When it comes to photography, especially film photography, I keep my equipment as consistent and simple as possible. The less one has to think about while taking pictures, the better. Kodak Portra 400 35mm (the 120 is great too, I just don’t use as much of it) is my trusted film of choice. It’s popular and it’s popular for good reasons: it’s beautiful and that 400 speed is ideal.
Since so much of my photography is about being receptive to ever-changing scenes in the viewfinder, I deem it crucial to make sure all else remains unwavering.
For a time—ever since the release of the film, I’d say—I could count on ordering Kodak Portra 400 35mm film and it would arrive and all—photographic or otherwise—would be fine.
Until it wasn’t.
Unfortunately, the day arrived when not only was my trusted film supplier out of stock, but, they were out of stock for months. Everyone was. So while searching for my beloved Portra, it became quickly clear that everyone was out of the film. The Portra that was available was being priced at criminal amounts of money. I love film photography but that love will cease at the prices that were being charged.
While we’re on this topic—it’s my fault, I know—I’ll say that even though film photography is near and oh-so-dear to me, I love digital also. Due to the darkest film era I can ever remember, I reached for my digital camera a lot more than I usually would and it was wonderful. I’d prefer film, but I’ll use digital too. No problem.
Finally, after weekly internet searching for 35mm film, it happened: film was for sale in my town. The film for sale wasn’t Portra, but was instead Fujifilm 200.
Kodak—all kinds of films, not just Portra—has been my go-to for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard good things about Fujifilm too though. Because of the lack of any 35mm film for so long, I was more than willing to give it a try. A local drug store had a 3-pack for sale for around $25 bucks (ISO 200, 36 exposures per roll) and I was more than happy to buy it.
A film speed of ISO 200 is a little slower than I’d like, but with film actually being available and for a reasonable price, it didn’t matter what I liked.
During the autumn of 2022, I found myself doing some photo walkabouts in Michigan and Colorado. Admittedly, using a new-to-me film was not magnificent for morale. Knowing what a film stock looks like really helps when you’re on the front end of things, photographing.
I trusted the process though.
After mailing my film away to my trusted lab, I was sightly unsettled and I knew I’d feel that way until my finished scans were in my possession.
My scans were completed and downloaded and upon viewing them I was elated. Whew, what a relief. My relief turned to giddy surprise when I noticed that the film was outstanding. Of course, in photography, it’s the person not the equipment that truly makes a photo. But, film is an important aspect of things and a really-shit film does have a tendency to result in really-shit photos.
In film photography, there are so many variables on the path to final results. After the film choice, there is of course exposure settings, lab development processes (i.e. chemicals and chemical quality, temperature, etc.) and scan settings.
Ultimately though, the Fujifilm 200 was fantastic and I’d buy it again without hesitation. My normal workflow includes some light adjustments in Lightroom. However, outside of that, I was really pleased with the colors, sharpness and grain of the film. I can’t remember the last time I purchased photographic film from a drugstore, but I’d do it again for sure, especially if it was this film.
I’m still going back to Kodak Portra whenever possible. But, should a Portra shortage or extreme markup on Portra prices take place, I’m heading over to Fujifilm 200 and loving it.
Notes: All film is processed and scanned by The Darkroom.