What’s this? An honest-to-goodness BRAND NEW colour negative film *not* manufactured in Rochester, NY or Japan!? Get outta town.
Yet here we are with a new 200 speed 35mm colour negative film and very much in a town. And that town is Bad Saarow, a spa town about 60km from Berlin and where Adox has one of its film production facilities.
If you aren’t familiar with the Adox story (from 2006 onwards), then it’s well-worth your time watching this interview with Adox CEO Mirko Böddecker and his wife, photographer Lino Bessonova. You’ll come away realising that it’s nothing short of a miracle that a) Adox still exists; b) still produces film; and c) that it can even think about making colour film.
Adox Color Mission 200 is unique, not just because it’s the first properly-new colour film in yonks, but because it’s a film…on a mission! The film itself is the first batch of an emulsion that was coated a few years back — the result of a project with another company that went bankrupt shortly after producing this first run. Instead of wasting this perfectly good film, however, Adox decided to finish it in 35mm and offer it for sale, with the profits being reinvested into its own independent film R&D for colour film. It’s like a Kickstarter, except you actually end up with a product in your hand!
I like this approach. A lot. Unlike many other rebadged films, Adox is upfront that this is not a final product. They aren’t coy about where Color Mission 200 is from and are clear about the age of the emulsion. This is not nasty expired shit like Rollei Vario Chrome, but neither is it factory fresh Kodak Gold 200.
Going on a mission
I loaded my first roll of Color Mission 200 into my Nikon F100. It’s important to note that the film canister does not have DX coding. I set the camera’s manual ISO setting to 200 with a +0.3 exposure compensation (my normal setting for colour negative).
Then I went shooting.
And I like the results. I particularly like how it renders the blue skies on a sunny day. It’s got a bit of saturation about it, but not too much. It’s also got a nice bite of contrast about it. The grain is quite a bit more than you might expect on a 200 speed film, but given its pedigree as the first batch of a years-old emulsion, it’s certainly understandable and not all that objectionable.
Comparison with Kodak Ektar 100
I didn’t make any intentional comparisons with any other films. I find this sort of thing a bit tiresome as there are so many variables with the ‘look’ of film (exposure, development, scanning, adjustments etc.), but I did make an unintentional one, capturing the same scene with both fresh Kodak Ektar 100 and Color Mission 200.
I think this shot gives a good overview of the differences between a ‘professional’ emulsion and an experimental one that’s been in cold storage for a while. But that’s fine because Adox have told us what and why and how Color Mission 200 is. They’re not doing a Rollei or a JCH and selling old stock film in a nice shiny box.
Color Mission has a higher contrast—even against a punchy colour negative like Ektar—and higher grain, which is to be expected. All in all, though, it’s a very pleasant film with the added bonus that every purchase supports Adox’s goals to make new colour films in the not-too-distant future.
Adox hopes to get their new film out in the next four years. Happily, though, they expect they have enough Color Mission 200 to bridge the gap between now and when their new film comes out. Unlike many other fly-by-nighters in the film community, Adox has earned photographers’ trust by delivering products and by being upfront with the community on the difficulties of restarting film production. If I’d said this once, I’ll say it again, photographic film is probably the most complex consumer product ever brought to market. That it is still manufactured at all is nothing short of a miracle. Add COVID and the many supply chain issues experienced by all manufacturers globally, and you’ve got Lazarus with a triple bypass.
It’s easy to bitch and moan about the price of film these days but we film photographers should all be happy to pay a few dollars more to support companies like Adox if we want to shoot keep shooting film for years to come.