Kodak Ultramax 400 – Ultra value

Kodak Ultramax 400

Kodak Ultramax 400 is a colour negative film, designed for general purpose use.  As you can tell by the name, it has a sensitivity of ISO 400.  It is considered a general purpose film because it has a wide exposure latitude.  This means it is aimed at giving good results even if the exposure is not spot on.

I use Ultramax 400 quite often.  It is an excellent film to test a camera, but also to use in a compact camera allowing everyday snaps.  When my son wants to shoot, especially in a camera he is not familiar with, it is an easy choice.  Ultramax 400 will produce results ensuring it keeps his confidence up.

Newcastle, NSW | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF | Kodak Ultramax 400
Newcastle, NSW | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF | Kodak Ultramax 400

Kodak Ultramax 400 is a colour negative film, designed for general purpose use.  As you can tell by the name, it has a sensitivity of ISO 400.  It is considered a general purpose film because it has a wide exposure latitude.  This means it is aimed at giving good results even if the exposure is not spot on.

I use Ultramax 400 quite often.  It is an excellent film to test a camera, but also to use in a compact camera allowing everyday snaps.  When my son wants to shoot, especially in a camera he is not familiar with, it is an easy choice.  Ultramax 400 will produce results ensuring it keeps his confidence up.

Rangitoto Island (by my son Alec) | Nikon F-601 | Tamron 28-200mm 1:3.8-5.6 F Asp. | Kodak Ultramax 400
Rangitoto Island (by my son Alec) | Nikon F-601 | Tamron 28-200mm 1:3.8-5.6 F Asp. | Kodak Ultramax 400

Other films that have been reviewed here are Fujifilm Natura 1600 and Kodak Ektachrome. Another negative film Kodak Ektar was also reviewed with the Fuji GSW690iii in the Combinations series.  Of significant interest though would be where I shot Ultramax 400 redscaled in a Zorki 4

History

Kodak, as most people will know, had a long and successful history.  At one point the company had revenue in the billions.  There was not a corner of this world where you could not buy Kodak films. Millions of rolls of film were produced every day.

Oscar and the boys at the beach | Canon Sure Shot A1 | Kodak Ultramax 400
Oscar and the boys at the beach | Canon Sure Shot A1 | Kodak Ultramax 400

Of-course, in the early 2000s we experienced the rise of digital photography and Kodak literally and spectacularly collapsed.  The speed it happened was truly terrifying and Kodak, like all the other film manufacturers, went through a massive culling of film stock.

One of the popular lines of film that Kodak relied on for a major part of their revenue was the Kodak Gold line of negative films, including Gold 400.  This specific film stock was produced from 1997 through to 2007, though you can trace its roots to earlier variations.

Picnic in the park | Nikon L35AF | Kodak Ultramax 400
Picnic in the park | Nikon L35AF | Kodak Ultramax 400

In 2007 Kodak released Ultramax 400 as the Gold 400 replacement which has been in production in 135 (35mm) format since that year.  Since then it has been one of the most widely distributed consumer negative films for Kodak.

Film Specifics

Kodak Ultramax 400 is a general purpose consumer film with a box speed of ISO 400 (27o).  It is a daylight balanced colour negative film that is DX coded, so auto exposure cameras will automatically adjust to ISO 400.  

Kodak Ultramax 400

Only available in 135 format (35mm), each cartridge comes in lengths of 24 exposures. It does not require refrigeration, though not recommended you leave it in an overly warm area.  Developing is through the C-41 chemistry process.  

Designed to have a wide exposure latitude, it is marketed at anything from the casual user to the more prolific photographer.  It comes with a higher saturation than professional films with an aim at more attractive photographs for the consumer. Being a mid-speed film, the grain is fairly fine.

Kodak Ultramax 400

With considerable and easy availability, it can be processed almost anywhere and by its nature it will deliver consistent results. The fact it is a more modern formula does also mean it is designed for the digital world including scanning.

The Experience

Kodak Ultramax 400 is a good go-to film for me when I want something where I do not want to be “that person”.  Meaning I do not want making photographs to be the focus, I just want to document an occasion and enjoy the moment.

This may sound a bit snooty, but this is because I have my preferences in shooting artistically.  The decision is related more to my specific colour rendition and grain preferences.  Others may have different preferences and it has nothing to do with any thoughts of Ultramax 400 being deficient.

Walking conversation | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF | Kodak Ultramax 400
Walking conversation | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF | Kodak Ultramax 400

Every time I have loaded this film into a camera and shot with abandon, I still have a decent number of keepers returned back from the lab.  You can throw a lot at this film and it will continue to perform. 

