Adox Color Mission Film Review

Grainy Colour Magic

10 min read by

Adox Color Mission is a new C-41 emulsion distributed by a prominent German manufacturer. This film is characterized by chunky grain, vivid, well-balanced colours with a slight “minty” cast, and saturated reds.

A brief history of Color Mission.

The film was announced this February as a part of Adox’ (Fotoimplex’) commitment to creating a new colour emulsion.

Adox, the name behind Color Mission, was first used by the world’s first photographic material manufacturer that operated in Frankfurt, Germany between 1860 and 1962. After switching hands a few times, Adox finally found its home in the hands of Fotoimpex as Adox Fotowerke GmbH, a film factory in Bad Saarow outside Berlin.

Adox’ new 35mm film product, Colour Mission, is sold today in limited quantities — some retailers report a restriction of 50 rolls per order. Colour Mission is the final batch of an emulsion that a “mystery” company — whose name Adox hasn’t revealed — produced just before going bankrupt.

Adox justifies the limit of 50 rolls per order as a rationing strategy to make it last 4+ years. And in that time, they hope to build the internal infrastructure for developing their line of in-house colour films using Colour Mission’s recipe. As they explain, having the recipe alone is still a long way from actually producing the film in factory settings.

Evidently, the film sold as Colour Mission was “co-researched with and coated for Adox” — source. Which I assume means that Adox has some experience making it — already better than having just the recipe.

Colour Mission film is a hot item. It sells out quickly and is a little tricky to find outside of Europe. Lucky for me, Stefan Bartsch — an Analog.Cafe Community Letters reader — sent me three rolls to try, for which I am grateful (I like this film, but more on that later).

Adox shop sign in Hessenpark, Germany. By Quartl via Wikimedia Commons.

Once I ripped the packaging off my first Colour Mission roll, I learned one more thing about the intertwined stories of the German film manufacturers:

Underneath the sticker with the words “ADOX COLOUR MISSION” decorating the canister, it read “FORTE SP 100.”

Forte Photochemical Industry VAC is a business that operated between 1912 and 2007. Its last years were characterized by a series of life support attempts from various German brands until finally being transferred into the hands of Fotoimplex. The part of the company that remains active today is Polywarmtone paper and emulsion that Fotoimplex sells under their Adox brand.

Apparently, the leftover canisters from Forte’s film-producing days found their home somewhere at the Fotoimplex warehouse and now serve as the housing for Colour Mission film.

Though the samples of Forte colour emulsions found on Flickr show some similarities to the film being reviewed here, it is unlikely to be the case. Fifteen years is long enough to create colour shifts that can make any film appear nothing like its young self; plus, many Reddit users reported having their Colour Mission delivered in other types of canisters as well.

Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.

Grain structure, resolution, sharpness.

One of the first reviews of this film to get published online was by a German lab website that described its grain as “prominent but not coarse” and visible throughout all levels of exposure — not just the shadows.

No meaning was lost in translation. Indeed, the grain is everywhere. So if you are hoping for a high-definition colour film — this isn’t it, but for those who want some pleasant-looking granules adding to their images, Colour Mission delivers.

Of course, the grain isn’t so large that you’ll be able to distinguish it on a mobile device. But if you have a high-definition screen and good eyesight, you may be able to notice it if you flip your phone into a landscape position and scroll:

Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.
Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.

Though fairly large, the granules of Colour Mission appear to have soft edges — in contrast to emulsions like Konica 400VX. This does not impede the sharpness of this film, however. It is both fuzzy and plentiful in micro-contrast.

Dynamic range, contrast, and colour stability.

The same German blog that described this film’s grain so eloquently proposed that Color Mission has a wide exposure latitude and could be shot at ISO 50, 100, 200, and 400.

