If you look closely at the Kodak line of film stocks, you’ll notice most are lucky enough to wear the name Kodak Professional.
Then there are the three I always see that don’t. I picture them like a gang, or a group of siblings. The budget brothers. The sale-price sisters. The consumer film cousins.
Find Your Kodak Gold 200 on Amazon today
What is Kodak Gold 200?
Think of something that had its heyday in the 1980s, continued to do well in the 1990s, survived the 2000s, and is still around today albeit at nowhere near the level it once was.
When you look at it like that, Kodak Gold 200 is like the Ford Escort of films. It’s pretty much Hulk Hogan.
Back when film photography was just called photography, people were far more selective of what, where, and when they shot. There was very little casual food photography and nowhere to instantly show the world what you were having for tea.
For many, photography was reserved for holidays and other special occasions where real memories are made. For a number of reasons, a good percentage of these memories were captured on Gold 200.
It was inexpensive and available almost anywhere; the kind of film you’d find in corner shops or supermarkets or those places you get a bucket and spade from on the seafront. It also didn’t really need to be kept in the fridge if you were shooting it within its shelf life.
The wide exposure latitude made it hard to catastrophically under or overexpose a shot, and the signature warm Kodak tones were ideal for holiday snaps.
All of the above is still true. It’s still inexpensive, still found anywhere that sells film – in some cases where this is one of few options they have – and still gives those warm results you expect from a consumer level Kodak film.
Kodak Gold 200 image qualities
When you compare the two main players in the colour negative consumer film game, Kodak typically gives you warmer results than you get from Fujifilm stocks.
This warmness is certainly there with Kodak Gold 200. That and some other image qualities only add to the reasons why this was an ideal family holiday film.
The colours are bright without being overbearing or unrealistic, and skin tones come out looking nice and natural. There isn’t too much grain and the overall feeling was one of a sunny, good time being had by all – which was what holiday memories should be like.
I also found the sharpness more than acceptable and a fair amount of contrast too when I shot it in the afternoon sun.
Overall, the results you get are balanced and more true-to-life than Fujicolor Industrial 100, for example, with its more prominent green and reds. If anything, Gold 200 leans more on the yellows and blues to create that warm feel.
This warmness I keep mentioning gives an effortless and unmistakably vintage quality. That sounds like a redundant thing to say when talking about a camera film, but hear me out. Also, this is just my opinion.
If you’re shooting something like Ektar, you’re probably not hoping for too much of a retro look. At the other extreme, some newer films have light leaks and other Instagram filter-style effects added before you even shoot them.
Kodak Gold is actually vintage and there’s nothing forced about it the look it gives. If you use it while travelling or on holiday and your photographs resemble the ones from your childhood holidays, that’s because they’re possibly being shot on the same film.
Street photography with Kodak Gold 200
If you do your street photography once the sun has gone down, illuminated by low levels of artificial light, you’re not going to get the best of what Kodak Gold 200 can offer.
If you shoot in the daytime and are after a more sombre look, that warmness we talked about earlier might also mean this isn’t the film for you. Something cooler like Fujicolor C200 could be more suited. It’s all down to personal taste.
The results I got certainly depict the spring sunshine as warm in tone if not in temperature, judging by the overcoats still being worn. Warmer in tone than it actually was to the naked eye, if I remember correctly.
The only question to ask yourself when deciding whether to use Kodak Gold film for your street photography is if you want this look. I’m not sure I do but if you’re okay with it, I don’t see much else that will cause any big issues.
The 200 ISO rating isn’t the fastest, and you do have Kodak Ultramax 400 if you need more speed, but I like to shoot in the kind of light where 200 is enough anyway. When I did so, the grain and contrast in the results were all good.
The wide exposure latitude means I can trust my in-camera light meter and just fire away, and the low cost of the film means it doesn’t matter too much if some shots do get messed up or I feel the need to take them more than once.
For what these shots are, which is a bunch made on a casual afternoon walking around my neighbourhood, and for the price of the film they were shot on, I can’t be unhappy with how they came out.
Kodak Gold 200 specs and development
Kodak Gold 200 is a 5500k daylight balanced, ISO 200, colour negative 35mm film that’s available in rolls of 24 or 36 exposures. It has the DX code 512504 and is developed using the regular C-41 process.
I don’t develop my own film at this point so all I can do here is send you in the direction of other people’s information. The best place to start would be Kodak’s own technical data sheet right here.
Highlights from that include recommended exposure times for different weather and light conditions, a guide to which filter and exposure adjustments to use when shooting under different types of fluorescent light, and a table of features and benefits of the film.
According to Kodak themselves, you get saturated colours, fine grain, and high sharpness. Gold 200 is also good for bright, colourful prints, great for enlargements, and gives high-quality results when scanned for digital output and great prints from digital zoom and crop images.
They also mention that wide exposure latitude from earlier, stating you get from two stops underexposure to three stops overexposure to play with.
Their final recommendation is to handle the undeveloped film in total darkness without the use of a safelight.
Final thoughts on Kodak Gold 200
I don’t know if you’ve shot Kodak Gold 200, or plan to now having read this review. I will say this, though. If you were alive in Hulk Hogan’s heyday, you’ve likely been shot on it.
I think that’s the overriding feeling I get from this stock; that it will always have a connection to those who used to shoot it on family holidays but have since left film photography long behind.
There’s always going to be nostalgia in analogue photography. Some for the medium, some for the cameras we use, and some for certain films. Kodak Gold is surely one of those that command it in a way some others can’t.
What I mean there is, new offerings like JCH Street Pan 400 are great – they really are – but they’re new. And while Ilford films have a grand history, I don’t imagine many 1980s holidaying housewives were loading HP5 into their Canon Sure Shots.
Most of my photography is either travel or street, and I might end up reserving any future use of Kodak Gold film for the former, as it just feels more suited to that.
It’s great at what it does, but I do find it a touch too warm for my street photography. I can see myself using something cooler should I ever do a one-film colour street project. Perhaps a cheap Fujicolor stock instead.
Capturing new vintage holiday memories on Gold 200 sounds like a very good idea, though, and I’m already looking forward to doing that.
Remember, Kodak Gold 200 is inexpensive and available everywhere, consistent and reliable, and hard to mess up when shooting. This makes it ideal if you’re just starting with film photography yourself.
That warmness also makes it ideal for keeping happy memories on it. So that’s what I suggest you do. 🙂
Find your Kodak Gold 200 on Amazon today
… p.s. if you’ve shot Kodak Gold 200 yourself and have anything to add to this, let us know in the comments below
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