35mm colour negative films, who's still making them, what's currently available and what are my own preferences?
So first off let's declare what this little wittering is not about; it is not a film guide as it only covers 35mm colour negative films readily available here in the uk and then only a particular sub set of them (more on this later) nor is it exhaustive nor a test of any sort nor a product comparison.
What it is about is the CN films readily available and reliably in stock at a dealer in the UK and that I would use for my own style of creative photography in my 35mm rangefinder cameras whether that be for nature, architecture or bygones. This would automatically exclude, for me, a plethora of specialist "modified tone" films from Kono and Lomo.
So having got all that out of the way, here we go.
Essentially we are going to be talking about films from Kodak and Fujifilm plus Lomography, oh and an oddball company CineStill that derives a couple of photo films from Kodak movie film stock. That's it.
Kodak has stayed true to its roots and now is the majority maker of the widest range of colour negative films in types, speeds, properties, intended issues and formats. Fujifilm have slowly been withdrawing from the CN film market and now have just a very small residue of their range left. Lomography offers three standard films but one of these seems to out of stock more often than not, so fails to meet the criteria to be included in all this blether.
Color Plus 200
Pro Image 100
Superia X-tra 400
* always listed but frequently out of stock
So I used to be a very big Fujifilm user with Pro 800Z, Superia X-tra 400 and Superia Reala 100 my top choices with the occasional bit of Superia 1600 thrown in. But I soon discovered that my true love was Pro 800Z. It had everything - the look, speed, fine grain, colour pop and wide latitude. Sadly 800Z went and I was hopping mad. I tried living with Superia X-tra 800 which Fuji peddles as a great alternative, it wasn't, but I needn't have worried as they discontinued that too not long afterwards. After that my go to film, reluctantly, has been Superia X-tra 400 which kinda does everything I want but none of it exceptionally well, ho hum.
Enter Kodak Portra 800. This is a fabulous emulsion. It offers high speed with fine grain, high sharpness, saturated colours and wide underexposure latitude just like, if not better than, my old adored 800Z did. Result! Except it doesn't behave well in the bright midday sun.
This led me to trying Portra 400, which has really wild exposure latitude, and incredible dynamic range but a very neutral colour palette and had to be overexposed quite a bit to get the colours to pop, but is a fabulous emulsion all round. I also tried Kodak Ektar 100 which is also fab with high saturation and ultra-vivid colours though it's a bit on the slow side for general use. Except at about £12.00 and £10 a roll for each respectively- ouch.
Never-the-less I have settled on Kodak as my sole source of film with Portra 400 as my standard and Ektar 100 when I need something with high saturation and ultra vivid colours. These days I keep Potra 400 in one camera and Ektar 100 in another for the best of both world for use as circumstances dictate.