There are no datasheets to confirm this, but I would not be surprised if that is indeed the case. One of the things I really enjoy with this film is its resistance to painting the shadows blue, as many C-41 films tend to do, including the premium ones. While the film’s contrast can make the dark areas of your scene disappear, they are likely to fade into relatively neutral greys instead of creating hard-to-fix colour shifts.

The sample image below must’ve retained 10-12 stops of dynamic range — from the bright highlights in the overcast sky to the folds in my dark-grey bedsheets. Although to be fair, the mid-range still appears to be the most legible region.

Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.

Saturation and colour balance.

Colour Mission did not produce very strong blues in my scans, and most of the frames had an appearance of exaggerated saturation. I can’t say this is a particularly realistic emulsion, but it certainly brings many eye-candy qualities to the table:

First, the reds. They are insane. Though I would argue that despite their intense appearance, the flaming maroon colours continue to look pleasant. Seeing some of the results from this film took me back to the days when I spent hours binging on Techinocolor movies made in the ‘60s.

Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.

Minty greens — as described by Adox — or minty light-greys in accordance with what I’ve seen. This slight colour shift in the highlight is the apparent trade-off for keeping the blue channel in check and an alternative approach to Kodak’s light yellow tint on some of their films.

This effect won’t be evident in every frame. The slight tint appears to manifest in soft light with normal exposure, such as during the golden hour:

Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.

Another property of this film worth discussing is its alleged ability to handle artificial light. Though I haven’t had the chance to photograph it under a tungsten glow yet, the slight green cast discussed above may still be a good sign as CineStill’s 800T emulsion appears to show similar qualities when shot in daylight.

Like those of Ektar, the skin tones produced with this film are said to have a pinkish cast, although that appears to be the case with just underexposed white faces. In his video review of Colour Mission, Ribsy demonstrates its favourable renditions of darker skin. In his opinion, the new Adox colour emulsion is better at the job than Portra 400.

Agfa Vista 200 Plus.

And while we’re on the topic of comparing emulsions, Stephen Dowling of Kosmo Foto had also placed Colour Mission next to the long-discontinued Agfa Vista stocks. Up until its disappearance, Agfa Vista was my all-time favourite colour film for its affordable price tag, lots of sharpness, and warm colour palette with an occasional accent on purple tones.

In my opinion, the two stocks are quite different. However, they can be easily placed in the same category of medium-resolution warm-toned emulsions that render the world a little prettier than it is.

Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.
Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.
Adox Color Mission with Minolta TC-1.

Scanning.

Color Mission negatives dry relatively flat and thus are easy to handle. The most challenging part of scanning any C-41 emulsion is overcoming the colour casts resulting from various exposure mistakes and the orange film base. That said, these issues are almost non-existent with this film.

Correcting Adox Color Mission’s colour shifts with Photoshop Curves.

Colour Mission produces some of the slightest colour shifts during under- and overexposures which aren’t difficult to control using Adobe Photoshop’s Color Balance tool or Curves (or equivalent).

And when the shifts do occur, as you can see with the underexposed sample posted here, they tend to be green rather than blue. This is likely the same part of the emulsion that’s responsible for the “minty” cast in the light greys.

And so, if you’re looking to have full control over your digital workflow by inverting the negatives by hand, you may find it to be a relatively simple task with Color Mission. Just flip and equalize.

Overall, I found this film easy to control without much loss of detail while still perfectly palatable “straight from the scanner.”

How much does Adox Color Mission cost, and where to buy it.

As Adox is dripping this film in quantities much smaller than the demand, you may find it being sold at various prices on the internet and the physical shops. In fact, you may consider yourself lucky if you do end up getting them at all.

On the Fotoimplex website, Colour Mission sells between 10.08€ and 12€. Although when it does, you may find it disappear within hours — or less. Most European retailers I’ve checked add very high shipping costs if you are not on the continent.

However, I found someone on eBay who sells their rolls from Australia and ships them to North America for a reasonable cost. Perhaps that will also work for you:

By the way: Please consider making your Adox Color Mission film purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!