Best Film for the Nikon FA

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

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

To eliminate having to haul around a flash and/or tripod, purchase a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.

If you have a need to capture images inside or anytime there is low light, make sure that you have a fast lens. Go read my blog post on the 5 Best Lenses for the Nikon FA for lens ideas.

Color Film

Consumer

Box of Kodak UltraMax 400 ISO 35mm film for cameras

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A terrific selection for a wide range of conditions. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the FA in the majority of scenarios.

Expect pictures to look slightly warm with outstanding skin tones.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Based on your location, this film could be more widely available. It's a very good alternative to Kodak film.

Fujifilm images appear to have cooler tones with notable blues and greens when compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - If you want a color film with an ISO of 800, there are only a few offerings. For film stocks targeted towards consumers, this is the sole option.

Additionally, if you have a medium format camera, Lomography 800 is also sold in 120 film format.

Kodak Gold 200 - An outstanding option to achieve that mid-80s through 90s style. For the classic shooting experience have a flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to reveal the most popular look the film can achieve. This will give you the exceptional 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 enthusiasts online. Overexpose the film by 1 or 2-stops to get the rendering the film is well known for.

Plus, 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 emulsion that is most similar to Kodak's Portra, but with a different color appearance. Expect to see more vibrant blues and greens.

8x10 or 4x5 sheets of 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 quite popular to be used in the Nikon FA.

The largest draw for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the very low cost. Even if you do not put yourself in those groups, it is great to have low-cost rolls of 35 film on hand for evaluating recently delivered used gear.

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 sold B&W film of the three.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It is easier to purchase in Europe as the film is manufactured out of the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.

A good film to employ for your initial few attempts at home developing or analog photography. Also, a good selection if you are trying out a camera to guarantee that it's working correctly.

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

If you process 35mm color film at home, you might have done that with developer produced by them.

Professional

The two most widely used black & white films are Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400. They have a lot of traits in common that help make them so popular while keeping distinctive appearances.

Both emulsions can be pushed 2 stops and while still generating excellent images. A roll of film can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them very versatile.

Ilford HP5+ ISO 400 35mm Film

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

The film emulsion has subdued grain and still appears very good when pushed 2-stops.

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400TX Film Stock

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

You're going to unquestionably see higher levels of contrast with Tri-X 400. That's perfect if it's the overall look you want because it involves much less work when editing digitally or printmaking.

Transparency Film

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

Colors don't need to be inverted to be viewed, as opposed to the more commonplace negative film stocks.

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

Box of 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. The film has been color balanced for daylight.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is an extraordinarily sharp daylight color balanced transparency film with high levels of saturation and contrast, giving pictures a beautiful look. When compared with all the reversal films that are available, it has the highest resolving power.

An ISO 100 version is also offered.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Creates realistic and vivid colors with moderate color saturation and contrast. It's an ultrafine grain film balanced for daylight.

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

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

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

You should be prepared for a disparity in where 35mm rolls of film can be purchased. Consumer film stocks can usually be bought in pharmacies and big-box stores in limited amounts. Professional film needs to be bought from a specialized camera store or online retailer.

Film ISO

The film speed is displayed by ISO, which may also be thought of as the film's light sensitivity.

The less light available to get an image, the bigger the ISO needs to be. In addition, be prepared for larger sized film grain.

It is often a challenge to handhold the FA with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). This is due to the fact that if you don't have full sun, the shutter speeds will probably take longer than what you could handhold without creating motion blur.

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

As a quick note, the ISO selection knob is marked as ASA/ISO on the Nikon FA. The move to using 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 retaining good photographs. Pro film emulsions have a greater latitude paired with a slightly higher price.

Reversal film has a smaller amount of latitude when compared to negative film. That is one of the reasons why it's deemed to be more challenging to work with.

Dynamic Range

The range between the shadows and highlights details of an image is referred to as dynamic range. Areas of a picture that fall out of this range will be seen as totally white overexposed highlights or totally black underexposed shadows.

When shooting in a wide variety of quickly shifting lighting conditions, films 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 transparency film is one more reason why it is regarded as difficult to shoot. Golden hour is the prime time to use slide film.

Film Type

35mm film that is sold in canisters is used by the Nikon FA. The film can also be described as 135 film, and it's the most widely used type of film.

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

One of the marvelous properties of film is that you can swap the film you work with and get a different look to your pictures.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Almost all available 35mm film offered today has DX encoding. This will allow electronically controlled cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO when the film is loaded into the camera.

DX-coding will not change anything for the Nikon FA because ISO is required to be manually selected with the ASA/ISO knob.

Nikon FA Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

You will find limited possible choices for where to have film developed. For a more in-depth explanation of the options, you can check out my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Pharmacies and big box stores don't process film on location. They ship the film away to be processed by a separate company. As a consequence, 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

Sending film to a mail-order lab to be developed and scanned is the least difficult choice if you're just getting started shooting film. If you consistently shoot film, this can be a drawback due to the fact that it can get very expensive.

Assuming that you are going through a moderate to high volume of film, there are a few things that can be done to help reduce your costs.

Bulk Loading Film

One of the most well-known methods to save money on film is to buy a roll of 100' of film and manually load canisters yourself.

A 100-foot roll of film will load roughly 18 rolls of film with 36 frames each. Depending on the film you can expect to save 20%-30%.

Bear in mind that you are limited to 100' rolls of black & white film. This is in part because black & white film is less difficult and more affordable to develop yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

You can easily develop and scan film yourself. It's an intelligence option to spend less so that you can use more film with your Nikon FA.

Black & white film is much less complicated to develop yourself. Developer temperature and development times are not as crucial to do correctly with black & white films as time and temperatures are for color negative or transparency film.

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