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Best Film for the Canon AL-1

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Best Canon AL-1 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in your Canon AL-1 will be based on the available light, your lens, and type of film you want to shoot.

To avoid having to lug around a flash and/or tripod, get a film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.

Ensure you have a fast lens if you want to capture pictures in low light, conditions that are frequently found indoors. For lens lens recommendations go read my blog post on the 5 Best Lenses for the Canon AL-1.

Color Film

Consumer

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Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - This film handles a large range of lighting conditions well and is a terrific selection for a 35mm color film. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the AL-1 in lots of situations.

Expect photographs to look a little warm with gorgeous colors.

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Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Depending on where you are in the world, this film may have greater availability. It is a fantastic alternative to Kodak emulsions.

Fujifilm photos tend to have cooler tones with notable greens and blues, compared to Kodak.

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Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - There are just a small number of possibilities if you want a color ISO 800 35mm film. For 35mm film stocks focused on consumers, Lomography 800 is the only option.

The emulsion is sold in the 120 film format, for use in medium format cameras.

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Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film stock that started production in the mid-1980s. The film provides the look and feel of home snapshots from the 1980s and 1990s. Use a flash to get the “classic” look.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to create the most popular look the film can achieve. This will produce the attractive colors everyone loves the film for.

Professional

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Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400 - Among enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is by far the most frequently used color film. Overexpose the film by 1 or 2-stops to get the overall look the film is highly regarded for.

There are also ISO 800 and ISO 160 versions of Portra. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 are also available to buy.

Black and White Film

Consumer

These film emulsions have reasonable prices and good quality, making them very popular to be used in the Canon AL-1.

The main attraction for photography students and budget minded photographers is the very low cost. Even if you would not put yourself in those groups, it’s nice to have low cost rolls of film available for trying out recently purchased used gear.

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Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - Made by Harmon Technology, which is also the owner of Ilford. This is excellent because that makes this the most widely available B&W film of the 3.

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Foma Fomapan 400 Action

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - Is likely to be easier to buy in Europe as the film is made by Foma Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

An ideal film stock to employ for your initial few attempts at developing film at home or film photography. Also a good option if you’re trying out a camera to check that it’s totally functional.

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Ultrafine eXtreme 400

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

If you develop 35mm color film yourself, you could have done that with developer sold by them to process your film.

Professional

Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are the 2 most popular black & white 35mm film stocks. While they both possess individual looks, they possess several qualities that are similar that makes them so well liked.

Both films can be pushed 2 stops and still deliver quality results. This makes the film versatile as a roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The primary differences are that HP5 Plus is cheaper and has less contrast compared to Tri-X. Minimal contrast can be advantageous because contrast can be adjusted when making a darkroom print or editing digitally.

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

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Kodak Tri-X 400

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

Tri-X definitely has greater contrast. That is good if that is the look and feel you need because it involves less work when making a print or through digital post processing.

Reversal Film

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

The colors don’t need to be inverted to be viewable, contrary to the more prevalent negative film stocks.

Slide films have less latitude and dynamic range than negative film and so they are viewed as difficult to use.

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Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for wonderful skin tones and fine grain. There’s virtually no hypersaturation of colors. Ektachrome is daylight color balanced.

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Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Makes appealing looking images that have increased amounts of contrast and saturation. It is sharp daylight balanced film. It has the best resolving power of any available slide film emulsion.

It is also available in an ISO 100 version.

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Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Creates vivid and natural colors with moderate contrast and color saturation. It has ultra fine grain with a daylight color balance.

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Foma Fomapan R100

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white reversal film, marketed by Fomapan as having very fine grain, higher levels of contrast, and very good resolving power. It’s also billed as a alternative for the long discontinued Agfa Scala transparency film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional films cost more due to the fact they have greater dynamic range, latitude, and are easier to push.

You should expect to see a difference in where film can be purchased. Consumer film stocks can quite often be bought in pharmacies and big-box stores in limited quantities. Professional film stocks should really be bought from a photography store or online.

ISO

A film’s light sensitivity is displayed by the ISO.

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

ISO 100 and slower speed films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc) may be difficult to shoot handheld with the AL-1. This is because without full sun, the exposure times might be longer than what you are able to handhold without creating motion blur.

A tripod, flash, and/or fast lens can help you with longer shutter speeds. Using a high speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film will likely make the additional gear unnecessary.

The ISO knob is listed as ASA on the Canon AL-1. The transition to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) came after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the amount of stops film can be overexposed while holding onto tolerable results. Professional film stocks have a greater latitude along with a somewhat increased price.

Negative film has a greater amount of latitude when compared to reversal film. That is a reason it’s thought of challenging to work with.

Dynamic Range

The range between the highlights and shadows parts of a photograph is known as dynamic range. Sections of a picture that do not fit within this range will be rendered as black underexposed shadows or completely white overexposed highlights.

A bigger dynamic range is better given that a larger range makes working in a wide variety of lighting conditions easier.

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

The constrained dynamic range of reversal film is a second reason why it’s considered to be difficult to shoot. Golden hour is the ideal time to shoot slide.

Film Type

35mm film that is in canisters is used by the Canon AL-1. It is also the most commonly used film format and sometimes referred to as 135 film.

120 or 220 film, used in medium format cameras, is the only other type of film you are going to encounter}.

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

DX Coded Film

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DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Virtually all available 35mm film distributed these days has DX encoding on the canister. This makes it possible for electronically controlled cameras to auto detect and set the ISO when the film is loaded.

The ASA (ISO) on the Canon AL-1 needs to be manually dialed in. Which means DX-coding doesn’t do anything.

Canon AL-1 Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

There are limited possibilities for where to have 35mm film developed. For a more comprehensive discussion of the possibilities go to my guide on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Pharmacies and big box stores have ended developing film on site. They mail the film away to be processed by a third party. Because of this, 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

Sending film to a mail-order lab to be developed and scanned is the easiest solution if you’re new to shooting film. If you consistently use film, this might be a downside since it can get pricey.

There are a few actions that you can do to minimize the expenses involved in shooting film, if you are using a medium to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

One of the most well known options to reduce costs on film is to buy a roll of 100 feet of film and manually load it into canisters by hand.

After you’re done, you’ll end up making roughly 18 canisters of 36 exposures each. You should expect to save 20-30% depending on your choice.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you’re only going to find 100 foot rolls of black and white film. This is because black and white film is less difficult and more affordable to develop at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

It’s possible to develop and digitize film yourself. In fact it is a very good option to lower your costs so you can use more film with your Canon AL-1.

Black & white film is much simpler to process yourself. Chemical temperature and development times are both not as necessary to get correct with black & white films as temperatures and time are for color negative or transparency film.