Agfa Vista Was More Than Just Another Color Film, and Its Death is Troubling – Opinion

Agfa Vista Was More Than Just Another Color Film, and Its Death is Troubling – Opinion

2200 1238 Jeb Inge

I’m sitting in a cafe in Charleston, South Carolina sipping the first coffee of the day and contemplating the task before me. I need to shoot as comprehensive a photographic tour of the Holy City as possible in roughly twelve hours. I’m shooting Fuji C200 in my Konica TC, and Portra and Fuji 400H in my Kiev 60. I’m in America’s most beautiful city with some highly-capable films. That’s a good place to be.

But instead of being satisfied, I’m still fuming over what I don’t have with me; my trusty rolls of Agfa Vista 200. Normally that would be because I forgot to order it. But this time it’s because it’s no longer being sold.

The terrible news that Agfa would be killing its Vista consumer line of films broke last week, and by the time I saw the news on Instagram, the film was already pulled from B&H’s website and marked up by resellers on Ebay. Film photography may be slower than its digital sibling, but news travels equally fast.

I try not to get too jammed up about things like photography news, but I was surprised how hot I found myself getting when I learned that Vista was being discontinued. I shoot all kinds of emulsions now, consumer, professional, expired. I love it all. But it was Vista 200 that brought me back under the film photography tent.

On the same day that I bought a gnarly, broken down Minolta SRT-101, I started looking around at film. These were not the prices that I remembered as a kid. That’s when Vista first batted its frugal eyelashes. Nine dollars for a three pack of film? I didn’t even hesitate. I didn’t even care that the box showed a soccer mom photographing her bratty kid. I didn’t care to even find out where the stuff came from or who made it. It was cheap, and as I soon found, a film that punched above its weight. I took it on two European road trips and on most of my domestic ones too. It was a known quantity that delivered pleasing results.

No longer!

I read one silver-linings rationalization that really got me thinking about Vista’s death on a deeper level. The idea was that the loss of Vista was offset by Kodak’s re-release of T-MAX P3200. One film dies, another gains life. The cycle of all things, right?

But the fact that false equivalencies are easy to make doesn’t mean we should make them.

I made the shots of memorable moments in the gallery above using the now-deceased Vista.  

Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier that Kodak is bringing back P3200. The more film the better, and the high-speed market has been a monopoly long enough. But a 3200 ISO black-and-white niche film doesn’t replace a consumer 200 do-it-all film. Especially when the new one costs three times as much as the old.

Maybe Vista’s death (and the P3200 rationalization) tells us more about the state of film’s largest companies than anything else.

The name on Vista’s box may have read Agfa, and Agfa is certainly a very real company based in Europe, but it’s no secret that Vista was produced by Fujifilm. And this is where things get troubling. Because Vista was, nearest we can tell, Fuji C200. So what’s the big deal? Why not just buy Fuji C200 instead of Vista?

Last year, Fuji announced that it would be discontinuing three and five packs of a number of consumer and professional films, including Superia 400, Velvia 50 and 100, Provia 100F. This year it will completely discontinue Superia/Natura 1600 and large format production of Neopan 100. Now, if we add Vista 200 and 400 to the casualty list, we’re seeing a continuation of a worrying trend and a harbinger of what’s to come.

Unconfirmed rumors from not unreliable sources tell us that Fuji has stopped film production altogether; that they’re cold-storing a large amount of existing stock and simply fulfilling orders month to month. That they seem to be eliminating combo packs and Fuji film products with other brand names on the box only strengthens the credibility of these rumors. It’s not good news, and it naturally leads us to ask; are they still making C200? Is C200 the next to be discontinued?

What’s puzzling for those of us who aren’t bean-counters and who aren’t privy to the inner workings of multi-national corporations, is that this is all coming from a company that sells more boxes of its instant cameras and Instax film than it does its high-end digital cameras (products that are admittedly at very different price points).

While other tentpoles in the film industry seem to be strengthening, and even more smaller tents are popping up, one of the biggest names in film seems hell bent on killing its products.

Until Agfa, I could understand the various purges. A five pack of slide film? 8×10 boxes of Neopan? I don’t have a hard time imagining those products sitting untouched on shelves all over the world. But losing the Vista line feels very different.

