AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 – Film Profile

Not every day is a Portra day. And this reality set in hard when my local camera store started charging $13 per roll of Portra 400 (back when they actually stocked it). I want to support my local businesses, but the only way I could afford to do that and still shoot lots of film was to downgrade my everyday stock to a consumer-grade film.

There are some significant differences between consumer films, and for me, Agfa Vista 200 is distinctly superior to comparably inexpensive films made by Fuji and Kodak. Superia and Kodak Gold and ColorPlus aren’t bad films, but one is decidedly cool and the other two are fairly warm. Vista 200 is my perfect, happy medium.

Right off the bat, I should explain that I have no idea whether Vista is a repackaged film, and further, I don’t particularly care. To determine who actually makes this film one must first follow a treasure map, solve the riddles of three trolls, and sacrifice all the firstborns of a small village. Only then can we begin to sail the meandering stream of company buyouts, consolidations, and failures. Suffice it to say that, while the label on the film reads Agfa Vista 200, this is not the Agfa of yore. But if you insist…

The Agfa most people think of is Agfa-Gevaert, which for decades made cameras and film in Germany. That company pulled out of consumer film in 2005, and today only makes film for aerial photography under a business-to-business model.

Then what the heck is the Agfa Vista?

After 2005 Agfaphoto film was produced by Ferrania in Italy, before they went under. Now it’s produced by Lupus Imaging Media in Japan, which in turn apparently has it made by Fujifilm. Hence the rumors that’s it’s just repackaged Fuji stock. It’s available in 200 and 400 speed rolls, and as a slide film called CTprecisa.

And all of that’s about as exciting as a Tuesday night in middle-Canada, in February.

My relationship with Vista 200 began during a trip to Europe, where it was far and away the most accessible film. I could reliably find it and its 400 speed counterpart in drug stores throughout Germany, even in small towns, and at a cost of 3 or 4 Euros it was hard to pass up. It’s very cheap in the U.S., too and if I’m going somewhere for a long weekend I’ll usually grab a three-pack for under ten bucks. That cost savings alone already puts Vista 200 at a distinct advantage over similar offerings from Kodak and Fuji.

On the manufacturer’s data sheet, they claim Vista 200 boasts excellent grain quality, wide exposure latitude, excellent skin color, and excellent sharpness. But let’s see how that matches with reality.

For a consumer film, the grain quality does impress. Vista 200 images can be printed as large as 11 x 17. At that size, grain is noticeable, but in my experience printing at this size, the presence of grain didn’t diminish the photo and actually improved the aesthetic quality of the prints. It has more grain than one might expect from a 200 speed film, and in certain light can even look like 400 speed film.

Overexposing this film yields pleasant results. Shooting on a beach at 50 ISO doesn’t bring blown highlights or loss of detail, as we might think. This versatility makes it a great film from morning until evening. It holds up well to overcast skies, and on sunny days the saturation can even look like a lower-grade Ektar. And like Ektar, Vista 200 really starts to pop when it’s flooded with light. Even in darker situations, the browns and blacks have an intensity not seen in other consumer level films.

Like with all consumer film, Vista 200 really packs in a lot of contrast and saturation. Blues, reds and greens all have an intensity beyond reality. It also has above-average amounts of magenta hues that give it a ton of personality. I do think the film can be a bit bipolar – veering between contrast and muted coloring. For times when I want an image to have a vintage and somewhat unpredictable look, this is my go-to film.

Consumer films are typically designed with portraiture in mind. After all, most amateur shooters are going to be taking snaps of the kids and family. That’s why it’s so surprising that Vista 200 is really quite bad for portraits. Maybe it’s because the film is so contrasty, but I’ve never been too happy with skin tones from Vista 200. They can be harsh, red, distracting. For portraits, there are far better options.

Sharpness is very fine, and it’s where the 200 speed and 400 speed start to really turn away from each other. Like Josh found in his profile of Vista 400, I’d never say 400 is capable of sharp images. That said, I’ve been consistently amazed with the sharpness of images shot on 200. This translates to the scanner as well. For a film that costs three dollars online, scans do not disappoint.

On the whole, the brand’s self-assessment of Vista 200 per its data sheet is pretty spot-on. The intense contrast, sharpness, and the receptiveness to experimental exposure has made it the “cheap film” I use to fill out my film case, after meeting my spending quota for Ektar and Portra 400.

While I wouldn’t use it on a portrait shoot, I can’t find a better film to travel with if cost is a concern. It’s a film that has personality, and one whose Jolly Rancher saturation is perfect for landscapes and travel photography. It’s a film you can mess around with and not worry too much about the impact on your wallet. Not only are the results stunning, they’re cheap too.

Want to try AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 for yourself?

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Wilson Laidlaw
    June 16, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Agfa Vista Plus in the UK is a low end budget film sold in discount stores like Poundland at £1 for a 24 exposure cassette. The problem is getting like motor fuel suppliers. Other than Shell stations, which only offer Shell products, you never know what you are getting at other stations. It may say Esso on the gantry but the fuel could be BP, Texaco or others, depending on local pooling arrangements. I suspect similarly, Agfa Vista is a marketing name and the contents of the cassette will vary from country, depending on what bulk film is available. In at least the UK, Vista is inferior to say Kodak Ektar Pro 100 or Fuji Superia for a 200 ISO film.

