Kodak Gold is hands down the best color negative film that is only made in 35mm. It’s got a bit more grain than the Portra films. If overexposed, it’s light and airy while if shot at box speed outside of direct sunlight, it can get the punchy colors similar to that of Ektar. At the time of writing, it costs $13 for a 3-pack from B&H which is an absolute steal considering how much other 35mm films costs and just how good this film is.
Truth be told, I do struggle to really pin down a consistent color palette with Gold because of just how much the saturation changes depending on whether it’s shot at box speed or whether you’re shooting in direct sun. If it is at all shady or if you’re shooting at dusk, the colors are quite rich and very saturated, however, if you’re shooting at high noon the colors are quite muted and very lovely. It may well be my favorite color palette of all the 35mm color negative film stocks.
Because Gold is only offered in 35mm, it doesn’t get quite the heavy rotation for intentional shooting that other films get but because it is so cheap, I definitely go through it and have taken many photos of Dr H and friends here and there. It doesn’t really blow me away for skin tones but it does an alright job. In reference to the above statements, I don’t know that I’ve really given it a fair shake in all kinds of different lighting situations (at least not intentionally) which I suspect would play a large roll in how the colors come out.
I’ve not done any pushing or pulling with this film and I don’t know that I ever will. At the time of writing, my 35mm game has almost exclusively been my F100 with my Tamron 45mm and the flexibility of that lens to shoot at 1/20th of a second without even a bit of camera shake is practically a miracle. As such, I have no real need of pushing film and so long as I continue to lazily get my film processed at the local shop (which doesn’t do any pushing/pulling), it’s not something I really see myself doing anymore.
If this film was any more available (it’s often on back order) I would say that it would hands down the best 35mm film. It may well be so even with its limited availability… If you haven’t picked up a few rolls, you should definitely do so.
To see Fujifilm Pro 400H exposure tested alongside 10 other films, follow this link.
I have wanted so badly to like Pro 400H. My father picked up a Pentax Spotmatic back when he was in the service, living in Guam. Much like myself, he experimented with a lot of different film stocks to see what he liked best and eventually he settled on Fuji’s film over Kodak. To this day, he insists that Kodak still cannot mimic the beautiful blues and greens that you get with Fuji’s film. Though he exclusively shoots digital now, I still feel a bond with him over photography and film in particular. It’s because of that that I want to like Fuji’s fim. Being that Pro 400H is their flagship film, I really want to like it.
I do not like it.
Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H was released in 2004. Today, Pro 400H is often compared with Kodak Portra 400, though it has not reached anywhere close to the same hype.
I think that what I dislike most about Pro 400H is the color palette. It’s tough for me to put my thumb on what it is, exactly that I dislike so much. Tones that I know should be somewhat warm or outright warm are often made too cool for my taste and the saturation almost always feels like it’s cranked up too high for my taste. Through the years and attempts of shooting this film, I’ve started to wonder if in fact I’m just not shooting the film the way that it was designed. Every roll I’ve ever shot has been metered at 400 on the dot and again – I really don’t much care for it. Ive been told that it benefits greatly from being overexposed. That, much like each film in the Portra family, over exposure my a stop or so often leaves the film with a much saturated look.
Though I’ve not used this film at all in the studio, I’ve taken portraits with it and I dislike all of them. I’m a fair skinned person and most of the friends I’ve photographed with 400H are fair skinned and all of us look ghostly white surrounded by dark and saturated colors around us. It’s not a good look. I shot through a roll of 35mm on a work trip to Orlando where I got a few frames in of a good buddy of mine which far from fair skinned and the shots look okay. Not good. Just okay. One of my favorite portraits I’ve ever taken are of the same person so I can’t help but conclude it’s the film.
As you can see from the exposure testing article, Pro 400H has an amazing dynamic range. Truth be told, I think it’s a good deal better than Portra 400. I actually think that it looks better overexposed 1-2 stops. It’s weird.
