The Imitation Game, Les Miserables, Lincoln, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave and Argo…oh, and the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII.
What do all these movies have in common? The were all shot on good old motion picture film. In fact, they were all shot (in total, or in part), on Kodak’s VISION3 250D (5207) motion picture film.
“Hang on”, I hear you say, “This is a film photography website. What does motion picture film have anything to do with all this?”
Read on to find out…
|Name||Kodak VISION3 250D (5207)|
|Format||8mm, 16mm, 35mm, 65mm|
|Exposure latitude||–-5 to +5 stops|
|Push processing||3 stops|
|Cross processing||Contrast shift|
What’s it like, then?
If you’ve seen the movies mentioned up top, you’ll be familiar with their look. You might also be familiar with the absolutely insane latitude this film stock provides (+/- 5 stops) but what you probably won’t know is that you can shoot it in any camera, or film back that will let you load 35mm film. What’s more, that the results are something a step above “ordinary” colour negative film stocks.
There’s no need to use specialist chemicals in order to develop this film. In fact, if you have access to a darkroom, you can wash this film using a C41 kit, or black and white chemistry and take care of the Remjet yourself (Remjet? More on that a little later).
Most colour motion picture films are either daylight or tungsten balanced. Kodak 250D falls into the former category and in my experience, gives great results (almost) regardless of the light it’s shot under. In short, it’s pretty much like Kodak says above: no compromise.
Just a quick note before going any further: I’m a little bit biased towards this film.
Truth be told, this is one of my all-time favourite 35mm colour films. Yes, I understand that there’s Kodak Ektar 100 and the Portra variants, there’s Fujifilm Pro 400H, Superia Premium 400 and many, many more…but there’s something about the way that colours render on Kodak 250D that wins it for me. Speaking of Portra, Portra 400 now includes the same VISION3 technology inherited by 250D from Kodak 500T motion picture film. More on that stock in a future review
Put simply, to my eye Kodak 250D feels like the best of every colour negative film rolled into a single package. A real chameleon, as the two images below show.
It’ll go from bright, vivid, sharp and contrasty to soft and pastel-like in a flash. You can even cool it down if you know how to treat it right.
Greens, reds, yellows and blues are all vividly represented and as I mentioned above, it’s a daylight balanced film but will also handle the indoors rather well.
In high contrast situations, you’ll be glad for the (approximately) five stops of latitude. All manner of skin tones are handled with ease and you’ll also be obsessing over shadow detail for months.
Shoot at night and you’ll retain rich colours and deep blacks. In fact, if I know I’ll be wandering around after dark, I’ll go ahead and rate this film at ISO400 to get the extra stop of speed in-camera but process it normally – no push.
Speaking of which, if you feel the need to push this film, it’ll comfortably go three stops to ISO2000 but starts struggling at ISO4000.
My personal preference is to overexpose by half a stop and process normally or push two stops to ISO1000 for some lovely results.
Finally, it’s also cheap, really cheap. If you buy in bulk and roll your own, a single 36 exposure roll works out to about two dollars per roll – cheaper if you bulk load from larger 400 or 1000ft reels.
All in all, there’s not much bad to say about this film aside from the elephant in the room; Remjet.
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Unfortunately, you can’t just send Kodak 250D (or most motion picture films, for that matter), to just any lab and be done with it. Like most colour motion picture stocks, 250D has a protective layer called Remjet, which helps deal with the tremendous heat generated while it’s being run through a motion picture camera at around 96ft (27m) per minute.
This layer must be removed during processing and requires specialist developing equipment to do so. If your lab has access to a dedicated motion picture film developing system in-house, then you’re all set. A word of advice: most equipped labs will actually do a C41 cross-process, instead of a native ECN-2 wash.
The results aren’t really that different and if you’re into digital trickery, then they are easily corrected in Photoshop or Lightroom. Development costs shouldn’t be much more than a normal C41 bath.
If your local lab doesn’t offer a motion picture film development option then fear not, all is not lost.
There are many, many labs all over the world which will develop motion picture film in either native ECN-2, or C41. We’re currently putting together a list of labs which will accept motion picture film but if you need help in the meantime, drop us a line and we’ll point you in a few directions.
As noted up top, another option is for you to develop this film yourself using a C41 kit, or Kodak’s own HC-110 black and white developer. (Yes, this film will develop as a nice, contrasty black and white negative!)
If you’re opting for the C41 route, you’ll need to add in a filtration process (gauze/linen), to remove the Remjet particles before returning your chemicals to their containers. As HC-110 is a one-shot developer, you needn’t worry about that part when you wash as black and white.
Speaking of which:
Aside from adding in a remjet filtration step (as needed), you will also need to add in an extra pre-bath step to your process.
Simply dissolve about 15 grams of store-bought bicarbonate of soda per 1 litre of water at about 30C / 86F. Soak your film for a few minutes, then give your tank a vigorous shake. Set the tank down, wait another minute or so and then repeat. Repeat this three or four times before discarding the solution.
You won’t need to totally remove the Remjet, just soften it up a little.
Once you’ve finished your pre-bath, rinse as normal and then process the film as you would. When the film has been stopped and fixed, you can use running water to wipe any remaining remjet off. Just be careful not to scratch the (admittedly hardy) film.
That’s it. It’s rather simple and needn’t put you off from trying this wonderful film.
It’s taken me almost as long to write this short conclusion as it did the entire review. If I had it my way and I was some kind of worldwide dictator-in-chief, every man, woman and child would be required to shoot a single roll of this film at least once in their life.
Unfortunately, that kind of talk raises eyebrows, so I’ll say this: put aside your worries about the Remjet, or finding a lab near you that will develop it. Just shoot a roll and figure it out later. It’ll be well worth your while, I guarantee.
Beautiful colors, amazing latitude and fine grain; Kodak 250D has it all. It literally eats light in a way that most “ordinary” color negative film stocks don’t.
Shoot at night, during the day, indoors, outdoors, this film will handle nearly every scenario you can think of. Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.
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