We've all been there: you're at the store (or online), and you're looking for a new film to try. You see some that are labeled "professional". What does this mean? Are they worth the premium you pay for them?

The answer, as always, is... it depends. 

Film stocks are typically broken down into two groups: consumer grade and professional grade. The main difference between these comes down to grain structures (how the film grain looks) and their color accuracy. Often times, these are very minute differences that only "professionals" will truly care about. 

For example: Kodak produces Ultramax 400 and Portra 400. Ultramax being the "consumer" grade 400 speed film, and the Portra line being the pro grade film. 

Let's compare some shots:

At first glance, what do you think? Do you have any preference? Take a moment to look at the colors, the grain, how it all makes you feel. Which would you say is more "professional"?

Maybe to your surprise, the beach photo is the Ultramax and the Food Barn is on Portra. An important question to ask is: would you pay the extra ~$10 per roll for this difference? 

Over the last few years, I feel like I've found the perfect balance when it comes to pro vs consumer stocks, and it comes down to intention. Do I have a plan for this next roll? Do I need as much perfection as I can get from it? Or do I just want to take pictures at the least expensive price point? 

Another way to look at it is this: would I put Premium gas in a beater car? I will never, and I mean never, put Portra 400 in a camera other than my main cameras. Especially not a point and shoot. You are more than welcome to do so, I'm not the film police, but it seems much more reasonable to save my Gold or Ultramax for my point and shoot. 

Happy shooting!

Matt Rygh

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