Color Film Roundup

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Recently, I wrote the Black-and-White Film Roundup, and started the article with the claim that “despite film being ‘dead,’ there’s still a surprising number of different and unique films to choose from in 2020.” The same holds true for color films, both negative and reversal types, with many contemporary classics still readily available, along with a surprising number of new films recently arriving on the scene.

Let’s take a look at the current color films available right now.

Kodak

Just as we started with Kodak for B&W, we’ll started with Kodak for color. Still a prolific film manufacturer, Kodak has the widest and most versatile portfolio of color films available right now, especially after recently re-entering the color slide film market for the first time since 2012. Kodak is also one of two manufacturers to make color sheet film and is the sole remaining manufacturer of color negative sheet film. This maker currently offers nine unique color film types.

Kodak Professional Portra 800 Color Negative Film
  • Portra 160, Portra 400, and Portra 800 are some of the most popular “professional” films available—color or B&W—due to their impressive consistency, distinct color and tonal handling, and pleasantly natural contrast and saturation. The three different speeds have similar color profiles; however, each does offer a slightly distinct look to suit different subject types.
  • Ektar 100 is a unique color negative film due to the fact that it yields results you’d expect from a slide film (e.g. high contrast and saturation) but has the flexibility of a negative film. It’s a slower speed film, too, and has impressively fine grain and high sharpness for a very clean overall look.
  • Ektachrome E100, Kodak’s long-awaited return to color reversal film, which arrived in 2018 and was further expanded to 120 and 4 x 5" sizes, in 2019, is not just about E-6 film coming back but also the return of a medium-contrast slide film. Since the general demise of most color reversal films, this type of film has been relegated to a few ultra-high saturation and contrast flavors; Ektachrome E100 brings a tamer feeling with more muted colors, without lacking on the vividness and apparent sharpness of the medium.
  • Outside of Kodak’s “Professional” line of films are four more highly capable 35mm color negative films: Pro Image 100, ColorPlus 200, Gold 200, and UltraMax 400. These four “consumer-grade” films don’t have the most advanced color or grain technology and that’s honestly what their strength is. They are straightforward color negative films like you’d expect from the time when film was still the primary photographic medium.

FUJIFILM

The other main name in the color film game, FUJIFILM has had a very strong presence in the film world over the years—so much so that one of the most popular and beloved features on its digital cameras is the series of Film Simulation modes. In terms of real films, though, FUJIFILM has pared back its options a bit over the last few years, but still boasts the most reversal films and a variety of negative films.

FUJIFILM Fujicolor 200 Color Negative Film
  • Velvia 50 is one of those iconic films that even non-photographers can picture when you say the name aloud. It’s a color reversal film, best known for its extremely high color saturation, vibrance, and contrast. It’s a film favored by landscape and nature shooters due to its creative and dynamic look and high sharpness.
  • Velvia 100 is, like Velvia 50, also high saturation, high contrast color slide film, but the little bit of extra speed of Velvia 100 makes it a bit more suitable for everyday shooting. It’s not quite as vibrant as Velvia 50, but by no means is it lacking on punchy, vivid colors. Also, along with the next film, Velvia 100 is one of only two options available for 8 x 10" sheets of color reversal film.
  • Provia 100F is FUJIFILM’s most natural-looking film, and trades in the dramatic high saturation of Velvia for a bit more realistic colors and tones. It’s still a striking film with fine contrast, sharpness, and saturation, and appeals to more everyday shooting needs than the more specialized Velvia films.
  • PRO 400H is FUJIFILM’s lone “professional” color negative film and offers a similar punchiness to the color reversal films, but with the flexibility and speed of a negative film. Its has a softer contrast profile that is still realistic and vivid, as well as wide exposure latitude to suit working in various lighting conditions.
  • Moving to FUJIFILM’s consumer-grade films, they have both Fujicolor 200 and Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400. These two similar films offer natural color balance and a timeless look—a distinct FUJIFILM feel—that separate them from being too plain. Like some of the aforementioned films, these two from FUJIFILM are pretty straightforward options that provides results you already know and love.

Cinestill

One of the more unique brands in the film game, Cinestill created a name for itself with its two color films, which are re-formatted movie stock that have been packaged for use in still cameras. One of the key differences between movie film and still photography film is the inclusion of a rem-jet layer on movie films; this heavy anti-halation layer is the reason why movie films use the ECN-2 process opposed to a C-41 process and it provides other physical benefits for cine operations. One of the drawbacks, though, is that this layer will contaminate C-41 chemistry; so Cinestill films go through a “premoval” stage to remove this layer make them suitable for C-41 processing. The result is a pair of films featuring cine-optimized technology, but now suitable for stills shooting.

Cinestill 800Tungsten Xpro C-41 Color Negative Film
  • 800Tungsten Xpro is a high-speed film that also carries the distinction of being the sole tungsten-balanced film available for stills shooting. This makes it ideal for interior shooting under incandescent lighting, or outdoors under street lighting. If shot in daylight, an 85B filter should be used for accurate colors.
  • 50Daylight Xpro, on the other hand, is a slow-speed daylight-balanced film ideally suited for bright outdoor shooting conditions. It has very high sharpness and virtually no distinguishable grain.

Rollei

More prolific in the black-and-white film arena, Rollei does offer one color film; a unique color reversal option intended for cross-processing.

Rollei Crossbird 200 Color Transparency Film
  • Crossbird 200 is distinct due to its designation as a color reversal film, but with a formulation that is intended for cross-processing in C-41 chemistry. If processed in E-6, the film yields high contrast and vivid colors, but when cross-processed, it takes on a strong yellow-green color cast for a retro feeling.

