Film Fun Folio #25: Seagull 4A103 and Expired Agfa Ultra 50

Periodically, I'll be posting scans of some complete rolls of film on here, showing both the good and the bad, and giving some basic information as well a little write up of the shoot as well as the reasons why I selected each camera and film.  Enjoy the trip! 

Feature #25:
Camera: ca. 1992 Seagull 4A-103 TLR Camera.
Film: Agfa Ultra 50 (expired 2002)
Locale: Central Maryland and Washington DC.

Color negative films really are not my thing.  Compared to color transparencies, I find their rendition to generally be quite anemic, their white balance often looking a touch sickly, and their contrast level just unrealistic compared to the dynamic world at large.

Getting back into film, I had read people posting comments online referring to Kodak Ektar 100 as "the Fuji Velvia of Color Negative Films." Well, my friends, I have tried many rolls of Ektar and while it is certainly nicer than the Kodak Gold of olden days, it certainly seems a far cry from Velvia.  

But there WAS a print film worthy of that splashy moniker, and it was not made by Kodak, nor was it even made by Fuji.  This film was a product of none other than Agfa, named "Ultra 50" and it was an incredible product.  It, along with its less saturated sibling "Portrait 160," constituted the only color negative films that I ever loved.

Sadly, Ultra 50 is no longer made, but its dwindling expired stocks can still be acquired at a rather sizable premium.  I recently elected to snag a roll of 120 stock that had expired in 2002, and elected to see if it was still any good.  I loaded it into my long-owned Seagull (which almost certainly saw a roll or two of this film decades ago) and rated most of the shots at about ISO 25 to account for expected loss in sensitivity.  Still I worried about how the color in this vivid film might portray after all this time.

Well, let's just say the old film still has that special something.  See for yourself!

1 - Washington, DC - f/4 - 1/300 - I elected to do a little bit of deliberately shallow depth of field on some of the shots since I had a TLR to assist in focusing, and the results were generally pleasing.  What is really pleasing is the color rendition on the Ultra 50! 

2 - Glenelg, MD - f/8, 1/125 - With Spring in bloom, the time was ideal to make the most of capturing a colorful palette on this film.  Though the composition of this shot isn't quite ideal, the result is still quite nice. 

3 - Gaithersburg, MD - f/8, 1/125 - As I toured different areas with the Seagull, I wanted to capture as many different hues as I could on the Ultra 50.  This is a rendering that includes pink, and it is very nicely rendered at that. 

4 - Gaithersburg, MD - f/5.6, 1/300 - A shallow depth of field shot delivers a nice 3D effect on the Haiou lens of the Seagull, and while the red renders a bit "orange," it still works great. 

5 - Frederick, MD - f/11, 1/60 - It's saying something when I consider this the worst shot on the roll.  I struggled to pull in all the elements of the blooms, tower, and the lively activity in my hometown, but I still like the shot overall. 

6 - Frederick, MD - f/3.5, 1/125 - Shooting moving ducks at a wider aperture on a TLR is an exercise in frustration.  I chased and recomposed this shot at least 4 times in a matter of minutes before finally getting this image, which I have to say I really like.

7 - Frederick, MD - f/11, 1/60 - Less challenging was a nicely composed image that incorporates willow trees in a park like setting.  I love how the Ultra 50 portrays water in the scene. 

8 - Frederick, MD - f/4.9, 1/125 - I had the highest hopes for this image, using the round wheel in conjunction with the square format, and hoping that the semi-shaded light gave a warm impression in color.  My hopes were not only met but exceeded!

9 - Brookeville, MD - f/4, 1/300 - The Oakley Cabin was the setting of my next try, and the results came out great.  Despite a good deal of distance to the subject distance, the distortion in the corners as rendered by the Seagull give off a nice shallow depth of field look.  

10 - Point of Rocks, MD - f/5.6 - 1/125 - A classic train station makes a great backdrop for a shot on a Friday afternoon, despite a lack of activity to round out the photo.  

11 - Point of Rocks, MD - f/5.6, 1/125 - Under dimmer lighting, the colors TRY to come out in scenes, but there is just not enough colorful elements to make it fully work.  Seems I will do good to stick to brightly lit scenes with this film.

12 - Point of Rocks, MD - f/5.6, 1/300 - If you gotta go, you may as well have a view.  One of the most scenically placed cemeteries I've yet to come across provides the basis for my final shot, with very deliberate shallow depth of field.

Thoughts: In a word, astonished! Though about 15 years old, the film still had a great color rendition with almost no color shifting that I could discern.  I thought this was to be my final roll of Ultra 50 I would ever shoot, but the great experience sent me trolling through sources to find some more, and I've since acquired three more rolls to put into use in the colorful months ahead!  Viva Ultra!