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Film Review: The New Fujifilm 200 and Fujifilm 400

The enigmatic nature of film can be both intriguing and confounding. Though the branding may remain constant, shifts in manufacturing formulas can drastically alter the essence of the film itself. Unless one possesses remarkably keen vision, these subtle changes can easily go unnoticed. This conundrum brings to mind the Ship of Theseus, a philosophical quandary that questions the identity of an object after all its original components have been replaced.

Recently, the photography community has been abuzz with speculation that the newly-released Fujifilm 200 and Fujifilm 400 are, in fact, repackaged Kodak stock. These conjectures stem from various similarities, such as their American provenance and analogous datasheet curves. To clarify, I'm not discussing nor reviewing the Fujifilm Fujicolor C200 or Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400; my focus is solely on the brand-new Fujifilm 200 and Fujifilm 400. Alongside this, I shall also engage in some cursory comparisons.

Setting aside these rumours for a moment—whether they're founded or unfounded—I'd like to share my personal experience with shooting both of these new film stocks. Regrettably, I must report that the results were rather underwhelming.

My initial impressions of Fujifilm have always been tinged with a unique blend of greenish hues, an understated Japanese aesthetic, and a fine grain structure. Regrettably, these classic Fujifilm traits seemed conspicuously absent in the two recent film stocks I had the opportunity to shoot with. To put it candidly, these were not rolls I'd chosen for any significant project; they were merely experimental—essentially, two test rolls. Yet, even as test rolls, they left me feeling decidedly underwhelmed.

Starting with Fujifilm 200, I shot this roll using my Nikon F2A and an assortment of lenses. While the resulting photos are technically sound, capturing life-like colours, they feel somewhat lacking in distinct personality.

Left: Nikon F, 50mm f1.4, Fujifilm Fujicolor C200, 2022 Right: Nikon F2A, 85mm f1.8, Fujifilm 200, 2023

To offer a more tangible comparison, let's examine photos shot with these differing film stocks. The older roll was shot last year, whilst the more recent one was taken just last month. The new photo was taken using Fujifilm 200, whereas the older one was captured with the original Fujifilm Fujicolor C200. Both sets were shot under similar bright sunlight conditions. Upon close inspection, it becomes apparent that the original roll exhibits more pronounced green hues, particularly noticeable in the grain. In contrast, the newer Fujifilm 200 stock leans towards a more yellowish palette, lacking the characteristic greenish tones present in the older version.

There's a commonly held belief that Fujifilm stocks lean towards greenish tones, whereas Kodak typically exhibits a more yellowish palette. Having experimented with both, I can say that this perception is largely down to individual preference. Personally, I find myself drawn to the original Fujifilm Fujicolor C200. What sets it apart, in my opinion, is its unique approach to colour rendition. The aesthetic of Japanese photography often gravitates towards greener tones, and Fujifilm stocks have traditionally excelled in capturing this particular nuance.

Top: Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, 50mm f1.8, Fujifilm Fujicolor C200, 2022 Bottom: Nikon F2A, 85mm f1.8, Fujifilm 200, 2023

Turning our attention to street photography, I must concede that this film stock seems to fare better in this genre. The distinctions between the new and older stocks become less glaring compared to portrait photography. However, upon examining the photos below, the differences still remain evident. Despite the variation in timing— one shot taken in the afternoon and the other nearing sunset— it's clear that the bottom photo exhibits a more pronounced yellow tint, especially in the sky.

Top: Nikon F, 50mm f1.4, Fujifilm Fujicolor C200, 2022

Bottom: Nikon F2A, 85mm f1.8, Fujifilm 200, 2023

You may be inclined to attribute the differences to various external factors such as differing scanners, labs, or post-processing adjustments. However, even accounting for these variables, distinct differences between the stocks persist.

Now, let's shift our focus to a comparison between Fujifilm 400 and Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400.

The Fujifilm 400 film stock proves less disheartening for me, in my opinion. It may seem akin to parental favouritism—preferring one child over another—and in this case, that's precisely the sentiment. To elucidate, consider the portraits I've captured using both film stocks:

Left: Nikon FM2, 50mm f1.4, Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400, 2022 Right: Nikon F3 HP, 50mm f1.4, Fujifilm 400, 2023

Both portraits were captured in the same locale, utilising the same lens, to the best of my recollection. The photo on the right actually serves as a still from my recent short film, When I Play Your Song. Yet, it's manifestly clear that the Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400 exhibits greener hues, particularly in the shadows and the subject's clothing. I don't believe the shot is underexposed, thus lending credence to my observation. The new Fujifilm 400, conversely, presents a warmer, more skin-tone-aligned palette, evoking comparisons to Kodak Portra 400. Could this new Fujifilm 400 be a rebranded Kodak Portra 400? I find that unlikely, given that the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) doesn't align. It's more plausible that it could be a budget-friendly alternative to Kodak Ultramax 400. Again, just a guess.

Clock Tower: Yashica Electro-35, Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400, 2021

Sandwiches: Nikon F3 HP, 50mm f1.4, Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400, 2022

Blossom: Nikon F3 HP, 50mm f1.4, Fujifilm 400, 2023

Stairs: Nikon F3 HP, 50mm f1.4, Fujifilm 400, 2023

In a rather surprising turn of events, both film stocks exhibit striking similarities when it comes to street photography. Each renders rich colour tones, particularly when shot under natural sunlight. My only quibble would pertain to the colour rendition in the bottom right photo; it appears somewhat flat, especially in relation to the graffiti on the wall. That said, this stock outperforms the Fujifilm 200, at least in my estimation.

Before I conclude, it's crucial to clarify that this is a cursory review, formed after casually shooting with both of the new film stocks. There was no premeditated intent to create a comparative review while capturing these rolls; it was more a case of, "Let's give these a whirl and see what happens." I sympathise with the disquiet many feel towards these new Fujifilm offerings, especially when measured against their previous versions. Frankly, the older stock is superior, but that shouldn't deter one from exploring these new options. Whilst I have an ample supply of older stocks stored in my fridge, I fully intend to experiment with these newer variants in future. I may even dedicate an entire roll of the 400 stock to portrait photography to form a more rounded opinion. Clearly, the handful of shots I currently have are insufficient for a comprehensive comparison or review. All in all, consider this a snapshot—pun intended—of my initial impressions of these two new film stocks. Time will tell what further developments Fujifilm has in store.


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