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A Versatile and Balanced Colour Film: Fujifilm Pro 160NS Review

Fujifilm Pro 160NS is a discontinued, professional-quality, high-speed, daylight-type, fine-grain, colour negative film that was introduced by Fujifilm in 2004 as a replacement for Fujicolor NPS 160. It is part of the Fujifilm Pro series of films, along with its likewise discontinued siblings, Fujifilm Pro 400H and Fujifilm Pro 800Z. The film is designed for portrait, wedding, fashion, and commercial photography, where accurate rendition of skin tones and natural colours is essential. It is also suitable for landscape, travel, and documentary photography, where a wide exposure latitude and a high dynamic range are desirable. The film has an ISO speed of 160, which means it is moderately sensitive to light and can be used in various lighting conditions. It has a nominal contrast and saturation level, which can be adjusted during development or scanning to suit different preferences and styles. The film has a very fine grain structure, which gives it a smooth and sharp appearance. The film also sports Fujifilm's patented 4th Color Layer, which enhances the colour reproduction and reduces colour casts under different light sources.

 

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The film was available in 35mm, 120 (medium format), and sheet film (4x5" and 8x10") formats. It can be developed using the standard C-41 process, which is widely available and affordable. The film can also be pushed or pulled up to two stops during development to increase or decrease the contrast and speed of the film. While it is now discontinued, stock continues to be available on eBay and at other retailers.


In the following sections, I will look at the main features and characteristics of Fujifilm Pro 160NS in more detail, and compare it to two of the most popular - and comparable - colour negative films that are still available in the market - Kodak Portra 160 and Kodak Ektar 100.


Colour

One of the main strengths of the Fujifilm Pro 160NS film is its colour rendition. The film produces natural-looking colours that are well-balanced and faithful to the original scene. The film has a neutral grey balance, which means it does not have a strong colour cast or bias towards any particular hue. The film also has a fourth colour-sensitive layer, which enhances the colour reproduction and reduces colour casts under different light sources, such as tungsten, fluorescent, or mixed lighting.


The film is especially good at rendering skin tones, which are smooth and flattering. The film captures subtle variations in skin tones and textures without losing detail or creating unnatural colours. The film also preserves the natural warmth and glow of skin tones under different lighting conditions.



The film also produces vivid and saturated colours that are not too overbearing or unrealistic. The film captures the richness and depth of colours without sacrificing detail or contrast. The film can handle a wide range of colours, from bright primary colours to muted pastel shades. The film also renders greens and blues very well, which makes it ideal for landscape photography.

 

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Colour Comparison with Kodak Portra 160 and Ektar 100:

Kodak Portra 160 is one of the most popular films for portrait photography, as it produces smooth and natural skin tones with low contrast and fine grain. The film has a warm tone that adds a pleasing glow to skin tones and enhances the mood of the scene. The film also has a wide exposure latitude that allows for overexposure or underexposure without losing detail or colour accuracy.


Kodak Ektar 100 is one of the most saturated and vivid colour negative films in the market, as it produces rich and vibrant colours with high contrast and sharpness. The film has a cool tone that adds a crispness and clarity to colours and enhances the details of the scene. The film also has a very fine grain structure that gives it a smooth and clean appearance.


Fujifilm Pro 160NS can be seen as a middle ground between the Kodak Portra 160 and the Kodak Ektar 100 films, as it combines the naturalness and smoothness of the former with the vividness and richness of the latter.

 

How to Adjust Colour During Development or Scanning

The colour of the Fujifilm Pro 160NS film can be adjusted during development or scanning to suit different preferences and styles. During development, the film can be pushed or pulled up to two stops to increase or decrease the contrast and speed of the film. Pushing the film will result in more saturated and contrasty colours, while pulling the film will result in more muted and flat colours. During scanning, the film can be colour corrected using software tools such as Negative Lab Pro or Vuescan to change the hue, saturation, brightness, contrast, white balance, or curves of the image.

 

Grain

Another main strength of the Fujifilm Pro 160NS film is its grain structure. The film has a very fine grain that is barely noticeable even at large magnifications. The film has a smooth and sharp appearance that preserves the details and textures of the scene. The film has a high resolution that allows for enlargements or cropping without losing quality.


