New Experimental Vistas – Exposure Bracketing

cnv00075-iso200
Contax 167MT, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 @ISO200

With a typical ISO200 colour negative film, you’ll only get worthwhile results if you expose it perfectly at box speed, correct?

I decided to test this theory with a recent experiment.

The film I chose was AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200. This film is rebranded Fuji C200, their cheapest film, which I prefer to the more expensive Superia 200. It’s also available under other guises, like TudorColor XLX200.

The reason I chose Vista Plus 200 is it’s the cheapest and most widely available film for me.

I have three Poundland stores within about 15 miles, and all sell Vista Plus for £1 a roll. Combining this with processing in my local Asda – which I do four rolls at a time for £12.50 to develop and scan to CD – makes film photography affordable.

Buying the film, shooting it, then having it processed and scanned like this works out at £4.13 a roll.

Fortunately, Vista Plus 200 is a very forgiving film and very respectable results (in my eyes) can be gained.

cnv00090-iso200
Contax 167MT, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 @ISO200

For this specific experimental roll I had two main aims. 

First, to shoot the same composition at box speed (ISO200), one stop over (ISO100) and one stop under (ISO400), to see what the differences were in the final image.

Part of the reason for this is that I’ve not found an ISO400 colour film I like very much.

In lower light, and with compact cameras with autoexposure, in theory a faster film will encourage the camera to use a smaller aperture an therefore produce sharper images with a greater depth of field.

At the other end, shooting at ISO100 should force such cameras to use a larger aperture, and increase depth of field, when that was required.

Of course this is only relevant for cameras with some kind of manual ISO control. For auto DX coding cameras, they’ll always shoot a standard roll of DX coded film as box speed, unless they have some kind of exposure compensation control, like some of the excellent late Pentax Espios for example.

The second, slightly lesser, aim of this experiment was to see how Vista Plus looks in black and white.

The motivation is again cost. Even cheap b/w film like Fomapan is still around £3.50 – £4 a roll, and processing is the best part of £10 per roll. A total of £13+ per film makes it too expensive for me, especially when shooting and processing the Vista Plus is a third of the cost.

Yes, I could just shoot one third as many rolls as I do, for the same overall spend, but I currently love shooting film too much to cut down that drastically!

cnv00085-iso400
Contax 167MT, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 @ISO400, desaturated to b/w

For this venture I turned to my trusty Contax 167MT.

The MT is a fierce yet beautiful picture taking machine, with reliable exposures, continuous shooting and auto bracketing.

I set the camera to shoot at +1, 0, -1, ie one stop over exposed, box speed, and one stop under exposed. The lens was an M42 mount Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35mm f/2.4, via an M42 > C/Y adapter, a recent lens purchase that I know is capable of beautiful images.

The results were interesting.

What I did first was go through the scans and pick my favourite of the three shots for each composition. This has little scientific basis, it was simply the photograph I was most pleased with the look of.

Of my eight favourites (24 exposure roll / 3 shots per composition), five were at ISO100, one stop overexposed, two were at box speed, ISO200, and only one was at ISO400, one stop underexposed.

cnv00080-iso100
Contax 167MT, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 @ISO100

What can I take from this experiment?

A few things.

First, that Vista Plus looks more than acceptable shot a stop either side of box speed.

This is no shock, as according to the DX code on the canister, its exposure latitude is +3/-1. It’s a great film to use when shooting without a light meter at all.

In practice this means I can shoot Vista Plus all year round.

In the summer I can shoot at ISO100, when the top shutter speed of a camera might otherwise max out. In winter, at ISO400, so as to be able to shoot handheld at 1/15s, when 1/8s at ISO200 would probably, and 1/4s at ISO100 most definitely, result in camera shake.

Second, the look of Vista Plus at ISO400 is comparable to, and in most cases better than any colour negative ISO400 film I’ve used.

As with native ISO400 film, shooting Vista Plus at ISO400 results in a little more grain and more muted colours. So there’s no need to buy this more expensive film when I can use Vista Plus.

Third, I have more creative control over the look of the photographs, all with one film. 

If I want the most saturated colours, shoot at ISO100.

For more subdued colours and more visible grain, rate the film at ISO400.

Anything in between, just shoot at box speed, ISO200.

