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Aug 04, 2021

Kodak Colorplus 200

Color + What?

Colorplus 200 is a medium speed, budget 35mm film option based on an older emulsion compared to it's Kodak peers. From my research it seems to have evolved from the Kodacolor VR films which were available in a few iterations and speeds throughout the previous decades. You'll notice that even though film packaging is labelled as "Colorplus" (a pretty lazy name, I must say) the canisters inside are labelled "Kodacolor" with a branding scheme that looks like it's out of the 80's. 

You can expect a good all-round performance from this film; with noticeable grain, warm tones, a slightly muted look to some colours such as the blues (especially in overcast conditions) and a generally "vintage" look. I would say that the contrast is medium-high. During sunny conditions however, contrast and saturation take a boost, and this is where I think this film really shines. Combining the classic and slightly "low-fi" look of this emulsion with colourful scenes photographed in direct light, Colorplus can give some fantastic results, with some resemblance to images I've only seen in photobooks from the likes of William Eggleston and Ernst Haas. When used intentionally it can really play into that retro look. Due to it's slightly narrower dynamic range when shot in high-contrast scenes, it can create images reminiscent of those made on slide film.

Colorplus  200 indoor window light
Lower shadow detail and high contrast scenes in direct sunlight and result in a look that reminds me of slide-film

A Case of The Blues

Interestingly, this film can swing from being punchy and surreal as with the above image, to more true-to-life and mellow. Especially when shot in overcast conditions, the film generally renders a lifelike image with somewhat muted blues in the skies (unlike Ektar 100, for example). There is still a depth and some saturation to the blues, but they can drop in luminance, as you might notice in the images below.

When it comes to cloudy days, I find that Colorplus 200 gives images that look like they were made in such conditions. The following images give good examples of this. Even though a few of them were taken during "golden hour" there was considerable cloud cover above, and the sunset/sunrise hues of colour are not too noticeable.

Camp Visitor
On a cloudy day you can expect results that still have good contrast, but an overall mellow look that represents the overcast conditions accurately.

Overexpose for a different look

By giving Colorplus a bit of extra light, you can counteract some of the muted or muddy look you might get in less than ideal lighting. Metering at 100 ISO for example will result in a smoother look to the grain and increased density in the negative (which is useful for scanning). Better yet, using it in bright and sunny conditions as mentioned earlier will give a vibrant and contrasty look, while retaining some of the vintage aesthetic to the colour rendition

Overexposing a little can lift the shadows and boost the colours while decreasing perceived grain. You might get a slight red shift however, which can be countered in post.
Colorplus 200 35mm at EI 100
Sarah in a canola field on a sunny afternoon. Olympus OM-10

Making a Series on Colorplus

After noticing some of the above characteristics of Colorplus in 2017, I casually started shooting a series in my local (at the time) shopping strip. It had an outdated look to many of the shop fronts and building facades while undergoing gentrification over the years. Much of it was built and populated during the post-WWII period, and the steady change that was visible intrigued me. As I continued to shoot, I found that Colorplus worked well to tie into this aesthetic. I would get my prints back from the lab I used at the time and found that they seemed to belong perfectly to the subject matter. This further reinforced to me that oftentimes there is a film stock which is more suited to a subject matter than others. Even though subjective, you may find a combination of camera & film that is just perfect for images you create. 

I recently came to the final stages curating the images for this series and have made a zine, which is available for pre-order here. Editing the images and compiling them into a zine is what reminded me why I love Colorplus 200, and prompted me to make this review as well as the YouTube video linked at the bottom of this article. Despite being delayed by the events of 2020, this was a great creative practice and I hope that it might encourage you to make images of something that intrigues you, and perhaps put them into a body of work through print! As long as you're having fun making images, that is all that matters... but, having them in some physical form in yours or other peoples hands years down the track is what brings that added value. 

Film photography zine
A spread in my A5 zine "The Sun-dried Strip" Available in my store
Canonet QL17
The camera I used to shoot the photo-series for the zine.
The Sun-dried Strip photo zine
The Sun-dried Strip. Available to pre-order in my online store

Feel free to check out the zine in my store here. Pre-orders are limited in the first run, and remaining copies will be available in the store until sold out. I do appreciate it if you decide to purchase, as this supports me directly!

More on Colorplus

For more on this great film, you can check out the video I made for my YouTube channel "Pushing Film" below. I elaborate more on the background of the Kodacolor line, show more image samples, and compare it to a close counterpart stock Kodak Gold 200.

If you want more background on Colorplus, the Kodacolor line, and other Kodak film history and information I highly recommend the Photo Memorabilia website which runs deep on these topics for the fellow film-geek. 

Also, if you're looking to try Kodak Colorplus I recommend the website The Decisive Moment if you're buying locally in Australia. Alternatively, I have an Amazon Affiliate link here for a good multi-roll deal on the film; which will throw me a small commission without costing you any more. This would be a much-appreciated way to support my blog and YouTube channel!

I appreciate you reading and hope you enjoy this film as much as I do!