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Photography Guide - Tips on how to choose a 35mm film for your camera

Updated on February 14, 2016

Choosing your film

If your like me, and have been playing the numbers game with digital slr’s and feel a bit lackluster with keeping up with the Jones’ then film may be that new lease of life you are looking for, but where do you start? The first step of course is to get yourself a film camera, an slr (without the D you notice). That's a whole ball game of its own, but lets assume you have settled for a 35mm film camera from the likes of Nikon, Canon etc.

The second step is to choose your film. There are many different films available, even in this “day and age” all offering various levels of quality such as fine grain/high sharpness, which in turn gives a range in prices.

The first decision

The initial decision should start with deciding what and where you are going to shoot, and this will determine what asa (this is the direct film equivalent of ISO) you will require. With digital you or your camera can easily change the ISO to suit various demands/conditions whereas with film, you choose the set speed of the film, planning ahead. For example you will choose an ASA50 or 100 for brightly lit conditions with slow movement or still life. For darker conditions, you may choose an ASA400 or 800. This in turn inherits what is known as “film grain”, similar to digital “noise” but more organic and even in appearance. Some film manufacturers develop film as high as 3200 to allow captures in the darkest of conditions but they are very grainy and generally not very sharp at all. High ASA rated films are chosen for necessity or effect.

Once you’ve got past that milestone, your choice in films will start to narrow down, not all films are available in incremental increases in ASA value.

Black & White or Colour?

With digital its so easy to convert your picture to black and white, most programs can do this with a touch of a button. Film however, your stuck with what you shoot. You can't magically make a black and white photography, a colour one, theres no undo button.

Print film or slide film?

Most consumers will never come across this decision but if your reading this to find out what film to use, your probably not the average consumer. Print film is more forgiving than slide film. If theres a slight amount of colour correction needed then the film processor will be able to do this on the fly. For example shooting in doors with traditional light bulbs lighting the room can result in a slight orange cast over your pictures because the bulbs are not making pure white lights. Slide film however will be true to the conditions and record exactly what you are seeing through the view-finder. The advantage of slide film however is that what you see is what you get. if you want an orange cast on your pictures to be true to what you were shooting then that it what you will get. Slide film also offers a bit more contrast and saturation over print film but loses out on shadow detail at the same time. The obvious difference between the both is that you can project slide film straight from the negative using a slide projector.


This part of the decision is completely up to you. How much you are willing to spend on a film comes down to your wallet. Some films start at around £3 and can go up to £15 per roll. Generally speaking the more expensive the film, the more specialised/Pro it becomes, but isn't that the argument with anything you buy?

Here are some examples of several of the films available

Ilford delta 400 b&w
Ilford delta 400 b&w | Source
Ilford Delta HP5 1600
Ilford Delta HP5 1600 | Source
Kodak T-Max400
Kodak T-Max400 | Source
Kodak Colour Plus
Kodak Colour Plus | Source
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400 | Source
Kodak Ektachrome 100
Kodak Ektachrome 100 | Source


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    • Hippie2000 profile image

      Hippie Untiet 7 months ago from Wisconsin

      Hey it so nice to see other people using film. Me I had a digital camera for month and hated it. I hated the programing mess. Just to put the camera in manual mode. I had to push a bunch of buttons. And the quality is not there as well. I love and use manual cameras. I have a decent size collection of cameras. A few are AF but they use film so they count.

      I use enlargers to make paper prints because I dont need a computer printer. I'm a rare breed.

      Look at the photo in my icon. That was taken with a 1974 Minolta SRT-101 with a 75mm prime lens, light yellow filter. The film I use for that photo was Ilford HP5 Plus b&w ISO 400. I picked this film for the grain.

      I had a camera in my hands since I can hold one. So thats about 40 years or least close to it. I guess you can say I was born into film.

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      Lol, not everywhere does! And sadly it's quite expensive thanks to it not being popular but film has such a great look to it! Glad you enjoyed!

    • Ionizer2012 profile image

      Ionizer2012 5 years ago from Kirkland, WA

      I didn't know they still sold film or even developed, brought back memories, thank you!