Week 29: Fuji Natura 1600 tackles low light in London

During a recent work trip visit to London I decided to try out some high ISO film, which I figured would work in any situation. Here are some snapshots from my trip and impressions of the film.

With a packed work agenda for the week, I decided to opt for my Leica M6 (I have been shooting a lot with my much bigger Hasselblad kit lately), with a 50mm and 28mm lens. I also saw a new film in the Fuji Natura 1600 in my local online shop (the wonderful Macodirect in Germany), which I figured was worth a shot. I think it is basically the same film as Fuji Superia 1600, just re-branded for a different market.

So, talking of high ISO films. Remember this is all about how sensitive the film is to light, and nowadays films of such high ISO as 1600 are rare. There is of course Ilford Delta 3200 (see Week 1 of my project), but that is an exception. I usually operate in the 400 or 800 range. Higher ISO films are also referred to as "fast films". Faster film requires less light, meaning it can be exposed at a faster shutter speed (how long the shutter is open for) or smaller apertures (how much light you let in through the lens).

There is also the concept of pushing film, where you effectively rate the film higher than the film is designed for (e.g. ISO 400 becomes 800). This allows you to use a slower film (e.g. 400) in situations of lower light and using it as if it were an ISO 800 film. There is a whole phenomenon around pushing film, where photographers experiment as the results can vary. Maybe something I will do for a future project!

Now back to my trip. I only had 1 roll of Fuji Natura 1600 and no theme in mind other than having the camera with me at all times, and seeing if I found anything interesting (a surprisingly good way of just going with the flow and ending up with some good shots!).

As usual, all photographs are clickable for full screen viewing. Enjoy!

Enroute to London. Actually this shot ended up being a bit of a blurry mess between the white airplane and white bright sky. ISO 1600 is clearly better suited to nighttime or indoor shooting. At any rate, with a camera in an airport I am bound to photograph airplanes!
Just off High Holborn, Central London. I have always thought this building has a cool design and I like the reflection of the sky in the windows.
Handsome man (my twin brother!). Photograph exposed quite well given difference between lower light inside the train and very bright outside.
Beers with the lads. Remember all these shots are handheld, so quite clear overall. Bit underexposed here given the bright window glare - however I can see this as a good film for candid indoor / pub shots.
I really look how clear this neon sign is (great burger joint too by the way).
This film seems to work quite well with neon signs. I managed to expose this properly so the rest of the shot is dark (not a grainy mess).
Less impressive shot - the colours are a bit soft compared to how I really saw them.
This shot came out a bit blurry as I was balancing the camera on Waterloo bridge. I actually prefer the shots at a similar location from a previous week, taken with Fuji Superia 800, with an example shot here.
The colours are quite muted compared to the real thing, but I like the look overall for indoor shots. This was shot through a window and handheld, not bad.
Just goes to show how hard it is to focus a rangefinder camera sometimes. More on how a rangefinder focuses here.
Usually shooting film indoors without a flash and no tripod is a hard task - happy to have ISO 1600 film for situations like this.
My previous comment stands: I think the Fuji Superia 800 does a better job of capturing a clear shot, as seen here. Also, some strange going ons with the bright red lights...
More strange red lights - reminds me a bit of Cinestill film, but that happens due to the removal of an anti-halation layer. That being said, it can make a mundane shot like the one above look quite cool.
Death by grain. To be fair this was taken handheld, but is completely underexposed and has created a grainy mess.
Probably my favourite shot of the roll. Definitely plenty of grain, but I quite like how it came out. This film isn't as clear as Kodak Portra 800 though, but for that you need a tripod! 
Similar to the first shot with the airplane, the whites seem to just converge into each other leaving no contrast and too bright of a scene.
Nostalgia - my old flat!
My local coffee and patisserie shop. The colours are quite balanced here, but again bit underexposed and dull.
The famous Baker Street station, part of the original Metropolitan Railway line, the world's first underground railway (1863!). Aside from the glaring bright light, I like how this shot is exposed.
This is what this film is made for - handheld in such low light, really useful at times!

Overall impressions

A good overall performance from Fuji Natura 1600, especially for indoor situations. Not my favourite for its overall colour rendition including strange red lights, but certainly a good and fairly priced film to have if you know you're going to be photographing events or similar inside.

I also did not spend that much time composing each image, most being quick snapshots of my trip, which adds a bit to the 'rough and ready' feeling. That being said, this film does work very well for night city walks and indoor shooting and certainly has that 'film' look to it, if you don't mind the risk of potentially very high grain in some of your shots.

I will definitely stock some of this should such night time / indoor events "emergencies" come up, but unlikely to be one of my 'go to' films. Still, it is worth a try given the lack of 1600 rated films in the market today.

Thank you for following me on my photographic journey, and remember, pick up a camera and start shooting!

'Til next time,

Neil