On my last shift at the film lab in Bondi, I picked up one of the last rolls of Fujifilm ACROS film. It seemed poignant — as my job at the shop was finishing, so too was the production of this film stock.
The product’s discontinuation in March last year seemed to mark the death knell for Fuji’s dedication to analog photography. However, it’s back by popular demand — the company has decided to resurrect the stock with adjustments to the formula to make up for a lack of raw materials required for its production.
Being back in Australia for my friend Josh and Sun’s wedding, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to try out this classic film, so I loaded a roll into my Olympus O-Product*. Additionally, I also had my trusty X100F with the ACROS film simulation that I thought might make an interesting comparison between the silver and the silicon.
As usual, I have to lay out a disclaimer: this is not a scientific test. I used the same equivalent focal length for the cameras — the 23mm on the X100F and 35mm on my Olympus O-Product. But of course, these are both are very different cameras with vastly different lenses. Additionally, as the O-Product lacks control over its flash power (and of course image preview), some of my inside shots have vastly different levels of exposure.
Additionally, some of my shots are taken one after the other to give the best comparison. Some, however, I obviously could not recreate, given the nature of it being a wedding with rapidly-changing subject matter. In any case, when it comes to film there are so many variables and considerations to be made, in regards to development and scanning. But I offer apologies in advance to any pedants who want to fill the comments section with objections about the lack of scientific method.
For technical considerations, I developed the ACROS in Ilfosol 3 at 1:9 for 5 minutes, as per the massive dev chart’s instructions. The film was scanned on an FP-3000 Fuji Scanner, at 6×9 quality and exported as 16 base JPEGs. (Click the photos below for higher-resolution versions.)
As you can see, the digital lacks much of the contrast and punch of the original ACROS film, which is far more bold. This is most likely to allow for editing after the fact, and in this regard, I much prefer the rendering of the film.
That being said, the digital obviously has a far superior quality in terms of sharpness. If I had to shoot for professional purposes, regardless of the practical considerations involved, these digital JPEGS offers far more flexibility in processing after the fact (especially true if you are not the one in charge of the scanning).
Just in terms of resolution, I think you would need to shoot with a much bulkier and cumbersome medium format camera to get a film result on par with what the X100F can render.
Overall though, I just have to say, I just prefer shooting with film than digital, especially in events like this. I got better shots on average with 36 exposures on the O-Product than I did with the X100F, and that was also in fully automatic settings and sometimes not even looking through the viewfinder. Maybe because I was more mindful of waiting for the perfect moment rather than just firing away through a 32GB card.
To exemplify this, here are a few ‘bonus’ moments of very different scenes and lighting, captured with both the film and digital:
Of course, this all comes down to how you use the camera, and whether your prioritize your film shots over your digital. I think of special moments as all the more special if you get them on celluloid, and that just me being romantic. But I concede, you would get much the same (if not better) shots if you had a full-frame camera on burst mode to capture a decisive frame. That’s not my style, and I’m probably a technically worse photographer for it.
So, as with almost all things in photography, it comes down to your preference on how you shoot and what you like in a result. For me its about the fun and enjoying the process — especially when I’m not getting paid.
* A bit of history on the beautiful Olympus O-Product: It was released in 1988 to commemorate Olympus’s 100 year anniversary. Only 20 000 were made and only 10 000 were released outside of Japan. Inside the film door is an inscription that reads ‘A new concept in product design. Functional imperatives molded to artistic form. A camera shaped with simple lines and elegant contours. While beautifully crafted, it is essentially the same lens and mechanical build of the far cheaper Olympus AF-10, a fantastic, albeit far cheaper compact camera. One thing that does separate it, however, is a brilliant and extremely powerful flash, with its own power unit.
About the author: James Cater is a digital and analog photographer, film lab operator, and model. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Cater’s work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.