Being announced today is the brand new HARMAN Phoenix film emulsion — the first color film from the same company as Ilford in many years. But this is something incredibly special: it’s also the first color film emulsion made completely from scratch that we’ve heard of in years, according to sources we spoke to before the film’s announcement. This limited-edition film has a bunch of special properties to it that make it really unique. We’ll tell you everything you need to know below.
Experts We Talked to in This Article
In pursuing better journalism, the Phoblographer is actively working to put our sources up front to combat misinformation and hearsay that otherwise taints the credibility of facts. Here are our sources, along with links to where you can find out more about them, and some information on why they’re considered experts in their field.
- Bill Manning: Bill is the man behind the Studio C41 podcast and the Atlanta Film Company, which takes Kodak movie film and cuts it for 35mm still emulsions that can be processed using the ECN-2 process. He also actively training film photography workshops across the country.
- Brent Eysler: Brent is a long-time film photographer currently working at B&H Photo in the Road Marketing Department. He’s recently notable as the man behind the B&H Photo Museum and the lighting designer at the recent BiLD Expo.
- Zeb Andrews: Zeb is the general manager of Blue Moon Camera and Machine. In the past year, Zeb, who’s worked at Blue Moon Camera for 20 years, is most proud of the fact that he’s managed their new consignment process that makes it so much easier for film photographers to use their website.
- Lanna Apisukh: Lanna is a freelance photographer and Fujifilm Creator who works with the NYTimes, Wall St Journal, the New Yorker, Eater, etc. She feels the most significant story that she’s worked on recently was photographing Geraldo Rivera on his boat for a few days. The story was for the NYTimes as an end-of-career profile after his ousting from Fox News.
All of our sources spoke to us and provided us with approval on publishing during the creation of this article. You can read more about the Phoblographer’s Ethics on our Disclaimers page, linked here.
The ISO is Variable Between ISO 100-400
HARMAN Phoenix is a film like Lomography X Pro Slide 200 (previously reviewed here) in that it more or less has a variable ISO, but this is a C41 film and not a slide film. Harman states that you can expose it between ISO 100 to ISO 400, but that the results that they like the most come at ISO 200. We can only imagine that the more light you give it, the better it will look depending on how you process it.
This differs from something like Kodak Portra 400, where you expose it at ISO 200 and then develop it at 320 to get nice results. It’s also completely different from the gone Fujifilm PRO400H, where you expose it at ISO 75 to get the pastel look. In fact, we haven’t tested a film like this before in C41 that isn’t something like Lomochrome Purple or Turquoise — so it’s truly unlike anything else out there.
“We defintiely need any new films we can get, and more diversity in film stocks and manufacturing — not just another rebranded Kodak product.”Brent Eysler
“I’ve heard some people speculate on if it’s repackaged Kodak film, but it’s not,” states Zeb Andrews, General Manager at Blue Moon camera, when speaking to the Phoblographer. He further describes it as something that has its own niche. “It doesn’t look like any other film on the market, and HARMAN has completely made it in their own factories. It doesn’t seem to have a lot of latitude due to that contrast.” Zeb continued to expand on how it’s such a different film, and that it’s something that is pretty unexpected — though when you think about it as a whole, it makes a lot of sense.
Blue Moon also has its own lab, and it’s the Phoblographer’s preferred choice for film development. So Zeb spent time with the film shooting it. He notes that the negatives have a purple base — which is very similar to Ilford XP2. “So that means that it has a tendency to print and scan yellow and green, and it requires more correction in scanning,” he explains. “This looks kind of like what happens when you cross-process Kodak slide film.”
Zeb, who’s been working with Harman Phoenix since August, shot portraits and landscapes with it. And here’s how he describes it:
“The strength for landscapes is that it really makes colors pop, so you can get really vibrant colors in your landscapes. Because it has a naturally yellow bias, the greens can be accentuated because the yellow bleeds into the green base. With portraiture, it’s trickier because of the contrast in the grain. That yellow bias also tends to get into skin tones; so you don’t get natural looking skin tones from this film, but you can embrace that look if you want.”Zeb Andrews
Photographer Bill Manning echoes what Zeb said in different ways. He was told that it’s an experimental film, so he approached it as such. Bill describes it as not a perfect film at all. “It’s prone to halation, grainy for a 200-speed film, it is very contrasty, and has a small dynamic range,” he tells us. “Phoenix 200 requires a little more attention at the scan and photographers should communicate with their lab tech to make sure to scan this film using Harman Technology’s scanning guidance. Once corrected at the scan, the colors are super punchy and very pleasing.” Bill continued to share that you basically want to treat it like slide film.
