Film Review
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Review: Fujifilm Pro 400H

To see Fujifilm Pro 400H exposure tested alongside 10 other films, follow this link.

I have wanted so badly to like Pro 400H. My father picked up a Pentax Spotmatic back when he was in the service, living in Guam. Much like myself, he experimented with a lot of different film stocks to see what he liked best and eventually he settled on Fuji’s film over Kodak. To this day, he insists that Kodak still cannot mimic the beautiful blues and greens that you get with Fuji’s film. Though he exclusively shoots digital now, I still feel a bond with him over photography and film in particular. It’s because of that that I want to like Fuji’s fim. Being that Pro 400H is their flagship film, I really want to like it.

I do not like it.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H was released in 2004. Today, Pro 400H is often compared with Kodak Portra 400, though it has not reached anywhere close to the same hype.

Color

I think that what I dislike most about Pro 400H is the color palette. It’s tough for me to put my thumb on what it is, exactly that I dislike so much. Tones that I know should be somewhat warm or outright warm are often made too cool for my taste and the saturation almost always feels like it’s cranked up too high for my taste. Through the years and attempts of shooting this film, I’ve started to wonder if in fact I’m just not shooting the film the way that it was designed. Every roll I’ve ever shot has been metered at 400 on the dot and again – I really don’t much care for it. Ive been told that it benefits greatly from being overexposed. That, much like each film in the Portra family, over exposure my a stop or so often leaves the film with a much saturated look.

Portraits

Though I’ve not used this film at all in the studio, I’ve taken portraits with it and I dislike all of them. I’m a fair skinned person and most of the friends I’ve photographed with 400H are fair skinned and all of us look ghostly white surrounded by dark and saturated colors around us. It’s not a good look. I shot through a roll of 35mm on a work trip to Orlando where I got a few frames in of a good buddy of mine which far from fair skinned and the shots look okay. Not good. Just okay. One of my favorite portraits I’ve ever taken are of the same person so I can’t help but conclude it’s the film.

Dynamic Range

As you can see from the exposure testing article, Pro 400H has an amazing dynamic range. Truth be told, I think it’s a good deal better than Portra 400. I actually think that it looks better overexposed 1-2 stops. It’s weird.

I don’t have too much experience with this film. To date, I’ve only shot through 6 rolls of it. As such, I haven’t got too much experience with it in extreme circumstances. At least not like I do with Portra 400. Given the fact that it is now a good deal cheaper than Portra in 120, there’s a good chance that I will be giving it more chances for exploration as we move into the summer.

Conclusion

I do not like this film stock. I wish I did – I just don’t. I’ll admit that I haven’t shot enough of it to really feel like I’ve been giving it a fair shot but I will sooner than later. I currently have plans to do an experiment somewhat soon to compare it with Portra 400 in a range of scenarios, shot in duplicate – one for a neutral exposure and one over exposed by 1 stop. Hopefully with some experimentation, I can find where this film would shine in my work.

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