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Harman Phoenix 200 reviewed: The world’s newest colour film

4 minute read

Josh Edwards put a roll of the new experimental Harman Phoenix 200 35mm colour negative film through its paces and got some interesting results.

For a few years, film photography enthusiasts have been lamenting the consistent rise in film stock pricing, and rightly so. When it comes to film – particularly colour film – it’s well documented that Kodak has quite the grip on supply. In fact, they’re the only company on earth who really have the means to produce the stuff right now. Or at least, they were until recently.

With no real competitor in sight, many have rolled eyes and exhaled in frustration…Kodak hasn’t really had any incentive to keep prices lower, has it? ‘What we need’, cried the masses, ‘is some good old competition!’ And finally, in Harman Phoenix 200, we have it. This is a big deal for the world of analog film. 

About Harman Technology Ltd

Harman Technology Ltd (trading as Ilford Photo) is a UK-based manufacturer of all things analog photography. They’ve been making photographic materials for decades and are well established for their wonderful black-and-white film stocks. They’re no amateurs. 

If you were to read comments across their social media 12 months ago, you’d find plenty of people asking the question – why aren’t you guys making a colour film? That persistent questioning seems to have paid off. On December 1st 2023, we were greeted with the news of Harman Phoenix 200. The film world rejoiced and since then, we’ve seen an exceptional amount of feedback from the film community.

I picked up a roll myself, loaded it into my Canon A1 and set about shooting a number of scenes across Liverpool and Edinburgh. Can Harman really begin to challenge Kodak in the colour film department?

Initial thoughts

Alongside the fact that this is the world’s newest colour film, it’s been keenly stressed by Harman that this is experimental. The release of Harman Phoenix 200 is seen as a way to raise funds that can be invested into improving “our formulations, coating capabilities and colour technology” their website states, going on to say “our aim is that each new colour film we produce will be an improvement on the previous”.

Having just received my scans back from the lab, I can safely say that this is indeed an experimental film. If I’m being honest, my initial thought when clicking the link in my emails and laying eyes on the photos for the very first time was a slightly bewildered “interesting…”

And because I’m already aware of your first thought I’ll say this now – yes, my Canon A1 was set to shoot at 200 iso.

Extreme contrast

The first thing that struck me, and no doubt yourself, is how contrasted this film stock is. I was shooting in Liverpool on a winter’s morning when the sun was bright and low. Usually, this great light would make for ideal shooting conditions but with Phoenix 200, I’d probably caution people to avoid shooting it in such moments. 

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Even relatively balanced, neutral shots with less dramatic light were turning out incredibly punchy. 

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I shot a few quick portraits of my wife and mum in the garden at 12 midday, but the results make it look like a nuclear apocalypse may just have begun on the horizon.

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Meanwhile, my shot of the Liver Building around 10am has a stark “sunset” feel about it.

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Speaking of sunsets, this is what I captured in Edinburgh toward the end of the day.


Loss of details in the shadows

That last snap in Edinburgh brings me very nicely to my next point. Phoenix 200 loses a lot of details in the shadows.

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While highlights are being correctly exposed for the most part, I’m just not getting enough detail or information in those darker parts of the frame. It’s another reminder that Phoenix 200 is probably going to work a lot better with flatter light. 

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This frame of the same Edinburgh street (this time on a classically grey, rainy day) showcases exactly that. I like this one.



Looking at what others have said online over the past few months, it seems like it may be best to slightly overexpose Phoenix 200 by shooting at 160 iso.


For a 200 iso film, I was also surprised by how much grain was showing up on these images. In comparison with other 200 iso stocks such as the massively popular Kodak Gold 200, there’s quite a stark difference here. Grain is not necessarily a bad thing and it comes down to personal taste and preference, but it’s something worth noting.

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Colour oddities

Brace yourselves. Something rather strange happened at my grandparents house over dinner. It’s worth pointing out that most default scanner settings are determined with the colour balance of the more common Kodak or Fujifilm emulsions in mind. Harman was certainly aware of that, going as far as offering up a number of scanning tips in a very useful PDF

Whether my lab got this memo, I’m not sure. I purchased the roll from them, so I don’t see why not. Anyhow, that dinner at the grandparents? Horrifying.

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I’m not really sure what happened here, but on further inspection and reflection, it appears certain lighting conditions (more specifically, certain light bulbs) can end up making your family look as if they’re eating their last meal under alien invasion. On closer inspection of my favourite Edinburgh photo, I noticed that some of the lights in the buildings were also turning up rather green.

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Occasional wins

While the green look wasn’t for me personally, you may well like it. This is the thing about Harman Phoenix 200 – it’s a little unpredictable, a lot of fun and occasionally, you do get some winners. Out of the 36 exposures on this roll, there were a handful that I did really like. 

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Final thoughts

Are these winners enough to make me run out the door and grab another roll? I’m not sure. A repeat purchase wouldn’t come from the fact that I love this film, but rather from the fact that I love Harman for giving this a go. 

Harman was kind of expecting what I found to be the case – slightly crazy results are actually part of the deal you signed up for with Phoenix 200, because this is work in progress. They gave it to the film community and requested that we test drive it and let them know what we thought.

It’s a smart move, in my opinion. The film community is extremely passionate about their craft and there was no better way to test things out. They'll find stuff you can't – move the dial in way you didn't know it could move. Pull and push the film stock around, perhaps stumbling on a golden nugget that informs how the next iteration of Phoenix 200 is developed.

I’ll leave you with two of many great reviews about this film from respected voices in the community. What we’re living through here is a very exciting moment and I can’t wait to see how it develops, pun fully intended.



Tags: Production Film