These are films that people learn on. When they couldn’t afford the more expensive professional films, they picked up a threefer of Vista. It got them through the door and on the stairs. At least it did for me. At the time I came back into film, I don’t think it would have worked out if I was paying five or ten bucks a roll before processing. I know it’s a measurement of a few dollars, but we all know that those dollars can matter (especially for new, young, or inexperienced photographers).

When a film that helps bring people into film photography goes away, the teetering tent threatens to fold. It creates the possibility of the film community becoming less democratic and more elitist, more exclusive. And exclusivity is not a good thing. If Vista brought in new blood, will fewer people get into film now that it’s gone?

Let’s hope that strong sales of Kodak Gold and Fuji C200 show the need for budget-friendly films. And let’s hope Ferrania’s plans to be a major manufacturer of color and black-and-white film pan out.

I’ll always relish the release of new films no matter their price or status, but I’ll be especially happy if some company does us all the service of creating a new, affordable color film. One that’s no muss or fuss. Something that just gets the thing done, and gets it done beautifully.

They could even put a soccer mom on the box and I’ll still buy it.

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Jeb Inge

Jeb Inge lives and works in Richmond, Virginia as a photographer and writer. He has also worked in journalism, public history and public relations.

All stories by:Jeb Inge
42 comments
  • Agfa Vista 200 was Superia 200, discontinued not long ago. Not too much to worry about.

  • I’ve thought for a couple years now that we are heading into an era of plentiful, but relatively expensive, film.

    I don’t see how smaller makers like Ferrania can achieve the scale necessary to deliver films that cost just $2-3 a roll like good old Fujicolor 200 has cost for 10+ years now. The niche, “boutique” film labels either (like JCH Street Pan and Kosmo Foto Mono) despite their efforts to keep their prices reasonable.

    I have shot miles of Fujicolor 200 and Agfa Vista 200 since returning to photography in 2007. (FWIW, I can’t tell the two films apart.) I like this film far better than Kodak Gold 200. If/when Fuji gets out of the film business I’ll probably just switch, reluctantly, to Kodak Gold. But first I’ll probably experiment with Portra 400. I have photo buddies who get really nice color from it when they shoot it at 200.

    But that goes to your point: you can’t get Portra at $2-3 per roll, and that might be a barrier for many who are film curious. All is not lost as long as Kodak Gold 200 remains. Here’s hoping Kodak just keeps cranking the stuff out.

    Happily, a buddy of mine in the UK sold me, at cost, 25 rolls of Agfa Vista 200 that he got at Poundland. Even after I paid for shipping each roll cost me less than I can get Fujicolor 200 anywhere in the US. I’ve got about 15 rolls of the stuff left in the freezer.

    • Kosmo is just Fomapan, even! Astrum is pretty cheap for b&w, Kentmere too

    • They’re being the same film likely explains why I like C200 so much. And that’s what I was shooting on my Charleston-spree so lucky me. Portra 400 is one of my favorite films. I love its look and it’s my go-to for medium format stuff.

  • Almost 20 years ago the Agfa RSX 100 was my first pick color slide film for shots in the studio. For my personal work the Agfa APX 25 developed in Tetenal Neofine Blue was the highest resolution black & white film to get much better than anything else……all gone now !
    I don’t want to start about Kodachrome or Fuji Neopan 400 or plenty more I miss it is just what happens when times change.
    Companies produce to earn money and when it not pay off they stop so the choice is on the consumer side.
    Not long from now I even see SLR disappear in digital photography.
    Smartphones and mirrorless will take over and also the way pictures will be taken……

    • Karl Valentin: When did Fuji stated they make a loss or no profit on these films?
      They make a gain on film, the reason they want out of film is they can make BIGGER gain otherwise (cosmetics, chemicals, etc.).

      Problem is, shareholders don’t want profit. They want the MAXIMAL profit. A share that produces profit is not good enough, it will be sold at the moment a more profitable share is avaible. This share has not to be from the same industry, it can be from anywhere.