I don’t have too much experience with this film. To date, I’ve only shot through 6 rolls of it. As such, I haven’t got too much experience with it in extreme circumstances. At least not like I do with Portra 400. Given the fact that it is now a good deal cheaper than Portra in 120, there’s a good chance that I will be giving it more chances for exploration as we move into the summer.
I do not like this film stock. I wish I did – I just don’t. I’ll admit that I haven’t shot enough of it to really feel like I’ve been giving it a fair shot but I will sooner than later. I currently have plans to do an experiment somewhat soon to compare it with Portra 400 in a range of scenarios, shot in duplicate – one for a neutral exposure and one over exposed by 1 stop. Hopefully with some experimentation, I can find where this film would shine in my work.
The 400 ASA films that I’ve tried enough to have an opinion about include: Kodak’s Tri-X and TMax 400 and Ilford’s HP5 and XP2 Super. At this point, TMax has become a pretty clear favorite. It is without a doubt my most used B&W film in 35mm and in 120, though I explore more films more often in 120, it is the film I go to for consistent performance. While I do try to explore more and more films all the time, it is difficult to replace the flexibility and acutance of TMax 400 when it comes to shooting 35mm B&W.
If I’m being completely honest, this is where I feel TMax 400 disappoints me the most. It’s hard to explain why, though. Over every other film I’ve tried like it, I love the sharpness of this film and lack of pronounced grain. What’s different about this stock that I don’t love is the amount of middle grey and overall lack of contrast that photos have when taken in strong, daylight scenarios. In dimly lit (tastefully lit?) situations, the contrast is upped enough though to really hit the sweet spot for me.
I’ve tried this film a bit in the studio but I’ve not loved the results. That is for sure my fault and not the fault of the film. I prefer the lower speed of TMax 100 so that I can have more dependency on the strobes and stop down a couple extra stops where for 400 ASA, I lose some of the control because of the speed of the film. I suspect that with some practice in the studio, I will come to love this film a lot too but when you’re able to completely control the amount of light, why not go for the lower ASA? Using the film in natural light settings, I still don’t care much for the film in strong, daylight settings without some curves adjustment. In natural light when the light is very low, contrast is high and this film finds its stride.
Pushing and Pulling
I can honestly say that I have more experience pushing/pulling this film that any other film stock. I’ll start with saying that I don’t like the results from pulling this film. I can’t even imagine a context when someone would want to do it. Why did I do it then, you ask? Great question – I pulled it because I was in a pinch, wanted some 100 ASA film but only had TMax 400. So I pulled it and found the results to be far too bland.
I do not know how this film retains so much dynamic range when pushed. Though I don’t know if this is true, I wouldn’t be surprised if TMax 400 performs just as well if not better than TMax 3200P at 3200 ASA. It can be pushed more and more without having many if any faults. It is because it can be pushed so much without seemingly any repercussions that it has become my go-to B&W film.
Similar to TMax 100, my first experience with this film stock was on our Banff trip in 2019. I actually only brought it for the 35mm as a back up film and it produced some of my favorite frames from the entire trip. I was pretty skeptical to try it before then but after that trip, I bought a few more rolls in 35mm and when I finally got around to shooting them, I was pretty amazed with the results. I’ve continued to try it more and more and I have found my go-to B&W film.
Last thing I’ll say is that I recently picked up a Tamron lens with vibration control which allows me to shoot as slow as 1/13th of a second and still get tack-sharp photos. This, paired up TMax’s ability to be undersexposed and work out just fine, made for opportunities to shoot well into the evening and late at night. I love it.
Kodak’s TMax 100 has quickly become my favorite black and white film I’ve ever shot. The slow speed of ASA 100 does prevent me from using it much of the winter here in Ohio so I started using it more in a studio environment and that’s where I’ve really fallen in love with it.
Being that this is a black and white film, there isn’t anything to say about color but there’s a lot to say about the tones of this film. Compared with some of its more muted tone Ilford counterparts, this film does a great job of covering more of the zone spectrum. My first experience with the film was in Banff in 2019 when I shot a few rolls of it along side a surviving roll of Acros. At the time I don’t think I truly appreciated the quality of this film. The lights are so bright and the darks are so strong – the contrast have been truly wonderful.
