KODAK COLOR FILM – What’s the Right Film for Me?

Posted: 01/26/2021

Which Kodak Color Negative Film is right for your project? FPP’s Leslie Lazenby highlights the strengths of each of the Kodak Color Negative categories – Consumer and Professional Films.

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CONSUMER – Created for the consumer market, this all-purpose affordable line of color negative films from Kodak handles light in the expected way, delivers the expected color palette and has a superb abuse tolerance factor built-in. So, if you cooked it or it’s past the expiration date don’t despair – these films won’t shift much! A few have gone by different names throughout the years, but the consistency and durability of the films has not eroded.

Available: Kodak ColorPlus 200, Kodak Gold 200, Kodak Ultra Max 400

above:  "vasilisa" by Olya Go / Zenit E / Helios 44-2 lens / Kodak Color Plus 200

PROFESSIONAL – At a slightly higher price point, Kodak’s Professional Line of color films offers a variety of color palettes, as well as finer grain and increased accuracy in unusual lighting situations. Always keep refrigerated, due to the shorter shelf life and increased tendency toward shifting. It’s helpful to know the characteristics of each film when selecting for a particular purpose:

above: Lauren Bagley shot on Ektar 100 / Michael Raso / Olympus Trip 35

Ektar was intended to be a negative film that looked like Kodachrome, and it’s highly saturated color palette reflects this. Correctable now in the scanning / color grading process, previously if you had used Ektar for portraits the skin tone would have been leaning red. Recommended for landscape, street photography and terrific for 100 year old box cameras in the 120 and 620 size.  Kodak Ektar is available in 35mm, 120, (hand-rolled) 620 and 4x5.

above: From TheDarkroom (on Instagram) - This portrait was captured on 120 Portra 400 which was a great choice for many reasons—here are a few 👉🏼 Portra’s warmth is ideal for skin tones, it has amazing exposure latitude that does well in bright and contrasty scenes like this, and it has incredibly fine grain

Portra was Kodak’s first designated professional color negative film and while not a general-purpose film due to lack of “snappiness” it’s fantastically suited for portraits and wedding photography. The lower contrast ensures every bead on a Bride’s gown or every whirl in wedding cake icing is visible in your photo! Kodak called the skin tones of this film “creamy” and that’s the perfect way to describe them. A terrific choice for studio lighting. Portra is available in ISO 160, 400 and 800. The 160 and 400 ISO films are available in 35mm, 120, (hand-rolled) 620, 4x5 and 8x10. Portra 800 is available in 35mm, 120 and (hand-rolled) 620.

above: "Blue" by Ben Riley / Contax G1 camera / Planar 45mm F2 lens / Kodak Pro Image 100

Pro Image 100 looks like a cross between Portra and Ektar, although it reproduces greens a bit better than either. It offers a hair more contrast or “snap” than Portra, and also renders beautiful skin tones.  While the box says “professional”, the price point and ease of use compares to Kodak’s consumer line and it shows more tolerance for abuse. Available now (along with ColorPlus 200) in the US following a persistent email campaign by FPP Founder Michael Raso to make the film available in the states!  Pro-Image 100 is available in 35mm.

So, which to choose?  Contemporary photographers are getting great results with Kodak’s Consumer line through experimentation like shooting Kodak Max 400 at 200 iso to reduce the grain. The final word? You’re not sacrificing anything by shooting Kodaks’ affordable films – you can just buy more of it!

Leslie Lazenby fell in love with photography when she was given her first camera, a GAF 126, at the age of 10.  Her first job in a camera shop with a custom and commercial photo lab turned into a 20-year adventure in film; leading to positions in darkrooms, customer relations, and as head of purchasing.  For the past 15 years, Leslie has owned her own business, Imagine That, retailing traditional photography products, photographic restoration, custom printing and video conversions. She finds her Zen next door at her studio, the Mecca, where she plays with her film cameras, processes film and holds small classes focusing on teens and young adults. @leslie_lazenby on Instagram / https://www.flickr.com/photos/65448995@N05 on Flickr


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