Film Choices

The first thing people often ask when they see one of my old film cameras is, “Can you still get film for that?” The good news is that the answer is a resounding, “Yes, you can!” I have found stores that sell lots of film on both sides of the Pacific but I think I am pretty spoiled here in Japan. Sure, there are probably more digital cameras in Japan than any where else. But film is still alive and well and good supply sources are abundant. On this page I’ll just list some of the films I use, possibly with some links to the examples. I’m not experienced enough to be able to comment on the specific qualities of these various emulsions with any confidence, especially the B&W stuff since I don’t know how much of the results are due to my developing process and how much are from the film itself. But I will tell you that I’m very glad they are all available.

Black and White Film:

The options here are all negative film. I develop this stuff at home and I wish there were more choices. In particular I am interested in 120 film for my medium format cameras. I tend to do a lot of handheld work with my big cameras when using black and white film so unless the weather is really nice I prefer ISO 400.

  • Ilford Delta 3200 Professional: I recently shot a single roll of this emulsion out of curiosity. It caught my attention simply because it is the only monochrome film I have seen that is over ISO 400. The results weren’t bad at all and I plan to try it again before too long.
  • Fujifilm Neopan 400 Presto: Unfortunately this film is no longer available in medium format 120 or large format sheets. So I can only use it on my 35mm cameras.
  • Kodak Tri-X 400: I use this film extensively because it is one of the cheapest ISO400 available in 120 size. It also has a very good reputation for image quality. The overall look is very smooth and it seems to hold detail pretty well in the shadows and highlights.
  • Here in Japan the only ISO400 B&W film I know of that is cheaper than Tri-X is Kodak TMax400. At the store they claim it requires its own chemicals for developing but after asking around on the internet it seems that it will work okay with any chemical. I’ve shot a few rolls and while it is very sharp it seems a little more contrasty than Tri-X.
  • Ilford HP5 Plus 400: Ilford has a pretty good lineup of black and white films on the market but here in Japan they tend to be a bit pricey. Of their ISO400 offerings this one is the cheapest so I’ve run a few rolls. But it still costs almost 20% more than the Kodak counterpart. In my limited experience with this film I seem to detect a rather warm and soft quality. But in the U.S. it is cheaper than Kodak so I stocked up at B&W recently.
  • My biggest discovery during a recent stay in the U.S. was Arista EDU Ultra 400. You can only get it thru a place in North Hollywood called Freestyle; either online or at their retail shop. It is extremely cheap and I’m pretty sure it is just repackaged Fomapan. My results from this film have been mixed. At times it looks pretty good. Other times it seems like there is some sort of weird crud on the film. There are several examples in my blog posts. Also the film is extremely thin and prone to curling.
  • Fomapan Creative 200: I shot one roll of this film in 135 because I was using an Olympus Pen EEs that only goes up to ISO200. The camera had significant mechanical problems but the film seemed to work fine.
  • Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros: This film is available in 135, 120 and sheets. Of course at ISO100 it requires good light, but it is also one of the most affordable B&W film I know of so I always keep some on hand.
  • Kodak TMax 100: This is the only black and white film I know of that is cheaper than Acros. I have yet to use any since I don’t use ISO100 very often. 
  • Lomography Orca BW 100: This film was newly released in June of 2012 in the 110 format. This is huge news since all production of 110 film ended several years ago. I’ve only developed one roll and it looks pretty crappy, but I really don’t know if that is the fault of my Pentax Super 110 kit, my developing, the scanning, or the film itself. I’ll be trying some more.

Color Reversal Film:

Contrary to what the name suggests, this is positive, or slide film. The colors on the film look exactly the same as the colors of the subject. I use this film for landscape work and send it all to the lab for processing. The results are absolutely stunning! And scanning is a breeze too because you have the original to compare with, making it easy to get accurate colors. This film is more expensive than black and white film and developing costs are also high so I don’t use it for hand held work very often. It’s best suited for slow and deliberate photography. It looks like Kodak is discontinuing some of their reversal film lines which is too bad. I haven’t used them but more competition is always a good thing!

  • Fujifilm Velvia 50: This film is known to have the richest colors of any in Fuji’s lineup. It creates a distinct look that many digital cameras or image editors try to copy. It is available in 135, 120 and sheet sizes.
  • Fujifilm Velvia 100: Just a touch faster than the 50 and the saturation is toned down ever so slightly.
  • Fujifilm Velvia 100F: I probably use this film more than any other. Still has the trademark velvia colors but not quite as extreme. A great all around film.
  • Fujifilm Provia 100F: Another great film from Fuji that has a somewhat more neutral color cast. Great for landscape work that doesn’t involve dramatic sunsets or sunrises.
  • Fujifilm Astia 100F: This film is optimized for studio work and gives extremely accurate and beautiful skin tones.
  • Fujifilm Trebi 100C: I’m so bummed that this film is no longer available. It was the cheapest Fuji reversal available and I went through a lot of it on my 35mm cameras. I wish they would bring it back!

Color Negative Film:

While this is the most common type of film it gets the least use in my cameras. I prefer the colors of reversal film and the price and convenience of B&W film so color negative film gets  left out…

Kodak Gold 400: This film is really cheap so I usually keep some on hand. It’s good for when I need to run a quick roll through a camera to test it out. The shadows tend to black out pretty quickly but it works.

Kodak Portra 400: This film gets great reviews. I’ve only shot a few rolls of it and I really struggle with getting the colors right in scanning and post. If I could figure out how to consistently nail the colors I would probably use it more often.

7 Responses to Film Choices

  1. Andrew says:

    Nice overview. I agree scanning slide film is easier than c41. It is a putty a few more slide films have gone since you wrote this. I still have Aarque few rolls of astia in the freezer and you can still buy velvia 100F even though it is discontinued. Time to stick up!

  2. Andrew says:

    Damn auto correct sorry about the typos

  3. revdocjim says:

    According to the Fujifilm Japan web site the slide film they still offer includes Velvia 50, Velvia 100, Velvia 100F, Provia 100F and Provia 400X so yes it would appear that Astia is gone. Too bad!

  4. Geo says:

    I’m afraid there’s no such creature as Tri-X 100. You mean TMax 100? I love your site! Thanks for all the great info. Another great Bronica with the S mount was the EC-TL, I believe the first auto-exposure MF camera. Very nice handling and much quieter shutter.

  5. McFeeny says:

    You really should try Fuji 400H. Such a gorgeous film, especially in 120 6 x 7 size. Beautiful colors that simply are wonderful and so pleasing.

    • revdocjim says:

      I have made numerous attempts at scanning color negatives and simply cannot obtain anything even close to realistic colors. It has been very frustrating… I use Vuescan software since everyone says it is the most adjustable… I’ve search and studied countless instructions online, I’ve been in direct contact with the maker of Vuescan, I’ve tried the Epson scanning software that comes with scanners. But at the end of the day, it just becomes a giant black hole that only gets deeper and deeper as I try to find my way out. So for now I simply don’t shoot color negative film. It’s frustrating because I find it amazingly easy to get pleasing results from B&W negative and color reversal (slide) film.

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