Kodak Pro Image 100 Film Review
Kodak’s “Tropical” Colour Emulsion 🌴12 min read by
Kodak Pro Image 100 is a relative newcomer to the North American market though it’s been around since 1997 in Asia and South America. Pro Image is Kodak’s low-cost alternative to Portra, Ektar, and Ektachrome pro-level emulsions.
I’ve been shooting this film since 2017, when it was freely available in Thailand (an ex-pat abode of mine for five years until I moved to Canada).
The location isn’t as important as the weather, however, as this film’s results depend greatly on the quality of light.
In fact, I found the weather making such a profound effect on the appearance of my results with Pro Image 100 that I barely recognized the film after moving to a different climate. More on that below.
This review covers all of the major attributes of Pro Image 100, such as grain and sharpness, as well as my experience scanning and shooting this film in a variety of settings. Plus, advice on the best light, subjects, and things to avoid when shooting this unique Kodak emulsion.
Pro Image 100’s marketing material is dated. Sold in five-pack boxes that feature tiny pictures of white people at a wedding. Though this may sound like an odd graphic for an emulsion meant for Asian and South American markets, the design aligns with much of the ad content I’ve seen in Southeast Asia: white people selling things.
But why was it sold exclusively in these markets, only making its way to the US, Canada, and EU twenty-two years after launch? There seem to be two main reasons for that, the first one being the price:
Cheap colour film.
Film prices have been going up lately, and colour films are a rarety at some stores — no thanks to the supply chain disruptions of the 2020s. Whereas Kodak’s Pro Image 100, whenever available, remains at about $10 per roll of 36exp. in 35mm.
This makes it the only emulsion that spells “pro” at that price. Of course, that’s just a label, but the folks at Film Photography Podcast laid out a fascinating explanation for what’s happening with this film’s branding. According to them, Pro Image 100 was designed to imitate the look of Kodak’s premium films, such as Portra 160, without necessarily spending as many resources to make it.
Indeed, you may find this film to be more grainy and less accurate in reproducing colours than Portra and Ektachrome films while lacking the contrast of Ektar. In their technical datasheet, Kodak describes Pro Image as behaving similarly to Gold 200 in print — a consumer-type film.
But Pro Image isn’t just a “budget Portra.” That is, it’s not inferior to premium films as there are things it can do that they can’t.
Let’s start with its most unique property: warm climate storage stability.
Made for the warm climate.
While the datasheet still recommends storing Pro Image films at 21℃ or lower, it notes that there is no need for a fridge, which is often ideal for most other films. I am sure a few days in 30℃/90℉ heat won’t damage it either.
In addition to its tolerance of warm temperatures — a definite advantage for Pro Image’s tropical photography markets — this film craves warm sunlight. So much that it will force certain scenes to look “sunny,” even if the light captured is cool.
The screencaps from Old Cameras’ video review of the film (below👇) demonstrate Pro Image’s tendency to render cool scenes as warm.
On his day testing this film, Ade (Old Cameras) shot his video on Sony Alpha a6000 that I presume rendered colours precisely (PopPhoto gave it an “excellent” colour accuracy rating in 2014). That footage is on the left.
The Pro Image’s rendering of the same building shows a drastic colour shift towards yellow, making the stone appear as if it’s lit by a golden glow. Meanwhile, the deep blue sky appears teal.
Of course, these colours may change depending on the scanner and the software (and can be corrected — see more below). Still, having scanned it a few times on PrimeFilm XAs and inverted the negatives manually in Photoshop (for complete control), I’ve got some evidence showing Kodak Pro Image’s consistent tendency to tint certain shades of the image yellow. Which may be a good thing whenever applied wisely.
Pro Image colours.
It just so happens that the yellow tint of Pro Image 100 film is complimentary to most/many skin tones (and not just the caucasian ones).
Pro Image’s yellow tint is complex; it may be visible in some photos and not at all in others. Your scanner’s automatic colour correction may erase it completely, although it may also make it worse. I’ll explain this further and introduce a way to fix colour shifts in the “scanning and post-processing” section below. But for now, let’s consider a few other important colour properties of this film:
Whenever exposed normally, Pro Image creates fairly saturated photographs. Though not as punchy as that of Ektar.
Over-exposing Pro Image may decrease saturation significantly. In the photo below, I’m over by about 1-2 stops. The details are present, whereas the colours appear to leave the scene. Thankfully, that too can be fixed digitally.
✪ Note: I use this method to scan all film for my reviews. It creates consistent results that make understanding and comparing the emulsion’s colour/contrast attributes possible.
I like how Pro Image renders deep, neutral shadows. Other Kodak’s saturated colour films, such as Ektar, may render asphalt roads navy-blue, whereas this film doesn’t seem to have this problem.
Skin tones look fantastic on this film. For best results, I would advise to err toward slight over-exposures.
Unfortunately, if you’re planning to shoot portraits in medium format, this film won’t work as it’s only available in 35mm.
