It’s been a while since I’ve covered the release of a new photographic film, but it’s with some delight that TWO new films have been announced in the past few days (with a third possibly on the way if we are to believe Japan Camera Hunter). Any day a new film is announced is a great day for photographers. Any day two films are announced is a reason for unbridled joy (and as for the third film, well, I’ll believe it when I see it).
First off, Kodak Moments (now apparently a division of Kodak Alaris—let’s just say I’m even more confused by the structure of Kodak’s post-bankruptcy businesses) announced Kodak Gold 200 in 120 format. A lot of us medium format photographers have long sought a lower-priced consumer film to stick in our Hasselblads or Mamiyas or Box Brownies. Gold 200 should be that film. I say *should* because while Kodak has stated the film is “intended to be priced 25 percent lower than the comparable PORTRA and EKTAR offerings”, there is no guarantee retailers will pass on those savings to consumers, especially given how in-demand film in general is. Bill Manning, over at the Studio C41 Podcast, has been pretty vocal about retailers pricing Gold 200 in line with Kodak’s press release, but ultimately it’s up to retailers to decide how much they sell it for.
I’m a very long-time user of Kodak Gold 200, having shot some version of it since the 1990s in 35mm, 110 and 126 (much of it made in China or Mexico and finished in Coburg by Kodak Australasia). It used to be regarded as a cheap film of last resort, but as discontinuations and price increases have bitten, it’s seen regular use in my cameras recently. Though it is apparently now a ‘professional’ film in its 120 form (see press image at the top of the page). All-in-all, it’s great for medium format shooters to have another film to choose from. I just hope that once all is said and done that it is meaningfully cheaper than the truly ‘professional’ Portra and Ektar options.
The second film to be announced at this most emulsional of times was a new entry to the CineStill family. CineStill 400Dynamic is a “fine grain film that will deliver a soft color palette with natural saturated color and rich, warm skin tones”. Fab. Sign me up. 400Dynamic apparently goes beyond CineStill’s usual trick of removing the rem-jet from motion picture film and repackaging it, stating that it is not an existing film but one “specifically designed for still photography”. Interesting. You should be able to find it in stores towards the middle of the year, or become a ‘CineStill Film Maker’ early backer and you can get rolls as early as April. Huzzah!
Righto, and the third? That’s old mate Japan Camera Hunter, announcing Fugufilm 400, the “the first completely new reversal film emulsion in nearly two decades”. Why the cynicism? Mainly because Mr. Hunt of Japan Camera Hunter has been less-than-forthcoming about where his film products come from. In fact he banned me from commenting on his Facebook posts because I mentioned how much I disliked “new” films at a premium price that are little more than long-expired cold-stored emulsions put in a shiny package. I wasn’t even specifically referring to his JCH Street Pan product in the comment, rather I was talking about steaming piles of shit like Rollei Variochrome. It’s telling he decided to ban me for that comment. If you look at the JCH Street Pan product page, it’s light on any real information about the film’s origin. I know there are often contractual issues about disclosing who the OEM is for products, but the real losers in all this obfuscation are film photographers who often end up throwing good many after bad. Rather than buying expired film in a glitzy package, I’d prefer to support companies like Kodak and Ilford who are truly keeping film alive.
Now, having said all that, JCH claims Fugufilm 400 is “completely new”, and as there are very few companies in the world that can formulate and coat emulsions for use as photographic film, it’s a very short list of European factories that are the likely OEM. The proof of this particular photographic pudding will be in the shooting and developing and while I wish JCH the best of luck in getting a reliable film to market, I can’t say I’m all that eager to try it out.
People far smarter than me have said that photographic film is the most complex consumer product ever brought to market. A recent video taking a peek inside the Kodak factory in Rochester only reinforces that claim. That we still have brand new films—colour emulsions in particular—being manufactured is nothing short of a miracle. So get out there, buy some fresh stock and shoot some film!