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400 vs 800 speed film

Michelle Smith , May 27, 1998; 03:24 p.m.

I recently purchased an Olympus Infinity Stylus Zoom 115 camera. The camera guide recommends 400 speed film, but the 800 speed film I've seen is labeled as all-purpose like the 400 speed. After reading reading all the praises of Fuji SuperG film in these pages, I've decided this is the brand to go with. I am not sure if I should use the 400 or 800. I realize light levels and zoom length make a difference in choosing film speed. However, I bought a P&S so I didn't have to think too much about taking pictures if I didn't want to. I don't want to have to wonder what speed film to put in my camera everytime I load it. I'd really like to choose a speed and be done with it. I take a variety of pictures like most people--indoors, outdoors, family gatherings, sporting events, etc. Any words of wisdom??


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Bruce Rubenstein - NYC , May 27, 1998; 03:43 p.m.

You'll get wisdom for the ages from the sages, but in the end what you have to do is soot a roll of each and decide what you like best. The things to look for when you get your pictures back are things like: color (slower film tends to have more saturated color), contrast (faster film tends to have more contrast so the fighlights wash out and the shadows loose detail), grain (slower film will have less grain) and sharpness (depending on a lot of things wone may look sharper than the other).

Henry Stanley , May 27, 1998; 03:46 p.m.

Hi Michelle:

I like those Fuji films also for my serious stuff, but for my Freedom Explorer 28mm P&S, I LOVE the Kodak MAX (rated at 800, but flexible). I just toured our Austin manufacturing plant where I shot manufacturing indoor processes and outdoor with this little hip pocket camera and got 24 perfect shots, so good the entire roll went in for Photo CD scanning for a laptop slide show. Yes there is grain in much larger blow-ups, but my 5x7's are fab, color is too, and full screen computer images are plenty sharp -- Max was made for P&S and you never have to think about it (it does JUST what you were asking for.)(BTW the Minolta Freedon Explorer DOES have slow synch which really does its job indoors!)


Henry Stanley

Brad Mills , May 27, 1998; 04:04 p.m.

If the majority of your shots are not blown up beyond the normal 4x6 size then you'll probably be ok with 800 speed film. You will be able to get sharper (due to faster shutter speeds and or more depth of field) with 800 film. However you will lose apparent sharpness due to increased grain size, lower saturation, etc.

Try it and see if it meets your standards, weigh the pros and the cons.

Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , May 27, 1998; 07:31 p.m.

Counterpoint opinion.I bought a giant package of MAX at Costco Wholesale. I was not thrilled w/MAX when I chose to enlarge a full frame to 11 by 14,even though the little proof print looked sharp enough. I like to be able at least to make nice enlargements, how about you? For me, I plan to stick to 400 for all purpose work. May even return to slower films... Don't want to sound patronizing,Michelle, however I suggest practice holding the Olympus steady w/the arm sqeeze/forehead brace in low light situations. These small cameras seem to encourage the one hand routine and the jab vs the balanced squeeze. Think 'double action revolver' when you shoot in low light with 400.

Andreas Carl , May 28, 1998; 12:37 a.m.

I don't like MAX 800. It's much too grainy, even on 4x6 prints. On the other hand, ISO 400 films are truly excellent these days. Take ISO 400 film plus a few rolls of ISO 100 (e.g. REALA) for sunny days on the beach.

Bill Harris , May 28, 1998; 12:42 a.m.

About the only thing 800 speed if good for is shooting indoors without a flash..(a la sports photographers)..400 is a good all purpose film, but 200 is even better...

Bob -- , May 28, 1998; 09:59 a.m.

If you really want a nice 800 speed film, try Fuji NHGII 800. It's way better than Max. Max is too grainy.

Brian Gabel , May 28, 1998; 11:33 a.m.

Kodak labels and heavily promotes MAX 800 as an all-purpose film because it is a high-margin product. I think it is overpriced given the quality of the film, but fast film is where the money is.

P&S need faster film because they "suffer" from small aperture lenses. To get proper exposure, you need the proper mix of film speed, aperture and shutter speed. Since P&S have small apertures and you need a relatively high shutter speed to minimize camera shake, you need fast film to balance the equation. Personally, I alternate between 100 and 400 speed film for my P&S. I won't touch MAX since it is expensive and low-quality (too contrasty and grainy). Regular Gold 400 is a much better film and is fast enough for most indoor photography (with flash). It also enlarges surprisingly well. An 11x14 enlargement of Gold 400 will show the resolution limitations of your P&S lens, not the film. Use 100 film when you are outdoors or want to emphasize small depth of field. I find that most P&S are programmed to keep a shutter speed above 1/60 sec. With slower film, the camera is forced to shoot the lens wide-open, giving a slighty blurry background (which is desirable to emphasize your subject).

ISO 200 films have no purpose, in my opinion. They are only slightly less grainy than 400 films and you lose a stop of speed. These films were called general purpose in the days when 400 films didn't look so good. Now the 400 films are generally excellent, 200 films don't have any real benefits.

Bogdan -- , May 28, 1998; 04:40 p.m.

I join those against Kodak Max. It works well only in the low light, then the grain is not so apparent. But if you shoot at normal lighting, the result will be disqusting. Good luck, Bogdan

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