      • You can buy a bazilion rolls of film, I can buy another bazillion. And Fuji will make a bazillion of profit. Then comes your wife and buys a flask of cosmetics.

        What the shareholder sees: Hmm… Fuji closed the year with a bazilion of sales and a bazilion of profit. But cosmetics firm X sold not a bazilion of flask but a tiny amount and still made 10 bazilions profit. (And pays me out more than Fuji.)
        So he moves his shares to the cosmetics firm.

        What Fuji sees: We made a bazilion of profit, still our shareholders sold their shares and our firm walue goes down. So screw film, let us invest the bazilions from film into producing cosmetics and raise the value of our shares.

  • This is sad because I really liked vista. And I love Fuji slide films. I hope Fuji does not discontinue velvia 50. If Kodak will get rolling on ektachrome I will be happy. On the upside I tried Kodak color plus 200 and really liked it. It’s my go to cheep film. You can buy 20 rolls for roughly 65$.

    • i haven’t used Color Plus yet, but now will probably be giving it a shot!

    • I find ColorPlus to have a really strong yellow cast that makes images seem a bit dirty when held up next to a more modern emulsion. Really great if you’re after an old school 80’s sort of look, but it’s not on par with Vista/C200. Fuji films are (were?) technically brilliant. It’s a really sad loss, whichever way you slice it. The only plus I can see is that if everyone is forced to move to Kodak, it could turn them into a profitable company again and lead to some new emulsions. If Kodak would apply their Vision3 tech to an everyday 200 emulsion, I’d be super happy!

      On a different note, anyone tried Kodak ProImage 100? It’s really good! Just can’t seem to find out much about it.

      • Proimage is the same as Profoto, which got discontinued fifteen years or so. It’s something in between Portra and Ektar. Cheaper than those, not overly saturated like Ektar but handles the skin tones nicely. Needless to say it’s inferior to both, since jack of all trades is master of none, but for 5.5$ per roll what else would we expect 🙂

  • I don’t know whether it was Superia 200 as some say, or C200 as others do. And it doesn’t really matter, because it’s a film, it’s a personal thing. It was the very first film I shot and liked after Kodak Profoto 100 (which happened ten years ago last time, when I was a kid). It is indeed a terrible loss.

    • Hey Michael – Dustin actually shared a helpful tool with us last night. The site below figures out which emulsions are actually the same based on the coding on the film.

      https://dexter.pcode.nl/

      Afga Vista/Fujicolor C200 are both 806254, for reference. Hope that helps!

    • Profoto 100 is also sold as Pro Image 100

      • @Chris Wow. Thank you! I’ll bookmark that website, looks handy to me and I have a few C200 stashed alon with two rolls of Agfa.

        @Alvaro yes, I’m aware of that. Unfortunately Proimage sells for 1$ less than Ektar and I choose that onr over Proimage. Besides, my buddy is an extensive user of Proimage and only thing it beats Ektar in is skin tones.

      • Where can we buy that?

  • Seriously – buy KODAK film – they’re showing a commitment that’s totally lacking with Fuji’film’, and by supporting them, we help to make at least one film supplier long-term viable.
    Buy Portra if you can afford it, and Kodak Color Plus 200 if you want a nice cheap color film. Buy the truly beautiful black and white films that Kodak produce. Buy Ektachrome when it reappears. Buy KODAK!!

  • First film I ever shot. Have got some (to my eye) great shots with it and it’s been great just to chuck in a point and shoot for parties etc. RIP Agfa Vista!

  • Fujifilm Holdings Imaging Solutions (film and digital) accounts for 15% of the company’s business. They make as much money selling make-up as they do all of their photography items combined. From their website “The Company has implemented structural reforms to slim down its business structure to meet market demand. Now, the division is focusing on promoting sales of color paper by reinforcing sales strategies of such high-value-added products as Photobook, while strengthening sales of instant camera instax mini”. Fuji film is going away – I cant imagine they will offer any traditional film in the next year or two. the company offers new products and go where the money is. That’s the reality of the global multi-line corporate world we live in.

  • Its disheartening when your whole passion (film photography) hangs on essentially two businesses, Kodak & Ilford. I see a lot of love for our beloved film cameras but considerably less for film itself.

