Even without a Natura Classica camera to pair it to the NP mode I still wanted to try out some Fujifilm Natura 1600. It wasn't easy to get hold of and it wasn't cheap either but it's quite a unique film and one I just had to try. This is what I made of it.
I always fancied a Natura Classica but could not justify the asking price or save up the required amount of piggies. The ability to shoot in low light without flash when using Natura 1600 film and NP mode is what intrigued me the most and something I was desperate to try. A little research online suggested that NP mode thought is simply a combination of fast film (ISO800 minimum), no flash, a fast aperture and exposure compensation (+2EV). With this in mind I figured there’s no reason I can’t try the Natura 1600 in another suitable camera.
The camera I bought in the end was a Fujifilm Silvi F2.8 from eBay. It has a lens very similar to the Classica and can use DX coded 35mm film up to ISO3200. It also has a maximum f/2.8 aperture @ 24mm and the ability to disable flash. It seemed like an ideal cheap alternative to test some Natura 1600 with the only feature missing the -/+2EV in 0.5 steps (although this is available in the black edition model).
An opportunity to test the film presented itself when my fiancee attended the Levity III art installation event in Nottingham. Levity III is essentially a sculpture that you can enter and explore whilst immersed in light an colour. Although attending during the day the light inside is tricky and of course you wouldn’t want to use flash in every shot and wash out those amazing colours. Because of this I loaded the Silvi with a roll of Natura 1600.
Looking at the photos that came back I cannot help but be impressed. The colour reproduction looks great and much better than I expected. Any fears that colours would come back dull or faded due to the increased ISO were proved to be false. Colour throughout the photos is bright and punchy.
Of course, there is grain present in the photos. It’s not obtrusive though and when considering the speed of the film is perfectly acceptable.
A real benefit to the film when combined with the fast f/2.8 aperture is the ability to retain a fast shutter speed. Normally in low light you would have to slow the shutter speed to compensate but not here. The photos with the babies in have the movement suitably frozen so not to cause any motion blur.
If you prefer super-sharp ISO100 grain free images then Natura 1600 might not be the film for you. As mentioned there is grain present but it is my opinion the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The ability to shoot in low light or retain a fast shutter speed when otherwise you could not is invaluable. It is a versatility I could not now be without.
As a downside the film can be quite expensive and I had to order mine direct from Japan but I also have it on good authority that the more widely available and cheaper Press Xtra 1600 is essentially the same film.
I would suggest picking some Natura 1600 up and trying it out. Imagine a time when you feel you’ve been able to shoot under normal conditions (too dark? no flash?) and revisit that with some 1600. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you get back. And don’t be put off if like me if you don’t have a Natura Classica. The film can work just as well in any fast aperture camera.