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How to Choose the Best Photo Film for Your Photography Needs

Information for aspiring analog photographers. You’ve got a film camera and now you’re wondering what kind of film to buy? In this guide, we tell you which color film to buy for your particular application. Warning! Examples of photos taken in perfect light on professional cameras.

Kodak Gold (200/400 ISO)

A favorite for many, both because of its affordable price and because of the familiar color it gives. Kodak Gold is available in 200 ISO and 400 ISO (yes, the Ultramax is an overclocked Gold). Kodak Gold is considered an amateur film, but I took some of my favorite shots on Gold. Kodak Gold is famous for the most vintage picture you can get on film. It rivals only the Kodak Color in this.

What it’s good for:
Lifestyle.
Everyday photography.
A trip to a picnic.

Pros:
Cheap.
Great tones, great for general purpose photography.
Mutes colors and lightens blacks, giving your photos a faded/vintage look.

Cons:
Not considered a professional film.
Mutes colors and raises black levels, giving your photos a faded look (this can be either a plus or a minus, depending on how you look at it).

Kodak Color Plus 200 ISO

Kodak Color is, without exaggeration, an iconic photographic film. Its popularity is rivaled only by the Fujicolor C200. Many photographers are so accustomed to the Kodak Color image that they can’t switch to other films because they don’t think they’re film enough. Why? Because Kodak Color Plus dulls the reality, mutes and even strongly some colors and makes the picture slightly degraded. Kodak Color is the most amateurish, if I may say so, film and many like its non-professional nature.

What it’s good for:
Lifestyle.
Everyday photography.
Picnic trip.
A photo shoot with unpredictably vintage character shots.

Pros:
Cheap.
Degraded tones, almost off halftones.
Mutes colors and adds contrast.

Cons:
Not considered a professional film.
Not everyone likes portraits on this film.
Requires plenty of light. In cloudy weather, unimpressive and makes a lot of noise.

Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 ISO

The Fujifilm Superia 400 is an amateur film from Asia. Film photographers who shoot color negatives are divided into two camps: the Kodak film buff and the Fuji film buff. That’s because the philosophy of these two manufacturers is different. Kodak films are warm, they reduce contrast (as a rule). Americans and Europeans like it. Fuji cools (takes you to the blues) and makes the greens brighter. This is the kind of character that Asians like.

The Superia 400 is more neutral in color (slightly cooler) because it is not only for the domestic market, but also for export. Its picture is usually liked in Europe and the USA. It is usually the one loaded in disposable cameras.


What it’s good for:
A versatile film: portraits, travel, everyday.

Pros:
Inexpensive.
Neutral color reproduction.
Saturated colors.

Cons:
Not a professional film.
Makes skin look orange in direct sunlight.
Scarcity.

Kodak Pro Image 100 ISO

Kodak Pro Image 100 is a semi-professional film. Yes, yes, it’s not a professional film. Don’t look at the fact that it says professional on the box. But under certain conditions it is so good that it can be considered a stepping stone into the world of Kodak professional films.

The Kodak Pro Image 100 performs best in portraits and wedding photography with good light. In principle, this is what it was invented for. The Kodak Pro Image’s element is well-lit locations in mode light (sunset-dusk) and in clear weather without direct harsh sunlight.

Instructions for use:
Shoot at nominal (ISO 100). Metering in low-contrast scenes by faces. In contrast scenes, measure by the brightest spot on the portrait subject’s face.

What it’s good for:
Wedding and Lovestory photography.
Summer (beach) travel.
Architecture in sunny weather.

Pros:
Inexpensive.
Makes photos vanilla.
Great at rendering skintone in the right conditions for itself.
Little noise.

Cons:
Still, it’s not a professional film yet.
Not versatile. Requires enough light.

Kodak Ektar 100 ISO

The Kodak Ektar 100 is the new color standard. The color reproduction of this negative film rivals that of slide film! This film is the most advanced in the Kodak lineup. In 2008 it was presented as “the finest grain color negative film on the market. This film is designed for daylight (sensitivity 100 units), which means that if you shoot indoors and outdoors, or in low light, this film, is not your choice. But in well-lit scenes, it has no competition. 

What it’s good for:
Travel. Preferably to the sea or Asia, where there will be a lot of color.
Landscapes. Especially in autumn with its riot of colors.

Pros:
Professional.
The most accurate color reproduction of all negative films.
Gives bright, clean, saturated colors.
No noise.

Cons:
Portraits are hard to get.
Low sensitivity.

Kodak Portra (160, 400, 800 ISO)

The Kodak Portra family is widely regarded as some of the best professional films on the market because of their excellent color balance and contrast, and their silky smooth flesh tones. Kodak Portra is ideal for shooting portraits and people (hence the name “Portra”), but also delivers great results in a wide variety of subjects.

Kodak Portra 160 is better suited to daylight and bright light. Kodak Portra 400 is a more versatile film that can be used in a wide variety of lighting conditions. Kodak Portra 800 is the best all-around film for medium to low light conditions.

The only drawback to Portra is its price, but if you want the most professional look possible, this is definitely your film.

What it’s good for:
Portraits.
Travel. Preferably where it’s beautiful.

Pros:
Surprisingly even skin tone.
Good balance of color and contrast.
Perfect for portraits and people.
Versatile (ISO range from 160 to 800).

Cons:
Doesn’t like open hard sun. Fine in mode light (sunset-dusk) and in well-lit locations with even light.
Expensive.

CineStill 800 ISO

CineStill 800 Tungsten is a film that is developed using the most common C-41 process. This differs from films like Kodak Vision, which require the expensive and rare ECN-2 development process. CineStill will make your footage look cinematic. You’ll get that cool tone that cinematography boasts and audiences love so much.

And CineStill will give you a fair sensitivity of 800 units and interesting halos around light sources.

Instructions for use:
Shoot at a nominal 800 units.

What it’s good for:
Cinematic staged daytime shots.
Staged shots with colored lights, neon, smoke, and other delights.
Night city, portraits in it.
Street.

Pros:
Honest 800 units. You can shoot at night (but not on a soapbox).
Beautiful cinematic color out of the box.
Halos around light sources.

Cons:
Need to know how to use this film.
Not suitable for sunny scenes.
Expensive.