In March this year, Kodak Alaris announced they were bringing the popular Kodak Gold emulsion to medium format for the first time, and the first time since Kodacolor Gold was made redundant in 1997. Kodak Gold is already a popular 35mm emulsion amongst film photographers being, comparatively speaking, decent value for money whilst at the same time offering a pretty balanced and pretty decent exposure so it was something of a big deal when Kodak announced they were bringing it to the 120 format! Demand was naturally pretty high but I somehow managed to pick up a roll just before I shot off for a week spent hanging around in Mersea Island again for my birthday!
Although most of the week was spent driving around Essex looking at houses... I did manage to find some time to snap a bunch of shots with it loaded inside my Lubitel 2. A camera that sits criminally under-utilised in my collection because it's a really great piece of kit, but I just rarely shoot medium format! We were also really fortunate enough to have some really nice weather so I made sure we found an opportunity to check out the beach and the country parks:
I honestly didn't quite know how these photos were gonna turn out, as I mentioned earlier, I've hardly used my Lubitel 2 and I was mostly just guessing the exposures to be honest... but it transpires they turned out really well! The Lubitel 2 has a great glass lens so the photos are nice and sharp, but since it's the film were focussing on here: the colour reproduction is really great. It's slightly softer than I expected, not quite as vivid and saturated as the Ektachrome 100 35mm film I shot with recently, but I actually like that. It gives the photos a more gentle, relaxing aesthetic. Even with shots like my beach huts photo above - despite there being a whole range of colours it still has a softer, slightly muted approach to it. But is still bold enough that highlights and shadows stand out.
There is also zero detail loss as you can see in my photo above, and zero grain but enough definition that you can recognize that it's a photo that has been shot with medium format film. There is just something about medium format photography that has a real tangible quality to it. Like listening to music on a vinyl record. It's obviously not the most efficient way to take a photograph nowadays but has a defining aesthetic that gives the photos... body... for want of a better way of putting it! And you just can't replicate with software.
I'm really happy with how my shots turned out. Although I mostly had the weather on my side all week, even when we had a cloudy day, like in my photo of the harbour above, the colour reproduction is still slightly muted but not murky and under saturated owing to a lack of sunlight. I generally don't like shooting in overcast but actually really like that picture above!
Gold 120 is comparatively cheap compared to the other colour 120 options you have available to you, with a single roll costing circa £10 but with better discounts to be found if buying in multiples of x5 or x10. It's designed to be a budget friendly 120 brand but without compromising on picture quality and I think the balance here is spot on. You are maybe going to get more vivid saturation, more highlight and shadow definition from one of Kodak's more expensive slide film brands, but if you are looking for a stock 120 medium format film, maybe to play around with in a Lomography Diana or a Holga 120 - something that isn't going to be an expensive disaster if you mess it up, then Kodak Gold 200 is probably your safest option. And if things do go right you aren't going to be left with a handful of "just average" photos. When exposed properly Kodak Gold has a nice, soft, muted aspect of it's own but still bold and contrasty enough that everything doesn't wash together in a bland and boring mess and I'm certainly reconsidering why I don't shoot medium format more often...!