Over on the Analog Photography Users Group there are frequent threads discussing rumors of this or that film being discontinued. Often, these turn out to be unfounded third-hand speculation. But this time, it appears that the evidence is nearly incontrovertible that Fuji is discontinuing every professional color negative film but 400H. This means that there will be no more Fuji color-negative sheet film at all, and only one emulsion in the roll film sizes. Wow.
For those who don’t know of him, Scott Sheppard is the fellow who does the Inside Analog Photo podcast—to which you should be subscribed if you love film photography. Scott knows all the major industry players—he’s interviewed many of them for his podcasts—so when he relates that he’s received this news at face-to-face meetings with Fuji execs, you can believe him.
So no more 160C, 160S, or 800Z in any size. I won’t miss 160C; I’ve tried it but never found it to my liking as much as the 160VC Portra for which it is an approximate counterpart. And I’ve shot but little 800Z, and I could use the Portra 800 if I needed the speed. (Assuming it doesn’t get the axe, as has been rumored from time to time.)
But I will definitely miss 160S. It has a more neutral color rendering than either of the 160 Portra films. It has the bright color punch I associate with Portra VC, but the natural rendering of skin tones characteristic of Portra NC. It looks good in just about any light, to boot. Thus, it really is an “intermediate” choice between the two Portras, and can do the job of either in many situations. I have been slowly simplifying and right-sizing my personal repertoire of emulsions, and I was thinking of making it my only 160 film. I’m tempted to stock up on it before it’s gone, but what would be the point when good alternatives exist? I may as well transition away from it now and learn the Portras more fully, and move on.
In fact, this will likely accelerate my migration to 400 speed films. Those are so good these days that you don’t give up much in favoring them over their slower cousins. It’s tedious to maintain a personal stock of so many different films, knowing them well enough to get the most out of them, and managing their purchase, storage, and use. Since much of my shooting is handheld, 400 films make a lot of sense. It’s not much trouble to slap on a neutral-density filter when I need to shoot wide open in bright light with a fast film and a shutter that tops out at 1/500. I can see the day coming soon when the two 400-speed Portras, and Ektar 100, are the only films in my freezer. If push came to shove, I think I could live without the 160 films. I hate to say it, but it’s true.
Fuji also, it appears, has deep-sixed T64, a tungsten-balance E-6 film, which may be the last tungsten-balanced emulsion on the planet. And Neopan 400, a B&W emulsion that is dear to many, has also been voted off the island, at least in 120 format. I don’t use either of these, so I’m not personally impacted. But many swear by them, so I expect to hear the online wails as this news gets around.
It’s a sad day when yet more films go by the wayside. (It’s really sad when you’ve just sunk some not-inconsequential cash into a new film-camera system, as you sell off and consolidate your gear-hoard as I’ve been doing.) But there could be an upside, if what remains are a few excellent emulsions that can be made more profitably and sustainably, at least a while longer. With luck, quite a few soon-to-be-former Fujicolor users will migrate to the Kodak offerings, helping to keep them alive.
That’s the silver lining I’m hoping for within this dark cloud.