A Belated and Lukewarm Take on the Discontinuation of Fuji Pro 400H

A Belated and Lukewarm Take on the Discontinuation of Fuji Pro 400H

3000 1688 Jeb Inge

The process of digesting big news is now as follows: 1. See the news alert. 2. Immediately begin stressing out. 3. Read the news and absorb many hot takes. 4. Try to process it. 5. Barely catch your breath before the cycle starts again. Such is life, in the era of cascading historical moments.

It might be hyperbole to equate developments in the film community to events like a Coronavirus mutation or the seditious assault on the U.S. Capitol, but the recent discontinuation of Fuji Pro 400H is one of the biggest newsflashes of the last year (at least for photo nerds).

If you missed this news, Fujifilm announced on January 14 that the company would discontinue Pro 400H in both 35mm and 120 formats. They went on to say that based on the then-current demand, Fuji would be able to “allocate” Pro 400H in 120 through the end of this year, but that 35mm would be immediately taking that long dirt nap.

The reason given for the discontinuation was the emlusion’s unique fourth layer that required special raw materials and chemicals that have become too difficult to acquire. The announcement also made clear that this raw material shortage is only affecting Pro 400H and not Fuji’s slide, consumer, and black and white films.

Reactions were quick and the takes quite hot, with one headline going so far as to call the loss of Pro 400H is a “giant step towards the grave” for the film industry. Similarly, when the news rippled through the CP headquarters, a number of us rushed to our film dealers and placed an order for what would be our final procurement of this film stock. After clicking the purchase button on my five-pack of 120 rolls, I started thinking about that headline. Is the loss of Fuji Pro 400H really pushing the film industry towards its demise? Does Fuji Pro 400H really command a place of importance so large that, without it, the film community will crumble?

Nah. The tendency is always to overreact to bad news, in our case, a film being discontinued. I did it myself by buying five rolls when I really haven’t ever shot this film regularly before. So now that the dust has settled on the Pro 400H coffin, here are a few thoughts I still have on the issue.

That ship is sailing on Fuji Pro 400H. Or motoring. Whatever.

Fujifilm is not Kodak Alaris.

The laziest way to look at Fuji and Kodak is by treating them as equal competitors. By that measure, Kodak has done a much better job for the film community. In the last few years they have resurrected both P3200 and Ektachrome and have hinted early this year that their 2021 plans include bringing one new film to market and bringing another back from the dead. Buoyed by a successful reemergence from bankruptcy and the revival of the film business, Kodak continues to trend upward.

Viewed through the same prism, Fujifilm would appear to be on a downward trajectory. Pro 400H is just the latest of their films to be discontinued (though it’s worth noting that they have brought back Acros.) While they are the only company to offer a range of slide film, Fuji’s offerings pale in comparison to those from Kodak.

But this is much too narrow a way to view Fuji. In truth, photographic film is a very, very small component of the diversified portfolio of the Japanese conglomerate. For every film Fuji discontinues there have been multiple innovative digital cameras released. I think it’s fair to say that Fuji has been responsible for bringing the most interesting cameras to market for the last few years. Their mirror-less line of cameras trail blazed a path away from the homogeneously designed DSLR of decades past, and they should win some sort of Nobel prize for making quality digital medium format cameras (if not affordable, than at least) attainable.

Fuji knows where the money and growth is, and if you needed any proof of that, you could see it first hand at the last (and now we know, the final) Photokina in 2019. Fujifilm’s “booth” was more the size of a baseball infield and was dominated equally by digital cameras and the Instax division, which was covered with it’s collaboration with Taylor Swift. Noticeably absent was any mention of film produced by the company that takes longer than a minute or two to develop. Fujifilm is a much bigger beast than your typical film manufacturer, with priorities to match.

The share of profits commanded by the sale of film (other than Instax) must be incredibly small for Fuji, while for Kodak it’s nearly a monopoly. Kodak absolutely has a bigger market share and pushes out more new products for film photographers than Fuji, but that’s because they have to. Fuji is much more likely to make decisions like discontinuing a film because they’re less reliant on that film’s success than the folks in Rochester are on theirs.

This move isn’t about sales, and it might not be the final word.

Fuji says that it discontinued Pro 400H because of a lack of the raw materials necessary for its unique “fourth layer.” There was no mention whether the supply chain was being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. As far as Fuji is saying, Pro 400H isn’t going away from a lack of sales. Companies making this kind of decision usually hide behind corporate speak to mollify the angry mob.  So it was vaguely relieving to see a concrete and understandable reason for the decision.