Lomography

Just as distinct as the cameras it produces, Lomography’s color film offerings are characterized by strange and strong colors and an overall playful feeling that suits the entire Lomo ethos.

Lomography LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 Color Negative Film
  • 100 Color Negative, 400 Color Negative, and 800 Color Negative are the “standard” color negative films offering simple, vivid colors, fine grain, and high sharpness. The unique aspect of these films is that they are available in 120 sizes, as well as 35mm, making them the sole “non-professional-grade” medium format color negative film out there.
  • LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 is one of Lomo’s most distinct concoctions; a creative color negative film offering a surreal, purple-tinged look reminiscent of color infrared film. This film intentionally renders false colors—blue is green, green is purple, yellow is pink—and depending on how the film is exposed, colors increase or decrease in saturation.
  • Peacock X-Pro is a color reversal film only available in 110 format. Those facts alone should give you an idea of the uniqueness of this film, and it gets even stranger because it’s a color reversal film intended for cross-processing in C-41 chemistry for an overall warm and retro-feeling color palette.
  • Tiger is Lomo’s standard color negative film for 110-format cameras, and is a 200-speed film that should give fairly straightforward colors, contrast, and saturation, but for the ultra-compact film format.
  • Lobster Redscale is one additional highly creative film for truly unique and abstract effects. “Redscale” is a technique where the film has been reverse-rolled onto the spool so you are effectively shooting through the base of the film and exposing the color layers in reverse order. Subsequently, the film takes on a strong red and yellow color cast for an overwhelmingly warm look.

Creative and Experimental Films

Moving into the fun films, a recent trend of producing creative, pre-exposed films has caught on, where manufacturers are infusing their films with wild and colorful visual effects, ranging from a slight wash of a color to exposed designs in the films. These films are deemed “experimental” in that the results they provide are not consistent, can’t be planned for, and are not repeatable—these films are all about having fun and taking a chance.

  • dubble films currently offers a sextet of 200-speed color negative films: Apollo produces deep shadows and hazy highlights for a cinematic feel; Bubblegum gives bright pink hues and an overall candy-color feeling; Jelly gives a bright and punchy rainbow of colorful washes; Pacific offers muted, subtle, ocean-inspired tonality; Solar gives a warm and hazy feel with surprising colors and light leaks; and Stereo offers a distinct red and blue tint effect with faded tones.
dubble film Bubblegum 200 Color Negative Film
  • KONO offers 12 different films and focuses more on adding pre-exposed designs to many of its 200-speed color negative films: ALiEN has pre-exposed little green men and alien heads in each frame; UFO has pre-exposed spaceships and UFOs in each frame; KATZ has kitty cat paw prints in each frame; LIEBE has red hearts in each frame; and LUFT has blue hearts in each frame. Besides the pre-exposed options, there are also a series of experimental color films, including ORIGINAL CANDY that offers bright, pinkish hues; ORIGINAL GALAXY, which produces bright multicolored effects; ORIGINAL MONSOON that gives a deep and cool color profile inspired by rain; ORIGINAL MOONSTRUCK, which produces cool-toned muted multicolor effects; and ORIGINAL SUNSTROKE, which provides bright and warm effects with surprising light leaks and colors.
KONO ORIGINAL GALAXY 200 Color Negative Film
  • Psychedelic keeps it simple with its four numbered options of 400-speed color negative film: Blues #2 has been pre-exposed to produce unique light leaks and edge fogging, along with a “prism burst between frames 12 and 13; Blues #3 also has strong multi-colored light leak effects that taper from the edge to the middle of the film; Blues #4 has been pre-exposed to holographic paper to achieve random rainbow effects throughout the entire roll of film; and Blues #5 has been pre-exposed to multicolored light sources to produce strong colored effects at the edges of the frames that fade into a more neutral center.
Psychedelic Blues 400 #2 Color
  • REVOLOG is one of the more prolific experimental film producers, with 12 unique flavors in 7 its portfolio of 200-speed color negative films: 460nm and 600nm produce distinct color shifts and tint changes that become more noticeable in the darker areas of the film; Kolor has a unique color wash and multicolor gradient effect covering each frame; Kosmos has blue stardust-like effects in each frame; Lazer incorporates bright blue and green “laser” lines across each frame; Plexus features a bluish net-like organic structure over each frame; Rasp features colored lines running perpendicular to the edge of the film; Streak mimics the look of viewing the image through a scratched pane of glass; Tesla 1 and Tesla 2 feature differently colored lightning-like flashes in each frame; Texture incorporates a bubble-like, rounded texture; and Volvox features bright green dots speckled across each frame.
REVOLOG Kosmos 200 Color Negative Film
  • Yodica distinguishes itself by naming each of its 400-speed color negative films after stars, constellations, and galaxies: Andromeda is all about pink, fuchsia, and red tones; Antares yields warm red hues at the top of the frame and a smooth gradient down to cool blue tones at the bottom of the frame; Atlas is unpredictably multicolored with intense yellows, pinks, greens, and blues; Callisto has ruby-red hues at the top of frames with a transition to verdant greens at the bottom of the film; Pegasus offers a horizontal rainbow effect across the frame with more intense colors coming as a result of underexposure; Polaris produces an icy blue overall effect with red vignette effects along the edges; Sirio incorporates a gradient of hues from green along the top to purple/indigo on the bottom; and Vega resembles a sunset, with warm orange hues at the base and a steely bluish purple at the top.
Yodica Atlas 35mm Film ISO 400 36 Exposers

With such a wide range of color films, what are some of your favorites? Do you like the tried-and-true classic Kodak and FUJIFILM options or are you up to experimenting with some of these new pre-exposed films? Let us know what you like to shoot and if you have any color film questions in the Comments section, below.

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