Fujichrome Provia 100F Film Review

Fujifilm’s Premium Reversal Stock of 20 Years and Counting

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5

Fujifilm’s Fujichrome Provia 100F slide film features accurate colour reproduction, ultra-fine grain, and strong microcontrast. Provia is not a cheap film, but it’s a good one.

Having tried 100F for the first time back in 2018, I immediately fell in love with its punchy shadows that dissolved into strong blues and reds via my dad’s contrasty Industar-61 lens. I’ve since used it with a variety of glass and cameras, each time discovering something new about this stock.

Provia’s mix of detailed realism and subdued expressivity places its results above most other films and digital sensors — at least to my eye.

Provia 100F through Russian Industar-61 lens.

Provia 100F’s notable history.

Fujifilm Provia 100F (stamped with yellow RDP III lettering on developed slides) was released in 2000 as a successor to 1994’s Provia 100 film (RDP II), which was an upgraded Fujichrome 100 Professional D (RDP, 1983) film. The granddaddy of them all was Fujichrome 100 Professional Type D, released in 1978. Source.

A year past its release, Provia 100F and Provia 400F were awarded the “Camera Press Club Special Award” by Camera Grand Prix — the same organization that recognized Minolta TC-1 in 1996.

Ten years into 100F’s production, Fujifilm released a statement about its films and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). The company used the chemical for its anti-static properties; however, it was revealed as a toxic substance in a 2002 study. As a result, Fujifilm wrote that they discontinued their use of PFOS in film production. However, a few earlier batches still contain PFOS:

Velvia Professional (lots 578-595), manufactured 2000/9~2006/2. Velvia 50 (lots 501-504), manufactured 2007/2~2010/2.

Fujichrome Provia 100F (lots 1-039), manufactured 2000/1~2004/4.

Fujichrome 64T Type II (lots 704-715), manufactured 2000/3~2004/11.

Neopan 100 ACROS (lots 302-347), manufactured 2000/10~2008/9.

Although the above films used PFOS during their manufacturing stage, the chemical remains locked inside the developed emulsion and does not spread during normal handling and storage — according to Fujifilm.

The last Provia 100F-related announcement from Fujifilm was the 2018’s batch of promo instant noodles with branding identical to the film cassettes. Yum.

Provia 100F with Minolta TC-1.

Grain structure, resolution, sharpness.

Provia 100F works great with sharp, contrasty lenses like the legendary Minolta’s 28mm G-Rokkor. The film can capture a lot of fine nuances that other stocks often disguise under their grain arrangement.

This, of course, also means that any softness in your lens will be made plain at high magnification — as you may notice in the samples below.

Fujifilm datasheet.

The amount of detail film resolves is typically reported as an RMS granularity. Provia 100F’s datasheet reports RMS granularity of 8 — identical to Kodak’s only slide film offering, Ektachrome E100. Or almost twice as fine as the legendary monochrome Tri-X’s RMS 13.

When enlarged, Provia 100F’s resolution appears to be further improved by its realistic colour reproduction.

Pictures taken with this film can sometimes be confused with something taken on a modern digital camera — even in 35mm. After all, this is the pinnacle of photochemical innovation aimed at precision and realism. Knowing this, I still find this film to deliver a bit more life than a data stream from a grid of photodiodes.

Provia 100F feels smooth and organic under high magnification. I found it very revealing of the lens’ character with a reserved but noticeable hint of its own flavour mixed in.

Below are uncropped half-frame exposure scans of Provia 100F taken with my Olympus PEN FV SLR and 𝒇2.8 E.Zuiko Auto-S lens with Provia 100F. On my 13” MacBook Pro, the scans are displayed 16 times larger than the original.

Olympus 𝒇2.8 E.Zuiko Auto-S Pancake SLR Lens with Provia 100F.

Even at the microscope magnification levels, this film has plenty of resolution to give. Any loss of detail in the images above is most likely due to the lens’ limitations.

The downside of Provia’s excellent resolution and natural colour rendition is its incompatibility with intense sharpening. Cranking it up beyond barely noticeable levels takes away from the film’s defining lifelike properties.

