I started shooting film right around April of 2008, and here we are a year later! At first, I basically bought one of everything and just tried all the different films available to me. Over time, I started leaning toward certain brands and even specific films. Now, I’m fairly picky about what I shoot — though I’m always open to trying out new films (or at least new to me).

Also in the last year, more and more people are getting into film and asking me which film to use. Of course, that kind of thing is dependent on what you’re shooting, which camera you’re using, what the light is like, what kind of mood you’re going for, and personal preference. But if you’re completely new to film photography, it’s nice to have some advice to start with. So here are 11 of my favorite films after a year of shooting.

BLACK AND WHITE FILM

A Dreary WorldIt's Lonely Out HereSpin Me!CruisersMetal and GlassTicket Booth

Black and white is definitely my favorite when it comes to film. Each film captures the scene a bit differently at varying levels of contrast, dynamic range, and tone representation. Here are five of my favorites.

  1. ILFORD PANF PLUS
    This one is my favorite film of all. It’s a medium contrast low speed (ASA 50) film that goes nicely with old cameras. I love using this film in my TLR on a sunny day because it allows me to open up the lens for a shallow DOF.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  2. ILFORD HP5 PLUS
    This is my go-to film for any time the sun isn’t shining. Also a fairly medium contrast film, but with a faster speed (ASA 400). Awesome dynamic range with great looking grain. A very versatile film, capable of being pushed to ASA 3200 and pulled to ASA 100 with decent results.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  3. ILFORD DELTA 3200
    I like this one for indoor shooting because of its fast speed (ASA 3200), though it does have some very pronounced grain. The contrast on this film tends to be higher than the PanF or HP5.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  4. FUJIFILM NEOPAN 400
    I’m not a huge fan on non-Ilford films (in case you haven’t noticed), but nothing beats the serious high contrast on the Neopan (ASA 400).
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  5. ILFORD XP2 SUPER
    This film is a bit different than the others since its not really a black and white film. The XP2 (ASA 400) is actually a C-41 film, so it needs to be processed as if it were color film. This is handy for folks who want to shoot black and white but don’t have access to anything but standard color developing.
    See my sample photos on Flickr

COLOR FILM

Over the CanLow Tide SunsetWinter DocksTake a KneeSan Clemente PierLa Jolla Pier

Though black and white is my favorite, color is quickly growing on me. Color film usually renders a scene in a very different fashion than a typical digital image. Like black and white films, the various color films have differing levels of saturation, contrast, and grain. Here are 3 of my favorites.

  1. KODAK PORTRA 400VC
    The Portra VC (Vivid Color) films are very strong in color saturation and well suited for toy cameras and such — though I assume they’ll work just as well in a “real” camera. I have yet to try the Portra 160VC, but I’ve got some waiting to be loaded up in my TLR.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  2. FUJIFILM REALA 100
    This one is fairly slow (ASA 100) as far as color negative films go, and the results are nice and sharp with little sign of grain. Color accuracy seems to be very good, and the saturation and contrast look great without being overdone.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  3. KODAK EKTAR 100
    This may become my favorite color film due to the extremely fine grain and color accuracy. Also a low-speed color film (ASA 100), this stuff loves the sunshine. You can also read my informal review of the 120-Format Ektar 100.
    See my sample photos on Flickr

SLIDE FILM (XPRO’D)

Flying and FloatingJessWarp SpeedI'm So Hot I'm RedDarkness Creeps InI'm a Survivor

I don’t usually shoot slide film because it’s expensive to buy and develop, and it tends to be very finicky about exposure. But the stuff is great for cross processing! Here are 3 of my favorites.

  1. KODAK EKTACHROME OR ELITECHROME
    This film gives that classic green-shift when cross processed, but a lot of it can be white-balanced out to give the photos a more neutral tone.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  2. FUJIFILM VELVIA 100
    The Velvia 100 gives very different results from most other xpro’d slide film. It has a very strong red-cast with hints of purple or yellow depending on the lighting.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  3. FUJIFILM VELVIA 50
    The Velvia 50 is quite similar to the Ektachrome, but with a more subtle green and more prominent blue-cast. I haven’t shot too much of this, but I really should do more.
    See my sample photos on Flickr

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

Drop us a comment and tell us what your favorite films are, and let us know why! Feel free to leave photos in the comments to back up your comments.

25 responses


Do you want to comment?

Comments RSS and TrackBack Identifier URI ?

My picks.

Arista Premium 400 – Believed to be Tri-x, and about $1.60 roll. I chew through a lot of this stuff.

Fuji Acros 100 – Reciprocity failure is not really a concern with this film. If i’m shooting low-light, I don’t even consider anything else.

April 8, 2009 8:56 am

So far, I have become an Ilford fan as well. I like the versatility of the 400 speed, the Delta 400 was fun to shoot. I also liked the grain in the Delta 3200 for certain shots.

I currently have a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 loaded, so we will see how I feel about that, and have some PanF and HP5 in the fridge waiting to be loaded.

And of course Fuji FP100c (and 100b) for my Polaroid Land Cameras produce some very nice results.

Definitely going to look into the new Kodak Ektar though.. I like what I have seen from it so far.

April 8, 2009 9:51 am

I love Pan F, and HP5, too, but I’m surprised to see Tri-X missing from your list. I’m also a really big fan of Neopan 100-Acros.

For C-41 films, you should try Agfa Ultra 50 if you haven’t already. It’s a wonderful high-saturation film.

Also, there’s something really magical about running Ilford SFX-200 through a Holga. Everyone should try it.

April 8, 2009 1:13 pm

I normally use hp5 and Delta3200 (at 1600), but Acros is really great for when you want little grain and very smooth tones.