A found still life of bottles and cups on a wall in Greenwich.
Original size photograph. Photo credit: Michael Elliott
A 300% crop of the original photograph above.
300% crop. Notice that the grain is only just starting to become visible. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Grain Comparison with Kodak Portra 160 and Ektar 100:


Kodak Portra 160 has a very fine grain that is similar to that of the Fujifilm Pro 160NS film. The film has a smooth and sharp appearance that is ideal for portrait photography. The film has a high resolution that allows for large prints or cropping without losing quality.


Kodak Ektar 100 has a very fine grain that is slightly finer than that of the Fujifilm Pro 160NS film. The film has a smooth and clean appearance that is ideal for landscape photography. The film has a high resolution that allows for large prints or cropping without losing quality.


Fujifilm Pro 160NS can be seen as having one of the finest grains among colour negative films in the market, along with the Kodak Portra 160 and Kodak Ektar 100 films. The differences are minimal and as such, all three are recommendable if grain is of the utmost concern.

 

How to Control Grain During Development or Scanning

The grain of the Fujifilm Pro 160NS film can be controlled during development or scanning to suit different preferences and styles. During development, pushing or pulling the film will affect the grain size and visibility of the film. Pushing the film will result in larger and more visible grains, while pulling the film will result in smaller and less visible grains. During scanning, using different resolutions or sharpening settings will affect the grain size and visibility of the image. Scanning at higher resolutions will reveal more grains, while scanning at lower resolutions will hide some grains. Nonetheless, grain or noise is an inherent part of imaging, and there is no way to completely eliminate it, but as is the case with most things, prevention is better than a cure.

 

Resolution

Resolution is a measure of how much detail a film can capture and reproduce. It depends on several factors, such as the film format, the lens quality, the aperture setting, the focus accuracy, the scanning method, and the printing size.


Fujifilm Pro 160NS has a high resolution that can rival some digital cameras. It can resolve up to 100 line pairs per millimetre (lp/mm) at a contrast ratio of 1000:1, and up to 80 lp/mm at a contrast ratio of 1.6:1. This means that it can produce sharp and detailed images even when enlarged or cropped.


As with everything in photography, resolution is not the be all and end all when it comes to image quality, with other factors, like contrast, colour saturation, tonal range, grain structure, and dynamic range also playing huge roles in creating pleasing and realistic images. While it helps to have a high-resolving film to create your ideal image, the resolution of the final image is also limited by the resolving power of your lens, so keep that in mind.


Exposure Latitude

Exposure latitude is a measure of how much a film can tolerate overexposure or underexposure without losing too much detail in the highlights or shadows. It is affected by the film's sensitivity, contrast, colour balance, and development process.


A colour street photography with a young woman in the foreground looking at her phone and two other people in the background. The lighting is low and warm.
A relatively high contrast scene shows Fuji Pro 160NS has a wide exposure latitude. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Fujifilm Pro 160NS has a wide exposure latitude that allows for some flexibility in shooting conditions. It can handle up to 3 stops of overexposure and up to 2 stops of underexposure without significant loss of quality. This means that it can cope with varying light levels, backlighting situations, flash photography, and metering errors.


Exposure latitude, though, is not infinite and overexposing or underexposing too much will result in colour shifts, loss of contrast, increased grain, reduced sharpness, and blown-out highlights or blocked-up shadows. So it is still advisable to use a reliable light meter and expose correctly for the most important part of the scene. And as with everything in film, err on the side of overexposure, rather than under exposing.


Applications

Fujifilm Pro 160NS is suitable for various types of photography that require natural-looking colours and smooth tonal transitions. It excels in portrait photography, rendering skin tones beautifully and faithfully, while capturing the important fine details and textures in hair, clothing, jewellery, and accessories.



Fujifilm Pro 160NS is also a good choice for landscape photography, where it can reproduce vivid greens, blues, yellows, and reds without being too saturated or unnatural, and can handle bright skies and dark shadows without losing detail or contrast.



As with portrait photography, Fujifilm Pro 160NS can also equally well be applied to wedding photography. It is particularly useful insomuch as it can handle mixed lighting situations, such as indoor and outdoor scenes, natural and artificial light sources, and flash and ambient light combinations, all hallmarks of wedding photography.


