Best Film for the Nikon EL

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: May 25, 2020
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35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in your Nikon EL will have to be based on the lens, available light, and type of film you want to use.

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

Make sure you have a fast lens if you want to capture photos in low light, conditions that are often encountered indoors.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - This film works well in a plethora of lighting conditions and is a very good option for a color 35mm film. Using Kodak UltraMax 400 you should be able to handhold the EL in just about all scenarios.

The photographs will have fantastic skin tones and is on the warm side.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Depending on your location, this film could be more widely available. It's an excellent alternative to Kodak emulsions.

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

Lomography 800 - If you want a color 35mm film with an ISO of 800, there are only a few choices. For 35mm film emulsions targeted towards consumers, Lomography 800 is the single available choice.

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

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film stock that was released in the mid-1980s. Kodak Gold 200 gives the look of snapshots from the 80s and 90s. Use an on-camera flash to get the "authentic" film look.

To bring the ideal look out of the film, you'll want to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will produce the outstanding colors everyone loves Gold 200 for.

Professional

Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 35mm Film

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

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

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm emulsion that is closest to Portra 400, but with a distinct color profile. Expect more vibrant greens and blues.

It is available in rolls of 120, but not in sheets of 8x10 or 4x5.

Black and White Film

Consumer

With reasonable prices and good favorable to use in the Nikon EL.

The main draw for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the very low price. Even if you do not put yourself in that group, it's good to have comparatively cheap rolls of 35 film available for testing recently acquired camera gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - Made by Harmon Technology, which is the parent company of Ilford. This is good since that makes this the most widely sold B&W film of the three.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It's much easier to purchase in Europe as the film is produced in the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.

A good quality film stock to choose for your initial few attempts at developing film at home or analog photography. Also, a good choice if you're testing out a camera to be sure that it's functioning correctly.

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

They distribute developer kits for color film, so if you develop film at home you might have previously interacted with them.

Professional

The 2 top-selling black & white films are Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400. While they both have individual styles, they have many capabilities that are equivalent that makes them popular.

Both film stocks can be pushed 2 stops and while still supplying good images. A roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them remarkably flexible.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - Between the two film emulsions, HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is more affordable. Less contrast can be a benefit because of the fact contrast can be changed when making a darkroom print or through digital post-processing.

The film stock still appears good when pushed 2-stops. It is also known for having subdued grain.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film emulsion features a more distinctive style. To achieve the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it needs to be processed in D-76.

You're going to undeniably notice far more contrast with Tri-X 400. That's notable if that is the look and feel you are after because it means much less work when editing digitally or making a print in the darkroom.

Transparency Film

Transparency film, also known as reversal or slide film, results in a positive image. This means the slides can be viewed with a lightbox or projector.

Colors are not required to be inverted to be viewed, in contrast to the more readily available negative film emulsions.

Slide films have less dynamic range and latitude when compared with negative film and so they are believed to be more challenging to work with.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. The colors won't be seen as oversaturated. Ektachrome has been balanced for daylight.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Offers distinct looking photographs that have increased levels of contrast and saturation. It is very sharp with a daylight color balance. Velvia has the best resolving power of any available reversal film stock.

There's another speed that is ISO 100.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Delivers vivid and natural colors with moderate contrast and color saturation. It's an ultra-fine grain film balanced for daylight.

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white reversal film, claimed by Fomapan as having very good resolving power, increased levels of contrast, and very fine grain. It is also billed as a replacement for the discontinued Agfa Scala.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional film stock are easier to push, have larger dynamic range, and latitude, which is the reason pro-film costs more.

There's a significant difference in availability. Consumer film stocks can often be bought in big-box stores and pharmacies in anemic amounts. Professional level film will need to be ordered from a specialized camera store or online.

Film ISO

A film's light sensitivity is listed as the ISO.

The less light there's available to get an image, the higher the ISO of the film will be needed. Also, be prepared for bigger film grain.

It is often challenging to handhold the EL with ISO 100 or slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). They will take more time will be longer than what you are able to handhold without causing motion blur unless you're out in full sun.

A fast lens, flash, and/or tripod are going to help you with longer shutter speeds. Using a high-speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film is likely to make the extra accessories not needed.

The ISO knob is labeled as ASA/ISO on the Nikon EL. The shift to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Latitude

Film latitude is the number of stops a film can be overexposed while having good images. Pro film emulsions have a larger latitude paired with a somewhat higher cost.

Negative film has more latitude when compared to reversal film. That is a reason it's viewed as challenging to work with.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the range between the shadows and highlights details of a photo that can be captured. Areas of a photograph that are not in this range will appear as totally black underexposed shadows or white overexposed highlights.

A bigger dynamic range is preferable due to the fact that a bigger range can make shooting in variable lighting conditions easier.

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

The constrained dynamic range of transparency film is a second reason why it's considered to be a challenge to shoot. The perfect time to test it out would be during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that is sold in canisters is used by the Nikon EL. The film can also be described as 135 film, and it is the best-selling type of film.

120 or 220 film, used in medium format cameras, is the only other film format you are probably going to come across.

Changing the film stock you are using will alter 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

Nearly all new 35mm film offered currently has DX encoding on the canister. This makes it possible for cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO when the film canister is put in the camera.

DX-coding does not matter for the Nikon EL because ISO must be set manually with the ASA/ISO knob.

Nikon EL Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are a range of possible choices for where to develop 35mm film. For a more in-depth explanation of the possible choices look at my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film doesn't get processed locally at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship film off to be processed by a separate company. As a result, you won't be given 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 film to a mail-order lab to be developed and scanned is the most straightforward solution if you are just beginning to shoot film. If you frequently shoot film, this could be a drawback since it can get really expensive.

There are a few actions that can be done to help reduce the costs involved in using film, provided that you are using a medium to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

Investing in a bulk roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading it into canisters yourself is one of the ideal options to lower expenses.

Once you are done, you will have typically around 18 rolls of 36 frames. Based on the film you will probably save 20%-30%.

Take into account that you are going to be limited to rolls of black & white film. This is in part because black and white film is much easier and more cost-effective to process at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

All film can be processed by hand. It is an intelligence option to save money so that you can use more film with your Nikon EL.

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

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