5 Frames in Italy With the Nikon FM2n and a Roll of Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

In February, I went on a family trip to the Cinque Terre region in northern Italy. I brought with me my Nikon FM2n and some Nikkors (20mm ƒ/3.5, 50mm ƒ/1.8, and 200mm ƒ/4). The three rolls of film that I brought were Ektar 100, Gold 200, and Superia 400. On the first day, it was really sunny so I loaded the Ektar and fired off a shot. When we got to our Airbnb, it was cloudy and according to multiple weather apps, it would stay that way for most of the trip. For this reason, I carefully rewound the roll of Ektar with one exposure and replaced it with the roll of Superia 400. I’d never shot Superia before, but I needed the extra speed since my budget airline didn’t allow for tripod sized objects in carry-on baggage.

One evening in the commune of Riomaggiore, after two days of no sun, I could finally see a break in the clouds on the horizon. There were already a few photographers waiting down by the rocks with their DSLRs on their tripods. Whenever I’m surrounded by digital photographers, I simultaneously feel extra cool but also like I’m being judged; it’s a strange phenomenon. I took a wide shot with my 20mm ƒ/3.5 just to record the grandeur of the whole scene, but I much prefer my shot taken with my 50mm ƒ/1.8. That nifty fifty is super sharp, especially when stopped down to ƒ/8.

Riomaggiore with 20mm lens
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 20mm ƒ/3.5 | Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 | @1/60th ƒ/8
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 50mm ƒ/1.8 | Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 | @1/60th ƒ/8

On the last day of the trip, my family and I drove north to Portofino. The sun came out which meant that I could pull out the 200mm ƒ/4 and reliably use it hand-held. I love this focal length but it can be difficult without medium to high speed film and a tripod. Thankfully, I was using a 400 speed film and it was sunny. I’m not sure why but this area had a few small towers on the hillside and 200mm was the perfect focal length for these scenes.

This first shot is slightly soft. I can’t tell if there was wind in the leaves or if my hand wasn’t steady, or if I missed focus, or all three. Regardless, I think it makes for a somewhat painterly effect and I really like it.

Hillside Tower pt. 1
Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 200mm ƒ/4 | Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 | @1/250th ƒ/5.6

I really like the composition of this second shot but I don’t love the color or the way that Superia handled highlights. Whenever I’m unsatisfied with the color I get from C-41, I manually invert my images in Photoshop to eliminate any bias from the conversion software that I use (Grain2Pixel). Sometimes that does the trick, but in this case, it did not. It’s been a really long time since I’ve shot Portra 400 but I think that it would’ve handled this scene better. That being said, I was still really impressed with Superia, especially since it’s a consumer film.

Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 200mm ƒ/4 | Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 | @1/500th ƒ/5.6

This last shot was taken near the lighthouse in Portofino. I was really excited about the light but I couldn’t quite find a composition that I liked of the lighthouse. I took this instead and I’m pretty happy with it. The color feels exactly how I remember it.

Nikon FM2n | Nikkor 50mm ƒ/1.8 | Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 | @1/1000th ƒ/11

I’ve had my FM2n for over a year now and I really love it. I’ve put probably 15 rolls through it at this point and I don’t have any complaints. The meter is very accurate (great for slides) and the size and weight is just perfect. I probably would’ve been just fine with an FM since I don’t think I’ve used the maximum shutter speed (1/4000th of a second) or the maximum flash sync speed (1/250th of a second) but it’s really nice to know that they’re there, just in case.

I’ve recently started mirrorless scanning with my X-T2 and I thought it might be worth mentioning that I use Grain2Pixel to invert my negatives. It’s definitely a bit of a hassle to get set up, but now that I’ve refined my process a bit more, I’ve gotten really good results. It always seems to be in the shadow of Negative Lab Pro, but being completely free, I think it’s a fantastic option, especially for budget oriented shooters.

Thank you for reading! If you want to see more of my work, you can visit my website westenskow.com or my instagram @samwestenskow.photo

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16 thoughts on “5 Frames in Italy With the Nikon FM2n and a Roll of Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400”

  1. Sam, beautiful photos, and I love your notes! I struggle with the 200mm focal length but you’ve inspired me to take my 80-200 for a spin.

  2. David Read Tarditi

    Hi Sam-
    Very lifelike-shadows, natural lighting. Looked at your other portfolio drop dead excellent!
    Dave T

  3. Lovely photos! One note about Ektar, though: everyone says it’s best in full sunlight but I only shoot it on overcast days; the colours are so much better. Try it sometime, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! At ISO 100 it certainly needs light, but overcast days or photos taken in the shade return really lovely images; I much prefer them to anything I’ve shot in full sunlight.

    1. Thank you, Brad! I’ve shot a bit of Ektar in overcast light and I really liked it. The trouble is, I usually need a tripod since I like to stick to f/8. The thing I missed most when shooting in overcast light was the blues. Ektar blues are so nice in my opinion and there aren’t many blue tones in overcast light, I find.

    1. Thank you, Ibraar. I just read your article about your time in the Hindu Kush. Your work is really beautiful, some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. I aspire to only shoot E6 and B&W; to me, they are the two purest photographic mediums. This October, I’m moving to Brazil to serve a two year mission for my church and I will be shooting the whole thing on E100 with a Nikon 35Ti.

      1. Thanks man! Mine are just snaps though – it helps when the location is picturesque!!
        I hope you have a nice time with the E100 – I’ve shot a roll and it’s very nice ! Make sure you get the metering spot on ! With slide film i now only shoot with my Minolta Dynax 7 as it has an excellent matrix meter though my Contax meters well too – but less effort with the Minolta matrix

  4. Castelli Daniel

    Hi Sam,
    Nice write-up. You’ve got a good eye. I will disagree with you on one photo – the shot w/the 20mm of the sun on the buildings places them in context with the landscape. I’d hang that one on my wall.

    1. Thank you, Castelli! Looking back, I think that I was a little bit harsh on the 20mm shot. I do really like it and I plan on printing it big and hanging it on my wall someday!

  5. Beautiful images, I like these a lot! The FM2n’s 1/4000th speed is good to have, even if you do not employ it often. Same in my FM3A, I do not recall using it a lot.

    I do have the same lens (200), usually on my F4 with mixed results, if I do not use a tripod.

    Again, thank you for sharing your story and photographs, really inspiring !

    1. Thank you, Julian! I’m going to Zambia in a couple of weeks and I’ll probably shoot some 400 speed film in broad daylight, maybe even wide open for some portraits, and I imagine that I’ll use 1/4000th then! The 200mm f/4 is definitely a tricky one. It’s a really nice focal length to have and it’s pretty compact, but I imagine that the f/2.8 version is probably a bit easier to use handheld.

  6. Hi Sam!

    Wow, what beautiful shots! I love that “soft” photo, it’s a great example of how uber-sharpness is not the end all be all of photography. Character and softness – two concepts I’m learning about every day – are fascinating elements to experiment with as you discover your photography style and flow.

    I agree with your assessment of Superia; it’s the first film I started on! It has a tendency to blow highlights in an odd way, but I think you’ve reigned them in and made them work. I’d be curious what those Portofino shots would have looked like with the Ektar still inside the camera.

    Awesome stuff Sam!

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