Recommended Beginner Film for the Canon A-1

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: May 10, 2020
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35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in the Canon A-1 is going to depend on your lens, lighting, and if you want to use color or black & white.

Using an ISO 400 35mm or higher speed will enable you to skip needing to carry around a flash and/or tripod.

If you need to shoot pictures indoors or anywhere there is low light, make sure that you have a fast lens. Check out my blog post on the 5 Best Lenses for the Canon A-1 for ideas.

Color Film


Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film handles a large range of lighting conditions well and is a terrific pick for a color 35mm film. Using this film you should have the ability to handhold the A-1 in lots of scenarios.

The photos will have very good colors and lean towards the warm side.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - An alternative to Kodak that could have far better availability based on where you are in the world.

Fujifilm pictures tend to have cooler colors with an emphasis on blues and greens when compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - You're limited to only a small number of offerings if you want a color ISO 800 35mm film. For film stocks focused on consumers, Lomography 800 is the single available choice.

In the past the film has gone out of stock for months at a time. It is believed to be one of the older Kodak ISO 800 emulsions.

Additionally, if you own a medium format camera, it's also available in 120 film format.

Kodak Gold 200 - An awesome means to achieve that mid-80s through 90s look. For the authentic photography experience try an on-camera flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to reveal the best the film can achieve. This will give you the striking colors people love the film for.


Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 35mm Film

Kodak Portra 400 - Among the enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is undoubtedly the most frequently used color negative film. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the rendering the film is well known for.

There are also ISO 800 and 160 emulsions of Kodak Portra. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 are also available. The ISO 160 is easier to find in 35mm rolls. ISO 800 is difficult to find and expensive.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - Discontinued. The Fujifilm equal to Kodak Portra 400, but with a distinctive color appearance. Expect to see more vibrant greens and blues.

8x10 or 4x5 sheets of film are not offered, but 120 film is.

Black and White Film


With low costs and very good favorable to try in the Canon A-1.

The primary attraction for budget-minded photographers and photography students is the very low price. Even if you don't put yourself in those groups, it's great to have relatively cheap rolls of film around for evaluating recently acquired used gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - It's produced by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is notable due to the fact that allows this to be the most commonly sold 35mm film out of the three.

The 36 exposure rolls are not much more expensive than 24 exposure rolls. That makes Kentmere 400 one of the cheapest black and white films to shoot per frame. It is also available in 100' rolls for bulk loading.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It will probably less difficult to obtain in Europe as the film is manufactured by Foma Bohemia in the Czech Republic. I was not able to easily find the film in 36 exposure rolls, which makes it more expensive per frame than Kentmere. It too is available in 100' rolls.

Many people online claim that Arista EDU 400 is the same film as this. If Arista EDU is available where you are, it is likely less expensive than Kentmere.

An appropriate film stock to use for your initial few attempts at developing film at home or analog photography. Also, a good option if you happen to be attempting to test out a camera to guarantee that it's working properly.


The 2 most popular black & white 35mm film stocks are Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400. While they both have distinctive rendering, they have numerous traits that are comparable that help makes them so well-liked.

You can achieve professional photos after pushing both film emulsions 2-stops. A 35mm roll of film can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them remarkably versatile.

Box of Ilford HP5 Plus ISO 400 35mm Black & White Film

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The major differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is more affordable when compared to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be beneficial due to the fact contrast can be changed when making a darkroom print or through digital processing.

The film still looks outstanding when pushed 2-stops. It is also noted for having subtle grain.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film has got a more distinctive aesthetic. To bring out the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it needs to be processed in D-76.

Kodak Tri-X 400 clearly has more contrast. That's great if it's the overall look you are after because it involves not as much work when through digital post-processing or making a print.

Transparency Film

Film emulsions that create a positive image are typically referred to as slide, transparency, or reversal film. That means a lightbox or projector can be used to view the photos.

The colors do not need to be inverted to be viewed, contrary to the more often used negative films.