Colour reproduction.

Extremely satisfying color depiction, providing the most brilliant primaries without sacrificing the delicate pastels, for wide-ranging application. Smooth gradation reproduction with superb depth, thanks to bias-free, brilliant highlights and excellent highlight-to-shadow gradation linearity.

Fujifilm.

Fujifilm’s description of its stock often stands at odds with some of the feedback I found about it online. Reading user complaints about this film felt like the people who tried Provia 100F were expecting more “character” (colour shifts, contrast, grain, etc.) from a twenty-year-old emulsion. Though I feel that I can discern and appreciate Provia 100F’s unique visual appeal, I can’t fully disagree with folks noting how true-to-life it appears.

If you’re looking for something slightly less realistic in slide form, Fujifilm Velvia stocks may be your best bet— although Velvia 100 is no longer available in the United States. However, if you need that ISO 100, I’d consider Ektachrome — another brilliant slide film still in production.

Provia 100F with Minolta TC-1.
Provia 100F with Minolta TC-1.
Provia 100F with Minolta TC-1.
Provia 100F with Minolta TC-1.
Provia 100F with Minolta TC-1.

Though this film is not the best candidate for sharpening, its overall contrast can easily be altered digitally and the colours adjusted to your liking. But given this stock’s superpower being photochemical realism, I would recommend staying away from any drastic changes other than image equalization.

Metering.

The one time you may need work in post on your images is when your exposure is off, or the dynamic range of the scene is too wide and you’re forced to try and add some definition to your shadows. Thankfully, Provia 100F may allow you to recover 1-2 stops in the dark areas.

As you can see from the example below, I was able to do a fair amount of colour correction and shadow restoration without any new noise added to the image:

Provia 100F through Russian Industar-61 lens. Bottom-right side of the frame is a scan without any edits applied; top-left side of the frame benefitted from the contrast curves adjustments and colour balancing.

Looking at Provia 100F’s characteristic curves, the 1.5 𝚫lux-seconds converts to about five stops of dynamic range, which is about the same as Ektachrome.

Fujifilm datasheet.

Like Ektachrome, Provia 100F can be pushed up to +2 stops and pulled a 1/2 stop during development.

When it comes to reciprocity failure, 100F performs fantastically with no changes needed for exposure times between 1/4000s and 2 minutes. This is great news for anyone planning to photograph the night sky/star trails on film.

Though, of course, this film has its limitations. Not all shadows can be restored, and blown highlights can never be brought back.

The good news is that slight imperfection in exposure will not necessarily ruin your picture completely. Provia 100F does not clip like a digital camera would on the fringes of its dynamic range; it creates a soft transition between the areas of lost data and the rest of the photograph.

Olympus 𝒇2.8 E.Zuiko Auto-S with Provia 100F. Some loss of detail in the shadows under the bushes and in the glacier. The sun was intensely bright up there.

Scanning.

As with any other slide film, scanning Provia 100F is fairly easy. I would recommend the most neutral settings possible with your scanner followed by an equalization step — just to see how the image looks with minimal alterations — you may like it as-is.

Underexposed areas of this film may appear blue-ish, correcting which isn’t particularly difficult in using tools like Adobe Photoshop.

How much does Fujichrome Provia 100F cost, and where to buy it.

When it comes to budgeting, my market research suggested an average cost of $20 per 35mm/36exp. roll on July 7, 2021. However, I doubt that the price remained stable during the six months of the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions that elapsed since July 2021.

This film is typically priced cheaper than Velvia but costlier than Kodak’s Ektachrome E100. Of course, don’t forget to factor in lab fees/chemicals when budgeting your shoot with Provia 100F. This film should be developed in E-6 chemistry — make sure that your lab can process it in those or expect to receive it back as cross-processed negatives.

Most shops that stock a decent selection of “professional”-labelled emulsions like Portra will also have Provia 100F. But if you don’t mind helping out this site a bit:

Please consider making your Fujichrome Provia 100F film purchase using this link  so that Analog.Cafe may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!