Fourth, desaturated to black and white, Vista Plus makes an more than usable alternative to “proper” b/w film. 

cnv00075-iso200
Contax 167MT, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 @ISO200, desaturated to b/w

The last half a dozen rolls of b/w film I’ve used have been CN films – Ilford XP2 Super, Kodak BW400CN and Fuji Neopan 400CN. All of these can be processed as C41 colour film, but they tend to cost £4-6 per roll to purchase, more than the cheapest proper b/w film like Fomapan.

The b/w shots I’ve shared in this post are simply colour ones that I’ve desaturated.

They were not originally intended as b/w shots, so the compositions, contrasts and textures aren’t necessarily what I’d choose if I was shooting b/w.

Hopefully though you will get some indication how Vista Plus looks as b/w, and make your judgement on whether it’s something you like.

At some point I will shoot a whole roll as if I was shooting b/w and see how that goes.

The next experiment.

I plan to repeat this experiment with my Contax 167MT shooting at +1, 0, -1 exposure again, but this time starting with ISO100 as the base value.

So in effect I’ll be shooting ISO50, ISO100 and ISO200. As I mentioned, Vista Plus has a latitude of +3/-1 so this should present no problems, I’m just curious to see how ISO50 comes out compared with ISO100 and ISO200.

Maybe I’ll even try another roll beginning with ISO50, so I get ISO25, ISO50 and ISO100 results. Again this is within the film’s published tolerance, I’m just intrigued at how it behaves as it’s further over exposed.

Finally, a few samples from the roll next to each other so you can see a direct comparison, and draw your own conclusions. 

Above three shots – Contax 167MT, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 shot at, from top to bottom, ISO100, ISO200, ISO400.

Above three shots – Contax 167MT, Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 shot at, from top to bottom, ISO100, ISO200, ISO400.

Have you experimented with shooting with different exposure settings on the same roll of film?

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

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14 thoughts on “New Experimental Vistas – Exposure Bracketing

  1. This is an enormously useful comparison! I shoot this film’s Fujicolor 200 equivalent all the time – it’s my favorite inexpensive color film. Nice to know I can push it confidently to 400, and that I can use it as cheap black and white! Now I’m eager to try both.

  2. That’s fantastic to hear Jim and just the kind of response I’d hoped I’d get. Part of the reason I try experiments like this is so I can share with other film lovers and encourage them to experiment too.

  3. Yes, I have about fifty rolls in my fridge 👏🏻. It’s what I have shot most with since getting back into film a couple of years back. Your piece here, and the one about shooting without a meter, are really giving me a push into doing more with my older cameras, so thanks again – and for all the effort you’ve put into your site. Great job

    1. Excellent, I think I have a similar amount in my fridge! I figure that at some point it will be the predominant film I use, if not the only one.

      Currently I have a little stock of Ferrania Solaris 200 still (from Poundland about three years ago when they sold TWIN packs for £1), plus a fair bit of Superia 100 which is wonderful and some Kodak Color Plus 200, a very reliable film like the Vista Plus 200.

      This experiment with Vista Plus 200 (and future ones I’m planning) are so I can better know the film and its limitations and possible uses. I’ve used it as DIY redscale before too with good results, I’ll do a post about that at some point too.

      Great news about the Ricoh TF-900, they are brilliant cameras. I’m trying to thin down my compact collection and there are a plethora of early 80s 35/2.8s vying for attention, including the TF-900. I would like to narrow down to just one or two of this type. I was blown away using the lens from a broken TF-900 with my Sony NEX, that’s probably the post you read. Also see my shots with a standard Ricoh TF-900 on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/danjamesphotography/sets/72157649949886018/

      Look forward to seeing what you can do with yours.

      1. I suddenly have the feeling that it must be your GTN that I bought on eebs March last year (with a taped X on the filter). I thought your photo style was distinctive, and then the way you speak about film too made me think it. What do you reckon?

      2. Hi Stu, yes I think that’s quite likely! My Electro 35 had a filter with a black taped X. I remember talking with you at the time, and I believe you were quite impressed with it when it arrived. They are classics, and I still regularly look back fondly at the images I made with that one and wonder about getting another. How have you got on with it?

      3. I love it, and as you say, it’s such a handsome beast. Really happy to have it, thanks. I’ll use him again before the year is out, been playing with points and shootses lately – too addictive…

      4. Those P&S Plastic Fantastics are too alluring, I know. Doesn’t help that they’re so cheap and plentiful either.

        I often wonder if I’d be better off buying just one higher end compact like a Contax T2 or TVS, and selling the maybe dozen cheaper ones I have.

        But I don’t think that would be as much fun!

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