    You cant get round the fact that film is complicated to produce, compared to that other analogue throwback, vinyl.

  • More worrying for me it almost certainly signals the end of my “go-to” reversal film, Agfa Precisa CT100. My wife is already grumbling about the amount of her freezer space occupied by film. Precisa CT100 is made for Lupus, who market under the Agfa label by coating a warm toned substrate with the same emulsion as Provia 100F, thereby providing warmer and richer looking colours than Provia. If Fuji are not making film to market under their own banner, they are certainly not going to make it for others. Roll on Ektachrome E100.

    Wilson

  • I might have to buy up all the Vista 200 & 400 from my local DM stores here in Germany so I have enough for years to come. It really is a phenomenal film for the price.

  • Agfa Vista is a cult classic in Thailand. Everyone shoots this film here, and it’s being sold everywhere. In fact, it’s a Thai blog that I’ve heard this from two months ago before it became official.

    I do appreciate the fact that the film is cheap, and I’m just as concerned about the trend of disappearing affordable stock attractive to beginners. To me though this has been a favourite colour stock. It may not have the grain structure like Ektar or colour reproduction like Porta but it felt just right; would have been happy to pay premium for it.

    As for Fuji, I respect that they’ve got a business to run and they no longer make the majority of their profits from film or anything photography-related. They sell pharmaceuticals, makeup and other chemistry and are doing much better than Kodak. I have a difficult time seeing them in this business for much longer. Even with Instax, seeing how quick they were to discontinue it a few years back once the fad worn off.

  • That means my last roll of Vista is loaded and half shot in my L35AF right now. Oh the pressure! Started trying the Agfa in Maine last year, it was still punchy on the overcast days and the local shop had it cheap.

  • Oh dear I wont be able to tell people to buy Vista 200 anymore for their first goes at film. 🙁 When I have been out and about (and being a friendly chap) I have often spoken to people who were curious about the Nikon or the Trip and found they have a few cameras in the closet, or on the shelf, or in a box of granddads stuff. I;ve always said “Give it a go – film like Vista200 is cheap and you can get it from Poundland for £1 a roll – what have you got to lose?”

  • You’ve only just lost vista 200, up until about eight months ago we were able to buy it in pound shops in a 24 frame roll, you can still find it from bulk buyers on eBay at upto ten times it’s original price, 5 or so years before vista it was it was a 24 frame roll of Kodak colour plus again you can still get it on eBay but not for a pound and with outdated film selling for more than fresh stocks, there really is nothing on the market to replace these films and the pound shops long the suppliers of a so called dead media now film is showing a resurgence they no longer stock films, I may have stocks of film in my freezer but never stocked either of these cheap films I used in my sunny sixteen cameras as if I walked in one pound shop and there was none I could walk into another and pick up a few rolls and for anyone new or rekindling a love of film one of our major chemist chains still did 24 hour developing of 35mm or smaller media even though aps and 110 are longer dead media’s, so I’m as aggrieved as anyone when it comes to the loss of a fine cheap film with a great latitude, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way and vista 200 is sorely missed.

  • Many people don’t realize that film manufacturing is done in a batch process. The line is set up for one kind of film emulsion, then they coat an enormous quantity and archive it, cutting it into the appropriate sizes (135, 120, sheet film, etc.) and package it. The film sold today could have been coated several years ago. It’s not like they make a little bit every month or so. Usually it’s a huge batch, that’s only ran once every year, or even less often.

    The decision to terminate a film is really a decision to not start up another batch, due to economic or market concerns. The costs are incurred up front, then have to be recouped over time as the film is sold. The size of the batch matters too. A larger batch costs more to run, but the per-unit cost is lower, yielding a higher profit margin – if it can be sold. The manufacturer has to decide if the money spent today on the coating line can be recouped over time. So it has a sense of financial speculation, risking money today in return for sales tomorrow. Keeping in mind regulatory costs, too (chemical processing can be prohibitively expensive in some regulatory environments).

    Film coating lines often have to be converted over from one product to another, then each product is ran as a batch, outputting several years worth of product at once.