I trust it so much that it is the film I load into my son’s camera when we travel or head out to a shoot.  He does not shoot film that much, and rather than have him discouraged, I know he will get photographs he will like.

Me, shooting (by my son Alec) | Nikon F-601 | Tamron 28-200mm 1:3.8-5.6 F Asp. | Kodak Ultramax 400
Me, shooting (by my son Alec) | Nikon F-601 | Tamron 28-200mm 1:3.8-5.6 F Asp. | Kodak Ultramax 400

Scanning the results, you can see the grain is more pronounced compared to very fine films like Ektar.  Details, though, are clear and well defined.  The transition of the colours is well captured and reasonably subtle. 

While it seems to be ok with underexposure upto about 2-3 stops, it does get a quite muddy in the darks when underexposed to that level.  The highlights of the frame start to deteriorate considerably at about 4 stops of underexposure.

(1) Lone in alley | Canon Sure Shot 70 Zoom, (2) George Street | KameraWerkstatten Prakt,i (3) Sydney War Memorial | Nikon L35AF – All on Kodak Ultramax 400
(1) Lone in alley | Canon Sure Shot 70 Zoom,
(2) George Street | KameraWerkstatten Prakti,
(3) Sydney War Memorial | Nikon L35AF
– All on Kodak Ultramax 400

Interestingly when I use other films like Portra I tend to overexpose.  With using Ultramax 400 in mainly compact cameras which lack manual controls, I can either modify the DX Code or shoot at box speed.  I usually select the latter.

In terms of colour, the results are quite saturated.  In true Kodak fashion, there is a bit of a red cast right off the bat.  Nothing that would be considered detracting in paler skin tones, though when used with a small flash, it can be a little strong. The colours remain nicely saturated across the frame.  The exception being red in extremes of light where they tend to lose detail.

Deli | Belomo Agat 18K (half frame) | Kodak Ultramax 400
Deli | Belomo Agat 18K (half frame) | Kodak Ultramax 400

As you would have guessed, I like Kodak Ultramax 400. The fact I put it in cameras to document occasions easily shows how much trust I have in it.  The more important moments with family, friends including holidays are all captured on this film.  These are my family memories and I need to make sure they are captured and well.  As a bonus it is inexpensive and easy to find. Why would you not try it out?

Pick Up | Nikon L35AF | Kodak Ultramax 400
Pick Up | Nikon L35AF | Kodak Ultramax 400
The boys | Nikon RD2 | Kodak Ultramax 400
The boys | Nikon RD2 | Kodak Ultramax 400
(1) Reflective | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF, (2) Sydney City Hall | NIKON Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF, (3) Lifesaver flags | Canon Sure Shot A1, - All taken on Kodak Ultramax 400
(1) Reflective | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF,
(2) Sydney City Hall | NIKON Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF,
(3) Lifesaver flags | Canon Sure Shot A1,
– All taken on Kodak Ultramax 400
Nobbys Beach | Canon Sure Shot A1 | Kodak Ultramax 400
Nobbys Beach | Canon Sure Shot A1 | Kodak Ultramax 400
Oscar at the beach | Canon Sure Shot A1 | Kodak Ultramax 400
Oscar at the beach | Canon Sure Shot A1 | Kodak Ultramax 400
(1) Red Umbrella | Belomo Agat 18K, (2) Food delivery | Nikon L35AF, (3) Café (rescaled)| Zorki 4 | Industar 61 53mm 1:2.8, - All taken with Kodak Ultramax 400
(1) Red Umbrella | Belomo Agat 18K,
(2) Food delivery | Nikon L35AF,
(3) Café (rescaled)| Zorki 4 | Industar 61 53mm 1:2.8,
– All taken with Kodak Ultramax 400
Circular Quay | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF | Kodak Ultramax 400
Circular Quay | Nikon Lite.Touch Zoom 140 ED AF | Kodak Ultramax 400

Related Links

James at Casual Photophile confesses how he likes Kodak Ultramax 400 in Kodak Ultramax 400 Film Profile – Confessions of a Film Snob.

2 Comments

  • Andy July 5, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Ahhh the great Ultramax 400 film. I love it as well as a “cheapo Portra 400” which I can buy almost everywhere here for a good price. I really like to shoot this film at about ISO 200! 😉

    Reply
    • Theo July 5, 2020 at 5:54 pm

      A lot of people say that, shooting it at 200, I should do that more.

      Reply

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