Harman Phoenix 200 Colour Negative Film Review

Harman Phoenix 200 Colour Negative Film Review

Analog Film Review

Harman Phoenix 200 Colour Negative Film Review

Harman Phoenix 200
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

Harman Phoenix 200 is a brand new experimental film, a unique emulsion designed and coated by the Harman Photo brand at their manufacturing facility in Mobberley, UK. Before looking into our main course, Phoenix 200, let’s consider the market’s mainstream colour-negative film. What’s your usual go-to? Kodak Portra or Ultramax? Except for film prices, which have increased significantly, the overall colour negative film range has been shrinking yearly, especially since Fujifilm discontinued many great recipes. As a photo nerd, It is pretty sad to see there is a more extensive film community around the globe while the number of choices has decreased. I usually get quite excited about new films in the market, but not this time, partly because most of my beloved film stock has been retired. I didn’t have much of an expectation from this negative. But it surprised me. In particular, this test roll is my 2023 favourite. Why? Let’s go over it.

Who is Harman Photo

HARMAN technology named after Alfred Harman, the founder of the original ILFORD company, in 1879. We do not have the right to use the ILFORD brand for colour products, so HARMAN Phoenix 200 and our future colour films will all be under the HARMAN Photo brand.

Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

“LIKE THE MYSTICAL PHOENIX, THIS NEW COLOUR FILM REPRESENTS HOPE, REBIRTH AND TRANSFORMATION. It signals the start of a new legacy and the beginning of an exciting new chapter for one of the world's largest manufacturers of photographic film.”

Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Harman Phoenix 200

Phoenix 200

It is a UK-made C41 processed colour negative film, which you can develop in most places that take negative films. It is an ISO 200 film; in this review, I have shot most of them at ISO 160. Harman mentioned that you could rate this film at ISO 100 or 400, but it performs best in well-lit, consistent light, which I agree with. Be mindful that this film needs abundant light sources to make the photos look great, and if there isn’t good light, it seems dull and muddy. There is possible halation caused under brighter light conditions.

Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

Film Character

To begin with, this film has a relatively narrow exposure latitude like a colour transparency slide film. In a brief context, this colour negative film is punchy, grainy and unpredictable. It appears to have a very high contrast, and the grain is obvious, which I don’t mind. It may be close to what some said about the Rollei Crossbird 200, another colour negative film discontinued by Rollei. From the Harman Photo website, this film does not have an orange mask. That orange mask’s function is to have more defined yellow and cyan in the shadows or balance out some of the hue. Some adjustments needed to be applied to obtain the best result. This adjustment explains why some people get their films with a cross-processing vibe. Some have it look like a vintage film stock. Harman provides a scanning guide for making adjustments. 

Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

Intrepid Colour Tone - Wong Kar Wai Movies

I recently rewatched 2046 and dug out some new details every time. Each time I watch, I experience something new, and it leaves more space for me to rethink what the movie is about. I spent my first roll of Phoenix 200 with Arthur, who is doing fantastic photo collages. We walked from Sham Shui Po to Jordan. At one point, we went to Gold Fish Street, an area that reminds me of some scenes from Wong’s movies. This unintentional thought may be hidden in my inner mind. In most photos, I tend to capture different lighting and conditions to view how this film presents the skin tone and colour, except there wasn’t abundant sunlight that afternoon. To test this film, I shot with the lens I thought I would never love again: the Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 ASPH (E49) reissue version. 

Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

The Harman technical sheet suggests users to use this film under ambient light. However, this film delivers a rather interesting result under artificial lights. For example, fluorescent light became green, and LED light became cyan. Typically, it appears to be warm and muddy under daylight—three different looks produced by this yellow-based emulsion film stock. I was surprised by the colour cast and am only judging from the lab scan. It makes this film fun but quirky, like Harman Photo mentioned on their website.

Watch this reel together with the 2046 movie main theme.


Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

Some Shooting Tips on Phoenix

As I mentioned earlier, as the film doesn’t have an orange mask in other traditional film stocks in Kodak, the scanning setting has some bias on the end result. To achieve a more natural result, please refer to the scanning guide. The best result is suggested to meter at mid tone, and personally I would prefer slightly overexposing it at ISO 160 to give some more details in the shadows. It is less forgiving like exposuring for a slide film. When you achieve results that you like, it is very rewarding! Secondly, I prefer to use it for creative shots that bring interesting colour casts in different locations, imagine you shoot this in your local wet market, or at night where street lamps are warm which brings out some interesting vibes. Also, it will be wild if you shoot this at a party or concert that will be something very unique. Last tip is not to shoot this for portraiture because I don’t think it can achieve that nice and accurate skin tone like Portra.

Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

Final Thoughts

Will I shoot Phoenix again? 100% Yes and I stocked another 4 rolls to do some experimental shots on landscapes and night photography. It is difficult to judge whether this film is a nice film or not as photography itself is a form of subjective art. Based on what I have experienced, I can only share my two cents here. I will apply two viewing lenses from the perspective of a film shooter and an experimental film shooter. Firstly, as a film shooter that looks for a clean “film look” such as the bigger brands Kodak or Fujifilm, this film may not be something you will like because it is unpredictable and relatively easy to get unexposed shots plus the scanning result varies from different labs unless you do it on your own. Secondly, from the angle of a creative or experimental film shooter who loves to use this film as a medium to create photo stories or abnormal vibes, this film is best for this group of users. Because it is warm, funky, and I think it will be performed quite nicely at night with all the artificial lighting changing the hue of the colour. I hope Harman Photo will release more new film stocks; exploring something new is always enjoyable. I will experiment with pushing this film to ISO 400 next time, even though the instruction said not recommended. Comment below and let me know your thoughts even if you haven’t tried it.

Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 200, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong
Phoenix 200, ISO 160, Leica Noctilux 50/1.2 asph, Hong Kong

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