I have been shooting and scanning film on a regular basis for about a year now, so I thought that I would weigh in on the two most widely available cheap films, koduak ultramax 400 and fuji superia 400. Both are available at CVS/Walgreens/Rite aid, occasionally in overpriced rolls, or even higher priced disposable cameras. In fact, this post was spurred by my friend using one such camera, and me remembering that UltraMax exists.
Whatever way you decide to go after this review, my recommendation is to go online and find where you can buy it in bulk- I have found if for as low as about 2.50 per roll (fuji) and 2.00 per roll (kodak).I use film to capture things and people I find interesting, but I don’t take pictures every day. I use an Olympus XA, which floats around in my bag and gets fished out every now and then for a photo. I carry a small tripod, but 400 speed film is a must for low light (which is most of Boston) and fast shooting. The result is that I don’t carry around a mess of filters or flashes to get everything perfect. Below is a comparison of the film in three different and common situations: indoor lighting, outdoor lighting, and “pushing” to iso 800 (underexposing one stop).
Indoor, Fuji wins hands-down. The kodak film has a tendency to have a nasty greenish-yellow tinge under fluorescent lighting. Some film folks would say “its just a matter of kodak filter #x”, but unfortunately I don’t carry those around with me. Indoors, Fuji is ok if ia little less “poppy”. Some might characterize this as “balanced”.Outdoor
I would say this is a tie. Kodak has really really vivid colors, but fuji is no slouch here either. Kodak seems to blow the colors out- check out that flower! But at the same time, the pavement has a reddish hue. Fuji is more balanced again, and tends to render beautiful clouds and skies, among other things.
Stuff starts to get weird when you underexpose your film, but sometimes if you are somewhere dark, like Boston (outside) or inside (subway station), and your are taking your shot hand-held, you don’t have many options. Fuji gets more-fuji-y underexposed and can be a little cool and muted. Kodak just gets kind of grainy. Since I do this a lot, I go with cool and muted rather than grainy. It really helps people, and fast moving imagery at a reasonable shutter speed.
Winner:The winner is…Fuji! Kodak is ok, and it is a few cents cheaper, but its poor color performance and less than ideal underexposure characteristics make it less desirable for my use. But who knows- maybe it is just what you want. And in this day and age, you can just photoshop away the yellow, and keep using badass film cameras like the Olympus XA (my favorite camera).