Film Photography

In belated praise of Kodak Gold 200

In case you haven’t heard, the Agfa Vista line of color films has been discontinued. They were manufactured by Fujifilm, which has axed one film stock after another in recent years. At the rate they’re killing stocks, it would not surprise me if they soon exit the rollfilm business.

Agfa Vista 200 is said to have been the same stock as Fujicolor 200. I’ve shot miles of this film under both labels and they look the same to me. It is the color print film I shoot most often by far. It performs well enough for the everyday shooting I do while being inexpensive and easy to get. I can drive to my nearby big-box store right now and buy a four-pack of Fujicolor 200 for about $12.

Its potential demise provokes some anxiety. What will I do when it’s gone?

Switch to Kodak Gold 200, that’s what. It’s nearly as available and only slightly more expensive. It’s just as good.

I’ve only just decided that. For years I strongly preferred Fujicolor’s look, probably because I’m used to it. But when I take those goggles off and look objectively at the photos I’ve made on Kodak Gold 200 I find many that really please me. This is a fine everyday color film. Have a look:

Red house

Nikon N60, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

Foodliner

Nikon N60, AF Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

Downtown Cambridge City

Canon TLb, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C., Kodak Gold 200, 2015

Jugs

Canon TLb, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C., Kodak Gold 200, 2015

Allied Van Lines

Canon TLb, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C., Kodak Gold 200, 2015

The Pyramids

Konica Auto S2, Kodak Gold 200, 2016

My neighbor's house

Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

Bridge at IMA

Olympus Stylus, Kodak Gold 200 (expired), 2013

Flo's

Pentax H3, 55mm f/2 Super Takumar, Kodak Gold 200, 2016

At Juan Solomon Park

Kodak Retina IIc, Kodak Gold 200, 2017

Depot

Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Gold 200, 2017

Margaret

Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Gold 200, 2017

Grilling out

Kodak Retina Automatic III, Kodak Gold 200, 2017

North United Methodist

Voigtländer Vito II, Kodak Gold 200, 2015

Fujifilm, do what you will. Kodak Alaris appears to be committed to roll film. I’ll switch to Kodak Gold 200 and not look back.

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Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm FP-100C

Holy cow, is Fujifilm’s FP-100C nice stuff. I shot Polaroid’s Types 88 and 108 color pack films in the 1970s and 1980s and was never impressed with the color rendition. But just look at the red the FP-100C returned. It’s so bold that it almost reaches out from the print and smacks you across the face.

Autumn bush

Unfortunately, my Polaroid Automatic 250 camera has developed an electrical gremlin. The two packs of FP-100C I shot yielded only four images, all of which were test photos after yet another repair attempt.

Enough with the cars already

But when my 250 works, it delivers the finest results of any instant camera I’ve shot. I think it’s because all of my other instant cameras have plastic lenses while the 250 uses a three-element glass lens. It returns images that are pretty sharp even in the corners.

However, the 250 is challenging to use even when its electrical problems are tamed. Pulling the first three or four images out of the camera always involves opening the back of this big, clumsy camera a little. You see, those Fujifilm packs aren’t as rigid as the Polaroid packs of yore and so the folding 250’s innards clamp that film down too tight. You need to vent the pressure to get those first prints out of the camera.

The rigid-bodied packfilm cameras, such as my Big Swinger 3000, don’t have that problem. The Big Swinger’s single-element plastic meniscus lens is nothing to write home about, though. And the camera is about to become useless as soon as stock of the only film it can use, Fujifilm’s discontinued FP-3000B, runs out.

Others love the Big Swinger’s lens for its slightly dreamy quality. One such gentleman is Eric, who writes the Load Film in Subdued Light blog. He enjoys that lens so much that, upon learning of FP-3000B’s demise, he pulled the lens out of his Big Swinger and inserted it into another rigid-bodied packfilm camera, the Colorpack II, which can take the slower FP-100C color film. (Read about it here.)

During that surgery, he discovered a three-element glass lens inside the Colorpack II. Aha! I immediately bought a Colorpack II on eBay. (The place is lousy with them, and most of them go for under 20 bucks shipped.) I have five packs of film waiting for it – two FP-3000B and three FP-100C. I remain inexplicably charmed by instant photography, and I am determined to find a reliable camera when I want to scratch that instant itch.

I’m less charmed by the integral-film cameras, like my One600 and my SX-70.

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Film Photography

Goodbye Fujifilm FP-3000B

We are in the post-film shakeout era, a time when the world’s film manufacturers figure out what films will continue to be made now that most people shoot digital.

I argue that this era kicked off in 2009 when Kodak canned its seminal Kodachrome color slide film. Kodak has been the leader in film discontinuation, having ceased production of venerable Plus X black-and-white negative film and its entire catalog of slide films in 2011. It appears that its bankruptcy and its outdated manufacturing facilities are major factors in its decisions to discontinue films.

The film business is said to remain profitable, even for Kodak. But film’s mass-market days are over, as only hobbyists and some professionals still shoot film. I think the realities of a greatly reduced scale will cause other films to go by the wayside in the next several years. It will be interesting to see which films survive.

The latest casualty is Fujifilm’s FP-3000B instant film for packfilm Polaroid cameras, a niche product to be sure. Production ceased at around the end of 2013.

I’ve shot a couple packs of FP-3000B over the past couple years and I like it. I’ve shot it in both of my Polaroid packfilm cameras, a Big Swinger 3000 and an Automatic 250, and I find that the film can deliver decent contrast and tonal range. It’s not in the same league as Kodak TMax or Fujifilm Neopan Acros, but for instant film, it’s fabulous.

Here’s a shot from my Big Swinger 3000, which works only with the ISO 3000 packfilms and is rendered useless by Fujifilm’s decision.

Charger Nose

The Automatic 250 offers some ability to adjust aperture, allowing for available-light photos inside. It also offers a much better lens. This is where I sleep, recorded by the 250.

Bedroom

FP-3000B stock remains available as I write this; I just ordered two packs from B&H Photo. My Automatic 250 has an electrical gremlin I need to figure out, but when I do I’ll shoot those two packs as well as two packs I ordered of color FP-100C, which remains in production.

I have also shot some integral-film Polaroid cameras. See them here, here, and here.

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