Shooting a High ISO Colour Film in Low Light [Fujicolor Natura 1600]

high iso colour film

Images shot on Fujicolor Natura 1600 in Nikon FM3a

If you’re looking for a high ISO colour film that’s still in production these days, you’re sadly not going to find anything as fast as this Natura 1600. When Fujifilm killed it off, it was the last of the ISO 1600 colour films anywhere, by anyone.

Kodak, Fuji, Lomography and CineStill do all have an ISO 800 colour film though, so you do have a few options there. But they’re all still just half the speed as the discontinued beauty we’re looking at in this article.

I was lucky enough to pick up a roll before it got the chop. And once I’d got hold of a camera that was able to shoot it at box speed, I shot it. Some in daylight, and these you see here by night.

Some of them came out pretty well. Others less so. I’ll show and talk you through them all though. Starting with this throwaway picture of a bottle through a bakery window. I must have been short of things to shoot at that point.

The less light you have, the more grain you’ll get

It’s probably best to quickly go over what a high ISO film is, why you’d shoot one, and what you can expect from it. Just in case you’re new to all this and need a catch-up.

You can read an in-depth explanation of ISO, aperture and shutter speed too but for the purposes of this article, just know the following.

With all other things being equal, a film with a higher ISO lets you shoot in lower light at the same shutter speed as a film with a lower ISO. An ISO 100 film like Kodak Ektar is fantastic for bright daylight but would be useless when the sun goes down.

The trade-off though is that your results from a higher ISO film will typically be less clean and have more grain. There’s a reason that Ektar has ‘the world’s finest grain’ while a couple of the shots here on this 1600 ISO film resemble a slightly out-of-tune analogue television.

But that pretty much covers why you’d want a high ISO film. To get more shutter speed in less light, which usually means either indoors or at night.

One thing I found with this Fuji ISO 1600 film is that the less light I had in a shot, the more grain I often got. The following images show that, and I’ve ordered them from most to least pronounced as far as this goes.

It’s easier to miss focus with your lens wider open

When I mentioned all other things being equal earlier, one of those things is the aperture value you have your lens set to. The wider you have it, the more light you’re letting in for the film to use, which means getting a faster shutter speed.

A side effect of this though is you get a shallower depth of field, or less of your photograph being in focus. While this is great for portraits and macro shots of flowers and stuff, it’s not ideal for wider street photos like I was doing here.

Even with an ISO 1600 film, there’s a balance to be struck between shutter speed and depth of field when shooting handheld. Not having enough of the first can mean blurred photographs from camera shake while not enough of the second makes it easier to miss focus.

That’s what seems to have happened with the next batch of images. As well as the grain, these seem slightly out of focus. I don’t remember the exact aperture I would have shot them at now, but it would have been wider than what was ideal.

And maybe I wasn’t quite up to full speed with the focus system of the Nikon SLR I’d borrowed at the time either.

Whatever the cause or causes, I’ll say this too. Trying to get a shot where the thing on someone’s phone screen is in focus, on film, at night, and with a camera I wasn’t completely used to was pretty ambitious in hindsight.

But if we can’t try to do different things once in a while, why are we even doing this at all?

Good results come from good light

It wasn’t all bad though, and I’m ending this post with the shots that, in my opinion, came out well. And they all have one thing in common when compared to most of what you’ve already seen.

Something I mention a lot on this blog is the idea that the most important element of a photograph is the light. Indeed, my old photography teacher used to say that the subject of any photograph is the light.

So it’s probably no surprise that the scenes with the best light produced – again, just in my opinion – the best photographs with this ISO 1600 colour film.

For a long time, I’ve looked for the light first when I shoot rather than an interesting subject. I’ve talked about doing that a lot on here too. But that was always in daylight. What I’ve come to realise having shot this Fujicolor Natura is that it’s even more important at night.

Without getting into the weeds of white balance, your film or camera sensor if you’re shooting digital doesn’t care what kind of light you’re using.

Once the sun is gone, any other light source will do. Get enough out of it and you can have more depth of field with faster shutter speed again, and less grain too.

Hopefully these next photographs that use the light from lamps set up over market stalls and the interiors of shops and restaurants demonstrate that.

Wrapping up this low light high ISO colour film post

It’s a real shame they discontinued this Fuji ISO 1600 film. With it, and the Superia 1600 version it was sold as in many western markets, went the last colour film above ISO 800.

If you want to shoot anything faster than that, unless someone brings a truly high ISO colour film back, you’ll have to go monochrome. It’s not all bad news though as Kodak T-Max 3200 and Ilford Delta 3200 are both decent options there.

I’m no expert in any of this but having shot all of the above on the streets at night, as well as some CineStill 800T, I’d say some low light film photography is something you should try to if you haven’t already.

As well as mixing up the kind of work you’re producing, it might help reinforce the importance of good light. You can get away with poor light during the day but I believe better photographs are made in better light.

Because you can’t get away with it so much after dark, you need to seek out the light more. I think that could transfer over, even if indirectly or subconsciously, to how you shoot in daylight too. And if that helps you in any way, it can only be a good thing.

You won’t be doing it on Fujicolor Natura though, unless you pay the extortionate prices some people are listing the remaining stocks for on eBay. Which I don’t recommend you do.

But I do recommend you grab some ISO 800 colour film or some high ISO monochrome and give it a shot, and I hope this post and the accompanying photographs have in some way inspired you to do so. 🙂

If you found that post useful, why not take a look at these others to learn more about this film or stay inspired with more film photography:

    1. My comprehensive review of this Fujicolor Natura film
    2. The rest of this Fujicolor Natura shot in daylight
    3. Shooting another Fujicolor film in China

And if you think others will enjoy this post on shooting some Fujicolor Natura 1600 in low light too, help them find it by sharing or pinning.  😀

written by
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

2 thoughts on “Shooting a High ISO Colour Film in Low Light [Fujicolor Natura 1600]”

  1. Beautiful shots! I’ve been meaning to try out Fujicolor Natura 1600 and now you’ve inspired me to give it a go. What developing process did you use to get the great grain and colour palette?

    • Cheers. I just took it to the lab and let them do it. C41 process. Good luck finding some now tho, was discontinued a few years ago now and is very expensive to buy even expired rolls.


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