The films I have used in the last 12 months have all been either Kodak or Fuji. In my opinion you can characterize products from both companies by just looking at the colors on their boxes. Fuji – green and Kodak yellow-red. My overall experience is Fuji tends green, Kodak warm yellows, oranges, and reds. You can correct much of this in post but it is still there.
If I was to guess why, I would say that Japan is where Fuji is from and it is overall a very green place. On the other hand the most iconic Kodak shots are of the Grand Canyon and southwest USA. There is even a State Park in Utah named the Kodachrome Basin. The color pallet of that park is orange, red, and yellow.
I will start with lowest price first.
Kodak Gold 200 and Color Plus 200. I have shot both in the last couple months. Both basically the same price in California and very similar.
This is a very good low cost film except you need to be careful of getting too much grain in shadows. Personally I cannot tell the difference between the two Kodak films on my large monitor except to say that color plus seems a little brighter. In some cases when I get this film the box says Kodak Gold and the film can says Kodak 200.
Fuji 200. – This is the Walmart 24 exposure rolls.
This is a beautiful detailed shot of my dog on my large monitor. This hardly needed any editing.
This one needed a bit of post to get something I liked, but the Fuji did very well in forest scenes. Fine grain throughout even in shadows.
Even in the dark areas there is little grain. I brightened this quite a bit in LR and still minimal grain.
This is a beautiful picture of one of my grand daughters with great skin tones and minimal grain in the out of focus shadows.
I bought this roll of film at Walmart for $250 a roll. Only 24 ex. There are 36ex rolls for sale at B&H and elsewhere. I mention B&H because they sometimes have some very good sales on this film. Currently 36ex rolls are selling for $4.
My comments. If I was shooting the southwest or the beach I would prefer the Kodak Color Plus or Gold color rendition. Both almost as good as Kodak Ektar. Just this morning “The Darkroom” posted on my Facebook a comparison of Kodak Gold 200 and Fuji C200 with two beach shots. To my eye I preferred the Kodak on their example a lot. I have to say the Fuji 200 gave a much more elegant rendition of my forest scenes, far less grain, and beautiful skin tones, much better than Kodak. So which is it? These are both great low cost films. I would only remember to buy 36ex rolls so you can save on processing and watch the shadows on the K Gold.
Lomography 100. Lomography sells 100 speed print film. It is in the same range of price as the Kodak and Fuji products but a slower speed. I have been giving some thought to buying a 3 pack and trying it out. I have looked at the samples on Flickr and they look good.
Kodak 400 and 400 Ultramax 400 & Fuji Superia 400.
I have had very good luck with both the Kodak and Fuji. Kodak has kept their prices level on this film to the same range as the Kodak 200. Fuji used to sell at the Kodak price but now is usually about 2 dollars more. At 2 dollars more I will always buy the Kodak, but this past Christmas I snagged 10 rolls at under the Kodak price. That said here are some samples.
In the end I think I prefer the Kodak Ultramax for landscape and Superia 400 for people and green. The Fuji seems a bit finer grain, but not much. The issue with Superia is that at $6.00 a roll it is almost up to Ektar 100 price and I think Ektar is one of the two best landscape films you can buy. And the Superia is also right in the Portra price range. Portra just outclasses the Fuji on skin shots and anything not in bright desert sun. But you cannot go wrong on either the Superia 400 or Kodak Ultramax 400, buy on price and depending on subject. I plan to work through my supply of Superia 400 this summer but since I have several film cameras I can load them with black and white plus some Kodak for punchier “National Park” type shots.
The ones I have used in the last 12 months are Fuji Velvia 50 & 100, Kodak Portra 160 & 400, Kodak Ektar 100.
Velvia 50 – A classic slide film that is known for highly saturated colors. If you like this level of saturation it does a great job on landscapes and not good at all on skin tones. The speed is a slow 50 but in full sun this works fine. I have used this film often in all of my cameras with built in light meters. It is somewhat fussy about exposure, but I really have not had that much problem with ruined shots except when I ran a roll through a very old mechanical camera from the 50’s with a slow shutter spring. The other thing to watch out for is limited dynamic range. If you average your exposure and have a great variety of shadow and highlight it is easy to underexpose your shadows. Two summers ago I had problems with the bodies of bison against bright backgrounds. The animals had mostly blocked shadows which I could not correct well in Lightroom. Since the big animals were up close and scared me a little I did not change the settings fast enough on my manual Olympus OM 2n. My more auto Minoltas would have worked better. I used Ektar 100 shooting bison and had much less problem with blocked shadows due to that film’s wider dynamic range.
These were taken a couple of months ago and as you can see Velvia pops the colors but then does not do a great job on the skin tones.
But on landscape you can’t fault it.
Ektar considering everything might just be the best overall landscape film available. It is 100 speed which is about what you should have for daytime landscape shots. The landscape color is similar to Velvia 50 without quite so much excess. The grain is very fine. It handles exposure better than Velvia. And it costs about half as much as Velvia. I have shot a lot of rolls of it.
I have had some issues with Ektar going red on skin but as you can see from the next two pictures it is OK with skin.
This is my favorite film but not if I am shooting mostly people.
Portra 160 and 400
Portra tends to be most peoples favorite film. Here are some of my results. It is one of mine too. I find both 160 and 400 to be great with 400 having a touch more saturation.
Portra 160 or 400 are both very forgiving of exposure error. They both have tremendous dynamic range. I do prefer Ektar for landscapes, but if you only want to take one film Portra is a better choice. Very fine grain. Much lower price than the competing Fuji product. Only slightly more money than Fuji Superia 400.
Ektachrome. I had planned to shoot some Kodak Ektachrome this summer. The problem with that is I have not been able to buy any yet. Ektachrome is not Kodachrome, but if I do see some Ektachrome soon I will buy some.
Black and White.
I usually shoot color, but recently have used some TriX and Tmax. I have beautiful results with both. These are both gorgeous films and here are some recent shots.
If I had to pick only one of these I would take TriX, but both are sure to give you B&W results you will like.
So what am I taking with me this summer on our long trip? All of the ones mentioned with a couple of rolls of Ilford black and white. I have just looked up the price of Velvia 100 and Provia 100. They seem to be about $7 a roll. I will call to see how long to expiration before I buy, but that seems like a good price. I have never shot Provia and would like to try it. I usually take about 5 camera bodies with me and I load them up with different films and take what I am in the mood for that day or fits the likely subjects. If I shoot any new films before we leave I will update this post.
- All around films. Any of the ones mentioned in this post Kodak 200 or 400. Fuji 200 or 400 will work well and not cost a lot. But if you have to pay $6 for a roll of Fuji 400 I would pick the Fuji 200 for $4 or either Kodak for $4.
- Higher end film. I will not pay $15 for Velvia 50. But Kodak Portra or Ektar make great images at about $6.50-7.00 per roll. Fuji Velvia 100 seems like a good buy at $7 but I have to check the expiration. Don’t forget that slide film is harder to shoot and costs about $3 extra to develop.
- Black and White. I love both Kodak TriX and Tmax. Both run about $6 a roll.