“I firmly believe photographers will use these limitations to their advantage and create impactful work with it!”
Based on how we’ve shot many other film emulsions that work similarly, we can imagine that the intended effects will be more apparent at ISO 400 and lessened at ISO 100. And by intended effects, we’re talking about halation.
Yes, There’s Halation with HARMAN Phoenix
Some folks might not like the fact that this film has halation. “This is just the beginning of HARMAN’s colour journey.” says Giles Branthwaite, Sales & Marketing Director in the press release sent to the Phoblographer. “Sales from this film will allow us to further invest, refine, and improve our formulations, coating capabilities and colour technology. Our aim is that each new colour film we produce is an improvement on the previous.” However, some photographers are also perfectly alright with the fact that there is halation and other characteristics that the photography industry previously labeled as imperfections in the pursuit of marketing.
“Half of us are walking around with Glimmerglass and Pro Mist Filters on our cameras just to get some of that magic back,” says Brent Eysler to the Phoblographer in an interview — citing that he knew about it because of a previous leak. “I think that the world, especially in analog photography, is ready to embrace some of those imperfections.” Brent’s words more or less resonate with everything that we say here at the Phoblographer in our reviews. Even Gordon Laing, the Editor of Camera Labs, recently stated that he’s in love with a new lens that wouldn’t been traditionally called imperfect.
Make no mistake, too, this isn’t the same halation that you’d get from Cinestill with a red tinge when pointing your lens at light sources. Instead, it will be more similar to a light bloom effect. Combine this with a lens that delivers a lot of lens flare, which could be too much. Luckily, if you’re using a film SLR camera, there are lots of excellent lenses made by Zeiss that cut down on this. We’ve reviewed lots of them and rounded them up in a guide for you that you can find at this link.
Ilford Color Films are Coming Back
What’s truly special about the new HARMAN Phoenix film is that it’s truly made from the ground up. Traditionally for many years, brands like Lomography and Fujifilm have been rebranding Kodak film. Sometimes there’s a special extra something added. But for the most part, we can think of it like Panasonic and Nikon using Sony’s camera sensors. Lucky for us, though, this isn’t a rebranded Kodak film emulsion.
“This is an incredible first step for Harman,” says Bill. “There are 2 (maybe 3) players in the industry making color films. To have Harman come into the industry creates healthy competition, and this is a good sign for industry growth.” Bill continued to state that he’s elated that it extends the longevity of the film industry overall.
“Having options is good for the consumer, and I welcome this. Ultimately, ECN-2 is just chemistry, and while I haven’t done it yet, I would LOVE to see how Phoenix 200 looks in ECN-2.”
Extra sample images were provided to us by Zeb Andrews. All photographs are used with permission.
Working photographers are bound to be curious about this, and some might immediately write it off. But we’ve interviewed tons who use film in their regular work. Photographer Lanna Apisukh is really excited about this new film. “I also think that you keep hearing about film being dead and that people are switching to digital. But in the past five or six years, it’s been exciting to see all these kids using film for this slower process,” she tells us. She believes that there’s a demand for film again and that it’s great that photographers are getting hyped for the roots of photography. Film photography is also treated with more reverence coupled with intent due to its sensory process.
Lanna has indeed shot a few assignments on film, but she admits that they’re rare and often unexpected. “…it’s okay to reach out to your editor for the budget needed,” she tells us. “It also depends on how quick the turnaround is for the story. If it’s a feature where you have a little bit of time.” Most of the time, she shoots digitally for her work. But she’s using film a lot for her personal projects.
With positive feedback from Giles and the prediction in place that the film community will go nuts for this, we’re finally going to start seeing new color films come back to the photography world. Considering how much Gen Z and Millennials love film, it will truly be something special as film photography and digital photography work in coexistence with one another.