Best Film for the Nikon FM3a
The best film to use in the Nikon FM3a will be based on your lens, available light, and if you want to use color or black & white.
To eliminate having to carry around a tripod and/or flash, purchase a film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.
If you have a need to shoot photos inside or anytime there is low light, make sure that you have a fast lens. For lens suggestions see my short article on the 5 Best Lenses for the Nikon FM3a.
Kodak UltraMax 400 - This film works well in a variety of lighting conditions and is a terrific option for a 35mm color film. The film is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the FM3a in almost all circumstances.
Expect photographs to appear slightly warm with outstanding colors.
Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Depending on where you are in the world, this film could be more widely available. It’s an excellent alternative to Kodak film.
When compared to Kodak, Fujifilm tends to be a little bit cooler with stronger blues and greens.
Lomography 800 - You’re limited to just a small number of possibilities if you want an ISO 800 speed color 35mm film. This is the only 35mm film focused on consumers.
Furthermore, if you own a medium format camera, it is also sold in 120 film format.
Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film stock that started production in the mid-1980s. The film provides the look and feel of snapshots from the 80s and 1990s. For the genuine experience try an on-camera flash.
To really bring the ideal look out of this film, you’ll have to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will provide you with the spectacular colors people love Kodak Gold for.
Kodak Portra 400 - By far the most popular color negative film among photography enthusiasts online. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the overall look the film is highly regarded for.
There’s also ISO 800 and ISO 160 emulsions of Kodak Portra. Portra is also offered in rolls of 120, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.
Black and White Film
With affordable prices and excellent quite popular to be used in the Nikon FM3a.
The primary appeal for photography students and budget minded photographers is the reasonable price. Even if you don’t put yourself in those groups, it’s good to have low-priced rolls of film available for evaluating recently delivered used gear.
Kentmere 400 - It is made by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is good considering that makes this the most commonly available B&W film of the 3.
Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It’s less difficult to obtain in Europe as the film is manufactured by Foma Bohemia in the Czech Republic.
A great film stock to employ for your initial couple of attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also a good choice if you happen to be testing out a camera to be sure that it’s operating correctly.
Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the best price by purchasing it directly from Ultrafine.
They produce developer kits for color 35mm film, so if you process film at home you may have previously had interactions with them.
The two most commonly used black and white film emulsions are Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5 Plus 400. They do have several capabilities that are similar that help make them popular, while retaining individual rendering.
Both films can be pushed 2 stops and while still supplying great results. This makes the film versatile as a roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600.
Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - Between the two film emulsions, HP5 Plus has less contrast and is less expensive. Low amounts of contrast can be an advantage because of the fact contrast can be changed when making a print or during digital post processing.
The film still appears good when pushed 2-stops. It is also notable for having subdued grain.
Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock has got a stronger aesthetic to it. To achieve the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it will need to be processed in D-76.
You’re going to undeniably see a higher level of contrast with Tri-X 400. That is fantastic if that is the look you will want because it involves less work when editing digitially or making a darkroom print.
Film stocks that make a positive image are commonly referred to as transparency, slide, or reversal film. This means the slides can be showcased with a projector or light box.
Colors do not need to be inverted to be seen, unlike the more prevalent negative film emulsions.
Slide films are viewed as very hard to shoot because slide film has substantially less latitude and dynamic range compared to negative film.
Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. The colors don’t seem oversaturated. Ektachrome is daylight color balanced.
Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Provides unique looking images that have elevated levels of contrast and saturation. It is remarkably sharp daylight balanced film emulsion. Compared to all the transparency films that are available, it has the best resolving power.
An ISO 100 emulsion is also available for purchase.
Fujichrome Provia 100F - Delivers vivid and realistic colors with moderate contrast and color saturation. It has ultra fine grain with a daylight color balance.
Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white reversal film, marketed by Fomapan as having very good resolving power, fine grain, and increased levels of contrast. It’s also mentioned as a alternative for the long discontinued Agfa Scala film emulsion.
Consumer vs Professional Film
Pro films cost more due to the fact that they are easier to push, have better latitude, and dynamic range.
There is a significant difference in availability. Consumer film stocks can often be purchased from big-box stores and pharmacies in meager amounts. Pro film stocks should really be ordered from a photography store or online retailer.
A film’s light sensitivity is represented by the ISO.
The less light available to capture an image, the higher the ISO should be. Furthermore, expect to see more film grain.
It can be difficult to handhold the FM3a with ISO 100 or slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). This is due to the fact that without full sun, the shutter speeds will most likely be longer than what you can handhold without causing motion blur.
To stop this you are going to need to use a flash, fast lens, and/or tripod. Using a fast ISO 800 or ISO 400 film is likely to make the additional accessories unnecessary.
The ISO knob is labeled as ASA on the Nikon FM3a. The change to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) came after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).
Latitude is the number of stops film can be overexposed while keeping adequate results. Professional film emulsions have a greater latitude along with a slightly higher cost.
Transparency film has a smaller amount of latitude when compared to negative film. That is a reason it is deemed to be challenging to work with.
Dynamic range represents the range between the darkest and brightest parts of a picture that can be captured. Sections of a photograph that fall out of this range will appear as totally white overexposed highlights or black underexposed shadows.
When working in a variety or quickly changing lighting situations, film stocks with a larger dynamic range are a better choice.
- Digital cameras 14+ stops
- Negative film up to 13 stops
- Slide film 6-8 stops
Transparency film is considered to be challenging to shoot on account of the constrained dynamic range. The perfect time to try it would be during the golden hour.
35mm film that comes in canisters is used by the Nikon FM3a. In addition, it is the most commonly used film format and occasionally referred to as 135 film.
The only other type of film you are likely to encounter is 120 or 220 film that is used with medium format cameras}.
One of the terrific properties of film is that you can switch the film emulsion you work with and get a different look to your pictures.
DX Coded Film
Nearly all commercially available 35mm film sold currently has DX encoding. This makes it possible for cameras to auto detect and set the ISO of the canister loaded.
DX-coding won’t change anything for the Nikon FM3a because ISO is required to be dialed in manually with the ASA knob.
Nikon FM3a Resources
Where to Get Film Developed?
You will find just a few possibilities for where to get film developed. For a more in depth explanation of the possibilities check my article on Where to Develop Film.
WARNING: Film doesn’t get processed on site at pharmacies and big box stores. They send the film away to be developed by a 3rd party. This means that, you won’t be given your developed negatives back.
- Develop Film at Home
- Use a Local Photography Lab
- Use a Mail Order Photo Lab
- Pharmacy or Big Box Store
The most convenient choice and what I suggest doing if you’re just beginning to shoot film is to ship your film to a lab to be developed and scanned. A drawback to this is that it gets pricey if you are consistently shooting film.
As long as you’re using a medium to high volume of film, there are two actions that can be done to lower your costs.
Bulk Loading Film
Among the ideal options to save some money on film is to buy a roll of 100’ of film and manually load it into canisters by hand.
A 100’ bulk roll of film can fill up about 18 rolls of film containing 36 exposures each. Expect discounts of 20-30% based on the film you decide on.
Bear in mind that you’re only going to find rolls of black & white film. This is in part because black & white film is a lot easier and more cost-effective to process at home.
Home Developing and Scanning
You have the ability to develop and scan any film yourself. In fact it is an excellent option to save money so you can shoot more film with your Nikon FM3a.
Black & white film is much easier to develop. Temperature and development times are not as crucial to get correct with black & white film as they are for color negative or slide film.