Friday, 9 January 2015

Agfa Vista 200

Today we're going to have a look at Agfa Vista Plus 200. It's a cheap film often sold in pound shops, where it costs a pound. Everything is a pound in pound shops. That's why they're called pound shops.

Yeah but shouldn't they be called half-a-kilogram shops because of the EU that joke wasn't funny the first time shut up die die die.

Not long ago Britain's eBay sellers cottoned on to the fact that they could buy entire boxes of the stuff from the local pound shop and sell it on eBay for two pounds a roll. And so it's quite possible that your local pound shop has a blank empty space where there was once some Agfa Vista, briefly, at 08:29, when the store opened.

The same people would probably have a hoard of .22 ammunition in their basement if they were allowed to buy .22 ammunition, which they are not because this is the UK, where you need a special permit which they do not have because they don't own their own lodgings and are thus not in a position to mount a secure ammunition storage box on a load-bearing inside wall.

Agfa went bust over a decade ago, and so I have always assumed that Vista Plus is another film put in Agfa boxes. Why bother? Does the Agfa brand still mean something in continental Europe? I have no idea.

A long time ago pound shop film tended to be Ferrania Solaris, which I tried a few times and liked; it was grainy but warm. Ferrania gave up on the film business a while back. Nowadays the other pound shop film is Kodak Colourplus, which I don't like at all. The colours tend to be washed-out, with purple shadows.

Vista, on the other hand, is really nice. My hunch is that it's Fuji Superia or something else by Fuji. It scans with a slightly green cast, which is a Fuji thing. The edge codes are Fuji-esque. I'm picking Fuji, diamond gel.

In my experience Fuji's print films have nice vivid colour with occasionally over-the-top greens and blues, otherwise it's neutral enough and has little enough grain that you can scan and Photoshop to your taste. For the most part I set the black level from the film border, which is handy for getting rid of colour casts, and then use "auto contrast" to spread out the rest of the levels.

It's a 200-speed film usually available in 24-shot rolls. My hunch, and I haven't tried this, is that you could shoot at ISO 100 and ISO 400 and process the results to look decent.

Last month I went off to Marrakech, and I took a roll of Agfa Vista just for the hell of it. In the end I appear to have loaded it in the Ben Youssef Madrasa and then finished it off at the Majorelle Gardens. With my half-frame Olympus Pen FT I got 48 shots a roll. I tried to photograph things that were all different colours (Marrakech is mostly the same shade as Half-Life 2 - sand, pink, beige and cyan-gray-blue).

The Majorelle Gardens are tiny, you can walk briskly around them in less than a couple of minutes. But they're a welcome cooling break from the sensory assault of Marrakech, and one of the few places you can get shade without attracting attention.

If you go outside and turn right and go to the end of the block and cross the road there's a semi-defunct shopping mall with a supermarket in the basement. Acima. If you're parched or hungry, it sells lemonade, fruit, and Pringles etc, and masses of tea, falling casual impact copier thin chair bidet frame.

So, Agfa Vista. It's really nice, currently the definitive British pound shop film. And to be fair to the eBay sellers it's only a pound if you have access to the pound shop, ideally if you can walk to it. You only get 24 shots, which means cheaper processing BUT you shoot more film BUT with half-frame that's less of a problem. So, yay for Agfa Vista and yay for half-frame and nay for Windows Vista, which was naff.