I just shot a roll of Fuji Provia 100, and while the pictures themselves are mostly duds, I still really can’t get over just how vibrant and alive 6×7 format slides look on a light table. I know I have a digital camera for color stuff, but I jsut have to try this again in the near future.

April 8, 2009 3:29 pm

It all looks amazing. I can see your best one year work there. It looks exactly like what a professional with years of experience work. Well done!

April 8, 2009 6:42 pm

I’m a big fan of Neopan 400. My dad and I always buy it in bulk. I’ve always wanted to try Ilford HP5 Plus, though it can be pretty expensive here – and Fuji is widely available here. Perhaps one day I’ll splurge and get a few rolls. :)

April 9, 2009 1:30 am

I have two favourites that I keep coming back to again and again. For Black & White it has to be Kodak’sTri-X. I just love the versatility of this film and the feel of the finished photos. For me it is hard to go wrong with this. My second is Fuji Velvia 50. Panoramics with this just pop off the page, for seascape and lansdcape this is superb.

April 9, 2009 3:42 am

Great post and some excellent film reviews there, Brian! This is exactly the kind of writing that helped me get into film in the first place.

B&W Faves:
Ilford FP4 (ASA 125)
Agfa APX 400

April 9, 2009 9:05 am

Also, for the Neopan 400 fans, the Legacy Pro line at Freestyle is rumored to be rebranded Neopan 400 at about half the price.

One of the friends just purchased a 100 foot roll of it, and the canister even had "Fujifilm" stamped on it.

April 9, 2009 9:13 am

Oh how I love the creamy smooth tones of Pan F.. Just a gorgeous tonality.
I also loved Kodak Plus-X as well, if I wanted a more ‘classic’ black and white look. No idea if it’s even available any more. I think Fuji Acros 100 gives a similar look though.

In the digital age I see more use for colour films, as their ‘looks’ can be less easily replicated. Also they way they play with toy cameras (multi-coloured light leaks) is just delicious.

April 9, 2009 1:17 pm


I used four slide films in the past – Velvia 50, Velvia 100, Provia, and Ektachrome VS. I’d have to say that I preferred Provia. It was saturated enough (50 and VS were off the charts) but wasn’t quite as contrasty as the other three I listed. Much easier to scan on the Nikon Coolscan I used.

April 14, 2009 12:34 am

It’s been a few years since I’ve used film but you’ve got some of my favs there.

I’m a Fujifilm guy all the way, took some of my best pics using Neopan with my old (sadly deceased Nikon FA).

April 17, 2009 5:43 am

Agfa APX 400 has always been one of my favourites. The saturation and contrast are really great. Pan F was always another favourite too. Really great range. I found paper combinations really change the outcome too….Fuji paper was my favs.

April 17, 2009 12:54 pm

Favourite films?

Most used: Provia
Punchiest: Velvia
Most Fun: Kodak EIR Infraared slide film – see the possibilities and learn more:
http://www.harrynowell.com/blog/2009/03/02/221-rest/

Exposure is more tricky with slide film but it will help you be more precise with your exposures!
Harry
HarryNowell.com

April 17, 2009 8:30 pm

Thanks for sharing some of your favorites and why they were right. I will experiment with some of these myself. -Nate

April 20, 2009 2:17 pm

I’m just getting into shooting film and this list is great. Any suggestions on the best place to buy film?

April 21, 2009 3:10 pm

Thanks for all the different types of film recommendations. I have just started using film in my photography and the experimenting with different brands and kinds is making me go broke. I love your work so I will check out your recommendations. So far, I have used ILFORD XP2 SUPER and I really liked it.

April 22, 2009 3:06 pm

I like Kodachrome. This classic slide film gives me nice bright colors that I enjoy.

April 30, 2009 11:06 pm

Interesting to see your take on your favorite films after all this time. I am ever impressed with your commitment to the medium. I myself always stuck with Velvia usually 50 as it suited landscape photography so well. As you know I now shoot almost exclusively digital, but one day I might burn through some film on a whim. Maybe

Out of curiosity have you used any film emulators? Filters that convert digital to a particular style of film? I’ve always wanted to get that to try out.

May 7, 2009 9:05 am

I haven’t used any film emulators, but I do follow a blog called “Life in Digital Film” — it’s full of LR and ACR presets, but I just haven’t gotten around to checking them out.

May 8, 2009 12:32 pm

Rollei Retro 100 (ex Agfa APX100)
Kodak TRI-X 400
Fuji Across 100

May 10, 2009 8:16 am

I’ve used subminiature cameras since 1954, producing negatives as small as 6mm in dia. to make prints up to 8 x 10″ and occasionally 16 x 20″. My film of choice is FUJI-HS-U Thin Pak, used at E.I. 50.

My developer is a Technidol ‘mimic’: In 200 ml. water add 17 drops HC-110 (stock) and 15 drops Agfa Rodinal. Process for 19 mins. @ 68F. Agitating 5 secs. every 30.

This film/developer combination used with a really good lens (Mamiya-16 Auto, Minolta-16 QT, etc.) takes you right to the very edge of what seems to be the maximum image quality possible from a film camera.

There are slower orthochromatic films with higher resolution, but HS-U is panchromatic, with enough just latitude to be ‘grab shot friendly”.

If I could process HS-U for a color image I’d probably eat if for breakfast.

October 28, 2009 2:34 pm

HS-U… is that even available anymore? I can’t seem to find anything online.

Along those same lines, I’ve been shooting Ilford PanF+ at EI 25 and developing with Agfa Rodinal at 1+100. It comes out with slightly more contrast than at EI 50, but still very usable even in high contrast situations. Super smooth results too:

Gangsta

October 28, 2009 3:49 pm


Comment now!