The first time I walked into a camera store, I approached the counter carefully. I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, but knew I needed help. The older man behind the register, who I later found out is one of the store’s owners, greeted me warmly and with an offer of sage advice that I’ll never forget.
“You want to keep your kids off drugs?” he asked, pausing briefly. “Buy them a film camera. They’ll never be able to afford another vice again.”
Of course, having been in the business for close to four decades, he knew what he was talking about. I don’t have kids, but I found the truth of his joke applied to me too. Since that day, I’ve bought cameras compulsively and spent a fortune on film, always eager to test any stock still on shelves.
Because I blew a bag on the endless list of cameras on my “to test” list, I began looking for other ways to cut costs. In my early days of research, I found film stocks could generally be cut into two categories: professional and consumer grade.
The professional film favorites like Portra 400 often dominate the discussion and social media feeds. But it’s another Kodak film that especially caught my eye when getting my first roll back from the lab. The best part: it’s about half the price of Portra, depending on where you buy it. (only $6!)
Kodak ColorPlus 200 is an extremely versatile, high-color, high-contrast consumer-grade stock with a bit of a mysterious history. The untold, yet widely assumed story sees ColorPlus 200 as a relative to another consumer film – Kodak Gold 200, with both descending from the Kodakcolor VR films of the early ‘80s and ‘70s mainstay Kodacolor II. Kodak Gold 200 was created to adapt to new improvements in emulsion technology and became the star of the ‘90s. ColorPlus came to life later in the ‘90s as a throwback to VR, maintaining the same look of the bygone era. For whatever reason, ColorPlus was marketed heavily to foreign markets and did not make as much of an impact back home.
Despite being the cheapest film on the market, Kodak ColorPlus performs admirably in basically all respects. Sure, it doesn’t match the pitch-perfect skin tones of Portra or the surreal vibrancy of Ektar, but ColorPlus comes much closer than you’d expect. With a fairly fine grain and generous exposure latitude, the stock sports warm tones and crisp colors that will shine when shot through just about any camera in your arsenal. Because of its price point and consistent results, ColorPlus has quickly become my go-to film for testing any new camera or to keep on hand for casual point-and-shoot occasions with friends and family.
Sandy Sefarbi is a nature and street photographer who lives in Bushwick. Check out his work here!