Pro Image’s tendency to render yellow colour casts seems to work in its favour. Neutral shadows and peasant skin tones consistently appeared in my scans without any colour adjustments.
However, the same yellow cast likely causes this film to render indoor lighting remarkably green. This is a common issue with most colour films — and the reason for “Tungsten” ratings on some emulsions, notably CineStill 800T.
The good news is that those casts aren’t too difficult to fix digitally. My attempts to correct the green cast with Kodak Gold yielded decent results.
Still, shooting tungsten-balanced colour films may be easier and more fun. There’s no need for colour correction and better RA-4 prints (as you won’t have the same control over colour in the darkroom as you do while using software).
Now, let’s forget the common green cast and return to Pro Image’s special yellow cast:
Inverted scans of foggy weather and cool light, in general, may appear yellow with this film. I found that to be the case with normal exposures and under-exposures. Over-exposing these scenes may improve the look, but you can also fix this in Photoshop to a decent degree.
Scanning and post-processing.
Pro Image 100 is relatively easy to digitize. It lays flat and features sharp grain that’s easy to focus on. If you’re happy with how the scanner software inverts the negatives — great! But as I mentioned above, there’s a chance you’ll end up with a yellow cast.
Removing the yellow cast in Photoshop.
For better results and more control over your image, I recommend re-scanning your frame as a “digital negative.” That is, scan it as slide film — no colour correction, no inversion, no contrast or sharpening.
Having done that, you can invert your frame and remove the C-41 orange mask using this simple, consistent method. The result you should get is a positive made with an absolute minimum software interference/quality loss, ready to be edited.
For the colour correction step of the process (after inverting your digital negative), use a new Color Balance adjustment layer and try the following settings:
Shadows. Cyan-Red = 0, Magenta-Green = 0, Yellow-Blue = -30.
Midtones. All zeros.
Highlights. Cyan-Red = -27, Magenta-Green = -19, Yellow-Blue = +46.
The image above illustrates the effect of these settings.
Of course, the exact colours your scanner or digital camera will produce will likely differ from what I’ve got, so your settings may need to be altered. They may also change from frame to frame, depending on exposure and other factors. The above numbers are meant as a starting template.
Grain structure, resolution, sharpness.
Some films reviewed on this website use the RMS granularity index, which is a number that signifies how grainy the film is. Others, like Pro Image 100, use Print Grain Index (PGI) that relies on surveys rather than direct measurements. The image (a cropped screenshot of the datasheet) next to this paragraph explains how PGI works.
The three PGI numbers for Pro Image suggest that this film has noticeable grain on even the smallest print sizes (4x6”). However, I had trouble seeing grain on my iPhone until I flipped it into landscape mode and scrolled across the image above☝️.
For context: 35mm Kodak Ektar, sold as “world’s finest grain,” appears to have no visible grain until printed larger than 8x10.”
The graininess of Pro Image 100 is almost identical to that of Kodak Gold, according to PGI. So I think it’s safe to say that this film is grainy, given that it’s as coarse as a faster consumer-level Kodak film. But it’s not off-putting or imposing and thus may be a good thing.
Dynamic range and contrast.
Pro Image 100 is a reasonably contrasty film — until it’s over-exposed. But it’s not a difficult film to shoot.
Kodak’s datasheet draws film’s dynamic range curves that show about 2.3 lux-seconds of useful exposure. This translates to about 7.5 stops of dynamic range. Compared to other films (i.e., HP5 — 12 stops, Ektar — 9 stops, Provia 100 F — 5 stops), Pro Image 100 shows an low-average ability to capture shadows and highlights simultaneously.
But in practice, I found that Pro Image 100 responds very well to over-exposure.
I would describe my over-exposure results on Pro Image as airy, with a minimal but perceivable shift in colour accuracy. Given that adding a stop or a stop-and-a-half of light exposure may also help with the yellow cast, rating this film at ISO 50 or lower may yield nice results.
Pulling back the exposure digitally is fairly easy in Photoshop using the Curves layer or any tool of your choice. No new casts or colour shifts will get added if you do that.
Best scenes and light for Pro Image.
Golden hour and scenes that you expect to have a warm, bright light would look best with this film. You can certainly change its look in post — which is great — but if you’re looking to avoid extra work, consider your lighting.
How much does Pro Image 100 cost, and where to buy it.
As of this writing, most stores online mark Pro Image 100 at about $45-£45 for a pack of 5. Some stores may sell this film in singles, which do not come in a box.
Currently, it’s hard to find this film online (I looked at Analogue Wonderland, B&H, macodirect), but I don’t think it’s going to be cancelled anytime soon. Kodak just needs time to make more as they deal with the supply issues, the pandemic, and the inflation. Once the shelves fill up again, I trust that you’ll find a box for a reasonable price.
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Kodak Pro Image 100 film purchase using this link so that Analog.Cafe may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!