Fuji Superia X-TRA 400, an appreciation

With Fuji(not)Film’s continued, and continual, discontinuing of various great film stocks, it may seem odd to sing its praises, but they really do/did make some great film. Even the cheap consumer stuff is really quite good, and very versatile. I’ve overexposed it by 5-10 stops, developed it too hot, too cold, too long, and in ancient developer, and managed to pull not only usable, but beautiful results out with very little trouble.

Interestingly while Fuji(Not)Film announced it would be discontinuing 3-packs of 24 and 36 exposure rolls of X-TRA 400 this year, the common (in the US, anyway) 4-packs of 24 exposures are still readily available, and I can barely get out of a CVS or Walgreens without one, so I remain hopeful of its continued availability, though I’d really love to be able to buy 36 exposure rolls with similar ease. And despite my disgust at the corporate behemoth’s callous disregard for an excellent, if somewhat niche, part of its product portfolio (and 1/2 of its name), I’ll probably continue buying and shooting, and may even start stockpiling, Superia 400. I’m a fan.

So let’s get into some torture… On the Chicago trip my darling, adorable wife and I took in 2015, the FG developed the dirty frame counter switch problem, and I ended up shooting a whole roll at 1/90th and f/1.8… Let’s count: Sunny 16 would say 1/400th at f/16 for a ISO400 film, and probably something like f/8 and 1/400th for the street level shots in the downtown canyons. 1/90th and f/1.8? Let’s see. That’s roughly 1 2/3 stops of shutter speed, and 5 1/3 stops of aperture, for a grand total of something like 7 stops overexposed, and what did I end up with? Some fun color shifts and a bit of struggle getting a usable result, but still: my best street photography to date:

With my improved skills (and the improvements in Capture One Pro), I could probably get better color out of these, but still… I’ve gotten worse results out of other films that were abused far less.

And how about ancient developer… how’s 30 rolls from a Unicolor kit sound? For these, I increased development by about 45 seconds and BLIX by a full minute. (From something I read, and my experience with E6, it seems that the BLIX goes off first, but who knows.) They’re a bit grainier than normal, and maybe a bit red, but otherwise fine enough.*

And when you nail exposure and development, Superia is gorgeous in all kinds of light.

Outside, during the day, fall foliage, etc: beautiful.

At sunset, indoors, looking out… MashaAllah!

Cloudy, rainy, afternoon through glass with taillights? SubhanAllah.

In the middle of the night, driving down a wet road? Allahu Akbar!

Fuji(Not)Film’s Superia X-TRA 400 handled everything I threw at it, and came away looking good every time. Sure, there’s the occasional strangeness, bits of film that have been pre-flashed with something, usually something like a light leak, but sometimes with images in it, like these (from the Hanabibti’s Citizenship ceremony):

And, sure, at ~$14-18 for 96 exposures, it’s a bit pricey, maybe, compared with some online deals. But it’s available all over, at time of writing, in almost every CVS, Walgreens, and WalMart I’ve been in over the last 3 years or so, so you can pick some up easy, on the spur of the moment, or in an emergency, and in all cases you can be asured of really decent quality, and easy to process at home and dslr scan too.

So I like it. It’s not my favorite color stock, not by a long shot, but it’s easy to find and readily available, so I reach for it more often than I do with other films. It’s worth a shot, if you haven’t ever before: it’s really great stuff.


*To be honest, the other roll in the tank, a roll of expired Kodak Hawkeye, came out even better, but still… the Superia handled it fine.

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