If you’re fond of taking portraits in natural light, I’m sure one of the things you wanted to find out is the best film to use outdoors. To help you with this, I took out 2 of the most readily available and affordable 35mm films you can grab today on a #FilmRoadTest: Fujicolor C200 and Agfa Vista 200.
Before anything else, I know that these films aren’t definitively the best for professional portraits. But, if you’re new to film photography and you don’t exactly have steady funds for more expensive emulsions, these 2 films are great for practice.
Now, let’s touch base with some of the technical stuff. Minimal noise is something you would probably want in portraits, which makes ISO 100 films a good choice. They produce fine grains and can be “fast” enough (requiring quick exposure times) if you’re working with plenty of light. These make low ISO films great for shooting during bright sunny days when the light produces harsh shadows and when you’d want to use smaller apertures to get sharper photographs of your model.
Related article: The quiet rise of film prices
Fujicolor C200 and Agfa Vista 200, on the other hand, have slightly greater light sensitivity. This makes them a little more forgiving and flexible to varying light conditions and locations compared to ISO 100.
Case in post is a portrait session I recently did. I was hoping for a sunny afternoon so I can play around with some shadows and pockets of sunlight in my photos. However, it turned to be a cloudy and rainy day, which produced mostly dull light outdoors. We also ended up chasing the light with a very short window of time to shoot. The show must go on, so as soon as the rain stopped, we headed out to make the most of the light from 4:30 p.m. to around 6 p.m.
First, let me share some of the best shots I got using my Nikon FE2 and Fujicolor C200.
Now, here are some of the best shots from the same camera and the Agfa Vista 200.
As you can see, one of the issues I had to struggle with was the slow shutter speed in such muted lighting, which resulted in some blur. To compensate for the low light, I used wider apertures, not going above f/2.8 even at the start of my shoot. Had I used a tripod, I think I would have fared with better shots. Normally, I’d recommend using at least 400 ISO films for the kind of lighting I shot with. Still, I think this shoot was a good exercise to show the kind of images you can get even if you don’t work with bright light. I wouldn’t have pushed through with the shoot if I had 100 ISO films, but the extra sensitivity allowed me to make the most out of the available light.
It could be just me, but I don’t really see much difference in the colors produced by the two films, except maybe that Fujicolor C200 rendered the skin tones slightly warmer. Overall, I think the colors are still pleasant despite the pretty drab lighting and neutral palette I chose to work with for this shoot. In some of the shots with the Agfa Vista 200, some of the bits of red and green actually pop, so I believe you can get really vibrant photos if you choose to work with a colourful scene (something that we need to try for the next Road Test!). The grains are also very fine in both films, which I find similar to other ISO 100 films I have tried in the past, making the extra sensitivity worth it.
So, there you have it! I hope this road test somehow gave you an idea about what it’s like to shoot portraits with Fujicolor C200 and Agfa Vista 200. Go grab some rolls of both films, take them out for a portrait session, feel free to experiment, and maybe share your results with us as well! If you have any questions, please do leave your comments below and I’ll answer as quick as I can.