If you follow film news then you already know that Fujifilm Pro 400H film was recently discontinued. It's quite sad for me because it was probably my favourite 400 speed film. But let us not shed tears about this - let us do it about another film!
One of the main reasons ( at least according to Fujifilm ) of why 400H was discontinued is the difficulty of getting the raw materials required for the fourth layer of the film. A cyan color layer that is said to help with color rendition - especially under fluorescent lighting to avoid green cast on resulting images.
Do you know which film had the 4th layer first? Fuji Reala. Also known as Superia Reala. Also known as the film reviewed here.
If you hope that Reala could be used as a 400H replacement - don't even dream about it. It has been discontinued since 2013 ( for 120 - 35mm was discontinued in 2012 ).
Let us look at the film that - at least in some form and fashion - was the origin for Pro 400H.
About This Film
Reala 100 belongs to the Superia line of films although initially it was released without the Superia label. Although Superia line is / was mainly aimed at the consumer market with some hands also grabbing for that enthusiast bucket - Reala was mainly targeted for professionals and enthusiasts.
It's a 100 speed film made for C-41 process that according to Fujifilm themselves "delivers exceptional color accuracy" ( thanks to the mythical 4th color layer ) and "has the finest and smoothest grain and the best sharpness of all Superia films" ( as one would expect from a ISO 100 film ).
Because of the film characteristics - one of the professional markets was wedding photographers.
35mm version was discontinued in 2012 and 120 version survived an extra year and was discontinued in 2013. The real reason for the gap was likely that Fujifilm just had enough 120 stock around to sell for another year and maybe there weren't enough scalpers that time to buy up all film in hopes of selling it with huge a margin and becoming millionaires as it's happening now with 400H.
You can likely guess the reason for the discontinuation. Film was beaten by digital and Fufjifilm already had the newer Pro film stock ( like Pro 160 ) that was aimed for professionals like wedding photographers so it didn't really make sense to keep Reala around.
My Thoughts On This Film
I have to prefix my thoughts on the fact that my film is likely expired. I don't remember when I bought the few 35mm rolls of Reala that I have but it must have been at least 6 or more years ago. They might have still been un-expired when I bought them but sadly I don't know their expiry date. My rolls came loose and canisters themselves don't have the expiry information on them as far as I can see. I have kept the rolls in the freezer during the time I've had them and I don't think they show their age yet as I can comfortably meter for ISO 100 and exposure matches expectations and I have not noticed any weird color shifts.
I have developed most Reala shots myself using various C-41 kits but some rolls were also developed by various labs.
And I have only used the 35mm version of this film. 120 is most likely the same...just bigger.
With all the formalities dealt with - I can say that this is not my favourite film stock and it actually might be my least favourite color / C-41 film stock that I have used so far. I'm sorry.
I kind of agree with Fujifilm when they claim that Reala delivers exceptional color accuracy. It does seem to capture the colors as they appear...but in a boring way. First of all I'm not big into color accuracy. I care more about how the image feels / looks on its own merit and not whether it accurately represents the colors in real life. If the picture looks amazing but all green colors are replaced with purple ( no - I have not shot Lomochrome ) - the picture is still amazing even though the trees don't typically grow purple leaves.
If I was writing an ad piece for Fujifilm Reala - I would classify the colors as boringly accurate with no intention of being adventurous. It's probably why I don't work for Fujifilm.
I think the film works best in sunny conditions where colors are naturally saturated. But which film wouldn't work there? When post processing the photos from Reala I always want to increase saturation. And maybe a bit of contrast.
The film is not warm or cold. It's neutral. Accurate.
I also agree with Fujifilm that the grain is smooth but it's kind of expected for 100 speed film. It's likely cleaner than more consumer oriented ISO 100 color films but sadly there aren't many of those around anymore.
Sharpness is also good. Not sure it's the best sharpness around but it's definitely good enough and I don't really shoot film to get exceptional sharpness.
Dynamic range seems very good. I don't think I've blown any highlights. It's hard to blow highlights on film in the first place but this film seems to handle them really well by always maintaining some detail in them - however bright they might be. Shadows are also plenty detailed and it's difficult to get them muddy.
I've used pure ISO 100 metering when shooting Reala. I might not always meter with a real meter though. Oftentimes it's a light meter from my phone and sometimes it's just guesswork via the help of Sunny 16. I had a lab do a push to ISO 400 once.
The only experimentation that I've done with Reala is bleach bypass. And I would not recommend it for this film stock. It delivers weirdly pink results that don't look anything like the bleach bypass look you might get from other film stocks. Maybe I did something wrong during development or scanned it weirdly but the bleach bypass pictures look very weird ( weird is what you expect with bleach bypass but not weird like this ).
Enough words - let me throw some pictures around and talk about what I like and dislike.
Examples Shot On This Film
Some of the pictures below might be in slightly lower resolution than usual. Older lab developed and scanned pictures are sadly only available in quite a low resolution.
Last Words About This Film
I'm definitely more sad about Pro 400H dying than Reala 100. I would maybe kill 5 ( initially I wrote 10 but that seemed too much - even 5 seems a lot ) films like Reala to keep something like 400H around.
I don't hate the film but it's not made for me. I do think that Reala would be rated well for people that like more natural colors and calmer saturation and contrast. Heck - it might even work well for something like wedding photography, especially if photos are post processed to add some excitement to them where needed.
What I realised after looking through the photos I've taken with this film is that I really like portraits and humans showing some skin in general rendered through this film. I will try to use it more for that in future.
Also when there's actually good light - it will render nicely. But more praise should really go to the light.
Should you get this film if you see it somewhere for a reasonable price? The answer is yes - it's yes for any film. Do get film that you have not tried. Experiment. Find new things. At some point there will be no film or we'll have quite limited film stock options ( it's already quite limited ). Try new things whilst there are still new things to try.
Even if you don't like the results - the fun of trying is definitely worth the slight disappointment. And let's be truthful - you can edit the pictures to be closer to your liking whilst still keeping that film look. You can even do it in a darkroom albeit with more effort. There is no shame in post-processing.