Kodak ColorPlus 200 Film Review

The Cheapest Colour Film on the Market

9 min read by Dmitri, with image(s) by Daren.
Published on . Updated on .

Kodak ColorPlus is a relatively affordable 35mm ISO 200 colour film sold primarily in the US and Asian markets.

Though you could still get it in Canada (where I live), it’s not meant for distribution here. And it’s easy to understand why Kodak may be limiting this film’s customer reach: ColorPlus is nearly identical to Gold by price and appearance, which can easily lead to confusion.

In this review, I’ll explain and illustrate why I like this film and break down ColorPlus’ key properties, including its tones, resolution, and dynamic range. I will also compare ColorPlus to Gold in a way that goes beyond packaging, history, and price.

☝️ Did you know? ColorPlus is sometimes referred to as Kodak VR135, whereas the roll only says “Kodacolor 200” (with black lines streaking the number).

Kodak ColorPlus 200 with Pentax Espio Mini.

Kodak Gold vs ColorPlus.

I’ve asked hundreds of photographers to identify the differences between Kodak Gold and ColorPlus. None could give a definitive answer. Sure, the boxes are slightly different and yes, ColorPlus is usually cheaper. But no one could lay out the differences to me with sample images or well-referenced technical specifications.

Though it can be tough to tell what film was used to shoot a particular photo, it’s not too hard to tell stocks apart when compared side-by-side. This is not the case with ColorPlus/Gold.

I’ve even reached out to Kodak about this, but unfortunately, the person I spoke to could only share their experience receiving similar feedback from photographers confused about whether the films look the same or not. Online research also does not yield much about ColorPlus’ technical data (whereas Gold has a datasheet).

Kodak Gold (left) vs. Kodak ColorPlus (right) may show slight differences in skin tonality when balanced for middle grey.

So, to figure this out once and for all, I teamed up with Daren from LearnFilm.Photography. We performed a series of real-world tests in his Hasselblad 500CM to control for lens, perspective, and exposure inconsistencies seen in others’ comparisons.

For a full list of findings and detailed split-frame comparisons, see the Kodak Gold vs. ColorPlus article. But the purpose of this review, here’s the summary:

The differences between those films are practically non-existent. Though there are some physical differentiators (like the markers on the emulsion strips) and maybe an extra shade of colour for skin renderings, they are hard to notice. Notably, the differences discussed by other photographers are often attributed to scanner software presets and personal biases.

In addition to the slight differences in how the films render your images, the price difference (ColorPlus being cheaper), and the box/cartridge design, there’s a difference in formats and availability of the films. Only Gold is available in medium format, and ColorPlus’ distribution is usually limited to US/Asian markets.

Kodak ColorPlus with Konica Big Mini F.

Grain structure, resolution, and sharpness.

Though I want this review to focus on ColorPlus, it’s hard to definitively state how grainy it actually is without technical documentation — other than just sharing an opinion. (Mine is that it’s a relatively fine-grained film.) Some historical data about this emulsion online traces it back to the 1980s and links it to T-Grain technology.* But the best reference for this film may still lie within its near-twin, Gold — which happens to have a datasheet that we can use to estimate ColorPlus’ technical abilities in relation.

✱ — This source also reveals that ColorPlus and Gold are likely related films in that they have common ancestry, where Gold features modernized technology and ColorPlus uses a much older 30+ year-old formula.

To determine their films’ granularity, Kodak uses a system that surveys groups of people and averages their perceptions to determine a Print Grain Index value. This value is relative to the size of the negative and the paper print size (i.e., the magnification factor). It ranges from 0 to 100, where values of less than 25 signify imperceptible grain by most viewers. For Gold, this value is 44 when printed on a 4”×6”-sized paper.

Having scanned my negatives at 34MP per frame on PrimeFilm XAs, I can see that zooming way in reveals nearly identical grain levels. This was later confirmed in the Gold vs. ColorPlus experiment write-up.

