(Updated to include Fujifilm B&W films)
I have to admit, I've fallen a bit out of touch with what films are and aren't available, as I'm still feeding off the film batches I bought years ago and store in my refrigerator. But when I was pulling up the film choices to put in the B&H ad in the right column, I was struck by how limited the choices were.
So I decided I needed to take a look at what the two main providers, Fujifilm and Kodak, are still promoting on their Web sites. Things are more limited than I thought.
First up Kodak:
- Consumer negative films: Gold 200, Ultra Max 400
- Pro negative films: Portra 160, Portra 400, Portra 800, Ektar 100
- Pro slide films: all discontinued (minimal supplies still available)
- Pro B&W films: T-Max 100, T-Max 400, Tri-x 400, BW400CN
Wow, that was painful. I knew that all the Kodachromes were long gone, but I expected a couple of the Ektachromes to still be available as I still see them in stock in a few places.
Why do the negative films continue and the slide films disappear? Partly due to complexity, but also partly because Hollywood—when they still shoot with film—uses negative films. The only volume film customers left are consumers and Hollywood, and that's what's been driving Kodak's decisions as they scramble to survive.
If you're still using any of Kodak's slide films, you might want to stop by their site and pick up the technical publications on them in PDF form before they disappear.
Over at Fujifilm:
- Consumer negative films: Superia 200, Superia X-TRA400, Superia X-TRA800, Superia 1600
- Pro negative films: Pro 160NS, Pro 400H
- Pro slide films: Velvia 50, Velvia 100, Provia 100F, Provia 400X
- Pro B&W films: Neopan 100 Acros, Neopan 400
So basically we have 12 negative film choices, 4 slide film choices, and 6 B&W film choices from the two major companies that used to dominate the imaging market.
What would I be restocking my refrigerator with at the moment? Probably Provia 100F, my favorite slide film, Portra 160 (or maybe Ektar 100), and some Tri-X for old times sake.
The last 10 years have certainly taught film users a lesson: stock up on your favorites while they're still offered in their current configuration. While Velvia is still around, it's a different formulation now than it was before. Other films have disappeared completely.
Which brings me to a question you probably have: how do you store film long-term?
This is a little trickier than it first seems. Note that consumer film is made with a presumption about when it will be actually purchased and used, and if you get it before that date it will render colors one way and after that date another. For the most part, serious film shooters avoid consumer films for that reason: they're inconsistent because they're designed to age a specific way with a specific shelf time.
For pro films, which come out of the factory with a specific and consistent color rendering, the advice is basically this:
- Refrigerate at 55°F (13°C) or less if you're going to use it in the next six months. You can generally go from refrigerator to shooting in a short time without concern, but to play it safe give yourself plenty of time (hours, not minutes). A three hour wait is probably safe if you're using the minimum temperature to store your film.
- Freeze at 0°F (-18°C) if you're not going to use it in the next six months. However, you must allow frozen film to gradually warm up to room temperature before opening. Again, this usually takes hours, not minutes. If you're storing at the suggested temperature and room temperature is about normal, I'd give it at least four hours of warm-up time before opening the package, more if I'm taking it outdoors into heat.
In both cases you want to keep relative humidity low (lower than 50%) in your long-term storage, and you want to keep the film sealed in its original packaging.
Heat and humidity are the biggest threats to film. Thus, you want to minimize the time your film (unexposed or exposed) is subjected to those two factors. Heat in particular will tend to drift colors and exposure response.