A Brief Review of Kodak UltraMax

To start my review, I must preface by saying that whatever anyone’s process is as a film photographer may be, I encourage it! There is no right or wrong and I would not want anyone to create art and preserve memories in any way other than what works for them. All the more power to anyone who disagrees and more power to me if it can start a conversation about why my ideas don’t work for them. No judgement, just the love of the craft, the joy of photography and the unquenchable thirst to learn and discover more!

I have never held the belief that an emulsion can make or break a shot. I am of the opinion that the right film can enhance an exposure or a less than appropriate choice may take a bit from an otherwise great shot, but rarely is the film stock absolutely essential or of detriment to a photo. I write this with the self awareness that I have spent hours searching Ebay for frozen rolls of Ektar 25 or a good deal on Tech Pan and as someone who has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on the more expensive “pro” film.

Despite my sometimes expensive exotic and high end film habit, most consumer film I found to be good enough and save my pricier rolls for a special occasion. This was my practice for most of my life as a film photographer until I fell in love with UltraMax.

It took me over a year of shooting UltraMax along side Portra, Ektar and Fuji 400h to realize its rightful place amongst the much more expensive pro emulsions. UltraMax has beautiful, deep, saturated and accurate colors. It has very fine grain, especially for a 400 speed film, and excellent sharpness. 

However, UltraMax is so much more than a list of good features. The beauty of UltraMax is that it somehow maintains the timeless film feeling while bringing a very modern aesthetic. I have, by no means, lost my love of the “pro” films, but I find more and more that I opt to shoot UltraMax, and certainly not simply because of its more accessible price point.

If you have never shot UltraMax, I encourage you to pick up a roll today. If you have experience with it and are not convinced, take another look at what you have shot. It took me a long time to admit that the less expensive stuff was really as good or better for many, if not most applications.


All photos by Andrew McNown