Kodak ColorPlus with Konica Big Mini F.

Dynamic range.

Once again, without the manufacturer’s datasheet and film characteristic curves, it’s hard to come up with the number of stops this film can render between shadows and highlights. But it can’t be far off Gold’s 8.

Kodak ColorPlus with Konica Big Mini F (flash).

Kodak ColorPlus exposure guide.

ColorPlus is marketed and sold en-masse for amateur photographers. It used to come free with certain cameras and was never considered expensive. Indeed, you may find many family snaps of dubious quality made with this film in dusty basements. But that doesn’t mean this emulsion won’t benefit from careful exposure techniques.

Given its limited dynamic range, the best images will likely form in well-lit scenes with medium contrast. I’ve also found that ColorPlus looks better in warm light (but not too warm). Dusky weather tends to shift its colours (same as UltraMax). Early morning sun and light haze conditions turned out great in my shots, whereas sunsets with lots of contrast did not do as well.

Kodak ColorPlus with Konica Big Mini F (fill flash).

If your camera has a well-balanced built-in flash (like the ones on Konica Big Mini F and Olympus Mju I), or if you can master an external unit, ColorPlus can be a good pairing. It works well when the flash isn’t blowing highlights, which is when the film retains good colour, even if the light sources are mixed, i.e., when you use fill flash.

ColorPlus works decently for well-exposed portraits. It will not show the same level of colour detail or realism as the more expensive Portra films, yet its results can still look flattering. Some colour casting may occur, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to fix in post, as long as you’ve got your exposures just right.

Kodak ColorPlus with Konica Big Mini F.

Scanning Kodak ColorPlus.

Whether scanning or printing colour negative film in a dark room, the results will depend on your technique, tools, and the direction you choose to take your image. C-41 emulsions are interpretative, which means they rely on the printer or scanner/software to fine-tune the results. Simply inverting the negative digital will get you awful blue casts.

Histogram equalization is a technique that will optimize your inverted negative and remove that cast. Your scanner software may be using this method. Still, it will also apply colour correction on top — but that colour-correcting stage is often opaque and inconsistent or insufficient to make your photograph look as intended. And so you may find yourself spending extra time editing frames.

However, editing film scans isn’t the same as editing digital photographs. Film sensitivity to various colours and light intensities and the way it renders them is widely variable across emulsions and often carries a signature that isn’t easily erased in Photoshop. Dynamic range limitations and the way the colours interact can’t be edited out, and thus film carries its signature look throughout its digital journey to various degrees.

For ColorPlus, I feel the signature is defined as relatively high-contrast and high-saturation images. At least that’s where I end up with most of my edits after adjusting the white balance and removing secondary colour casts. And, thankfully, ColorPlus makes the job easy — unlike some films that may lose fidelity quickly even with the slightest of eds, this film allows a lot of transformation before pixelation and banding appear.

Many of my ColorPlus exposures, like the one below, needed no edits (just inversion and equalization from the digital negative), whereas others, like the first photo in this article, looked better after some adjustments. Whatever the case was, I ended up with a similar contrasty look that lacked in dynamic range and some fine colour details some pricier films deliver, while still showing a lot of potential for a bold, distinctly-analogue appearance.

Kodak ColorPlus with Konica Big Mini F.

How much does Kodak ColorPlus cost, and where to buy it.

Kodak ColorPlus 200 is the cheapest fresh colour film you can find today. This is the option if you’re on the budget. But of course, this is not a throw-away emulsion: with a deliberate technique and scanning or printing method, you can get results that look fantastic with ColorPlus or just right for a project that needs a distinctly-analogue feel.

As of this writing, the film sells for an average of just over $10 per box of 36 exposures.

If you’re interested in film prices and would like to stay on top of them, the best way is to subscribe to the free semi-annual reports on film costs. I do all the hard work surveying a curated variety of film stores across the world on this and many other film stocks.

By the way: Please consider making your Kodak ColorPlus 200 film purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!