Films come and go, unfortunately more films have been going than coming lately, some films even come back, though often, they are not quite the same as they used to be. These articles are about films that they never should have stopped making, though two of them only stopped because the company that made them folded.
The first film I want to talk about is Agfa Ultra 50, because, it was my favourite. Ultra 50 was possibly the best colour negative film ever produced, ever! It did for colour negative film what MSG did for Chinese food, it made it pop, but, it didn’t leave you wanting more 30 min later. I got my first sweet taste of it back in 2000, and it was delicious. I remember Agfa having an contest, some sort of contest, the catch was you had to take a photo on Ultra 50 to enter it, I never did enter but I did buy a couple of rolls which got me hooked.
I wasn’t a heavy user, I could have stopped at any time, but, as you know, one roll lead to two and then three and then five and before you know it you’re buying 10. And then a few months later I was told that the film was discontinued, Agfa must have used the contest to get rid of the remaining rolls. I laughed, I cried, I got mad and then I stocked up, but, I’m sure you know what happens next, I started dealing.
Before I knew it I only had a few rolls left, so into the deep freeze they went. So what was so good about this film? Ultra 50 didn’t know the meaning of the word “subtle”, it had the colour palette of a Rainbow Lorikeet in the Brazilian Carnival, but it did this without compromising contrast. It made sunrises and sunsets sing at the top of their voices but take a photo of a person with it and they instantly gained the complexion of Uncle Dick at your cousin’s wedding reception. But, and there is always a but, it was a bit on the grainy side, well, grainier than Reala but not as grainy as a 400 speed film.
In 2005 I pulled a roll out of the deep freeze and used it in my newly acquired Horizon 202 swing lens panorama camera, but unfortunately… *sob* (Sorry, I get emotional when I think about this) at the end of the roll the lens jammed, a common fault I am told, but unknown to me the shutter was also jammed… open. So I started rewinding the film, wasn’t I surprised the next day at work to find the roll was completely fogged. I had an internal Hulk moment and a few days later the camera was on it’s way on a little overseas holiday, never to return.
A few months later higher powers brought the holy 30mm lens for the Xpan into my life and I hesitated but decided to use my second to last roll. I went for a bit of a drive over the hill and around the bays, I was living Christchurch at the time so only a handful of you will know what I am on about here. That’s when I took this shot.
All is not lost though, Sometime in 2002 or 2003 Agfa released Ultra 100, now comparing this film to Ultra 50 is like comparing Coke to Diet Coke, it pretty much tastes the same but you know it’s lacking something, unfortunately what it was lacking was what made Ultra 50 so good in the beginning, the colour. It is still better than your average 100 speed film but it doesn’t perform well in low light and it is just a wee bit grainier than it’s older brother. Still, it’s a fine substitute for what was possibly the best colour negative film ever produced.