Kodak Gold Film Review

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Kodak Gold is a consumer colour negative film that’s been in production since 1986. Throughout its 36-year history, this film was marketed as a cheaper alternative to Kodak’s professional portfolio films like Portra, Ektar, and Ektachrome. But recently, the film has been made available for medium format cameras — which are presumably pro-grade equipment (if you care about such labels).

Kodak Gold 200 is considered to have less colour accuracy, and it has a more noticeable grain than the pro-line Kodak films. Indeed, this film was engineered and marketed for the masses, which may make some feel that they could do better with a pricier stock.

However, Kodak Gold is widely available, and it is affordable. Even today, I had no trouble finding packs of three at a local Walmart. Besides, how “bad” could it be?

Kodak Gold 300 with Minolta TC-1.

Grain structure, resolution, sharpness.

Kodak measures its films’ grain size using Print Grain Index. It is a successor to the RMS granularity numbers that rely on lab measurements. PGI uses perceptual reports by a group of observers who examine negative enlargements by looking at them from 14 inches away. Any resulting number from this method below 25 means that there’s no visible grain (at a particular enlargement).

Kodak Gold 200 has a Print Grain Index of 44 when it’s printed on 4”×6”-sized paper. The grain off 35mm negatives will certainly appear if you print even larger (or even while reading this article on a big screen) — but invisible on your mobile device.

For comparison, Ektar 100, a film that Kodak advertises as having “World’s Finest Grain,” has a PGI of less than 25 on 4”×6” prints and 38 when printed on 8”×10” paper. You could say that Kodak Gold 200’s grain is about 19% larger than that of Ektar.

Of course, film grain isn’t shunned today as it was at the time of this film’s debut in the ‘80s. There are tons of apps that simulate grain (mostly not very well) for those who wish to add it to their digital photographs. Gold does that for free. And in 120, there’s even less of it to worry about.

Kodak Gold 200 with Voigtländer Vitessa A.

Note that while the grain size may dictate the amount of detail you may be able to extract from film, it is not the same as sharpness. Kodak Gold is a very sharp film; there’s no need to apply any sharpening in your digital workflow to the scans, as long as you use a good method and tools to digitize your images.

Kodak Gold 200 with Minolta TC-1.

Dynamic range.

Kodak gold has about 8 stops of dynamic range with some additional latitude in the highlights and just a spot of give in the shadows. This can be seen from the film characteristic curves (below) found on Kodak Alaris.

Film charactersitc curves for Kodak Gold 200 via Kodak Alaris.

The numbers on the graph show roughly 2.25 lux-seconds of dynamic range from toe to shoulder, which I converted using this method to the more familiar stops of light.

Gold 200 is fairly easy to expose given its dynamic range and latitude, even if they aren’t as wide as those of Ektar.

In general, Gold has no trouble capturing both the shadows and the highlights in daylight, though, unlike Ektar, it will begin shifting middle-greys towards teal when overexposed.

Kodak Gold 200 with Voigtländer Vitessa A. This frame was overexposed by about 2 stops. As you can see, the greys have turned teal as a result of overexposure. The middle slice of the frame has been colour-corrected in Photoshop to demonstrate what it should have appeared as.

Colour reproduction.

Kodak Gold is considered to be a less precise stock when it comes to colour reproduction as compared to the more expensive negative films like Ektar or slide films like Ektachrome. However, it can be “fixed” up to a certain degree if you are working with a digital scan.

Kodak Gold 200 with Minolta TC-1. Scanned w/o colour correction. This image was shot during the sunset hour — notice the slight orange cast.

Gold will saturate purples and greens more than others, even if you nail your exposure. Whatever the scanner and the software you use you’ll notice a “vintage” look, made possible by these slight colour shifts.

This film will also shift your mid-greys and even whites towards teal if you overexpose it.

And it has a tendency to add a yellow tint to your light greys and whites in cool light. This same shift can also make your scenes appear orange in certain circumstances, particularly when underexposed.

Still, I found that Kodak Gold handles deep shadows a little better than Ektar. Whereas the latter would make the dark areas appear blue, Gold will have a less pronounced shift.

And despite its noticeable sharpness/micro-contrast, Gold has a neutral overall contrast level during normal exposures. Although, if you underexpose your film, its overall contrast and saturation will increase.

Like any other film on the market, Kodak Gold can be pushed to produce wild results — many of which may be corrected during a digital workflow. But for the most part, this film tends to create images that are fairly neutral in their appearance — especially during a sunny day, shot at box speed.

Kodak Gold 200 with Minox 35GT. Scanned w/o colour correction. This image was shot during an overcast weather — notice the slight orange cast.
Kodak Gold with Konica Big Mini BM-201. Slightly blue in the shadows and a little purple in the underexposed areas but lovely in the highlights. This was taken during the golden hour.
Kodak Gold with Minox 35 GT. This film looks very nice in daylight (Sunny 16 weather). It seems to add some warmth to the otherwise fairly cool light.

Scanning.

Kodak Gold 200 is easy to scan. The film is sharp enough to require little or no post-processing if you’re satisfied with your colours.

If your exposures are adequate and the light isn’t overly complex (see below), your software will likely do a good job interpreting the colours automatically.

Well-scanned Kodak Gold is fairly easy to colour-correct using tools like Adobe Photoshop. Though you may have trouble making it look as precise as a modern digital camera’s sensor.

Kodak Gold 200 with Voigtländer Vitessa A. Artificial lighting makes this film turn green — which isn’t difficult to correct during post. However, doing so perfectly may be a challenge — notice the table on the right and the dark coat of the man in the middle — there is a slight green cast on both of them that would require further correction.

When not to shoot Kodak Gold 200.

Kodak Gold 200 produces slight colour shifts in all conditions, making it unsuitable for certain workflows. Though it can also produce realistic images, especially with some additional time put in after scanning, this is extra work. Of course, there’s no guarantee that you can change the scans to look exactly as you wish just because you are using computer software.

Here are some of the scenarios where I found Gold shifting colours away from its intended palette dramatically — i.e. you may want to avoid: underexposed sunsets and golden hours, underexposed overcast days, artificial lighting, severe overexposure in any light, high-contrast shadows.

Kodak Gold 200 with Voigtländer Vitessa A.

When to shoot Kodak Gold 200.

No film is perfect, and neither is Gold. But that’s not why we love photographic emulsions. In fact, Gold’s warm tones, natural contrast, and strong microcontrast make it a suitable choice for most occasions, particularly the following:

Foliage. Kodak Gold 200 creates well-saturated and well-defined green pallettes. The greens are virtually unaffected by colour shifts in other channels.

Kodak Gold 200 with Voigtländer Vitessa A.

Full sun. Sunny 16 weather is perfect for this film. Given that you don’t have too many dark shadows contrasting your image, Gold will cut a bit of the blue cast that many colour films will produce in cool daylight giving your photographs a pleasing tone.

Portraits. While Gold will not match human perception 1:1, I’ve enjoyed the skin tones it generated (at least when it comes to light-skinned subjects). Note that the default colour palette will be a warm one.

Overcast days. Well-exposed scenes with cool light can look good on Kodak Gold 200. If you manage to give it plenty of light, the colours will be warmed slightly, taking away from the dullness of the blues.

Kodak Gold 200 with Voigtländer Vitessa A.

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

Following the recent announcement signalling Kodak Gold 200’s availability in 120, some retailers reacted to the demand by increasing their prices. But traditionally, this film has been priced very similarly to Kodak Colour Plus. The price for both films increased significantly early this year, though not enough to even come close to the more expensive colour and slide emulsions. You are looking to spend less than $10 per roll.

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 Gold 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!