VSCO Film 07 – the “eclectic films” – is VSCO’s most diverse film pack to date. My goal in this guide is to help you deeply understand the films inside this pack so that you can intuitively know when and how to use each film to its fullest potential.
So let’s jump in!
VSCO Film 07: Overview
There are some really great films in this pack, and once you know how it use them, it will really help you get just the right “look” for photos and speed up your photography workflow.
There are also a LOT of films to review in VSCO Film 07, with 18 main films and 125 variants. We’re going to see old films & new films, negative films & slide films, professional films & consumer film, daylight-balanced films & tungsten-balanced film.
So brace yourself! This is going to be a long post!
VSCO Film 07: Defining Characteristics
Despite having many different types and eras of analog film, the films in this pack generally show the following 3 characteristics:
- Subtle Effects – almost every film in this pack produces relatively subtle effects. In general, you should not expect the kinds of dramatic effects or wild color swings you would find in, say, VSCO Film 03 or VSCO Film 04.
- Very Fine Film Grain – All of the filmshave low ISO speeds (between ISO 25 and ISO 320). This means there’s not a lot of grain, and not a lot of fading. If you are trying to product super-moody, super-grainy city shots, this is not your pack!
- General Purpose – While there are a few exceptions, most of the films are intended for “general use.” This simply means they weren’t specifically made for one purpose, like portrait photography, or landscape photography.
The Films of VSCO Film 07
Ok, enough talk about the pack, let’s look at the films!
Here are the daylight-balanced films in this pack:
These daylight-balanced films can be broken down into 4 categories:
- Agfa Triade Film System
- Other Professional Films
- Consumer Films
- Black & White Films
And here are the tungsten-balanced films:
Agfa Triade Film System
In the early 1990’s, Agfa released three professional negative films, which collectively they called the “Triade” film system. The idea was that this would give photographers three different levels of saturation that would be ideally suited to three different purposes:
- Agfa Portrait 160 – the least saturated of the bunch, with soft colors and pastel tones that really make skin tones look fantastic.
- Agfa Optima 120 – natural color saturation levels, with just a touch of contrast. It’s a versatile film that works well in most situations.
- Agfa Ultra 50 – high color saturation, especially for a professional color negative film.
You’ll quickly see that Agfa has it’s own distinct look (much like Kodak and Fuji have their own look). Agfa generally produces accurate to slightly warm images, with red undertones. It’s less recognizable than Kodak or Fuji, but it produces really pleasing images.
Agfa Portrait XPS 160
Color Balance: Very warm, pastel-like colors. Smooth skin tones.
Film Type: Professional Negative
Overview: This is one of my all-time favorite portrait films. It produces soft, dreamy, smooth skin tones. The contrast is quite low, so if you are shooting a scene that is already low range, it may make your images feel flat and dull. But for outdoor portrait and other high range portrait situations, this film really shines. It also produces really pleasing, pastel-like greens and blues that compliment skin tones nicely.
Best for: Outdoor portraits, Weddings.
Additional resources on Agfa Portrait XPS 160
- Photo-utopia looks back at Agfa Portrait XPS
- Reviews for Agfa Portrait XPS 160 at photographyreview.com
- Role of Expired Agfa Portrait 160 on Flickr
- More great photos using Agfa Portrait 160 by Magnus Joensson. Look at the description of each photo in his stream to see which film he is using.
Agfa Optima 100 II
Color Balance: Accurate colors, adds slight warmth, wonderful reds
Film Type: Professional Negative
Overview: Agfa Optima 100 has wonderful color reproduction, with warm, deep red tones. It has medium levels of saturation and contrast, which will work well in a lot of different situations. It also has great color depth, with life-like colors in shadows.
Best For: When VSCO talks about “General Purpose Film” this is what they mean. It won’t dramatically change your digital images, but it will give it just a little bit of extra life and dimension.
Additional resources on Agfa Optima 100 II:
Agfa Ultra 50 & 100
Color Balance: Accurate colors. Stronger blues & greens than Agfa Optima.
Film Type: Professional Negative
Overview: On paper, Agfa Ultra is supposed to be the ultra-saturated film of the Triade. In these presets, though, I find the differences between this and Agfa Optima are subtle. Blues and greens are in fact noticeably more saturated, and the color palette is a little cooler. But the saturation levels aren’t as over the top as I had expected based on descriptions.
Best for: Another good general purpose film. Better than Optima when you want saturated blues & greens.
Additional resources on Agfa Ultra 50:
- Agfa Ultra group on Flickr
- An ode to Agfa Ultra by Steve Huff Photo
- I miss you Agfa Ultra by Matthew Saville
Other Professional Films
We talked a little about the difference between professional and consumer films in our VSCO Film 02 guide, but I’ll talk a bit more about it here.