This is where I’ve really taken a liking to this film stock. This film in my RB67 performs so well, I wonder why even get out the 4×5. Honestly – as much as I zoom into the photograph, all I get is detail, detail, and more detail. All of this without any grain I can notice. Even though I would say this has become my favorite portrait film, I’ve continued trying out other films – most recently Ilford’s Delta 100. Thought to be Kodak’s TMax 100 counterpart, I went into the experience with my hopes up that I would have found a new film I like just as much but at a fairly significant lower cost. Instead, I found myself pining for TMax 100 more.
I do not have any experience pushing or pulling this film as of yet. I could see myself pushing it at some point if the situation was right but I cannot imagine a time or place when I would want to pull it.
I will continue to buy this film and shoot it as one of my favorites for the foreseeable future. The price hike Kodak implemented in 2020 was frustrating at the cost of this film rose enough to push me towards trying other films. As you probably read in the section on Portraits, one such alternative film I tried was Ilford’s Delta 100. For whatever reason, it didn’t dawn on me at the time that Ilford’s alternative is just as expensive if not more so. So, I will continue to shoot and give other 100 ASA black and white films a go just to see how they compare but I think I’ve found my home with TMax 100. With that said, I’ve yet to shoot through any of Acros II (I have some ordered but am saving them for a trip to the Alps in a month) which I may love even more; however, it is nearly double the price of TMax 100 so the odds of it becoming my everyday B&W portrait film is very unlikely.
To see reviews of the other films in the Portra family, go here for Portra 400 and here for Portra 800. To see a more formal comparison of Portra 160 with the other two members of the Portra family (Experiment 2), go here.
In all honesty, I have a love-hate relationship with Portra 160. Every roll I’ve shot through is almost entirely full of shots I don’t much care for if not some of my least favorite I’ve ever taken. That said… The shots on a roll that I like are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. So where do you go from here? I would really like to shoot through some rolls in a studio environment where I have much more control of the lighting. Perhaps there I will have more consistently desirable results…
Compared with the other two films in the Portra family, it is by and large the least saturated when properly exposed. Even slightly overexposed and it gets a sort of a nasty looking warm tint to the shots – sometimes it’s seems a bit yellow and sometimes it has pink/red undertones. Properly exposed and the color rendering is unlike any other film I’ve used. The colors are delicate while still being intense. By that I mean, it picks up colors better than most films stocks up doesn’t render them with as much saturation.
I’ve not used Portra 160 in a studio but I feel like it could shine in this context. As for portraits in natural light, I’ve not been too pleased. In the middle of the day, they come out looking so yellow, I could be convinced they were jaundiced. In the evening, at dusk, there’s a distinct pink/red tint to skin tones that make people look sunburned. With this said, my experience has been somewhat limited to a couple friends, my girlfriend, and my father – all of whom share a lack of pigmentation in their skin so it may well be that this stock may be more flattering for others.
The dynamic range is not particularly good in my experience. As mentioned before, this stock does not quite the flexibility of its 400 and 800 cousins. Even just a little under or over exposing and do not turn out to my liking.
Given the already slow nature of this stock, I doubt there will be a day where I’m pulling it. As far as pushing the film is concerned, I have no experience nor do I see myself doing it.
I suspect that I will one day find that I haven’t been using this film properly and that there’s a trick to getting it exposed just so that it the results are consistently great. But with all of the errors in the trail/error process, I’m not inclined to give it a regular place in my film stock rotation. I will, on the other hand, plan to give it a go in a studio and additional attempts here and there.
To see Portra 800 exposure tested, follow this link. As a reference for Portra 400 shot at 800, follow this link. To see a more formal comparison of Portra 800 with the other two members of the Portra family (Experiment 2), go here.
I waited far too long to really give Portra 800 a fair shake. The main reason was the price – coming in at $15 more expensive for a pro pack of 120 and half again the price of a roll of 35mm, I considered more of a luxury than something I would regularly shoot. A couple months ago I caved and picked up a pro pack of both 120 and 35mm in order to write a review on it. I can honestly say that I won’t be defaulting to Portra 400 any longer. The colors of 800 are fantastic. The colors are quite punchy and given the additional speed from 400, the grain structure is minimal and pleasing.
