Best Film for the Nikon FM

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

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

Choosing an ISO 400 film or higher speed will let you avoid being weighed down with a flash and/or tripod.

If you want to be able to shoot photographs inside or anywhere there is low light, make sure that you are using a fast lens. See my guide on the 5 Best Lenses for the Nikon FM for lens recommendations.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A good option for a diverse range of lighting conditions. Using this film you should be able to handhold the FM in almost all situations.

Expect photographs to look slightly warm with amazing colors.

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

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

Lomography 800 - If you want a color 35mm film with an ISO of 800, there aren't many offerings. This happens to be the only 35mm film emulsion focused on consumers.

It can also be bought in the 120 film format, to be used with a medium format camera.

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

To bring the ideal look out of this film, you will need to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will produce the wonderful 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 enthusiasts online. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the style the film is known for.

Portra is also for sale in ISO 160 and 800 versions. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 film are also easily found.

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

Sheets of 8x10 or 4x5 film are not available, but 120 is available.

Black and White Film

Consumer

With low costs and more than acceptable favorable to be used in the Nikon FM.

The primary draw for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the competitive price. Even if you wouldn't put yourself in those groups, it's nice to have low-priced rolls of 35 film around for trying out recently acquired used cameras.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - It is produced by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is good because that allows this to be the most broadly sold B&W film out of the three.

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

A decent 35mm film to try for your initial few attempts at home developing or film photography. Also, a good selection if you happen to be trying out a camera to make sure that it's working correctly.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - The best place to get this film is directly from Ultrafine.

They distribute developer kits for color 35mm film, so if you process film at home you may have previously done business with them.

Professional

The 2 most commonly used black and white 35mm film emulsions are Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400. They have a large number of qualities in common that help make them so popular while maintaining unique appearances.

You can still get professional results after pushing both film emulsions 2-stops. This makes the film versatile as a roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The biggest differences are that HP5 Plus is more affordable and has less contrast in comparison to Tri-X. Minimal amounts of contrast can be a benefit because contrast can be added when making a print or during digital processing.

The film stock has a subtle grain and still appears excellent when pushed 2-stops.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film has got a more distinctive rendering. To reveal the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be developed in Kodak D-76.

Kodak Tri-X clearly has considerably more contrast. That is awesome if that is the overall look you are after because it means not as much work when through digital processing or printmaking.

Transparency Film

Film stocks that create a positive image can be called slide, transparency, or reversal film. That means a lightbox or projector can be used to exhibit the pictures.

Colors don't need to be inverted to be seen, unlike the more often used negative film emulsions.

Slide films have substantially less dynamic range and latitude when compared to negative film and so they are thought to be harder to use.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. There's not any hypersaturation of colors. Ektachrome is daylight balanced.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is an exceptionally sharp color balanced for daylight transparency film with lots of saturation and contrast, giving photographs a beautiful rendering. Velvia has the best resolving power of any transparency film.

There's also another speed with an ISO of 100.

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

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black and white slide film, marketed by Fomapan as having excellent resolving power, fine grain, and elevated contrast. It is also regarded as a substitute for the long-discontinued Agfa Scala.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

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

You should expect to see a disparity in business that sell 35mm rolls of film. Consumer film stocks can more often than not be bought in big-box stores and pharmacies in anemic quantities. Professional film has to be ordered from an online or specialized camera store.

ISO

A film's light sensitivity is represented by the ISO.

The less light there is available to expose an image, the bigger the ISO of the film will need to be. Additionally, be prepared for larger sized film grain.

It can be frustrating to handhold the FM with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc). The will probably take longer might take more time than what you could handhold without producing motion blur unless you're out in full sun.

To stop motion blur you are going to need to use a fast lens, flash, and/or tripod. The additional equipment may not be needed if you decide to use a higher speed ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.

The ISO knob is marked as ASA on the Nikon FM. 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 number of stops a film can be overexposed while still having good photographs. Pro film emulsions have a greater latitude to go along with a somewhat increased price.

Transparency film has less latitude than negative film. That is a reason why it's deemed to be challenging to work with.

Dynamic Range

The range between the darkest and brightest parts of an image is described as dynamic range. Areas of a photograph that don't fit within this range will be rendered as totally black underexposed shadows or white overexposed highlights.

When working in a variety of quickly shifting lighting situations, films with a larger dynamic range are a superior choice.

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

Reversal film is considered to be tough to use as a consequence of the constrained dynamic range. An extremely good time to test it out is during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that is sold in metal canisters is used by the Nikon FM. The film can also be described as 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 encounter.

Switching the film emulsion you are working with will change the look of your photos. This is one of the wonderful things about shooting film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Almost all available 35mm film made currently has a DX code. This allows cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO when the film is loaded into the camera.

DX-coding does not make a difference for the Nikon FM because ISO is required to be manually selected.

Nikon FM Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are several possibilities for where to get 35mm film processed. For a more comprehensive 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 third party. Because of this, you won't be given your developed 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

Shipping your film to a mail-order lab to be processed and scanned is the most convenient choice if you're new to shooting film. If you consistently use film, this could be a disadvantage since it can get expensive.

Assuming that you're using a moderate to high volume of film, there are a few actions that you are capable of doing to decrease your costs.

Bulk Loading Film

Considered one of the ideal options to lower your expenses on film is to buy a roll of 100 feet of film and load canisters yourself.

A 100-foot bulk roll will fill up roughly 18 canisters of film with 36 exposures. Look forward to cost savings of 20-30% based on your pick.

Take into account that you are going to be limited to 100' rolls of black & white film. This is because black & white film is much easier and more cost-effective to develop yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

Any film can be processed by hand. In fact it is an intelligence method to save money so you can use more film with your Nikon FM.

Black and white film is by far the least complicated to develop yourself. Developer temperature and development times are not as imperative to get correct with black and white film as temperatures and time are for color negative or slide film.

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