One of the biggest difference with professional film is that more care was put into ensuring neutral color balance. What does that mean? Well, analog film’s color balance changes over time, so manufactures would “age” the professional film and ship it right when it’s color balance was ideal. Retailers would then immediately refrigerate the professional film to keep it in balance.
For the purpose of VSCO Film 07, this means that these professional films have a higher chance of having the originally intended neutral color balance, assuming VSCO could get their hands on film stock that had been properly preserved. Even with these precautions, it’s likely the film’s colors have shifted a bit. But it’s way closer than they are likely to get with consumer films.
Beyond color balance and handling, Professional films typically favor more natural color saturation and contrast. But this varies by film.
Agfa RSX 50 & 200 II
Color Balance: Neutral with clean yellows & muted greens
Film Type: Professional Slide Film
Overview: While all of the original literature on this film considers it to be “high saturation,” I don’t find that to be the case with this preset. It could just be that it was considered high saturation before technological advances, or it could be that VSCO was working with expired film. Whatever the case, this preset gives a very subtle effect with a slight retro Technicolor quality. Greens are noticeably washed out and tinting towards yellow. This film also really brings out the details in shadows and highlights, giving it an archival quality.
Best for: General purpose. Portraits are detailed & textured, while landscapes feel dry & arid.
Additional resources on Agfa RSX 50 II:
- Here’s an old advertisement for Agfa RSX from 1996
- Agfa RSX review on photographyreview.com
- Agfa RSX description with examples on lomography.com
- Agfa RSX photo pool on flickr
Color Balance: Slightly cool with a green tint.
Film Type: Professional Negative
Overview: This is a lower contrast, lower saturation version of Fuji 160C, which we saw in our VSCO Film 01 review. In fact, the “C” in 160C stands for “contrast,” while the “S” in 160S stands for “sharp.” With that in mind, Fuji 160S has many of the same qualities we saw in 160C – like creamy skin tones, neutral gray balance and fine grain structure. This version has slightly more natural skin tones, with less vibrancy and “pop.”
Best for: This is a really lovely portrait film when you want to add a clean, cool vibe. Personally, I find that using the “++” version of this in VSCO gives me results closer to what I’d expect.
Additional resources on Fuji 160S:
- Fuji 160s Datasheet from Fuji
- Beautiful examples of using Fuji 160S by Matt Day.
- Model shoot using Fuji 160s and Kodak Portra 400.
- Fuji 160S overview and reviews on Adorama
- Fuji Pro 160S photos on Flickr
Kodak Ektachrome 64
Color Balance: Neutral Colors
Film Type: Professional Slide Film
Overview: Kodak Ektachrome was a staple among professional photographers for decades. It has a distinctive look with rich, natural colors and soft highlight contrast, making it a favorite among National Geographic photographers. It’s color palette is cooler and contrast less intense than it’s famous sibling, Kodachrome. But it was simpler to process and could shoot at higher speeds than Kodachrome.
Best for: Great all-around film, though it was particularly popular with fashion, documentary and landscape photographers. For portraits, this film will produce very detailed, beautifully textured skin (in comparison to portrait films which tend to make skin “glow”).
Additional resources on Kodak Ektachrome 64:
- What’s the difference between Ektachrome and Kodachrome – from Kodak’s FAQ
- Kodak Ektachrome technical data from Kodak
- An extensive history on Kodak Ektachrome
Kodak Ektar 25
Color Balance: Neutral colors, slightly warm palette
Film-Type: Semi-Professional Negative Film
Overview: Kodak Ektar 25 was a semi-professional negative film originally produced in 1989. The Ektar line was later discontinued and rebranded under the “Royal Gold” name in the mid 1990s. It was known for having incredible colors & clarity, as well as virtually no film grain. This film produces slightly brighter colors, with deeper blacks and greater “pop” than Ektachrome. It also produces more “glowing” skin tones.
In practice, all of this means that images it produces won’t be all the far off from the images you see straight out of camera RAW. Think of it as more of a subtle enhancement to digital images than as creating a strong “film” look, unless you start veering towards the “+” variations of this preset, which represent expired versions of this film.
Best for: A very usable general purpose film. This film emulator is the most likely in the bunch to simply look like a well-processed digital image.
Additional resources on Kodak Ektar 25:
- Great Real World Comparison of Ektar 25 and Ektar 100
- Kodak Royal Gold 25 technical data (as noted in the PDF, this has the same technical characteristics as Kodak Ektar 25)
- Flickr group for Kodak Ektar 25
Consumer films are more likely to be expired and off balance from a color perspective. Why? Simply because manufacturers and retailers didn’t put the same care into them. Retailers shipped them early (before they were ideally balanced) with the assumption that it would take a few months before they were sold and used by consumer enthusiasts.
There was also a tendency in consumer films to add a bit more contrast, which added “pop” but meant loss of detail in shadows and highlights.
Not surprisingly, we see both of these traits in the consumer films inside VSCO Film 07.