The reasoning behind the move also keeps the door open to speculation whether Fuji could bring back Pro 400H if and when the supply chain issues are resolved. If visions of Acros are dancing across your head, you might be suffering from whiplash. When Fuji announced in 2018 the discontinuation of Acros, it cited a similar lack of “raw materials” as well as declining sales numbers. The corpse was barely cold by the time they brought back Acros II in 2019. Fuji even admitted that public outcry was a motivating factor in the resurrection. Good news, but also bittersweet – notice the higher price tag for the “new and improved” Acros.

So if you’re someone whose world came crashing down when they heard the news about Pro 400H, take heed that badgering Fuji with your complaints may well pay off.

Pro 400 H was never an equal Portra 400 competitor.

The “fear factor” of losing Pro 400H seems to center on the fact that the number of choices for professional-grade 400 speed films has gone from two, down to one.

It certainly hurts more to see a professional grade film be discontinued than say, a consumer film like Agfa Vista (in spite of my own personal feelings.) I would always keep the better quality product over the cheaper one, though I know arguments can be made the other way.

Pro 400H was Fuji’s alternative to Kodak’s Portra 400, but it’s going too far to call them equals. In measurable metrics like sales, and less measurable ones like prestige, Portra 400 has been the unchallenged big cheese for years. There’s no denying that Pro 400H had many devoted fans (especially amongst medium format wedding shooters – talk about a niche within a niche…), or that it’s a great film. We said as much in our article all about it. But the reality is that despite its quality, Pro 400H has never been as ubiquitous as Portra 400. What it has been is an option for someone looking for a cooler color pallet and to save a few dollars over the cost of Portra 400.

The Pro 400H vs. Portra debate has always felt like arguing Coke vs. Pepsi, or even Dr. Pepper vs. Mr. Pibb. I imagine that’s a passionate topic for people drinking Pepsi – one that fans of the Chicago White Sox or Los Angeles Clippers could appreciate – but no one confuses Pepsi as the world’s best-selling cola. They remember it for the commercial where Michael Jackson’s head caught on fire. Thankfully we can say more for Pro 400H.

I don’t mean this to sound like I’m kicking a film when it’s down. I’m not. I didn’t buy five rolls in the wake of the announcement so that I could grift on it down the road, but because I took some pretty decent images with it and I want the chance to do it again someday. But I do think we’re hyping something in death that we never really hyped while it was alive. If you don’t believe me, imagine the situation was reversed and Portra was discontinued. Imagine thinking “Wow, well at least we still have Pro 400H.”

It’s not the same degree of consolation, is it?

It’s really a shame that this film is being discontinued. It’s a shame any time we lose a film. Maybe it comes back one day, maybe not. But we’ll trudge on, and hopefully one day a film will rise to challenge the monolithic hegemony of Kodak Portra. Until then, grab whatever’s left of Pro 400H, while supplies last.

Get some Fuji Pro 400H (likely marked up) on eBay

Buy some consolation film from our shop F Stop Cameras


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Jeb Inge

Jeb Inge is a Berlin-based photographer and writer. He has also worked in journalism, public history and public relations.

All stories by:Jeb Inge
23 comments
  • Great article, but your film shop is dominated by “sold out” listings. Can you clear these out, or at least sort the listings so the sold out films don’t dominate the search?

    • Sure. Lots of film is on backorder at the moment. The manufacturers just aren’t keeping up.

      • Am I in moderation now after this comment? Tried to reply to another comment yesterday and add to the discussion but my comment hasn’t appeared

        • Sometimes we have to approve comments for whatever reason. Not sure why, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it for a couple of days. Approved now, and you should be good to go!

  • The current supply chain issues with color negative film are to say the least very concerning. The supply of consumer grade negative films like Fujicolor 200 is very spotty.

  • Interesting article. Wonder what are the “special raw materials and chemicals that have become too difficult to acquire”?

  • Avatar
    Joe shoots resurrected cameras February 5, 2021 at 11:36 am

    I’ll admit to never being a huge 400H fan myself, am more a fan of Superia…considering that also has the 4th color layer technology, I’m wondering how long before that’s axed too. That said I much prefer Fuji’s colors to Kodak’s and it’s been hard watching their line dwindle, the prices climb so high. Kodak is the company that is actually supporting their customer base while Fuji it would seem is just trying to wring as much money out of them as possible before pulling the rug out from under them. I have a hard time supporting them these days. Contrary to what the article implies I don’t think film manufacturing is a large part of Kodak’s business these days, only around 10% if I remember correctly, but they do understand that they technology that they do have was built on/comes from chemical imaging, they understand that a lot of artists rely on their products to make a living working in the way that they like to. I have a lot of respect for Kodak and their commitment to keeping film manufacturing going so of course I will support them.