    Wilson

  • Reply
    the6millionpman
    June 16, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Agfa 200 is my mainstay, cheap, dependable, not great but certainly not terrible for the vast majority of situations. Don’t get my wrong I’d shoot nothing but Fuji Pro 400H or 160S if I had a money tree growing in the garden, but I don’t (have a tree or a garden either). Annoyingly this film is apparently being discontinued or is just not being stocked by Poundland once there current stock runs out. I’ve already struggled to find Poundlands near me that stock it and have had to start going further afield than my usual stores to buy out the stock. There may be better films out there but here isn’t for the price, enjoy it while it lasts I say.

  • Reply
    Paul
    June 16, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I shot one roll of Agfa Vista 200 this summer in Paris and I loved it. I would’nt call it very sharp and the grain is visible, but I don’t like “perfect” films. The Agfa offered great colors and a lovely amtosphere, and good value for money.

  • Reply
    Perry Liston
    June 16, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Vista 200 is easily one of my favorite 35mm films, and likely the one I’ve shot the most. I find the skin tone rendering to be perfectly lovely when processed correctly, and in my experience, it’s one of the more predictable consumer film stocks. (looking at you, superia 400….) Of course, the price is attractive as well…

  • Reply
    Francesco Melis
    June 16, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    After you’re forced to confess to your wife how much you REALLY spent to purchase that old inexpensive bargain camera, or lens, Vista 200 is the only way to go…

  • Reply
    Jim Grey
    June 16, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    I’ve got 25 rolls of the Poundland version of this stuff in my freezer (shipped to me at cost by a pal in the UK). Conventional wisdom is that this stuff is Fujicolor 200, of which I’ve probably shot ten miles. It’s my go-to color film because it’s that right balance of good enough for the money. I’ll see soon enough whether the Poundland Agfa Vista 200 behaves the same!

  • Reply
    Adam
    June 17, 2017 at 6:57 am

    A quick check on https://dexter.pcode.nl/ will tell you where the film originates. Looks like it’s rebadged Fuji.

  • Reply
    James
    June 17, 2017 at 7:11 am

    I love Agfa 200 for its cheapness but the magenta cast has come to really bug me. I find the colour balance in general is a bit odd – though this can sometimes bring pleasing results. I can’t see the resemblance to Fuji 200 though… a quick look at the flickr groups for each film shows a clear difference, if you ask me, with Fuji being cooler and less saturated. Anyway, nothing better available for the price and it converts well to black and white!

    • Reply
      Shaheen
      June 18, 2017 at 5:33 am

      I always hear people saying Agfa is just repurposed Fuji, but I don’t see the resemblance either. Like you, I always get a distinctive magenta cast with the Agfa, and skin tones sometimes have an unpleasant red to them. Fuji 200, on the other hand, seems to always be a bit green for me. Am I alone on this?

      I definitely agree on the converting to black and white bit. Actually, I don’t think I have ever come across a color film stock that does a bad job of converting to black and white, which always makes me wonder – why the heck are people shooting black and white film these days anyway? I mean, unless you have a darkroom and like being in the lab and working with an enlarger, the majority of film shooters today are scanning their work in, making minor adjustments digitally, and sharing with the world – digitally. If you love black and white and share your work online, try shooting (cheap) color film. You get the best of both worlds. Can’t go to color from black and white, but the reverse is quite doable. And fun.

      • Reply
        James
        June 20, 2017 at 3:28 pm

        Yep, I agree… skin tones are often plummy, which can be a bit of a downer if portrait photography is your thing. Agree about B&W film stock being pricey as well if you’re solely scanning – though higher ISO films obviously have Agfa licked for flexibility.

  • Reply
    Christos
    June 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Rebadged Fujicolor C200. Good for its price, but too “clinical” for my taste, I’d rather shoot Kodak ColorPlus 200 instead, exactly because of its imperfections.

  • Reply
    Miguel Mercado
    July 23, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    So, when this article came out I was starting to involve myself into this whole photography “thing”. Bought an 201 then a 202 then a XD then an XD11 so you see were the trend is going. While being on the “GAS”, I thought to myself “what are you doing you haven’t even figured out how to load film on these damn things”. Yet again, I decided to dive into CP one more time for trusty advice (the Minolta bug happened right after reading the black 202 article) about film, after all i was to need film to take the photos. Looking at the reviews of different films on the website, that’s when i came across this one. Ever since my first roll I’ve been nothing but satisfied with the results. Price is amazing, forgiving and fun to use. So by this means, yet again, thank you CP for the awesome reviews and finds!.

    • Reply
      James Tocchio
      July 23, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      You’re too kind. I’m glad we’ve been able to help and happy to hear you’re loving this hobby. Keep shooting!

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