Fuji Sensia 100
Color Balance: Strong yellow-green tint. Overall washed-out colors and very muted blues.
Film-Type: Consumer Slide Film
Overview: Fuji Sensia is a consumer slide film that was discontinued in 2010. You’ll notice right away how much more unnatural and unpredictable the colors are in the film vs. the professional slide films we just looked at. This particular preset shows a strong green and yellow tint, with washed out colors and virtually nonexistent blues. Some of that may be inherent to Fuji Sensia, but some of it may just be due to basing this preset on a batch of expired film.
To help represent some of the unpredictably of this film, VSCO has a (+) and (++) version of this film to show tints found in expired versions of the film. The (alt) version looks like it is attempting to recreate a non-expired, neutrally-balanced version of the original film.
Best for: This film evokes a pretty dismal feeling, so you can use this wherever you want to emphasize that feeling. For me, that’s in urban cityscape photography.
Additional resources on Fuji Sensia 100:
Kodak Elite 50 II
Color Balance: Cool color palette with pastel tones, noticeable warm shift in highlights
Film-Type: Consumer Slide Film
Overview: Kodak Elite 50 II is a really interesting consumer slide film. Overall, the color palette is cool with pastel tone. This is balanced though with warm tones in the highlights. It has medium contrast with deep blacks, similar to Fuji Sensia, but I find the colors more interesting and usable.
Best for: Personally, I like this for City and Documentary photography. It adds a really classic, slightly expired slide-film look to photos.
Additional resources on Kodak Elite 50 II
Black & White Films
VSCO Film 07 gives us three more options for black & white films.
Ilford Pan F Plus 50
Overview: Ilford Pan F Plus 50 is a high-contrast black and white film with rich blacks and great skin tones. Despite being high contrast, it does a great job of maintaining details in highlights and shadows. This film is a popular choice among black & white analog film shooters, and is still available for purchase.
Additional resources on Ilford Pan F Plus 50:
- Pan F Plus Technical Information from Ilford
- Reviews and Info from B&H photo (this film is still available)
- Ilford Pan F Plus for Landscape Photography
Kodak Plus-X 125
Overview: Kodak Plus-X 125 is an even film with soft open shadows and soft highlights. It has noticeably less contrast than Ilford Pan-F Plus, but as a result, has smoother mid-tones.
Additional resources on Kodak Plus-X 125:
- Kodak Plus-X 125 Technical Data from Kodak
Kodak Tri-X 320
Overview: Kodak Tri-X 320 is somewhere in-between the previous two examples, with moderate levels of contrast and brilliant highlights. According to Kodak, this is more ideal for studio lighting.
Additional resources on Kodak Tri-X 320:
- Kodak Tri-X 320 Technical Data from Kodak
Tungsten films were designed to accurately represent colors under tungsten light. Tungsten lights have a warm, low color temperature (around 3200 kelvins). The color temperature of daylight is much higher and cooler (around 5500 kelvins).
With RAW digital film, we don’t really need a special film to balance the color temperature. We can simply adjust white-balance in post. So if we shoot under tungsten light, we can simply adjust the white balance to 3200K, and voilà – problem solved! (In fact, even with these Tungsten presets in VSCO Film 07, we still need to manually adjust white-balance to 3200K to get the correct white balance!)
But these Tungsten film presets can still help in another way: by cutting down on the luminance of reds and yellows. Even once your color is balanced to the temperature of tungsten light, the extreme brightness of reds and yellows can impact your image. These tungsten presets help tone this down and create more natural-looking images in tungsten lights.
Overview: A high contrast tungsten-balanced film. The regular version adds a strong green tint to images. I find the the “+” version of this preset to be much more useful.
Additional resources on Fuji T64:
Kodak Ektachrome 64T
Overview: A very subtle, low contrast Tungsten film with neutral colors. This is a good choice for room interiors & artwork.
Kodak Elite Chrome 160T
Overview: A medium contrast tungsten-balanced film with cool tones in shadows.
Additional resources on Elite Chrome 160T:
- Kodak Elite Chrome 160T Technical info from Kodak
Kodak Portra 100T
Overview: Very muted pastel colors with a strong greenish-blue tint. I couldn’t find many examples of the actual film in use, so it’s not clear if this is an accurate representation of the actual film. In my tests, I had awful results trying to use this for tungsten-lit portrait, which according to Kodak is one of the primary purposes of this film.
Additional resources on Kodak Potra 100T:
FREE DOWNLOAD: VSCO Film 07 Cheat Sheet
Wow, we just went through a lot of films! To help make it easier to use this knowledge in the real-world, I put together a little cheat sheet for you. You can reference it while you process your images!
Just fill in the form, and hit “download.” I’ll send you a link to the download right away!
Also, if you find these guides helpful, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below! Tell me what you think, what you’re working on and any questions you have!