Our Top 5 Best Camera Films for your Film Camera
Film photography is an art form cherished by photography enthusiasts and professional photographers alike. With so many film options available, finding the correct film stock for your film camera can take time and effort.
Come along as we help you figure out what type of film to use for your film camera depending on your needs, and round up five of the best camera film to help you elevate your film photography to new heights.
What is Camera Film?
Before we answer what film is best for your film camera, let’s break down the analogue format in more detail. What is camera film, after all, and how does it work?
Camera film, a light-sensitive material, revolutionised photography by capturing and preserving images in the analogue era of glass plates and paper roll films. Although digital technology is much more common nowadays, camera film cameras has experienced a resurgence, with photographers, artists and novices rediscovering its unique qualities and artistic possibilities.
Film photography has gained popularity among a new generation of photographers who seek a distinct look and a break from the instant gratification of digital photography. It has become a means of artistic expression, with photographers utilising film's unique qualities to create evocative and captivating images.
One of the most common types of film is 35mm film. 35mm has been widely used in film photography for decades and continues to be a popular choice among enthusiasts and professionals. 35mm film refers to the standard size of the film strip, which measures 35 millimetres in width.
Common Questions about Camera Film
Q: Why is 35mm film considered the best choice for film photography?
A: 35mm film is widely regarded as an excellent choice due to its versatility, availability, and the wide range of film options available. It offers a balance between image quality, portability, and ease of use.
Q: Is 35mm film good for beginners?
A: Absolutely! 35mm film is a great starting point for beginners as it allows them to learn the fundamentals of photography, experiment with different film stocks, and develop a deeper understanding of the art form.
Q: What are the disadvantages of camera film?
A: Some potential drawbacks of film photography include limited exposure capacity (typically 24 or 36 exposures per roll), the need for film processing, and the absence of instant feedback that digital cameras provide.
Q: How long does camera film last?
A: When properly stored, camera film can last several years beyond its expiration date. However, the image quality may degrade over time, so it's advisable to use fresh film for optimal results.
What about disposable cameras?
Disposable cameras are compact, single-use cameras that come preloaded with film. Their simple and convenient design makes disposable cameras popular for casual photographers or special events.
While disposable cameras are convenient and suitable for casual photography, film cameras offer a more versatile and customisable experience for those passionate about film photography and seeking greater creative control over their images.
But if you love the idea of an inexpensive, no-fuss film photography experience, disposable cameras are a fantastic alternative to film cameras.
What type of film should I use for my film camera?
When choosing your camera film, it's crucial to consider several key factors to help you choose the best camera film for your photography needs.
Film Type: Start by deciding whether you want to shoot with negative colour or black and white film. Each type offers distinct aesthetic qualities and allows you to convey different moods and emotions through your photographs.
Nominal ISO Rating: The ISO rating indicates the film's sensitivity to light. The number you'll find on the box of film and film canisters is known as the Exposure Index (EI), and it represents the ISO rating of the film.
Higher ISO values (e.g., 400, 800) are suitable for low-light situations, while lower ISO values (e.g., 100, 200) are ideal for well-lit environments. Consider the lighting conditions you'll be shooting in to determine the appropriate ISO rating.
Film Speed: You’ll often hear photographers refer to ISO as film speed or the speed of the film. The different film speeds can be described as follows:
- Slow film speed – ISO 200 and below
- Medium film speed – ISO 400
- Fast film speed – ISO 800 and above
Colour Saturation: Colour-negative film exhibits varying levels of colour saturation. Some films offer vibrant and saturated colours, while others have a more subdued and natural colour palette. Consider the level of colour intensity you desire in your photographs.
Film Grain: Film grain refers to the visible texture in an image. Finer grain films produce smoother and more polished results, while films with a coarser grain can add a gritty and textured look to your photos. Decide on the level of grain you find visually appealing and suited to your artistic vision.
Number of Exposures: Each roll of camera film comes with a specific number of exposures, the most common being 24 or 36 frames. Consider your shooting style and the duration of your photography outings when selecting the number of exposures per roll.
Compatibility with C41-Type Processing: C41-type processing is a standard method for developing colour-negative films. Ensure that the film you choose is compatible with this processing method, as it will determine the ease of finding labs for film development.
Film Format: When selecting your camera film, you must check that the film format matches your camera's requirements. The most common format is 35mm cassette film, also known simply as 35mm film.
It's worth noting that other film formats are available, such as medium format. Medium format film offers larger negative sizes, resulting in higher resolution and more detail in your images. You should always confirm that the film you choose is compatible with your specific camera format, whether it be 35mm or another format.
By understanding these essential aspects of camera film, you'll be better equipped to make an informed decision and answer the all-important question: what film is best for a film camera?
Our 5 Best Camera Film
Film is a must-have accessory for all film photographers, and for the best film photos, you want to pick the best film for your photography style. Introducing our carefully selected recommendations for the best camera films. These films have been handpicked for their outstanding qualities, ensuring your photography reaches new heights.
1. Kodak Portra 160
- Type: Colour Negative Film
- ISO: 160
- Key Features: Daylight Balanced, Fine Grain Structure, Great for scanning
- Perfect for: Portraits with fantastic skin tones; post-processing
Kodak Portra 160 is a stunning daylight-balanced colour-negative film with an ISO rating of 160 offering photographers versatility for various lighting conditions.
Portra is well known for capturing beautiful skin tones with a natural and lifelike appearance, making it particularly well-suited for portrait photography.
