fine Grain, Vivid and Accurate Colours at ISO 400 (Expired)8 min read by
Fujifilm Fujichrome Provia 400X slide film is an update to Fujifilm’s earlier high-speed professional emulsion, Fujichrome Provia 400F, with sharper grain and improved resolution.
Sadly, both films are discontinued (though some rolls of the X and the F can be still found online). The only Provia-series film still in production today is Fujichrome Provia 100F.
Already a champion amongst ISO400 colour emulsions, 400X also responds well to being pushed and pulled:
This film boasts one of the world’s highest levels of grain quality and sharpness, while delivering the same vivid color reproduction and regulated gray balance as that of ISO 100 film. Furthermore, it produces fine results in push-/pull-processing for exposures ranging from –1/2 stop (EI 280) to +2 stops (EI 1600).
Despite having been discontinued back in 2013, Provia 400X still has many fans, with the Japan Camera Hunter’s crew being some of the best-known admirers. (They use this film as an inspiration for their upcoming ISO 400 slide emulsion, announced in 2022.)
✪ Note: Fujichrome Provia 400X isn’t cheap and is a fairly rare film stock; hence, I haven’t attempted pushing or pulling it just yet. Let me know in the comments if you want to see that — I’ll source some more and add a few high-res samples (if there’s interest).
Grain structure, resolution, and sharpness.
Provia 400X is one of the best-resolving ISO 400 colour films I’ve ever used. I think that it renders scenes with more definition than Kodak’s Portra 400, which markets itself as having the finest grain that ISO.
Up close, the grain isn’t very sharp, as is the case for most slide films when compared to colour negatives, but it’s significantly finer than in its previous iteration, Provia 400F. Adding some sharpening after scanning can improve fine details, but overdoing so will make the images look much “sandier” than their silky-smooth original selves.
Fujifilm reports the diffuse RMS granularity of 11, which places Provia 400X above the F-version in terms of how fine its grain is. For comparison, Provia 100F’s RMS value is 8 (i.e., it has finer grain), Velvia 50’s is 9, and (strangely) Natura 1600’s is 4.
The RMS method for consistent measurements of film stocks’ graininess has been the standard for many modern emulsions (esp. Fujifilm). However, Kodak has switched to another method, Print Grain Index, which derives measurements from human observer surveys that they say gives a more accurate representation of the effect.
Kodak’s new system does appear to solve some of the issues with RMS, such as grain size variability based on various exposure areas. For example, Natura 1600’s strange reading of RMS 4 (probably the finest film grain report out of all emulsions I’ve reviewed so far) is reasonable for areas of most exposure but not so much for anything mid-grey or within shadows.
That said, Fujichrome Provia 400X uses the same Super Fine-∑ (Sigma) Grain Technology as with Natura 1600 and the related Superia 400 X-Tra films.
In my tests, I was able to get fantastic resolution out of the 400X even on a half-frame format, as seen below (PEN FV with the 150mm):
Dynamic range & exposure guide.
Slide films are known for their limited dynamic range, and Provia 400X is no exception.
The datasheet shows about 1.25 lux-seconds of usable exposure, which converts to about 4 stops of dynamic range. This isn’t much, especially when compared to Kodak Portra 400’s incredible 12 stops.
In practice, this means lots of contrast plus the need to select your scenes to ensure that your images aren’t plagued by over-exposures and crushed shadows. However, I found that despite this limitation, 400X isn’t as difficult to properly expose as, say, Veliva 50 and is significantly easier to get good results out of than the notorious Aerochrome.
Also, the under-exposed areas and the black points can still look good on this film due to its fantastic colour reproduction qualities. Below, I will also discuss the kinds of light that suit the 400X best (hint: it’s the golden hour!)
If you’re planning to make long exposures on film, Provia 400X is an excellent choice. There’s no need to make adjustments for times up to one minute, only half a stop needed to compensate for reciprocity failure for 2-minute exposures and a full stop for 4-8min exposures. However, 2+ min exposures will require the use of colour-compensating filters or colour correction.
Provia 400X colours.
Provia 400X has lots of contrast, which can sometimes make your images look unnatural. However, the colours that it generates are both tastefully saturated and resembling of how the scene appears in the real world.
The colour palette of this film is painterly. Saturated, contrasty, yet realistic. The only colour that I found slightly misrepresented on this film is green, which seems a little dark, especially when compared to the red and blue hues. Even then, with all the effects this emulsion creates, the look it renders seems both exaggerated and realistic.
The precision in colour reproduction is likely due to Fujifilm’s noted two colour-correction layers within the emulsion and the new couplers (that also extend the film’s archival qualities).
But despite all that advanced technology, Fujifilm still recommends some colour correction in particular situations. In the 2010s, that meant lens filters and colour dyes during processing. That is not necessary today. Provia 400X responds well to post-processing in tools like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.
From what I can tell, most exposures on 400X show spot-on colour accuracy, especially after an equalization step. I was even able to boost the exposure by about a stop without noticeable degradation. The only (somewhat) troubling situations were the bluest daylight hour (typically during early afternoons and clear skies in the shadows) — nothing a Colour Balance Adjustment Layer can’t solve. The best light to use this film in is during the golden hour (sunset/sunrise).
How much does Fujichrome Provia 400X cost, and where to buy it.
Despite being out of production for over a decade, Fujichrome Provia 400X remains an excellent film and shows no significant signs of degradation. I’ve had good results with boxes that probably weren’t stored in a fridge for most of their lives. This is due to this film’s superior archival qualities, thanks to Fujifilm’s improved chemical coupler design.
And so, despite the prices (currently averaging $30+/35mm), I would still consider getting rolls with unknown storage that are well past expiration. Whatever condition they’re in, there’s always a risk associated with old (sometimes, even new!) film, which may be acceptable.
If interested (and there’s stock available), the link to get yours can be found below:
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Fujifilm Provia 400X film purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!