    When a batch goes wrong – the recipe isn’t followed exactly, or whatever – a manufacturer will sometimes market that batch as a new product, thereby being able to sell what would otherwise be wasted materials and production time. I suspect this is how we got the Lomography purple film; an accident then marketed as a new product.

  • I just shot a roll of Kodak Gold 200. I am not disappointed. Differences in result, if even discernible in normal use, are slight. Additionally, the Gold 200 does not seem to have the cupping problem I experienced with Fuji/Agfa 200/400 films. In fact, the Kodak Gold dries almost perfectly flat. I did like, and shoot both Superia and Vista films. I regret the news; the Gold 200 will be adequate to help me get over it.

  • Does anyone know whether Kodak does OEM films under other names? Seems everyone’s been repackaging Fuji but no one repackages Kodak. I wonder if they have a policy against it? Otherwise, is there anything stopping Agfa from sourcing Gold 200 and Ultramax 400? Just a thought.

    • Kodak was also relabelled massively some years ago. But than they decided not to permit this anymore and sell only under their own name.

  • Joe shoots resurrected cameras March 20, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    Ehhhh, I’m convinced that it’s Fujicolor 200 so it’s not a big deal that Vista 200 was discontinued but you’re bringing up some other excellent points! It’s obvious to me that Fuji stopped caring about us years ago, whereas Kodak threw itself all-in in support of continued manufacture and that makes me love them and want to support them. I love C200 but have found Kodak Gold 200 has grown on me quite a bit. Now that said I’ve always been more a fan of Fuji’s color films over Kodak’s, but I have to be pragmatic about it. I’ll buy Fuji’s film as long as I am able to afford it and when it’s gone I’ll miss it terribly, but I don’t think I’ll hoard massive amounts of Velvia 100 and Superia; once it’s gone, it’s gone! What I will do is NEVER support Fuji products after that, because they hung us out to dry. I really hope that Ektachrome and Ferrania Chrome will be worthy replacements, though one thing that worries me is their longevity. Provia and Velvia 100 are supposed to hold their colors for 300 years and talking to older photographers (who of course were enamored of Kodachrome), Ektachrome faded rather quickly…can’t say how well the more recent Ektachrome 100D/100VS was supposed to hold up, but I hope Kodak’s reformulation will be the best it can be longevity-wise!

  • Truly pissed off March 31, 2018 at 3:56 am

    Lets face it boys and girls were seriously fucked or as near fucked as we might as well leave it to the one roll on special occasions as a present from someone who really cares, I came across a flyer from one of the shops I used in the late eighties and not taking into account the 12, 24, 27 and 36 frame roll options there were well over a hundred different colour films on offer in emulsion and slide not to mention almost the same in black and white, on top of this with the boom in one hour turn around developing shops who also sold their own rebranded films under their own names in all the best speeds for a few quid less and you can see we were spoilt for choice. But now we’re left with a few manufacturers that can make a few quid from selling a niche product and one big name after another decided to pull the plug, you can of course turn to the online market places that sell used / out of date where that was once an option now seriously no more, now with films kept in dubious conditions definitely not stored properly selling for three to five times market value what’s the point unless your customers are happy to spend big bucks on a photo shoot to end up with Lomo results, if I can get five rolls of 120 for £32 – £38 pounds from a serious retailer why would I spend £100 for the same thing kept who knows where upto 20 sometimes as much as 40 years out of date, but this shit sells and we lose more fresh film from those companies that deem it no longer a viable profit making product, so here we are were either niche or dyed in the wool troglodytes and when a kid comes upto me and says here mister what’s that and I say it’s a camera sonny and they reply it’s awfy big for a phone and where’s the keypad, that’s bad enough but I’m not going to carry it around if I’ve nothing to use in it so I’ve decided all my film cameras are going to ffordes while they still have some value even if it’s just curiosity and I will be buying a point and shoot digital that will happily sit in a pocket, after 43 years of film use from the age of seven Im so sickened with the situation I’m giving in.

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Jeb Inge

Jeb Inge lives and works in Richmond, Virginia as a photographer and writer. He has also worked in journalism, public history and public relations.

All stories by:Jeb Inge