Best Film for the Canon AE-1

Best Canon AE-1 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in the Canon AE-1 should be based on the available light, lens, and if you want to shoot color or black & white.

To prevent having to carry around a tripod and/or flash, choose a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or faster.

Make sure you have a fast lens if you want to take photographs in low light, conditions that are often encountered indoors. For lens lens ideas have a look at my short article on the 5 Best Lenses for the Canon AE-1.

Color Film


Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - This film works well in a multitude of lighting conditions and is a very good pick for a color film. Using this film you should be able to handhold the AE-1 in almost all scenarios.

The photos will have very good skin tones and is on the warm side.

Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - An alternative to Kodak that may have better availability depending on what country you are in.

Fuji images tend to have cooler colors with an emphasis on greens and blues, when compared to Kodak.

Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color film, there are only a small number of options. This is the only film geared towards consumers.

The emulsion can also be purchased in the 120 film format, for use with a medium format camera.

Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A guaranteed way to get that mid-1980s through 90s style. Use an on-camera flash to get the “authentic” look.

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.


Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400 - Among the enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is hands down the most frequently used color 35mm film. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the style the film is known for.

Portra is also available in ISO 160 and 800 emulsions. As well as in rolls of 120, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.

Black and White Film


With low prices and good favorable to use in the Canon AE-1.

The primary appeal for photography students and budget minded photographers is the affordable cost. Even if you do not put yourself in that group, it’s nice to have comparatively cheap rolls of 35 film readily available for trying out newly delivered camera gear.

Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - Produced by Harmon Technology, which is also the owner of Ilford. This is good due to the fact that makes this the most broadly available film of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - Can be much easier to get in Europe as the film is made in the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.

A suitable film to try for your initial few attempts at film photography or developing film at home. Also a good selection if you are testing out a camera to confirm that it’s working properly.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the lowest price by ordering it directly from Ultrafine.

If you develop color 35mm film yourself, you could have done that with developer produced by them.


Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 are the 2 most widely used black & white 35mm film stocks. They possess numerous attributes in common that help make them a favourite, while maintaining different rendering.

Both film emulsions can be pushed 1 or 2 stops and deliver professional photos. This makes the film versatile as a roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600.

Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The most important differences are that HP5 Plus has less contrast and is less expensive in comparison to Tri-X. Minimal amounts of contrast can be helpful due to the fact contrast can be increased when making a print or editing digitally.

The film emulsion has subtle grain and still looks excellent when pushed 2-stops.

Kodak Tri-X 400

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

The film emulsion clearly has more contrast. That’s very good if that is the look you need because it requires much less work when during digital post processing or printmaking.

Reversal Film

Slide film, also known as transparency film or reversal film, generates a positive image. This means the photos can be shown with a light box or projector.

This is unique from the more commonly available negative films that make images that need the colors to be inverted for the image to be viewable.

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

Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. There is almost no hypersaturation of colors. Ektachrome is daylight color balanced.

Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is a incredibly sharp daylight color balanced slide film with high levels of contrast and saturation, giving pictures a beautiful appearance. It has the best resolving power of any increased increased.

It is also available in an ISO 100 speed.

Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Delivers realistic and vibrant colors with medium color saturation and contrast. It has ultrafine grain with a daylight color balance.

Foma Fomapan R100

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white slide film, claimed by Fomapan as having increased levels of contrast, excellent resolving power, and very fine grain. It’s also regarded as a substitute for the discontinued Agfa Scala slide film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional film stock can more easily be pushed, have larger dynamic range, and latitude, which is the reason pro-film costs more.

There’s a difference in availability. Consumer film emulsions can commonly still be obtained from pharmacies and big-box stores in anemic amounts. Professional quality film will need to be ordered from a specialized photography store or online.


The ISO refers to the speed of the film, which may also be regarded as the film’s light sensitivity.

The bigger the ISO, the less light is required to expose a picture. In addition, be prepared for increased film grain.

It is often tricky to handhold the AE-1 with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). This is due to the fact that without full sun, the shutter speeds will most likely be longer than what you can handhold without resulting in motion blur.

A flash, fast lens, and/or tripod can assist you with longer shutter speeds. Using a fast ISO 400 or ISO 800 film will likely make the extra equipment unnecessary.

The ISO knob is marked as ASA on the Canon AE-1. The change to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Latitude is the number of stops a film can be overexposed while still holding onto good results. Pro film emulsions have a larger latitude along with a slightly increased price.

Slide film has a smaller amount of latitude when compared to negative film. That is a reason it’s considered challenging to shoot.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the range between the brightest and darkest parts of an image that can be recorded. Sections of a photo that fall out of this range will appear as white overexposed highlights or totally black underexposed shadows.

When shooting in a variety or quickly shifting lighting situations, films with a larger dynamic range are a superior choice.

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

Slide film is considered challenging to use because of the limited dynamic range. An excellent time to try it is during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that comes in metal canisters is used by the Canon AE-1. The film can also be described as 135 film, and it’s the most commonly used type of film.

120 or 220 film, used by medium format cameras, is the only other film format you are likely to come across}.

Swapping the film emulsion you are using will alter the look of your photos. This is an example of the best things about film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Most commercially available 35mm film for sale today has a DX code. This allows electronically controlled cameras to auto detect and set the ISO of the film canister loaded into the camera.

The ISO (ASA) on the Canon AE-1 has to be manually set. As a result DX-coding does not do anything.

Canon AE-1 Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are a few options for where to have 35mm film developed. For a more thorough explanation of the options check my article on Where to Develop Film.

WARNING: Film doesn’t get developed on site at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship the film off to be processed by a 3rd party. Consequently, you will not 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

Shipping your film to a mail-order photo lab to be processed and scanned is the simplest choice if you are just getting started using film. A downside to this is that it will become pricey if you consistently use film.

There are a few activities that you are able to do to lower the costs involved in shooting film, on condition that you’re using a medium to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

Purchasing a roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading in into canisters by hand is certainly one of the leading ways to get a better price.

A 100 foot roll will fill up typically around 18 rolls of film with 36 exposures. Depending on the film you will probably save 20%-30%.

Be aware that you are only going to be able to purchase rolls of black and white film. This is because black and white film is quite a bit easier and more cost-effective to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

Any film can be processed by hand. It is a good option to spend less so you can use more film with your Canon AE-1.

Black & white film is by far the easiest to process. Developer temperature and development times are both not as crucial to get correct with black & white film as temperatures and time are for slide or color negative.