Slide films are thought of very hard to work with due to the fact slide film has substantially less dynamic range and latitude when compared to negative film.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for appealing skin tones and fine grain. There is not any hypersaturation of colors. Ektachrome is daylight color balanced.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Creates beautiful looking photographs that have increased amounts of contrast and saturation. It is razor-sharp and color balanced for daylight. When compared with all the slide films available to buy, it has the greatest resolving power.

There's another version with an ISO of 100.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Offers natural and vibrant colors with medium contrast and color saturation. It's a daylight color balanced film with ultra-fine grain. Very expensive.

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black and white reversal film, reported by Fomapan as having excellent resolving power, fine grain, and elevated levels of contrast. It's also mentioned as an alternative for the long-discontinued Agfa Scala reversal film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro films cost more due to the fact that they have better latitude, are easier to push, and bigger dynamic range.

There will be a big difference in where it can be purchased. Consumer film stocks can often still be obtained from big-box stores and pharmacies in limited amounts. Professional film usually needs to be ordered from an online retailer or camera store.


A film's sensitivity to light is displayed by the ISO.

The bigger the ISO of the film, the less light is required to get a picture. Additionally, be prepared for larger sized film grain.

It might be difficult to handhold the A-1 with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). The shutter speeds will probably take more time than what you can handhold without resulting in motion blur unless you are working in full sun.

A fast lens, tripod, and/or flash are going to help you with longer shutter speeds. The extra equipment might not be needed if you choose a higher speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film.

As a quick note, the ISO knob is marked as ASA on the Canon A-1. The move to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Latitude is the range of stops a film can be overexposed while still producing usable photographs. Professional film emulsions have a larger latitude paired with a somewhat higher cost.

Reversal film has a smaller amount of latitude compared to negative film. That is a reason why it's considered more difficult to work with.

Dynamic Range

The difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a photograph is referred to as dynamic range. Parts of a picture that are not in this range will be rendered as totally white overexposed highlights or totally black underexposed shadows.

When shooting in a wide variety of quickly changing lighting conditions, film stocks with a bigger dynamic range is preferable.

  • Digital cameras 14+ stops
  • Negative film up to 13 stops
  • Slide film 6-8 stops

Slide film is thought to be challenging to use because of the constrained dynamic range. Golden hour is the prime time to use slide film.

Film Type

The Canon A-1 takes 35mm film that is in canisters. The film can also be referred to as 135 film, and it is the most commonly used film format.

The only other film format you are probably going to come across is 120 or 220 film that is used with medium format cameras.

Swapping the film emulsion you are working with will alter the look of your shots. This is an example of the excellent things about film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Just about all commercially available 35mm film manufactured at this point has a DX code. This lets cameras to detect and set the ISO of the canister loaded into the camera.

ASA (ISO) on the Canon A-1 has to be manually selected. For that reason, DX-coding will not make a difference.

Canon A-1 Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are a few choices for where to have 35mm film processed. For a more comprehensive discussion of the possibilities have a look at my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film doesn't get processed on-site at big box stores and pharmacies. They send the film away to be developed by a separate company. Because of that, you won't receive your processed negatives back.

  1. Develop Film at Home
  2. Use a Local Photography Lab
  3. Use a Mail Order Photo Lab
  4. Pharmacy or Big Box Store

The most convenient method and the method I would suggest doing if you are just getting started shooting film is to ship your film to a lab to be developed and scanned. If you consistently use film, this could be a disadvantage since it can get really expensive.

There are a few activities that can be done to lower the costs involved in shooting film, assuming that you are using a medium to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

Considered one of the best options to lower your costs on film is to buy a roll of 100 feet of film and manually load canisters by hand.

All said and done, you'll find yourself with roughly 18 rolls of 36 frames. Based on the film stock you can expect to save 20%-30%.

Be aware that you are going to be limited to 100-foot rolls of black and white film. This is due to the fact black and white film is quite a bit easier and more cost-effective to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

All film can be processed at home. In fact, it's a good method to cut costs so that you can use more film with your Canon A-1.

Black & white film is much easier to develop. Developer temperature and development times are not as imperative to do correctly with black and white films as time and temperatures are for color negative or transparency film.

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