Best Film for the Nikon F

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: May 10, 2020
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35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in the Nikon F will have to be based on the lens, lighting, and if you want to use color or black & white.

Using an ISO 400 film or higher speed will allow you to skip being weighed down with a tripod and/or flash.

Make sure you have a fast lens if you want to shoot photos in low light, conditions that are commonly encountered indoors. Check out my brief article on the 5 Best Lenses for the Nikon F for recommendations.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A terrific option for an array of lighting conditions. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the F in the majority of situations.

Expect photographs to appear a bit warm with pleasant skin tones.

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

Fujifilm images appear to have cooler colors with an emphasis on blues and greens, compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color film, there are only a small number of possible choices. This is literally the only 35mm film geared towards consumers.

The film is sold in the 120 film format, to be used in a medium format camera.

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film that was launched in the mid-1980s. Kodak Gold 200 offers the look of snapshots from the 80s and 90s. Use a flash to get the "authentic" film look.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to reveal the best look the film has to offer. This will provide you with the stunning 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 enthusiasts online. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the look and feel the film is highly regarded for.

Portra is also sold in ISO 160 and ISO 800 emulsions. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 film are also available to buy.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm emulsion that is most similar to Portra 400, but with "Fuji colors." Expect to see more vibrant greens and blues.

It's offered in rolls of 120, but not in sheets of 8x10 or 4x5.

Black and White Film

Consumer

With reasonable costs and very good very popular to be used in the Nikon F.

The major appeal for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the reasonable price. Even if you do not put yourself in that group, it is good to have economical rolls of 35 film on hand for trying out recently purchased used gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - Produced by Harmon Technology, which is the parent company of Ilford. This is great due to the fact that allows this to be the most broadly available film out of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - This is likely to be easier to obtain in Europe as the film is produced by Foma Bohemia out of the Czech Republic.

A great 35mm film to try for your first few attempts at developing film at home or film photography. Also, a good option if you're testing out a camera to ensure that it's working properly.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - The cheapest store to buy this film is straight from Ultrafine.

If you process color 35mm film yourself, you might have used developer produced by them.

Professional

Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400 are the 2 most commonly used black & white 35mm film emulsions. While they both possess individual rendering, they possess several capabilities that are equivalent that makes them a favorite.

Both emulsions can be pushed 2 stops and deliver good results. A 35mm roll of film can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them quite useful.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The biggest differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is less expensive in comparison to Tri-X. Low amounts of contrast can be a benefit due to the fact contrast can be added when making a print in the darkroom or during digital processing.

The film stock still appears very 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 stock possesses a more distinctive style to it. To achieve the classic grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it needs to be processed in Kodak D-76.

You'll without a doubt see far more contrast with Kodak Tri-X. That's excellent if that is the overall look you will want because it involves considerably less work when printmaking or editing digitally.

Transparency Film

Film emulsions that make a positive image are referred to as slide, reversal, or transparency film. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to exhibit the slides.

Colors are not required to be inverted to be viewable, as opposed to the more often used negative film stocks.

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

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for fine grain and appealing skin tones. The colors won't seem oversaturated. Ektachrome is daylight balanced.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is an extraordinarily sharp daylight color balanced slide film with lots of saturation and contrast, giving images a beautiful rendering. When compared with all the reversal films you can get, it has the greatest resolving power.

An ISO 100 emulsion is also available to buy.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Delivers natural and vibrant colors with medium contrast and color saturation. It's a daylight color balanced film with ultra-fine grain.

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

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro films cost more since they have a greater dynamic range, are easier to push, and larger latitude.

There will be a difference in supply. Consumer film stocks can more often than not be bought in big-box stores and pharmacies in limited amounts. Professional level film emulsions need to be purchased from a photography store or online.

ISO

A film's sensitivity to light is displayed by the ISO.

The less light there is available to properly expose an image, the higher the ISO will have to be. This comes at the cost of more film grain.

ISO 100 and slower speed films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc) may be tough to use handheld with the F. The might take more time are going to take more time than what you can handhold without producing motion blur unless you're in full sun.

To get around this you'll need to use a flash, tripod, and/or fast lens. The additional accessories might not be needed if you choose a faster ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.

As a quick note, the ISO selection knob is marked as ASA on the Nikon F. 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 number of stops a film can be overexposed while holding onto satisfactory photographs. Pro film emulsions have a larger latitude to go along with a somewhat increased cost.

Negative film has more latitude than reversal film. That is a reason why it is thought of as challenging to work with.

Dynamic Range

The range between the shadows and highlights parts of a photo is described as dynamic range. Sections of a photograph that fall out of this range will be seen as solid white overexposed highlights or totally black underexposed shadows.

A bigger dynamic range is advantageous since it helps make working in different lighting conditions easier.

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

Reversal film is considered difficult to use on account of the constrained dynamic range. An excellent time to test it out is during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that comes in metal canisters is used by the Nikon F. The film can also be called 135 film, and it is the most widely used film format.

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

Changing the film you are working with will alter the look of your images. This is one of the wonderful things about using film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

All new 35mm film distributed today has a DX code. This lets cameras to auto-detect and set the ISO of the film canister put in the camera.

DX-coding does not make a difference for the Nikon F because ISO is required to be manually set with the ASA knob.

Nikon F Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

There are only a few possible choices for where to have 35mm film processed. For a more in-depth discussion of the possible choices, you can check out my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film doesn't get processed on location at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship film away to be developed by a 3rd party. Consequently, you won't be given 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

The most convenient choice and what I suggest doing if you are just getting started shooting film is to ship your film to a photo lab to be developed and scanned. A downside to this is that it ends up being really expensive if you consistently use film.

There are a couple of activities that can be done to cut back on the costs required to use film, if you are using a moderate to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

Purchasing a roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading in into canisters yourself is considered one of the leading methods to lower your expenses.

A 100-foot roll will fill typically around 18 rolls of film with 36 exposures. Expect cost savings of 20-30% based on your pick.

Bear in mind that you're limited to rolls of black & white film. This is due to black and white film is a lot easier and cheaper to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

It is simple to develop and digitize film yourself. It's an excellent way to lower your costs so that you can use more film with your Nikon F.

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

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