The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Buying Film
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Even though digital photography has been around for more
than 40 years, many people still choose to dust off their old cameras and shoot
film formats. But why?
Film photography still has some serious advantages over digital like its ability to naturally blend light and color, its beautiful grain structure, the element of surprise, skill and its all-around timeless aesthetic.
For people who have never shot film or haven't picked it up in many years, the medium can seem cryptic and intimidating. Relax! We promise it’s really not that hard and can be quite fun.
Here’s a quick primer on all things film including size and formats, film speed, the different types of film stocks and how they look.
There are two main film formats that are still common today: 35mm and 120 medium format. If you already have a film camera, it is important to know which type of film you need. 35mm film is the most popular film format. It is easy to find and is very small and portable. 120 medium format film is the more professional option to use with its significantly larger negative for more resolution and detail. Cameras that use 120 film are usually much larger and heavier than 35mm cameras and come in a variety of aspect ratios including square — eat your heart out Instagram.
Each of the film types we discuss below are available in both 35mm and 120.
Understanding ASA (OR ISO):
One thing to understand before choosing which film is right for you is knowing what the numbers mean on the film pack. After the name of the film is a number, that number is the film’s ASA or ISO. This rating describes film's sensitivity to light. ISO is commonly referred to as "film speed." Scenes with ample light require a film with a low ISO, something like 200. Exposures with low light require more sensitive film, something like ISO 800.
Types of Color Negative Film (C-41 Process):
1) Kodak Portra 160, 400 and 800- The Kodak Portra films are some of the most popular types of films out there. The Portra series are recognized by their fine grain, excellent skin tones, and natural warmth.
Image Source: Kodak Alaris (Pictured Above: Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Portra 800)
2) Kodak Ektar 100- Since other Kodak films are geared more towards portrait work, Ektar 100 is the choice for nature, travel and outdoor photographers. It offers ultra-vivid colors, exceptional sharpness, and the finest grain of any other color negative film available.
3) Fuji Pro400H- Fuji Pro400H is suited especially to wedding, portrait and fashion photographers. It is recognized by its superb skin tones, smooth gradation from highlights to shadows, and its excellent three-dimensional appearance.
4) Lomography Color Negative 400 and 800- Lomo color negative film is a cheaper alternative, and can be used in almost any shooting condition. Lomo film does have its own “look,” with its bold vibrant colors, and stunning sharpness.
Image Source: Lomography
Types of Black and White Film:
1) Kodak T-Max and Tri-X- Both Tri-X and T-Max films are ISO 400, but the main difference between the two is their grain type. Tri-X is a fine grain film with a wide exposure latitude that gives you nice contrast in the mid-tones. T-Max is a very fine t-grain emulsion with a high degree of sharpness and edge detail, but since the grain is linear, this film can appear to look more “flat.”
2) Fuji Acros 100- Acros 100 is an ultrahigh image quality film with rich gradation and outstanding sharpness. It is great for shooting portraits, landscapes and architecture.
3) Ilford- Ilford pretty much kills the game when it comes to black and white films. They have a variety of film speeds, grain types and contrast playout. No matter what you are shooting, Ilford has a b&w film for you. Their most popular films include:
-HP5 400, a medium contrast, all purpose film.
-Pan F 50, a high contrast, super sharp, fine grain film.
-XP2 400, a fine grain, highly versatile film that is processed using color (C-41) processing.
-Delta 3200, a fast action, low light, high-speed film.
Image Source (Lady Grey, Lady Grey, Earl Grey): Lomography
Fun Effects Film:
1) Lomography Redscale XR 50-200- If you are looking for something totally out of the box, using fun films like Lomo Redscale might spark your interest. This film washes your images with shades of red, orange and yellow creating one of a kind effects.
Image Source: Lomography
2) Lomography Purple 400- Lomo Purple film is definitely out of the box, it changes blue tones to green, green to purple, and yellow to pink. Have fun with these crazy effects in almost any lighting situation.
Image Source: Lomography
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