Best Film for the Canon A-1
The best film to use in the Canon A-1 will have to be based on the lighting conditions, your lens, and if you want to use color or black & white.
To eliminate having to carry around a flash or tripod, pick a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or faster.
Make sure that you have a fast lens if you want to take photographs in low light, conditions that are commonly encountered indoors. Take a look at my article on the 5 Best Lenses for the Canon A-1 for lens recommendations.
Kodak UltraMax 400 - A fantastic option for a plethora of conditions. The film is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the A-1 in almost all situations.
The photographs will have extremely good colors and leans towards the warm side.
Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - An alternative to Kodak that may have better availability depending on what country you are in.
Fuji photographs appear to have cooler colors with stronger greens and blues, compared to Kodak.
Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color film, there are only a few options. For 35mm film stocks targeted towards consumers, Lomography 800 is the single option.
In addition, if you have a medium format camera, Lomography 800 is also offered in 120 film format.
Kodak Gold 200 - A surefire option to achieve that mid-1980s through 90s look. For the genuine shooting experience take advantage of an on-camera flash.
Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to create the most popular look the film has to offer. This will give you the gorgeous colors everyone loves Kodak Gold 200 for.
Kodak Portra 400 - By far the most popular color negative film among enthusiasts online. Overexpose it by 1 or 2-stops to get the look and feel the film is highly regarded for.
Portra is also for sale in ISO 160 and 800 versions. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 are also available to purchase.
Black and White Film
With reasonable costs and good very popular to use in the Canon A-1.
The biggest draw for budget minded photographers and photography students is the low price. Even if you wouldn’t put yourself in that group, it is great to have low cost rolls of film readily available for trying out newly purchased camera gear.
Kentmere 400 - Made by Harmon Technology, which is the parent company of Ilford. This is notable because that allows this to be the most commonly available film out of the 3.
Foma Fomapan 400 Action - Can be easier to find in Europe as the film is produced in the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.
A decent film stock to use for your initial couple of attempts at home developing or analog photography. Also a good choice if you are testing out a camera to make sure that it’s totally operational.
Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the lowest price by buying it from Ultrafine.
They manufacture developer kits for 35mm film, so if you process film at home you might have previously done business with them.
The two most popular black & white films are Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400. They possess quite a few capabilities in common that make them so well liked, while retaining unique looks.
You can still get solid photos after pushing both emulsions 2-stops. This makes the film versatile as a roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600.
Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The fundamental differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is cheaper in comparison to Tri-X. Minimal contrast can be an advantage because contrast can be increased when making a print in the darkroom or during digital post processing.
The film has subtle grain and still appears good when pushed 2-stops.
Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film has a more distinctive style to it. To create the classic grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be developed in D-76.
You’re going to unquestionably see far more contrast with Tri-X. That’s fantastic if it is the look and feel you are after because it involves not as much work when making a print or editing digitially.
Film stocks that make a positive image can be called slide, transparency, or reversal film. That means a lightbox or projector can be used to exhibit the slides.
Colors are not required to be inverted to be viewed, contrary to the more prevalent negative film stocks.
Slide films have a smaller amount of dynamic range and latitude when compared to negative film and so they are considered tougher to shoot.
Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. The colors don’t seem oversaturated. It is daylight color balanced.
Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is a seriously sharp color balanced for daylight transparency film with lots of contrast and saturation, giving photographs a appealing appearance. Matched against all the reversal films offered, it has the highest resolving power.
It is also available in an ISO 100 version.
Fujichrome Provia 100F - Offers natural and vivid colors with moderate contrast and color saturation. It is a daylight color balanced film with ultra fine grain.
Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white slide film, reported by Fomapan as having very fine grain, higher contrast, and excellent resolving power. It’s also mentioned as a alternative for the long discontinued Agfa Scala film emulsion.
Consumer vs Professional Film
Pro film stock have a greater dynamic range, are easier to push, and increased latitude, which is why they cost more.
There’s a disparity in business that sell film. Consumer film emulsions can oftentimes still be seen in pharmacies and big-box stores in small amounts. Professional level film needs to be ordered from a online or specialized camera store.
A film’s sensitivity to light is represented by the ISO.
The higher the ISO of the film, the less light is necessary to expose a picture. Also, be prepared for bigger film grain.
ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc) is often difficult to use handheld with the A-1. The will probably take more time are going to take longer than what you could handhold without producing motion blur unless you’re out in full sun.
To stop motion blur you are going to need to use a flash, fast lens, and/or tripod. The additional accessories may not be needed if you choose to use a higher speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film.
As a quick note, the ISO selection knob is marked as ASA on the Canon A-1. The move to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).
Latitude is the range of stops film can be overexposed while holding onto tolerable results. Professional films have a greater latitude paired with a slightly higher price.
Transparency film has a smaller amount of latitude when compared to negative film. That is a reason why it’s viewed as harder to shoot.
The range between the brightest and darkest parts of a photo is known as dynamic range. Areas of a photo that don’t fit within this range will appear as white overexposed highlights or completely black underexposed shadows.
A larger dynamic range is preferable due to the fact that it can make working in a wide variety of lighting situations easier.
- Digital cameras 14+ stops
- Negative film up to 13 stops
- Slide film 6-8 stops
Transparency film is viewed as challenging to shoot due to the constrained dynamic range. A great time to try it is during the golden hour.
The Canon A-1 takes 35mm film that comes in metal canisters. It is also the most often used film format and is on occasion described as 135 film.
120 or 220 film, used by medium format cameras, is the only other film format you are going to encounter}.
One of the best properties of film is that you can switch the film stock you work with and get a fresh look to your photographs.
DX Coded Film
Most new 35mm film offered for sale currently has a DX code. This allows cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO of the canister loaded.
The ISO (ASA) on the Canon A-1 must be set manually. Which means that DX-coding does not matter.
Canon A-1 Resources
Where to Get Film Developed?
You will find limited possible choices for where to have 35mm film developed. For a more complete explanation of the options read my article on Where to Get Film Developed.
WARNING: Film does not get processed on location at big box stores and pharmacies. They mail the film off-site to be developed by a 3rd party. As a consequence, you won’t get your negatives back.
- Develop Film at Home
- Use a Local Photography Lab
- Use a Mail Order Photo Lab
- Pharmacy or Big Box Store
The most convenient option and what I suggest using if you’re just beginning to shoot film is to mail off your film to a photo lab to be processed and scanned. A downside to this is that it will become expensive if you frequently use film.
Assuming that you are going through a medium to high volume of film, there are a couple of things that you are capable of doing to minimize your costs.
Bulk Loading Film
Certainly one of the most widely used options to save money on film is to buy a bulk roll of 100 feet of film and manually load it into canisters by hand.
A 100’ roll of film will load typically around 18 rolls of film containing 36 exposures. Depending on the film stock you are likely to save 20%-30%.
Take into account that you are only going to find 100 foot rolls of black & white film. This is in part because black and white film is less difficult and less expensive to develop yourself.
Home Developing and Scanning
Any film can be processed by hand. In fact it is a good way to reduce costs so that you can shoot more film with your Canon A-1.
Black & white film is by far the least difficult to process. Chemical temperature and development times are not as important to do correctly with black & white film as they are for transparency or color negative.