Best Film for the Canon AE-1 Program

Best Canon AE-1 Program 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in your Canon AE-1 Program will have to be based on the lighting conditions, your lens, and type of film you want to use.

Buying an ISO 400 35mm or faster will help you skip having to lug around a tripod and/or flash.

If you have a need to shoot pictures inside or anytime there is low light, make sure you are using a fast lens. Read my guide on the 5 Best Lenses for the Canon AE-1 Program for ideas.

Color Film


Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A good choice for an array of conditions. Using this film you should be able to handhold the AE-1 Program in lots of circumstances.

Expect images to appear a little warm with amazing colors.

Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - A different option than Kodak that may have far better availability depending on what country you are in.

Fujifilm photographs appear to have cooler tones with stronger greens and blues, when compared to Kodak.

Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - You’re limited to a few offerings if you want a color ISO 800 film. This is the only film targeted towards consumers.

In addition, if you have a medium format camera, Lomography 800 is also available in 120 film format.

Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film emulsion that was launched in the mid-1980s. The film provides the look and feel of family snapshots from the 80s and 90s. For the classic experience take advantage of an on-camera flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to bring out the best look the film can achieve. This will provide you with the outstanding colors people love the film for.


Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400 - By far the most popular color negative film among photography enthusiasts online. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the style the film is known for.

Kodak Portra is also available for purchase in ISO 800 and 160 versions. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 film are also available to purchase.

Black and White Film


With low prices and good favorable to be used in the Canon AE-1 Program.

The major attraction for budget minded photographers and photography students is the competitive price. Even if you would not put yourself in that group, it is nice to have low cost rolls of 35 film on hand for testing newly obtained camera gear.

Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - It is manufactured by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is notable because that makes this the most commonly sold 35mm film of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It is easier to find in Europe as the film is produced by Foma Bohemia out of the Czech Republic.

A great film emulsion to choose for your first couple of attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also a good option if you’re attempting to test out a camera to confirm that it’s operating correctly.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the cheapest price by getting it straight from Ultrafine.

If you process color 35mm film at home, you may have done that with developer sold by them to process your film.


The 2 best black & white 35mm films are Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5 Plus 400. While they both have distinctive looks, they have a lot of qualities in common that makes them so well received.

You can create quality results after pushing both films 2-stops. A roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them quite useful.

Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The largest differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is more affordable in comparison to Tri-X. Less contrast can be nice due to the fact contrast can be changed when making a print in the darkroom or editing digitally.

The film emulsion has subdued grain and still appears good when pushed 2-stops.

Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock has got a stronger look. To showcase the traditional grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be developed in D-76.

The film emulsion clearly has more contrast. That is great if that is the look and feel you need because it means considerably less work when making a print or through digital post processing.

Reversal Film

Transparency film, also known as slide or reversal film, creates a positive image. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to exhibit the slides.

The colors are not required to be inverted to be viewed, in contrast to the more often used negative film stocks.

Slide films have a lot less dynamic range and latitude compared to negative film and so they are believed to be harder to shoot.

Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for fine grain and attractive skin tones. The colors will not appear oversaturated. Ektachrome is daylight balanced.

Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is a exceptionally sharp color balanced for daylight reversal film with lots of contrast and saturation, giving pictures a special look. Velvia has the top resolving power of any increased elevated.

There is another emulsion that is ISO 100.

Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Produces natural and vivid colors with medium contrast and color saturation. It is a ultra fine grain film with a daylight color balance.

Foma Fomapan R100

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white transparency film, reported by Fomapan as having higher levels of contrast, very good resolving power, and very fine grain. It is also regarded as a replacement for the long discontinued Agfa Scala slide film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro film stock have a greater dynamic range, are easier to push, and larger latitude, which is why they will be more expensive.

There is a difference in where it can be purchased. Consumer film stocks can frequently be bought from pharmacies and big-box stores in small amounts. Professional film will need to be purchased from a camera store or online.


The speed of the film is shown as ISO, which may also be thought of as the film’s light sensitivity.

The bigger the film’s ISO, the less light is required to properly expose a film frame. This comes at the tradeoff of increased film grain.

ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc) can be frustrating to shoot handheld in the AE-1 Program. The will likely take longer will most likely be longer than what you could handhold without causing motion blur unless you’re shooting in full sun.

To avoid this you will need to use a fast lens, tripod, and/or flash. Using a fast ISO 400 or ISO 800 film often makes the extra gear not needed.

As a quick note, the ISO selection knob is listed as ASA on the Canon AE-1 Program. The transition 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 film can be overexposed while still maintaining acceptable images. Pro films have a larger latitude to go along with a slightly increased cost.

Negative film has more latitude compared to transparency film. That is one of the reasons why it is thought of more challenging to use.

Dynamic Range

The difference between the darkest and brightest parts of a picture is referred to as dynamic range. Parts of an image that do not fit within this range will be rendered as solid white overexposed highlights or totally black underexposed shadows.

When working in a variety or quickly shifting lighting situations, film stocks with a larger dynamic range are a better choice.

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

Slide film is regarded as a challenge to use due to the limited dynamic range. An ideal time to try it is during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that comes in canisters is used by the Canon AE-1 Program. The film can also be called 135 film, and it is the best-selling type of film.

The only other film format you are going to encounter is 120 or 220 film that is used in medium format cameras}.

Switching the film stock you are using will transform the look of your images. This is an example of the terrific things about shooting film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Nearly all commercially available 35mm film on the market at this time has DX encoding. This lets electronically controlled cameras to auto detect and set the ISO of the canister loaded into the camera.

ISO (ASA) on the Canon AE-1 Program needs to be selected manually. So DX-coding is not going to make a difference.

Canon AE-1 Program Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are a handful of possible choices for where to get film processed. For a more extensive explanation of the choices go look at my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film doesn’t get developed locally at pharmacies and big box stores. They mail film away to be developed by a 3rd party. Because of this, you won’t get your 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 least complicated option and the method I suggest using if you’re just beginning to use film is to send off your film to a photo lab to be developed and scanned. A drawback to this is that it ends up being pricey if you’re consistently shooting film.

There are a few things that you are able to do to help reduce the expenses required to shoot film, assuming that you are using a moderate to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

Getting a roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading in into canisters yourself is considered one of the most common options to get a better price.

A 100 foot roll will fill roughly 18 rolls of film containing 36 exposures each. Depending on the film stock you will probably save 20%-30%.

Be aware that you’re only going to find 100’ rolls of black and white film. This is in part because black and white film is less difficult and more cost-effective to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

You can process and scan any film yourself. In fact it is an intelligence method to lower your costs so that you can use more film with your Canon AE-1 Program.

Black & white film is by far the simplest to process yourself. Chemical temperature and time are not as crucial to get correct with black and white films as time and temperatures are for color negative or slide film.