Just before I went off to Arkansas, I shot and developed two rolls—Fuji Superia X-TRA 400 and Kodak Gold 100—of expired film from the FPP LoFi HiDrag box I picked up a month or so ago, and shoved some selects into a folder with the intent of writing up posts and sharing them while on holiday.
I didn’t even turn on the computer, though, and last week went to clean out the to-upload folder, I found these and didn’t remember what they were about. I did remember the notes I made while processing all that film from the Arkansas trip, and I remembered that I never talked about Kodak vs. Fuji to the extent I intended to in that series. Looking back at these now, I see echoes, antecedents, perhaps, of the things I experienced with the fresh consumer stocks I shot during the Arkansas trip, even matching somewhat the things I noted in my one brief comparison.
Before I get started, though, one thing: if you enjoy shooting film, please shoot fresh film. Expired film is fun to play with, but please purchase, shoot, and talk up fresh film as often as you’re able, lest Fuji and Kodak Alaris and the very few other manufacturers stop making film altogether and we get stuck with dwindling stocks of expired stuff like these two rolls from the good people at the FPP…
Kodak Gold 100
I had some problems with this roll. The film bound up in the camera at frame 15, and when I developed it, I discovered 1) the first 6 or 8 frames were completely exposed, as if the film got pulled out of the canister and then wound back in and there was some sort of exposed frame or something at the end of the roll (see above), and 2) even shot at EI80, it came out wildly underexposed and with some disturbing color shifts that made it a nightmare to process.
The color shifts, grain, etc. can all be attributed to the film’s age and storage conditions, I think, but my main complaint about the Kodak consumer stocks is still visible. In general, the Kodak consumer stocks are overly saturated, with very high contrast. With the fresh rolls I shot in Arkansas, I had to pull the saturation back by 20 points or so to get something that looked relatively natural, and I had to adjust the curves quite a bit to tame the contrast.
The professional stocks are better: Kodak Pro Image 100 is my favorite discontinued film, with near perfect saturation and a slight, pleasant warmth; I like the color in Porta 400 and 100, but those films curl into convex spirals on drying, and I had huge trouble getting usable digital files once I got the negatives scanned; I’ve never shot Ektar or Porta 800. Others get great results with the professional films, and when I shoot Porta again, I’ll cut and press the negatives between a few books for a week or so before scanning. But Porta is fancy, pretty, pro film, and as long as I’m just shooting randomly around the house or the job, my wallet will be happier with the consumer stuff. (At time of writing, 5 rolls of Porta 400 can be had for $35; one roll of UltraMax 400 goes for $4.)
Fuji Superia XTRA 400
I had much better results with this expired roll of Fuji Superia XTRA, with pleasant color and very low grain. The grain in this vs. the Kodak above probably comes down to storage conditions, as does the proper exposure, but it’s still impressive.
If the Kodak films go a bit red/orange, the Fuji films go blue/green. Both are easily corrected in post, but the Fuji seems to work better in a variety of lighting conditions (as seen in my brief comments linked above), and the saturation and contrast are close enough.
With fresh stocks, Fuji is cheaper at my local stores: $15 for 4, 24exp rolls of the Fuji vs. $14 for 3 of the Kodak 400. So Fuji it is, I guess, for the readily available consumer stocks. There are a couple of other options available online and at some specialty stores. I’ve had good results with Agfa Vista 200 (probably rebadged Fuji) and Lomography’s color negative films (formerly Ferrania, these appear to all be rebranded Kodak stocks now), but for film I can walk into any drugstore and grab, Fuji Superia XTRA 400 (and 200) will do the trick with a minimum of fuss.
It’s probably not really fair to base my judgments on a couple of expired rolls out of someone’s glovebox or sock drawer, but along with 3 fresh rolls of Kodak and 5 of Fuji in recent weeks, I think it’s more or less settled, in my mind… I’m more of a Fuji guy, I guess.
Again, if you shoot film, please support current manufacturers.