I’ve written before about the lack of high-sensitivity colour films available today. There were many more options before digital came along, but they seem to be gradually being culled year on year. Which is why I was so excited when a friend messaged me to say that he was in Japan, and to ask if I’d like a couple of rolls of the Japan-exclusive and discontinued Fuji Venus 800. Obviously, I said yes.
I’ve made no secret before that Fujifilm are my preferred film manufacturer, Velvia 50 and Superia X-Tra 800 particularly – the saturated colours and high contrast are exactly what I look for in colour films. I have used Superia in its many guises (200, 400 and even 1600) on many occasions previously, and was interested to see how these two film stocks compared – are they the same stock, just rebadged, or are they two different products?
If you’ve not heard of Venus 800 before, you might be forgiven – it’s only been available to the Japanese market, and was sadly discontinued in May 2019. Stock still remains with a latest expiry date of 2021, and if you can get your hands on it (on eBay, for example), it lands squarely on the expensive end of things.
The name is, as ever with Fujifilm, a little baffling (Tiara, anyone?). At ISO 800, Venus was intended as a daylight balanced, take-anywhere, do-anything holiday film stock. With that in mind, I loaded a roll of Venus 800 in my Olympus XA4 last summer and took it along on my 2019 adventures.
Fuji Superia’s lush greens are usually perfect for festival and outdoor scenes, but Venus 800 is a slightly more muted, cool affair. I found none of the almost over-saturated colour here, instead a realistic rendering of skin tones, grass, and a slightly blue cast – very subtle, and not too noticeable.
Under-exposing Venus 800 can lead to muddy results – the Venus example images included here have benefited from a contrast boost as well as a deepening of the blacks. Other than those small tweaks though – I really haven’t got much to complain about (for once). Venus is definitely preferable for portraits and family scenes – Superia X-Tra has a tendency to make pale skin tones look a bit too sunburned.
Superia X-tra 800 Samples
Venus 800 Samples
While 800 might seem like an odd ISO, not quite high-speed but also not really intended for super-smooth images with no grain, I can report that the visible grain for both Venus and Superia was small enough to not be noticeable or distracting. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but I prefer not to see too much grain if possible.
Fast-forward to this year and the landscape in the UK has dramatically changed. The festivals were all cancelled, and I had to make the most of the urban green spaces and coastal walks available to me here in Bristol instead. Loading some Superia X-tra 800, I struck out for the coast.
Comparing the two stocks makes it clear that Superia 800 and Venus 800 are not just rebranded, but two different stocks altogether. The differences are subtle – Superia 800 tends to have more of a yellow cast, and less contrast when overexposed. It’s less balanced, colour-wise, than Venus – the greens pop more noticeably, and under-exposed areas seem to retain a little more detail. It’s a very close call though, and I wouldn’t be disappointed to find either stock in my camera bag on a day out.
Much like Venus 800, Superia 800 has also been discontinued by Fujifilm as of 2016 – replaced by sharper, more sensitive digital sensors. However, for a family holiday or loaded into a plastic point-and-shoot, I’d choose one of these film stocks every time.
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