Fujifilm Fujichrome Velvia 50 Film Review

Incredible Detail With Vivid Reds and Blues

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Fujifilm’s Fujichrome Velvia 50 is a premium high-definition slide emulsion from Japan. It features accurate colours and some of the finest and sharpest grain on positive film. It is also the most expensive 35mm film in production.

Velvia was introduced in 1990 as a direct competitor to Kodachrome 25. At the time, Velvia was an exceptionally contrasty/saturated film. But despite the extra punch, it was still considered the superior choice to Kodachrome when it came to colour accuracy. Better yet, Velvia could be developed with the widely-available E-6 chemicals, whereas Kodachrome had to go through a complex process at specialty labs.

In 2007, the original, super-punchy Velvia got superseded by Fujichrome Velvia 50, which renders the world in a more realistic, dialled-back saturation palette. Fujichrome Velvia 100 was also added to the portfolio; it had plenty of contrast — like the original Velvia — however, it got discontinued across the USA in 2021 (while still sold elsewhere).

Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Voigtländer Vitessa A.

Grain structure, resolution, sharpness.

On paper, Fujichrome Velvia 50 lists an RMS granularity value of 9, indicative of its ultrafine grain. Since a lower number means finer, Velvia 50 can be said to have chunkier grain than Neopan Acros (RMS 7), Provia 100F (RMS 8), and Ektachrome E100 (RMS 8).

But, as Kodak writes in its documentation, RMS granularity isn’t reliable for measuring perceived film graininess. Indeed, Fujicolor Natura 1600 is rated at RMS 4 — but it’s a much grainier stock, as you’d expect from film speeds like that.

My observation, based on five years’ worth of 40MP scans via PrimeFilm XAs, shows that Velvia is the finest-grained colour film in production.

In fact, the grain on this film is so fine that it can not be seen unless you enlarge the image 25x.

If you shoot this film on medium or large format sheets, you’ll be able to print your work a few meters across without revealing any grain. But for my purposes, I found the superb resolution of this film an ideal companion for my half-frame SLR: Olympus PEN FV.

The PEN is a unique camera in that it is the only SLR in the world of half-frame cameras; to boot, it comes with an incredible selection of lenses. Like the ultra-fast 42mm 𝒇1.2, the pancake 38mm 𝒇2.8, a premium portrait 70mm 𝒇2, or the telephoto 150mm 𝒇4. If lucky, you may even find an 800mm 𝒇8 mirror lens that, on full-frame, translates into 1,120mm — a proper telescope!

As a rule, my PEN’s smaller frame size translates into chunkier grain. Though desired on certain occasions, 72 frames are a few too many for most occasions. And so, I usually look for relatively fine-grained stocks for this camera; Fujichrome Velvia 50 is perfect for use in half-frame cameras.

Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Olympus PEN FV.
Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Olympus PEN FV.
Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Olympus PEN FV.
Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Olympus PEN FV.

Colour reproduction.

I love that once developed, slide film becomes a decoded master. This is in contrast to negative film, which still requires decoding — as in, printing in a darkroom or inverting digitally.

In practice, this means that we can compare our printed/scanned copy to the original and see if it’s rendering the colours faithfully. We can also tweak our copy’s colours to resemble the film’s intended palette more closely.

There’s no way to do this with negative film.

Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Olympus PEN FV.

I’ll discuss best scanning practices with Velvia 50 below, but for now, rest assured that the colours of the scans in this article are visually accurate, according to my tests on my 2019 13” Macbook Pro, iPhone XS, and 24” Samsung SA850 monitor.

On slides and screen, Velvia 50 colours look well-balanced and strongly saturated. This is despite the fact that this modern version of the film is said to be “milder” than the original.

You can certainly dial those colours back and alter your images in various ways digitally; however, I’ve never felt the need. Velvia 50 renders starker blues and reds — but they look good. Even better after I equalize the histogram in my scans, which effectively cuts the fog.

The strong saturation on Velvia 50 is particularly evident in scenes with lots of contrast and prominent shadows — like the image above. For a more realistic look, you may try over-exposing your shots by half a stop and consider choosing locations with softer, more even lighting.

Metering for Velvia 50 and its dynamic range.

Fujichrome Velvia 50 has about 5 stops of dynamic range. This is based on the approximate 1.5 lux-seconds of usable curvature slope converted to stops (see the equation).

Compared to our vision, estimated by various sources to have between 10 and 20 stops of dynamic range, Velvia 50 does not preserve detail in shadows and highlights well. This means that accurate metering is key — and so is your choice of scene/light.

In full sun, you may need to choose which parts of your scene will either become pure white or pure black. In which case, I suggest you err on the side of under-exposure when metering light for Velvia 50. As you’d expect from slide film — over-exposed spots quickly turn “pure white,” leaving “holes” in your images. However, the shadows show remarkable fidelity, an absolute lack of noise and a substantial bump in contrast that you may enjoy.

Not all slide films render under-exposed areas well, but Velvia 50 does an exceptional job at it.

Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Voigtländer Vitessa A. Under-exposed areas show high contrast, fidelity and a complete lack of noise.
Fujichrome Velvia 50 with Voigtländer Vitessa A. Over-exposed areas leave gaps in the image.

Scanning Veliva 50.

Though some claim to have difficulties scanning Velvia 50, a decent scanner with good DMax sensitivity can extract significant detail and colour fidelity from the slides. You may need to equalize your histogram, especially if you’ve been shooting expired film. But the best part is that you can always compare your scan or print to the original. If you do that, make sure to shine plenty of light through your slide, as it tends to look a little dark otherwise.

Is it worth the price?

Being the most expensive film in production, Veliva 50 better deliver something no other emulsion has. Especially when we have a perfectly-good Kodak alternative: Ektachrome E100, which costs about ¾ of what Veliva goes for today.

And it does. Velvia 50 is an incredible film. It demonstrates immense resolution on all formats, along with saturated but well-balanced colours — better than any other colour film I’ve used. But the film’s limited dynamic range, light sensitivity, and price should give most photographers a pause before throwing it into the camera for a casual shoot. This is a special film that renders the world in a unique way and I am certainly happy that we can still get it today; however, it may not be right for all occasions.

For me, Velvia 50 is an excellent choice for quality half-frame cameras that yields images as detailed as full-frame scans and events with controlled light that require top-notch detail, vivid reds, and vivid blues. I can only imagine how incredible this film may look on large format (discontinued yet still likely available via the link below).

By the way: Please consider making your Fujifilm Fujichrome Velvia 50 film purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!

If you’re interested in film prices and would like to stay on top of them, the best way is to subscribe to the free semi-annual reports on film costs. I do all the hard work surveying a curated variety of film stores across the world on this and many other film stocks.