Much like Portra 400, this film stock is great for shooting portraits. The tones are nice and warm with a lot of depth. At the time of writing the Portra 400 review, I had only shot one roll of 800 at box speed and a couple others at 500 or slower to intentionally overexpose as that’s what had been suggested to me. Some of the shots at box speed really turned out well but I don’t know that I cared much for a single shot from the rolls of it overexposed. So, naturally, when I decided to give it another go I wanted to shoot most all of it at box speed. I couldn’t have been happier with the results. The colors are more saturated than Portra 400 while not being quite as strong as Ektar. That said, compared with Portra 160 it’s got saturation for days.
Properly exposed it actually doesn’t have a terribly different rendering that Portra 400 underexposed. The warm tones are spot on with this film and even the cool tones may by favorite of any other color negative film. The greens are just unreal…
Similar to Portra 400, it’s literally in the name. It’s crushes portraits in daylight, low light, and while I haven’t experimented with it in the studio, I expect it too would be great.
To see a head to head comparison with other color negative film stocks, please refer to the exposure testing article. I was truly blown away by Portra 800s ability to retain detail while being underexposed. While being the highest speed color negative film we tested, it keep good detail even at 3 stops underexposed – that’s metering at 6400ISO!!! While I wouldn’t personally shoot it at this speed on the regular, it gave me a lot of confidence in really low light situations to open up the lens and shoot as slow as I could go while trusting the outcome to be solid. Well.. relative to any other color film shot at 6400ISO, I had confidence.
As for overexposing, I don’t much care for it. I think this is where I had the problems before… It gets too yellow and all around too saturated for my taste. for now, I’ve learned my lesson in intentionally underexposing this film. In fact, if I find myself in tricky conditions (which isn’t uncommon hiking in OH) I may in the future meter for half or even a whole step underexposed. Maybe… I only say that because I’ve still had too many shots come out undesirable because some parts of the frame were still too bright and the whole shot was lost to unattractive colors.
I haven’t done either as of yet. I fully expect that at some point I’ll try both as 800 speed gives enough to move in either direction and still be fine.
I love this film. Plain and simple. If it was less expensive, it would be my go to film probably. But it isn’t… It’s almost half again as expensive as Portra 400 on all fronts and that’s a real concern – it adds up fast if you’re shooting a lot. So for now, I’ll continue to shoot with it as much as I can and play around with it in different situations to really get to know it. But I don’t really see the day where it takes 400’s place in my heart or freezer.
One caveat to all of this: I’ve not yet brought up but is a consideration of mine is ease to travel with. As an 800 speed film, this film must be hand checked if you’re flying. As it happens, Portra 400 doesn’t need it at all – I’ve gone through security 4 times with the same rolls and not had a single issue with it. With everything I’ve ever read (in addition to the TSA website and signs in the airport) about traveling with 800 speed or faster film, you have to hand check it and that’s just a pain. More of a pain than I typically feel like dealing with. Perhaps if I was going on a huge trip and needed a lot of fast film for whatever reason and I knew I’d want to take Ilford Delta 3200, maybe then I’d go through the hassle. Otherwise, I’ll likely keep leaning on Portra 400 and Ektar when I’m flying.
To see Kodak Ektar exposure tested along side 10 other film stocks, follow this link. To see my first (substantial) attempt at shooting Ektar while in Banff, follow this link.
In the fall of 2018 I headed to Arizona for the second time and intended to see the Grand Canyon for the first time (btw, it was as grand as the name implies. Lots and lots of grand.) and when deciding what film to take, Ektar never crossed my mind. I thought to myself – I’ve shot a couple rolls of Ektar before and hated it. A lot. Then I found the work of Pete and David and decided I didn’t give Ektar a fair shake in my previous attempts. Albeit, I believe now that what I didn’t like was in fact the scans from the lab I was using moreso than the film itself.
