Recommended Beginner Film for the Canon AL-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 AL-1 will have to be based on the lens, available light, and if you want to shoot color or black & white.

Taking advantage of an ISO 400 film or faster will allow you to skip having to lug around a flash and/or tripod.

If you intend to capture images inside or anywhere there is low light, make sure that you are using a fast lens. Check out my list on the 5 Best Lenses for the Canon AL-1 for suggestions.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - This film can be used in a plethora of lighting conditions and is a fantastic choice for a color film. Using Kodak UltraMax 400 you should be able to handhold the AL-1 in almost all circumstances.

Expect photos to look slightly warm with gorgeous colors.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - A different option than Kodak that could have far better availability based on where you are in the world.

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

Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color 35mm film, there aren't many offerings. This is literally the only 35mm film emulsion targeted towards consumers.

In addition, if you own a medium format camera, it is also available in 120 film format.

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film that debuted in the mid-1980s. The film provides the look and feel of home snapshots from the 80s and 1990s. For the classic shooting experience use an on-camera flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to create the best look the film has to offer. This will give you the idyllic colors everyone loves Kodak Gold for.

Professional

Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 35mm Film

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

Plus, ISO 160 and ISO 800 emulsions of Kodak Portra. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 are also available to purchase.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm equivalent to Kodak Portra 400, but with a different color appearance. Expect to see stronger blues and greens.

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

Black and White Film

Consumer

With affordable costs and more than acceptable favorable to try in the Canon AL-1.

The main attraction for budget-minded photographers and photography students is the reasonable price. Even if you do not put yourself in those groups, it's great to have relatively cheap rolls of 35 film on hand for evaluating newly purchased used cameras.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - Produced by Harmon Technology, which is also the owner of Ilford. This is notable since that makes this the most commonly available 35mm film of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - Can be less difficult to purchase in Europe as the film is made by Foma Bohemia inside of the Czech Republic.

An excellent film stock to choose for your initial few attempts at developing film at home or analog photography. Also, a good option if you are looking to test out a camera to make sure that it is fully functional.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the lowest price on this film by getting it from Ultrafine.

They distribute developer kits for color 35mm film, so if you process film at home you could have previously interacted with them.

Professional

Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are the two most commonly used black and white 35mm film stocks. While they both possess different styles, they do have quite a few capabilities that are equivalent that makes them so well-liked.

You can obtain very good photographs after pushing both film emulsions 2-stops. A roll can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them quite versatile.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The most important differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is less expensive compared to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be a benefit due to the fact contrast can be changed when making a darkroom print or during digital post-processing.

The film stock has a subtle grain and still looks outstanding when pushed 2-stops.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film emulsion provides a stronger style. To produce the classic grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it needs to be processed in Kodak D-76.

You're going to definitely see considerably more contrast with Tri-X. That's great if that is the overall look you will want because it means a great deal less work when through digital post-processing or making a print.

Reversal Film

Film emulsions that make a positive image can be called transparency, slide, or reversal film. This allows the photos to be displayed with a projector or lightbox.

Colors are not required to be inverted to be viewed, unlike the more commonplace negative film emulsions.

Slide films are thought of difficult to work with due to the fact slide film has far less dynamic range and latitude compared to negative film.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for its wonderful skin tones and fine grain. The colors don't look oversaturated. Ektachrome has been color balanced for daylight.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Provides beautiful looking images that have greatly increased amounts of contrast and saturation. It is a sharp daylight color balanced film. Compared to all the slide films offered, it has the greatest resolving power.

An ISO 100 speed is also available to buy.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Offers natural and vibrant colors with moderate contrast and color saturation. It's a film balanced for daylight with ultrafine grain.

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white transparency film, noted by Fomapan as having high resolving power, increased levels of contrast, and fine grain. It's also billed as an alternative for the long-discontinued Agfa Scala slide film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional film stocks have a greater dynamic range, are easier to push, and have larger latitude, this is why they are more expensive.

You should expect a difference in businesses that sell 35mm rolls of film. Consumer films can oftentimes be purchased from big-box stores and pharmacies in meager quantities. Professional film stocks should really be ordered from a camera store or online.

ISO

The ISO refers to the speed of the film, which can also be thought of as the film's light sensitivity.

The less light available to get an image, the bigger the ISO of the film needs to be. This comes at the cost of more noticeable film grain.

ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc) might be quite challenging to shoot handheld with the AL-1. The shutter time can be longer will probably take more time than what you’re able to handhold without leading to motion blur unless you're working in full sun.

A fast lens, tripod, and/or flash are going to assist you with longer shutter speeds. The additional equipment might not be needed if you decide to use a faster ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.

The dial to select film speed is labeled as ASA on the Canon AL-1. The transition to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Latitude

Film latitude is the amount of stops film can be overexposed while still keeping acceptable photographs. Professional film emulsions have a larger latitude paired with a somewhat increased cost.

Negative film has a greater amount of latitude when compared to reversal film. That is a reason it's deemed to be challenging to shoot.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the difference between the shadows and highlights details of a photograph that can be recorded. Areas of an image that don't fit in this range will be rendered as white overexposed highlights or totally black underexposed shadows.

When shooting in a wide variety of quickly shifting lighting conditions, films with a bigger dynamic range are a much better choice.

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

The small dynamic range of reversal film is a second reason it's considered a challenge to shoot. An ideal time to test it out would be during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that is sold in metal canisters is used by the Canon AL-1. It’s also the most widely used film format and is on occasion described as 135 film.

120 or 220 film, used with medium format cameras, is the only other type of film you are likely to see.

Swapping the film stock you are working with will transform the look of your shots. This is an example of the marvelous things about using film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Most available 35mm film offered at this time has DX encoding. This lets cameras to auto-detect and set the ISO of the film loaded.

DX-coding is not going to matter for the Canon AL-1 because ISO is required to be selected manually.

Canon AL-1 Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are limited possible choices for where to process 35mm film. For a more in-depth explanation of the options check out my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Pharmacies and big box stores have ended developing film locally. They send the film off to be processed by a 3rd party. As a result, you won't receive 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

Sending your film to a mail-order photo lab to be developed and scanned is the least complicated solution if you are new to shooting film. If you consistently use film, this can be a disadvantage due to the fact that it can get expensive.

Assuming that you are using a moderate to high volume of film, there are two activities that you can do to help reduce your expenses.

Bulk Loading Film

Buying a bulk roll of 100' of film and loading it into canisters yourself is certainly one of the ideal options to get a better price.

A 100-foot roll will fill up roughly 18 canisters of film with 36 frames. Look forward to discounts of 20-30% depending on the film you decide on.

Take into account that you are limited to 100-foot rolls of black & white film. This is due to the fact black and white film is less difficult and more cost-effective to develop at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

All film can be processed by hand. It is a great option to lower your costs so you can shoot more film with your Canon AL-1.

Black & white film is by far the least complicated to develop yourself. Developer temperature and development times are not as imperative to do correctly with black and white film as time and temperatures are for slide or color negative.

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