Best Film for the Nikon F3AF

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: May 30, 2020
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Best 35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in the Nikon F3AF will have to depend on your lens, available light, and type of film you want to shoot.

To avoid having to lug around a flash and/or tripod, go with a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or faster.

Make sure you have a fast lens if you want to shoot pictures in low light, conditions that are often found indoors.

Color Film

Consumer

Box of Kodak UltraMax 400 ISO 35mm film for cameras

Kodak UltraMax 400 - This film can be used in a variety of lighting conditions and is a very good pick for a color film. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the F3AF in almost all situations.

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

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - A different option than Kodak that could have greater availability based on what country you are in.

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

Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color 35mm film, there aren't very many choices. For 35mm film focused on consumers, Lomography 800 is the sole available choice.

In addition, if you own a medium format camera, it's also available in 120 film format.

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

To bring the best out of the film, make sure to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will produce the outstanding colors people love Kodak Gold for.

Professional

Box of Kodak Portra 400 ISO 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 overall look the film is highly regarded for.

Plus, ISO 800 and ISO 160 versions of Kodak Portra. Portra is also offered in rolls of 120, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm equivalent to Kodak Portra 400, but with a distinctive color appearance. Expect more vibrant blues and greens.

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

Black and White Film

Consumer

With reasonable prices and more than acceptable quite popular to use in the Nikon F3AF.

The largest draw for budget-minded photographers and photography students is the affordable price. Even if you do not put yourself in that group, it's nice to have comparatively cheap rolls of film around for evaluating newly obtained used cameras.

Kentmere 400 black & white 35mm camera film

Kentmere 400 - It's manufactured by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is great since that makes this the most commonly available B&W film of the three.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It is less difficult to find in Europe as the film is produced by Foma Bohemia inside of the Czech Republic.

An appropriate 35mm film to choose for your initial few attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also, a good selection if you are attempting to try out a camera to check that it is completely functional.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - The best store to buy this film is online directly from Ultrafine.

If you process color 35mm film yourself, you may have used chemicals produced by them to process your film.

Professional

Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 are the 2 most commonly used black & white 35mm film stocks. They have numerous characteristics that are equivalent that help makes them so well-liked while keeping individual looks.

You can create great photos after pushing both film emulsions 2-stops. A 35mm roll can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them quite versatile.

Ilford HP5+ ISO 400 35mm Film

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The main differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is less expensive when compared to Tri-X. Minimal amounts of contrast can be advantageous because of the fact contrast can be increased when making a print in the darkroom or during digital processing.

The film still appears outstanding when pushed 2-stops. It is also notable for having subdued grain.

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400TX Film Stock

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film features a more distinctive aesthetic. To reveal the classic grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be developed in D-76.

Tri-X clearly has considerably more contrast. That is good if it happens to be the look you would prefer because it results in not as much work when through digital post-processing or making a print in the darkroom.

Reversal Film

Slide film, also known as reversal film or transparency film, gives you a positive picture. That means a projector or light box can be used to display the pictures.

This is unique from the more common negative films that make photographs that require inverting the colors so that they can be viewable.

Slide films are thought of very difficult to use because slide film has a smaller amount of latitude and dynamic range when compared to negative film.

Box of Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a film known for fine grain and attractive skin tones. There's almost no hypersaturation of colors. Ektachrome is daylight balanced.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is an extraordinarily sharp color balanced for daylight slide film with high levels of saturation and contrast, giving photographs an appealing rendering. Matched against all the slide films you can get, it has the greatest resolving power.

An ISO 100 emulsion is also out there.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Creates realistic and vibrant colors with moderate contrast and color saturation. It has a daylight color balance and ultra-fine grain.

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black and white reversal film, claimed by Fomapan as having fine grain, higher contrast, and very good resolving power. It is also mentioned as a substitute for the discontinued Agfa Scala transparency film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro film stocks cost more due to the fact that they have greater dynamic range, latitude, and are easier to push.

There will also be a significant difference in availability. Consumer film stocks can oftentimes be bought from big-box stores and pharmacies in anemic amounts. Professional quality film emulsions should be purchased from an online retailer or camera store.

Film ISO

The ISO represents the film speed, which can also be regarded as the film's light sensitivity.

The higher the film's ISO, the less light will be needed to get a film frame. This comes at the expense of larger film grain.

ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc) are often quite challenging to shoot handheld with the F3AF. They will probably take more time are going to be longer than what you could handhold without leading to motion blur unless you're in full sun.

A fast lens, flash, and/or tripod are going to help you with longer exposure times. The extra equipment may not be needed if you go with a higher speed ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.

The ISO selection knob is marked as ISO on the Nikon F3AF. Many older SLRs might be abled with ASA instead of ISO. The shift to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the range of stops a film can be overexposed while still holding onto tolerable photographs. Pro films have a larger latitude paired with a slightly higher price.

Negative film has more latitude than reversal film. That is one of the reasons it is regarded as harder to use.

Dynamic Range

The difference between the highlights and shadows details of a photograph is known as dynamic range. Sections of an image that are not in this range will appear as completely white overexposed highlights or completely black underexposed shadows.

When working in a variety of quickly shifting lighting conditions, film stocks with a larger dynamic range are a much better choice.

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

The limited dynamic range of reversal film is a second reason why it's viewed as tricky to shoot. Golden hour is the prime time to shoot slide film.

Film Type

The Nikon F3AF takes 35mm film that is in metal canisters. The film can also be described as 135 film, and it is the most popular type of film.

The only other type of film you are probably going to notice is 120 or 220 film that is used with medium format cameras.

One of the terrific properties of film is that you can change the film stock you use and get a fresh look to your shots.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Virtually all new 35mm film made currently has a DX code. This makes it possible for cameras to auto-detect and set the ISO of the film loaded.

DX-coding is not going to make a difference for the Nikon F3AF because ISO must be manually set.

Nikon F3AF Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are a few possible choices for where to get 35mm film developed. For a more comprehensive discussion of the possible choices have a look at my guide on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film doesn't get processed locally at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship the film off-site to be processed by a separate company. Consequently, 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

The easiest option and the method I would suggest using if you're just getting started using film is to ship your film to a photo lab to be developed and scanned. If you frequently use film, this could be a disadvantage because it can get very expensive.

Assuming that you're using a medium to high volume of film, there are two activities that can be done to limit your expenses.

Bulk Loading Film

Investing in a roll of 100' of film and loading it into canisters by hand is considered one of the common methods to cut costs.

A 100' bulk roll of film will fill up about 18 canisters of film containing 36 frames. Expect cost savings of 20-30% depending on the film.

Be aware that you are going to be limited to 100' rolls of black and white film. This is due to black & white film is a lot easier and more cost-effective to process at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

Any film can be processed by hand. It's a good method to lower your costs so that you can use more film with your Nikon F3AF.

Black & white film is by far the simplest to develop at home. Developer temperature and development times are both not as crucial to do correctly with black and white film as temperatures and time are for transparency or color negative.

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