Fashion photography is another area where Fujifilm Pro 160NS is useful to consider as your medium; it can showcase the style and personality of the models, as well as the design and texture of the clothing, accessories, and makeup, with a soft and flattering look that enhances the beauty and elegance of the subjects.


It is a versatile film and can be used well with other genres of photography, such as street photography and documentary photography - a general mid-speed all-rounder.



What To Shoot Now Fujifilm Pro 160NS is Discontinued?

Fujifilm Pro 160NS is no longer available in the market today (though stocks still exist so it can still be purchased). Among other available colour films, Kodak Portra 160 and Ektar 100 are the most likely candidates to replace this film.

  • Fujifilm Pro 160NS vs Kodak Portra 160: both designed for portrait photography, but with different colour profiles. Fujifilm Pro 160NS has a more neutral and balanced colour palette, while Kodak Portra 160 has a warmer and more saturated colour palette. Portra 160 is the ideal replacement for portrait and wedding photography.

  • Fujifilm Pro 160NS vs Kodak Ektar 100: both suitable for landscape photography, but with different contrast and saturation levels. Kodak Ektar 100 has a higher contrast, and is far more saturated, with a finer grain than Fujifilm Pro 160NS, which can result in more punchy and crisp images. Ektar 100 is the ideal replacement for landscape photography.

 

How to Shoot with Fujifilm Pro 160NS

Fujifilm Pro 160NS is a versatile and balanced film that can be used for various types of photography. Here are some tips and tricks for shooting with this film:

  • Use a reliable light meter or camera meter to measure the light level and set the correct exposure. You can also use the sunny 16 rule or other exposure guides as a reference.

  • If you are not sure about the exposure, you can bracket your shots by taking one at the recommended exposure, one at one stop overexposed, and one at one stop underexposed. You can then compare the results and choose the best one.

  • If you are shooting in low-light conditions, you can use a tripod, a cable release, or a self-timer to avoid camera shake and blur. You can also use a flash or a reflector to add some fill light or create some catchlights in the eyes.

  • If you are shooting portraits, you can use a lens with a wide aperture (such as f/2.8 or f/1.4) to create a shallow depth of field and blur the background. You can also use a lens with a longer focal length (such as 85mm or 105mm) to compress the perspective and avoid distortion.

  • If you are shooting landscapes, you can use a lens with a small aperture (such as f/16 or f/22) to create a large depth of field and keep everything in focus. You can also use a lens with a shorter focal length (such as 24mm or 35mm) to capture a wider angle of view and include more elements in the frame.

  • If you are shooting in bright sunlight, you can use a polarising filter or a graduated neutral density filter to reduce glare and reflections, enhance colours and contrast, and balance the exposure between the sky and the ground.

  • If you are shooting in cloudy or overcast weather, you can use a warming filter or an enhancing filter to add some warmth and vibrancy to the colours, especially the greens and blues.

 

Conclusion

Fujifilm Pro 160NS is a versatile and balanced colour film that can produce natural and realistic images with fine grain, high resolution, wide exposure latitude, and accurate colour rendition. It is suitable for various types of photography, such as portrait, landscape, wedding, fashion, and travel photography.


Unfortunately, Fujifilm Pro 160NS has been discontinued by Fujifilm in 2016. This is a great loss to the film photography marketplace and community, as Fujifilm Pro 160NS was one of the most popular and widely used colour films among professional and amateur photographers alike.


There is no one film that can replace Fujifilm Pro 160NS for all applications and preferences. However, there are some alternatives that can offer similar or different results depending on the situation and the style. For example, Kodak Portra 160 is a great film for people photography, such as portrait and wedding photography, as it has a warmer and more saturated colour palette, a smoother grain structure, and a lower contrast than Fujifilm Pro 160NS. On the other hand, Kodak Ektar 100 is a great film for landscape photography, as it has a higher contrast and a finer grain than Fujifilm Pro 160NS, as well as more vivid and punchy colours.


If you are looking for a film that can capture the beauty and realism of the world with a neutral and balanced tone, you may want to try Fujifilm Pro 160NS before it becomes too rare or expensive to find. It is a film that can deliver stunning results in various conditions and scenarios, and it is a film that can showcase your skills and creativity as a photographer. It is a film that deserves to be remembered and appreciated by the film photography community.

 

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