Review: Kodak Professional Film App for iPhone

Kodak released its free Professional Film app for iPhone earlier this week, and to be honest I was really excited about it. The app states it offers resources similar to what I post here on this blog, including film profiles, where to buy film and where to process film.

Upon opening the app you’re shown a welcome screen with the basic menu, which includes: Types of Film, What Film to Use, Film Formats, Where to Buy Film and Where to Process Film:

Okay, a little on the simple side… but still potential for good content right?

If we go into “Types of Film” the app provides a list of black and white and color film currently produces by Kodak. We hear about this and that line of film being discontinued but it doesn’t really hit home until you see the slim pickings on this page:

Black and White

Color

That’s right, Kodak now manufactures only 8 types of film and none of them are slide film. But I digress, because that has nothing to do with the app.

Tap a film to go to its Detail page, which includes a general overview and specifications. The overview is a snippet of text (less than 150 words) that reads more like an ad copy than an informative resource. The specifications are a seriously abridged version of what you would find on the website, including the ISO, contrast, sharpness, print grain index, pushability, formats and color saturation.

Here’s the Film Detail page for Portra 160:

Overview

Specifications

In case you can’t tell, at this point I was already disappointed by the app. The Film Detail pages don’t even include sample photographs, which is a huge oversight in my opinion. It would also be nice to provide a list of shooting situations that are suitable for each type of film.

Instead, the app has a “What Film To Use” option on the main menu which leads you to a list of shooting situations: Commercial Studio & Location; Long Lenses; Product Photography; Fast Action; Portrait & Fashion; Fine Art; Nature Travel & Outdoor. Each of these situations has a list of film types underneath, which you tap and (redundantly) return to the just mentioned Film Detail page. I have two major issues with this:

1. The “What Film To Use” could be included in the Film Detail pages, instead of listing the exact same content twice.

2. The shooting situations do not in any way help a beginning/hobbyist photographer decide on which film to use, and professional photographers already know which film to use. Commercial Studio & Location? So does this mean artificial light indoors and outdoors? Does it mean artificial light indoors and natural light outdoors? “On Location” can mean a lot of things, it depends on the photographer you ask. For me personally, it almost always means shooting outside in natural light. I believe Kodak is using the word “commercial” to imply that this scenario refers to artificial lighting, but I’m not sure the majority of people who download this app will get that.

Moving on to Film Formats, which is basically just a list of which type of film you can buy and in what format:

120

Sheet

Those of you who shoot large format should be pleasantly pleased to see the remaining options in sheet film, I know I was. However, again, tapping the film name takes you back to the Film Detail page. This function could be useful if it’s updated regularly, but available film formats are already included in the specifications on the Film Detail page and therefore falls into the repeat content category.

Let’s move on to the “Where to Buy Film” feature, which is something I also provide here on ISSF. First, you select your location from the available countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. As to why this is such a short and simultaneously obscure list, I have no idea. What I can say is that this must be a list of “official” Kodak retailers, because it’s insanely short.

According to this app, there are only four locations in the entire country of France where you can purchase Kodak film, which I can confirm is not true:

And the U.S. has five (Samy’s Camera Warehouse is not visible in the screen shot:)

At this point, I don’t even know what to say. I think we all know there are more than five companies which sell Kodak film in the entire United States of America.

It almost pains me to move on to the next feature of the app, Where to Process Film. With this feature the country list is even shorter: Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. This feature also prompts you to enter a city (and state when applicable.) Mine, for those of you who are new here, is Paris:

Again, Kodak only lists official affiliate labs because I can assure you all there are more than 3 labs in Paris. My lab isn’t even on here and I know for a fact that they use Kodak chemistry. The listings are just as limited for the U.S., with only 3 labs appearing for the entire state of California.

As much as I want Kodak to succeed and don’t like saying it, they got this app completely wrong. If you know absolutely nothing about film and want to make an informed decision before buying your first roll, it might help you out. But as far as I can see for the moment, that’s about it. Let’s hope for a major update!