Best Film for the Nikon F2

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

The best film to use in your Nikon F2 should be based on the lens, lighting conditions, and if you want to use color or black & white.

Using an ISO 400 35mm or faster will let you skip being weighed down with a tripod or flash.

Make sure that you have a fast lens if you want to capture images in low light, conditions that are commonly encountered indoors. See my brief article on the 5 Best Lenses for the Nikon F2 for suggestions.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A terrific selection for a diverse range of conditions. Using Kodak UltraMax 400 you should be able to handhold the F2 in most scenarios.

Expect pictures to look slightly warm with amazing skin tones.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - An alternative to Kodak that might have far better availability based on where you are in the world.

When compared to Kodak, Fujifilm appears to be a small amount cooler with an emphasis on blues and greens.

Lomography 800 - There are just a few options if you want a color ISO 800 35mm film. For film focused on consumers, Lomography 800 is the only choice.

It is for sale in the 120 film format, to be used in a medium format camera.

Kodak Gold 200 - An awesome option to achieve that mid-1980s through 90s feeling. Use a flash to get the "nostalgic" film look.

To really bring the best out of the film, make sure to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will provide the striking colors people love the film for.

Professional

Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 35mm Film

Kodak Portra 400 - Among the film enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is undoubtedly the most frequently used color negative 35mm film. Overexpose the film by 1 or 2-stops to get the overall look the film is well known for.

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

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm film that is closest to Kodak's Portra, but with a different color appearance. Expect to see more vibrant greens and blues.

Sheets of 4x5 or 8x10 film aren't produced, but 120 film is available.

Black and White Film

Consumer

These film emulsions have low costs and excellent quality, making them favorable to try in the Nikon F2.

The biggest attraction for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the reasonable price. Even if you do not put yourself in that group, it's great to have relatively cheap rolls of 35 film on hand for evaluating recently delivered used gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - Manufactured by Harmon Technology, which is the owner of Ilford. This is great since that makes this the most commonly sold film of the three.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It's less difficult to buy in Europe as the film is made in the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.

A great film stock to choose for your initial couple of attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also, a good choice if you happen to be trying out a camera to make sure that it's working properly.

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

If you process 35mm color film yourself, you might have done that with chemicals sold by them.

Professional

Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 are the 2 most frequently used black & white 35mm films. While they both possess different looks, they have a large number of traits that are similar that help makes them so well received.

Both film emulsions can be pushed 2 stops and still result in very good photographs. A 35mm 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 main differences are that HP5 Plus has less contrast and is more affordable when compared to Tri-X. Minimal amounts of contrast can be advantageous due to the fact contrast can be changed when making a darkroom print or editing digitally.

The film still looks very good when pushed 2-stops. It is also notable for having subdued grain.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

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

You will undoubtedly see a higher level of contrast with Tri-X. That is notable if it is the style you want to have because it results in less work when during digital processing or making a darkroom print.

Transparency Film

Films that produce a positive image are typically referred to as slide, reversal, or transparency film. That means a light box or projector can be used to view the slides.

Colors are not required to be inverted to be viewed, unlike the more widespread negative film stocks.

Slide films are believed to be hard to shoot due to the fact slide film has much less dynamic range and latitude when compared to negative film.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. The colors will not be seen as oversaturated. The film has a daylight color balance.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is an exceptionally sharp daylight color balanced slide film with lots of contrast and saturation, giving shots a special rendering. Velvia has the best resolving power of any increased elevated.

An ISO 100 speed is also available to buy.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Offers realistic and vibrant 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, described by Fomapan as having fine grain, very good resolving power, and increased levels of contrast. It's also regarded as a substitute for the long-discontinued Agfa Scala Film Stock.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional film stock have a greater dynamic range, are easier to push, and bigger latitude, this is why they will cost you more.

There's a significant difference in supply. Consumer film stocks can quite often be purchased from big-box stores and pharmacies in meager amounts. Professional level film often needs to be ordered from an online or specialized camera store.

ISO

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

The less light available to get an image, the bigger the ISO of the film will be needed. Additionally, expect to see larger film grain.

It might be tricky to handhold the F2 with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). This is due to the fact that if you do not have full sun, the exposure times will take more time than what you could handhold without producing motion blur.

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

The ISO knob is labeled as ASA on the Nikon F2. The move to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) came after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Latitude

Film latitude is the range of stops a film can be overexposed while retaining satisfactory images. Pro film emulsions have a larger latitude along with a slightly increased cost.

Negative film has more latitude when compared to slide film. That is one of the reasons why it's considered difficult to use.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the difference between the shadows and highlights details of a photograph that can be recorded. Sections of a photograph that do not fit in this range will be seen as completely white overexposed highlights or totally black underexposed shadows.

When shooting in a wide variety or quickly shifting lighting conditions, film stocks 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 another factor it's thought to be difficult to shoot. An extremely good time to give it a try is during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that is sold in metal canisters is used by the Nikon F2. In addition, it’s the most popular film format and occasionally referred to as 135 film.

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

Switching the film you are working with will alter the look of your images. This is one of the best things about film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

All new 35mm film offered at this point has DX encoding on the canister. This enables cameras to detect and set the ISO when the film canister is loaded into the camera.

DX-coding will not change anything for the Nikon F2 because ISO has to be manually set.

Nikon F2 Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are several possibilities for where to have 35mm film developed. For a more in-depth explanation of the choices go look at my article on Where to Develop Film.

WARNING: Big box stores and pharmacies do not process film at the store. They ship film off-site to be developed by a third party. That is why 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 photo lab to be processed and scanned is the least difficult solution if you are just starting to use film. If you consistently shoot film, this can be a downside since it can get very expensive.

As long as you're using a medium to high volume of film, there are two activities that you can do to cut back on your costs.

Bulk Loading Film

Certainly, one of the leading methods to save some money on film is to buy a roll of 100' of film and manually load canisters by hand.

A 100-foot roll will fill up roughly 18 canisters of film containing 36 frames. Depending on the film you can expect to save 20%-30%.

Be aware that you are limited to bulk rolls of black & white film. This is due to black & white film is a lot easier and more affordable to process at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

Any film can be processed by hand. In fact it is an excellent option to save money so you can use more film with your Nikon F2.

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

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