Selecting the Right Film



Selecting the"Right" Film.
You will find that when using a film camera, you are a lot more involved in the picture taking process.  I think for a growing number of photographers this is the appeal of film photography-we want to learn and get better as we shoot more rolls. We love controlling the picture taking process and wouldn't have it any other way.

  I think the one thing that takes a little getting used to when using a film camera is that effective film photography takes a little planning.  By effective, I mean that you select the film and the camera for your anticipated environment and subject. Film selection is as important as choosing the right camera and effects how you end up using it. You learn to pick film like you would a fine wine perfectly suited for your meal.  Also remember that for at least the next 24 or 36 frames, your stuck with your decision, so hopefully you have picked wisely.

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Seagull captured at the DC Waterfront
 w/ Nikon F100 & 75-300mm Kodak Portra 800
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Leica M6 with Voigtlander 21mm Color-Skopar
Photo captured with an NikondF100, Fuji Pro400H
 & Nikkor 50mm f1.4 AF-D

 If you plan on taking pictures of birds or other wildlife, kids soccer games, or any subject that require fast shutter speeds, you want to load your SLR with a fast ASA 800 film such as Fuji Pro 800 or Kodak Portra 800 or even their same brand ASA 400 versions.
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Abby w/ Fuji Pro400H, Leica M6,
Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM

What if you are photographing a not so fast moving (or still) subject under [semi] controlled lighting, ie family photos, wedding, model, street photos, etc?  This situation would allow for slower-speed films in the ASA 64/100/160/200 range, but which one?  There are far many more normal speed films from which to select than fast speed films.

A lot of photographers absolutely rave about Fuji Velvia for it's color saturation and sharpness making it a great choice for landscapes or cityscapes.  I feel the same about Kodak Ektar 100 since I don't use slide film very often.  For rich, creamy skin tones Kodak Portra 160 & 400 is far and away the choice when photographing people.

Ektar 100 & Portra 800
Some of my favorites!

There are 1600 and even 3200 ASA films that would allow for even faster shutter speeds but at the expense of sharpness and clarity as these films tend to get grainy.  For lot's of photographers, grainy is good as it adds an artistic touch your work.

Fuji Pro& Velvia, Kodak Ektar & Portra films are considered professional films and cost more than for example Kodak Gold/Ultra, Fuji Superia Xtra and other bargain films.  As I understand it, professional films are manufactured  under a more precise process and always refrigerated.  Cheapo films are found in plastic disposable cameras and are rebranded under other names. I've bought "cheapo" films before that are washed out or burnt when developed; I've also had great results with cheap film but your mileage may vary.  Pro films are always perfect.

Black & White.  Some B&W films have reached cult status and are the sole reason that a lot of photographersr still own film equipment.  Leica created the super expensive M9 Monochrome solely for these people, but at $6000 plus, it's not exactly a camera for the masses.  B&W film photographers are a unique bunch in that they tend to be more artistic, romantic, and culturally- aware group than most.  For the most part, they shoot exclusively B&W. They know and love their Ilford XP2, TriX and Fuji Neopan.  They can pick their film out of a line-up of photographs!

Canonette_BW400CN-31.jpg The beauty of black and white is also that it is easily developed at home with relatively inexpensive E-6 process chemicals and supplies.  In fact not a lot of local (to me) labs process E-6 anymore, so you pretty much have to develop your own unless you want to wait a week to get your film back by mail and pay $12.00 per roll!

If you wonder why film photography is regaining popularity in a digital marketplace, there are several  answers.  Good film cameras of yesterday were good looking and sexy devices. They were so well-made and sold for so many years without changing the basic design. My Nikon F3HP was sold for 25 years without a major design change! Leica M film cameras have been around since 1954 and look very much like they did back then.  This gave a lot of the more successful film camera models a legendary status which makes for great collecting!