  • What do we think of the Internet’s idea that Fuji hasn’t made any film for years, and is just using up its remaining frozen stock? When each line runs out, they announce its ‘discontinuation’.

    Any evidence either way?

    • I’ve never heard that rumor before, but it’s interesting. But I imagine the fact that they’ve “brought back” Acros as being difficult to fit that narrative. As far as conspiracy theories go that’s a good one.

  • I don’t think we should be worried about film disappearing altogether. The younger generations born and raised in the digital soup are yearning for analog, tactile experiences. Just look at vinyl’s comeback. And it seems cassettes tapes – the worst of all analog music transmission mediums – are selling again, as well. I’ve met several younger people (25 and below) who are very interested in discussing my cameras and film photography when they see me out and about with one of my many old cameras.

    What we need to be worried about as film photographers is an attack on the processing chemicals as being “bad for the environment,” which I’ve heard on more than one occasion in online discussions about the future of analog photography.

    • As an owner of more than a few cassette, them’s fighting words! Don’t forget about 8-track, which has to be worse than casssettes. I have never considered the chemical topic, either from ignoring it or because I’ve never heard it. But true, that could be something to watch out for.

  • This was a great film. Kodak has no more chance to win this film challenge.
    Nothing from Fuji compare to Ektar 100, Tmax 400, TriX, ProImage 100, … The 2 only best Fuji are Velvia 50 and Neopan Acros, … 2 films, yes very good, how many have only think with Fuji Film before, … what about now ?

  • The photos in this article are just great. I love the first one especially with the boat. For me it represents exactly why film images look so good.

  • Well, it’s interesting how USA vs the world plays here. USA film shooters always liked Portra, but for some reason the rest of the world always prefered Pro 400H. I’m not from USA and I never caught on with Portra, especially 400 and especially for people (interesting since it’s mostly meant to be a portraiture film). It’s just too yellow, orange and red and you can never really get the color cast out, no matter of the scanner or exposure. While Pro 400H, properly exposed (2, 3 or more stops overexposure) just shines… becomes creamy and georgeous… as your photos of Italy clearly show that – to me they are as good as it gets. To my eyes (and it seems to eyes of most non US people) Portra never looks anywhere close to this good. it also lacks consistency – 4th layer of Pro 400H makes it look equally good in every situation, while Porta is tempremental, it can be beautiful on one shot and sucks completelly on another. So, I came to completelly different conclusion. I couldn’t care less if Porta exists, but I cannot imagine finding a film as perfect as 400H was. Lets just hope Fuji brings it back, or there’ll be no more professional film shooting for me (and many others alike). Regards…

  • I think looking a Fujifilm’s contributions to digital photography is a great way to flip the script here and I’ve echoed this sentiment a lot when I have friends who bemoan the company for “singlehandedly killing the film industry”. If you should digital at all then you should really thank Fujifilm for the current trend towards more simplistic, classic feeling digital cameras that feel like a welcome change from the plastic behemoths of the 2000s.

  • I used it until Portra 400 came out. Portra is much sharper and finer-grained. So, I switched.

  • > But I do think we’re hyping something in death that we never really hyped while it was alive. If you don’t believe me, imagine the situation was reversed and Portra was discontinued. Imagine thinking “Wow, well at least we still have Pro 400H.” It’s not the same degree of consolation, is it?

    I mean, for me it would be, since I don’t shoot Portra unless I have to. Honestly mostly I’d be worried about all the Portra shooters eating up my 400H supply.

    400H was a great film. It just wasn’t hyped like Portra. It’s the same thing with all the cameras that are perfectly fine but cost way more than they should because certain circles are obsessed with them – people see photos they like, those photos are on portra with an rb, and so they buy those two things with the assumption that will give them artistic talent.

    • Well, I was happy with Pro 400H, but when Portra 400 came out, I tried it out and noticed a big improvement in sharpness and lack of grain. The colours were very accurate, if perhaps a little less saturated. I switched then and there.

  • Interesting article. I wouldn’t equate the loss of the emulsion with the riots and insurrections last summer by radical Leftists and BLM across the US. The Mob that rioted in the Capital was a disgrace but didn’t cause billions of dollars in damage and paralyze whole cities.

    If you live in New Jersey, there is a source who has the 400H in 35mm for local pickup only:

    https://www.uniquephoto.com/fujifilm%2Dfilm/fujifilmpro400h1353615942186

    Was able to order 10 fresh rolls from them last week when they were posting it in the mail.

  • it’s interesting how people overlook Adox silvermax being discontinued

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Jeb Inge

Jeb Inge is a Berlin-based photographer and writer. He has also worked in journalism, public history and public relations.

All stories by:Jeb Inge