When you first start shooting film or are thinking about getting into film, you get presented with so many options and choices for what film you should shoot? Go drugstore film? Professional? Black and White? Weird art films? What do you choose, well the answer is as simple as what is it you would like to shoot? Sorry, I guess that’s really not that simple. Let’s dive into a couple of my favorites and I will tell you what I like and dislike about them and hopefully that will help shape your choices. I will also link to the film stocks at Amazon. If you buy through my links that will help me keep the site going, but this post is not sponsored by Amazon in any way.
Low Cost Color Film
This is where most people start their film journey. These so-called “drug store” film stocks. They are widely available at most big retail chains, like CVS, Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart and others. While not as available as they used to be, they are still easy to come by. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Kodak ColorPlus 200
For a long time this film was only available in Europe, it’s starting to make it’s way into the US. (It’s made in the US for export) It’s a great cheap film that delivers nice colors and a light/medium grain that I find isn’t to distracting from the images. The ISO 200 makes this a daylight film. It starts to fall apart when it’s underexposed but not that bad.
You can get it from Amazon here: Kodak ColorPlus 200
You can also find it at the Film Photography Project Store
Kodak Gold (UltraMax) 400
When you need a little more light sensitive film, then Kodak Gold 400 and UltraMax 400 is a great go-to. This film can usually be found at Walgreens in their photo section. It cost a bit more in store than you can find it elsewhere. If you are in a pinch and need some film while you are out. Then this is what you can find. Like the ColorPlus it renders colors really well and the grain is nice. While not as smooth as Portra or Ektar (I will cover those later) it still does great as an all around shooting situation film.
Get it from Amazon: Kodak UltraMax 400
Film Photography Project Store: Kodak UltraMax 400
Fuji Superia 400
This film can usually be found at Wal-Mart for around $15 for a 3 roll pack. It’s easily one of the more commonly available film stocks for purchase in store. It’s a great film that handles most shooting situations well. It tends to really bring out the green tones but has a nice saturation and the grain is small and barely noticeable. I shoot a ton of this stuff.
Buy it from Amazon: Fuji Superia 400
Kodak ProImage 100
ProImage 100 is also coming soon to the US. It’s a little harder to find, but it’s out there. Like the ColorPlus 200 it is a film that is made in the US but is sold overseas. It was developed for the African and Asian markets. It is a great film and really quickly became one of my favorite film stocks. It’s grain structure is some of the smallest of any color film available. Only Ektar is smoother. It handles colors really well. The one draw back is the 100 ISO speed, so it needs lots of light in order to really perform. It does “fail” nicely if it’s a little underexposed.
Buy it from Amazon: Kodak ProImage 100
Film Photography Project Store: Kodak ProImage 100
Higher Cost “Pro” Color Film
I don’t shoot a lot of this. I tend to stay in the lower end films, mostly for the cost savings.
Kodak Portra 400/800
I have a lot of experience with Kodak Portra 400. It’s a great all around film for everyday shooting or for capturing those special moments. It’s formulated towards capturing skin tones correctly. It’s also tends to be a little flat and more color neutral. So it’s perfect for scanning and editing in Lightroom or Photoshop. I find it’s a little inconsistent for my tastes. I would rather shoot a cheaper film that I know what kind of results I am going to get. If you are looking to step up to more pro level color films, you can’t go wrong with Portra. It is also available in a slow 160 ISO for finer grain and a low light friendly 800 ISO.
Get it on Amazon: Kodak Portra 400
Get it at the Film Photography Project Store: Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Ektar 100
This is the smoothest film you can buy. Almost no grain and super deep colors. I think of this film as the closest you can get to digital’s clinical perfection. It always renders colors sharply and vividly. It loves sunlight, the more light you can get on your subject the better with this great film.
Get it from Amazon: Kodak Ektar 100
Film Photography Project Store: Kodak Ektar 100
Low Cost Black and White Film
Ilford HP5 Plus 400
I shoot a lot less black and white than I do color. I wrote about my favorite Black and White film here. It’s Ilford HP5 400. It’s a great film that handles being pushed (under exposed) and pulled (over exposed) really well. It’s cheap and easy to find online. It’s about the only black and white I have ever shot. So, sorry about that.
Get it on Amazon: Ilford HP5 400
I shot one roll of this film stock. It’s a little lest contrasty than the Ilford, it appears smoother. I am looking into getting more of it to try out, but I love Ilford HP5 so much, it’s hard to shoot anything else.
Get it on Amazon: FomaPan 100
Higher Cost “Pro” Black & White Film
I haven’t shot this but it is Kodak’s Pro Level Black and White film. So here is Matt Day with his experience:
Fuji Acros 100
This is Fuji’s Pro Black and White film, sadly, I haven’t shot this either. I am hoping to source some soon and will update when I do. Again, I am more of a color shooter so black and white doesn’t cross my camera often.
Get it on Amazon: Fuji Acros 100
Lomo Color 400
When it comes to Art type film, there are a bunch. The most well known brand is Lomography. They make all kinds of emulsions with weird color tints and effects. I have shot one of their regular films. Lomo Color 400. I love it. It has great grain and deep colors. And it’s dirt cheap!
Get it at Amazon: Lomo Color 400
I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the film stocks that I shoot. You can spend days or weeks obsessing over which film stock has which look, but really, it just maters to you. Grab a roll or two, shoot it and see what you like. As long as you are shooting film, you really can’t go wrong!