Ektar has bold colors that, coupled with the high sharpness, make it an incredible film for landscapes. Compared with Portra 400, I find this film to have a bit less blue in the shadows and bit more yellow in the highlights. Granted, I’m basing this exact assessment on the exposure testing experiment but so far my personal experience has not turned up any conflicting evidence.
So far, the colors that have really jumped out at me and made me fall in love with this film are light turquoise and deep blues. The turquoise values are truly unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. When I see good examples of this (heavily based in Banff) I wonder if the film actually rendered a significantly different color than reality. I mean… Was it ever actually that beautiful? As for the deep blues, I’m just a sucker for that color range and I think this film does a tremendous job at it.
The only colors I haven’t fully grown to like from this film are greens that don’t have a blue tint. I felt like the closer the green got to blue, the more I liked it. Conversely, the less blue it got, the less I liked it. The light greens were a bit too quick to have a yellow-ish tint and the darker greens didn’t have the same “pop” as everything else. Still though- this is all relative and I recognize my experience may just be limited. As such, I’ve kept a roll of Ektar in at least one camera at all times and I’m experimenting to see if this opinion persists or limited to only my first couple pro packs.
Given how pronounced the colors are, I fully expected this film to bomb at portraits. Who wants a photo or themselves with the saturation turned way up? That said, I don’t dislike this film for portraits so long as its an environmental portrait. I felt like the more the photo felt like a proper portrait, the more I couldn’t get over how strong the colors were. While the more of the scene I got in the photo, the more I appreciated the coloring – it’s always a trade-off.
I can honestly say that I am beyond surprised with the dynamic range of Ektar. In the exposure testing experiment, I genuinely felt this film performed better than every other color negative we included. In the experiment, I thought it handled underexposure really well. My personal experience has been a bit less successful. I’ve found all of the photos that I knew to be underexposed a bit muddy with very strong saturation in the darker values, leading to an experience a bit less than I hoped for.
As for overexposing, I don’t much care for what happens to the coloring but given that I can rectify that in post, I am beyond surprised with this film. It’s such that if I meter for the midtones to shadows, I’m hard pressed to overexpose the highlights to a point beyond return. I think it is this very quality that makes it such a solid choice for landscapes.
I can count on one hand how many times I’ve ever pulled film and with this film being 100ASA, I don’t see it ever happening here. That said, I did once put through a roll at 400ASA in one of my F2s and didn’t much care for the results. So much so that I’ll not be providing examples. I really felt like the saturation was over the top (even on my scans) and the loss of the dynamic range was beyond my taste. I did it purely as an experiment and I suspect I’ll try it again at 200ASA and update.
In conclusion, I’ve really grown to love this film and have kept a constant stock of it since I bought my first pro pack. So much so that I’ve kept a roll in at least one camera since. While I don’t know that I’ll be going through much of it once the weather in Ohio starts going back to grey all the time, I’ll be enjoying it as much as I can while the sun is out.
This article shows off some of the color negative film I tried out on my vacation to Banff, CA in April2019. To see some of the black and white negative work, please follow this link. Several of this films in this article have exposure tested and compared to other color negative films – this article is located here.
The Canadian Rockies were calling and we answered. In a moment of spontaneity and luck finding round-trip tickets for only 18k points, we got our tickets and booked a hotel within a couple hours and I immediately started thinking about what film I was going to take. For ease (and out of pure laziness) I needed to make sure everything was ASA 400 or slower so I didn’t have to have the film hand-checked.
For color negative film, I ended up taking a pro pack of Portra 400 (per usual), Ektar, and Portra 160. I also ended up taking a few rolls of Fuji Provia and Ektachrome.
I gave this film a shot after Matt Seal suggested it a few times. I had shot through two rolls previously and didn’t much care for either. I found it to not be very flexible for my shooting style and didn’t much care for the way it rendered colors.
That said… This film took some of my favorite photos AND my least favorite photos of the trip. The ones that worked out really killed it. The ones that didn’t work out reminded me a lot of my first attempts in that the colors weren’t really on point and the shadows were pretty muddied.
Below are my two favorite photos from my trip. Both were taken with Portra 160.
