Battle of the High ISO Colour Films

I’ve been very keen to write about this topic, because whether I like it not, high ISO film is often an inescapable fact-of-film-life here in Ireland & UK, as it’s habitually cloudy and overcast.

So over the last 2 years, I’ve amassed enough real-world photos & experience to offer some help & guidance on high ISO 35mm negatives. I hope this blog post helps !

The Contestants

Now, when I say high ISO, I mean anything above ISO 200 … so that rules out all the usual bunch of Gold’s, Ektars, colourful Lomo’s, etc. I’ll be honest and say that being an amateur photographer, budget is an important part of the film negative decision process too.

To that end here’s the five contestants I have to hand:

35mm Film Name & BrandFilm ISO / SpeedApprox. Retail Price 2022
Fuji Superia400€9-€11
Kodak Ultramax400€10-€12
Kodak Portra 400400€14-€16
Lomography Color Negative 800800€14-€20
Fuji Pro 400H400€15-€25
High ISO Colour Film Negatives

The first disclaimer is that I never got an opportunity to photograph the same subject in the same lighting, and make precise pixel-to-pixel comparisons. That said, I’m not shy about shooting in low-light, night and tough high-contrast situations, so I’ve got a solid understanding of how the films behave.

Fuji Superia

So this is cheapest of the bunch, but wow does it packs a punch, I’m very impressed with how this 35mm film handles itself. On a trip to Paris, it handled dark interiors with ease, catching surprising amounts of details, and very acceptable dynamic range 💯.

ISO Rating400
Colour ToneTends to be be a little be a colder blue in tones, with accents of yellows
GrainVery smooth and very fine, looks like an ISO 200 film not 400
Details & EdgesFantastic details and great edge sharpness
Fuji Superia Summary

Kodak Ultramax

This is the high ISO film stock practically all of us start with, as it’s familiar and ubiquitous. It’s genuinely great for those walk-about photos on overcast days, and interestingly enough pretty good for flash photography, with pleasing skin-tones 📷.

ISO Rating400
Colour ToneTends to be a somewhat yellow, with blues taking on a cyan accent
GrainVery noticeable especially in skies & clouds, while not entirely off-putting, it’s definitely something you will not be able to ignore
Details & SharpnessNice details and very good sharpness
Kodak Ultramax Summary

Kodak Portra 400

The image quality, as you’d expect from Kodak Portra 400, genuinely lives up to the hype – it’s quite phenomenal. I’ve put this film in punishing light situations and it’s never let me down – the dynamic range is great.

That said, it’s not the best choice for daylight landscape photography, as the colours are very warm, and need tweaking in post process – unless you’re photographing sunsets 😉

ISO Rating400
Colour ToneTends to be a very yellow with accents of orange
GrainSuperior fine grain, almost like ISO 100 film – quite amazing really
Details & SharpnessSimply superb details and excellent edge sharpness
Kodak Portra 400 Summary

Lomography 800

Now this recent addition to my 35mm film journey has surprised me the most – the versatility of box-speed, 800, colour, film is something never to be ignored. For me, this film has made the impossible possible – capturing images handheld, that I wouldnt have dreamt of !

Now make no mistake, the grain is noticeable, however, it’s very similar to Kodak Ultramax and manageable.

ISO Rating800
Colour ToneTends to have accents of blue and yellow. I would also add that it has punchy colours at night, but less so during the day.
GrainVery noticeable in featureless areas, similar to Kodak UltraMax, and something you will not be able to ignore
Details & SharpnessGood details and pleasant edge sharpness
Lomography 800

Fuji Pro 400h

I found this now-discontinued film, to be in the same league as Kodak Portra 400 – the image quality is simply stunning, considering it’s ISO 400. In addition, as I’m more of a landscape photographer, the dynamic range is fantastic, and colour tones of 400h are definitely more suited to forests & mountains, than Portra 400.

ISO Rating400
Colour ToneTends to be have green accents and hints of yellow.
GrainSimilar to Kodak Portra 400, superior fine grain, almost like ISO 100 film
Details & SharpnessSimply superb details and excellent edge sharpness
Fuji Pro 400H Summary


Considering it’s 2022 there’s still a useful array of high ISO colour film available for everybody, suitable for all styles of photography and budget. It’s simply all about figuring out how much you want to spend, and whether your choice will give you the best flexibility & image style.

I hope these insights, from my own personal experience, helps somewhat. Until my next post, keep shooting film !