The Kodak Portra 160 film boasts an exceptionally fine grain structure, making capturing intricate details in close-up portrait shots easier. The resulting images exhibit exceptional sharpness and clarity, with photographers will appreciate the film's low contrast, which lends a subtle and delicate touch to images.
With its medium colour saturation, Kodak Portra 160 strikes a balance between vibrant hues and a more subdued palette, giving your photos the elegant and timeless quality of yesteryear.
Even better is the Portra’s excellent scanning capabilities, a highly regarded feature for modern photographers, making it an ideal choice for those who prefer digital post-processing.
Each roll of Kodak Portra 160 film offers 36 exposures, providing ample opportunity to capture various moments and scenes. Whether you're capturing portraits or everyday moments, this film is sure to deliver outstanding results.
2. Ilford XP2 Super
- Type: Black & White Negative Film
- ISO: 400
- Key Features: C41 chemical process (Easy to process at your common lab), Fine Grain, Wide Exposure Latitude
- Perfect for: Various lighting conditions with high contrast
Ilford XP2 Super 400 is a highly versatile black-and-white film that offers remarkable sharpness, speed, and fine grain. Suitable for capturing a wide range of photographic subjects where XP2 truly excels is its ISO 400 rating, allowing photographers to capture a broad range of brightness levels.
With its high contrast characteristics, XP2 Super delivers striking and impactful negatives. And with the film's wide exposure latitude, photographers will enjoy greater flexibility in challenging lighting conditions, capturing details across both shadowed areas and highlights–an excellent choice for unpredictable or dynamic lighting conditions.
One notable feature of Ilford XP2 Super is its unique processing method. Unlike traditional black-and-white films requiring specialised chemicals, XP2 Super can be processed using C41-type processing chemicals, typically used for colour-negative films. This convenience makes finding photography labs to develop this film easier, as the C41 process is widely available.
3. Ilford HP5+ B&W
- Type: Black & White Negative Film
- ISO: 400
- Key Features: Wide Exposure Latitude, Excellent sharpness levels & fine grain
- Perfect for: High-speed photography and push processing (up to ISO 3200)
Ilford HP5+ 400 is a high-speed black-and-white film known for its versatility and exceptional performance in various shooting situations. With its medium contrast and nominal ISO rating of 400, this film is an excellent choice for action, press, and general-purpose photography.
The HP5+ film produces negatives with outstanding sharpness and fine grain, resulting in detailed and crisp images. Whether you're shooting in bright or low-light conditions, this film excels in capturing a wide range of tones and textures. Its wide exposure latitude allows greater flexibility in exposure settings, ensuring you can confidently capture scenes with challenging lighting conditions.
One remarkable feature of HP5+ is its ability to respond well to push processing. Pushing the film beyond its nominal ISO rating of 400 can yield remarkable results, allowing for higher film speeds. When paired with an Ilford MICROPHEN developer, this film maintains good shadow detail, well-separated mid-tones, and retains sharpness with controlled grain.
4. Kodak GC Ultramax
- Type: Colour Negative Film
- ISO: 400
- Key Features: Versatile film, High saturation & contrast
- Perfect for: Capturing a wide range of subjects and scenarios
Kodak GC Ultramax 400 is a fast daylight-balanced colour-negative film that offers photographers a wide exposure range and exceptional versatility. With its fine grain structure and accurate colour reproduction, this film delivers reliable and vibrant results across various shooting conditions, from well-lit environments to dimly lit scenes.
The GC Ultramax 400 film is optimised to produce excellent skin tones, making it an ideal choice for portrait photography. It captures subtle nuances and details, resulting in lifelike and natural-looking portraits. The film's vivid overall colour palette enhances everyday and outdoor photography, ensuring vibrant and captivating images.
With an ISO sensitivity of 400, this film performs well in low-light situations, allowing for faster shutter speeds and reducing the risk of motion blur.
Kodak GC Ultramax 400 is also well-suited for scanning and larger print applications, allowing photographers to showcase their work in high-quality prints or digital formats. Each roll of this film offers 36 exposures, providing ample opportunities to capture memorable moments.
5. Ilford FP4+
- Type: Black & White Negative Film
- ISO: 125
- Key Features: Fine Grain Structure, Wide Exposure Latitude, Incredible sharpness
- Perfect for: Enlargements, examinations of fine details
When it comes to high-quality black-and-white photography, Ilford FP4+ 125 is a great option. This film is renowned for its extremely fine grain and exceptional sharpness, making it the preferred choice for jobs that demand large enlargements or for capturing intricate details.
With a nominal ISO rating of 125, Ilford FP4+ has established itself as the benchmark against which other films are measured. The film's fine grain ensures that even the smallest details are captured with remarkable clarity and precision, resulting in stunningly detailed photographs.
One of the notable features of Ilford FP4+ is its wide latitude for exposure error. It allows photographers to achieve excellent results even when slightly overexposed or underexposed, making it a reliable choice for various lighting conditions and photographic subjects.
Make the most of your film camera today
To unleash the full potential of your film camera, exploring the world of film photography is a must. These 5 films are exceptional for various photographic styles and preferences, and there are plenty more camera film options available at Ted’s Cameras.
If you’re new to film photography, check out our ultimate guide to film photography. Don't forget to browse our wide selection of film cameras online, and read our guide on the best film cameras to help you select the best one. Embrace the magic of film and embark on an exciting photographic journey!
The Ultimate Guide to Binoculars
Top 5 Tripods for Photos & Videos in 2023