Prior to this trip, I had actually shot through a couple rolls of Ektar and hated them both. Admittedly, I think my distaste for them came from the scans from the lab- the lab I was using had a knack for boosting up the saturation to a point beyond my tolerance for it. Since then I’ve seen the work of Pete Gotz and David Chan and decided to give it another shot. I doubt I would have made that first attempt on a vacation I’ve looked forward to so much but in all honesty, it was their pictures of Banff with this film that really turned me on to their work pushed me to try this film again.
Anyhow- I shot through a pro pack of it on this trip and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. It was a lot more versatile than I expected and the colors were really intense.
Below is my favorite photo I took with Ektar.
All in all, I was pretty blown away by the results of this film. Nothing was too bold and the colors were gorgeous. I’ve already picked up a few more rolls of this film and loaded it into my F100 when I went to Montreal.
Below are a few more of my other favorites from Ektar.
Portra 400, Provia, & Ektachrome
As you may know, I’ve shot through plenty of Provia and more than my fair share of Portra 400. And since it came back out again, I’ve been working my way through several rolls of Ektachrome. I know they aren’t new films for me but I thought I’d share a few of my shots from these great stocks. I’m posting the Provia first, then Portra 400, and concluding with Ektachrome.
One of the primary reasons I started this site was for a lack of a information on the web that provided film reviews from one person – I always found forums and flickr to have to much variety. On filckr in particular, photos ranged from terrible pictures that makes one wonder if the photographer knew how to use a meter or if the photo was taken by a professional and all of their pictures look amazing. One site I look to a lot is Alex Burke’s (his work is amazing and I have learned a lot from reading through it) but I sometimes found it frustrating that some film stocks he reviewed were discontinued.
With all that said, let me talk about the film stock that got me back into film photography. It was cheap, widely availble, and came in rolls of 24exp so I could shoot through them quickly and get them developed the same day. Was great for someone transitioning back into film after owning a digital camera for years.
I won’t talk to much about it because there isn’t much else to say. It’s discontinued. Even when it was sold, it was cheap and didn’t have any of the personality and capabilites of any of the more popular stocks. I found the colors to be really saturated for my taste and it wasn’t the sharpest film I’ve come to learn. But that’s okay. Cheap doesn’t have to mean great. What is that saying about food? It can be fast, good, or cheap- or a combination of two but never all three. This film was fast and it was cheap. But I think calling it good would have been a stretch.
Much like Illford Delta 3200, my feelings on this film are laregely dependant on whether I’m shooting 35mm or 120. There are only a handful of shots I like that have been in 35mm format but I’ve mostly liked all of my 120 stuff.
This film is, of course, the most peculiar to try and categorize. It’s a B&W film that’s processed as color (C-41 processing). I started giving this film a go when I was living in Charleston, SC and there was a film lab across the street but they could only do color. Since I was shooting half color at the time anyhow, it seemed only natural that I shoot a B&W film that could be processed at the same place. That said, after having a couple rolls get ruined at the shop across the street and already not being a huge fan of this stock, I moved on and haven’t used it in a while.
In sunny outdoor conditions, this film is very boring. Almost every shot felt like a grey blob with a little detail. The only real way to describe it is to imagine a nice B&W shot- then imagine you’ve lowered the brightness so that the whites are light grey and lowered the blacks to be just a bit darker than the brightest values.
In less lighted conditions where you can control a bit more, the contrast really has a big improvement. So much so that I wouldn’t mind shooting through another roll but it would likely be around sunset or in a studio.
As you can see in those last couple shots from Sedona, AZ, I had the wrong film loaded in the camera that day. I regret missing out on the gorgeous red and greens. Otherwise, in the less sunny conditions, you can see increased contrast and some pretty good detail. These were all taken on 35mm format using a Nikon F2.
The shots below are all 120 format. If I were put in front of some of this film again, I think I’d be passing it up. In the best circumtances, I wasn’t all that impressed. Although, if I happen to stumble upon an XP2 disposable camera… That I would try it if for nothing but the sense of nastalgia.