Best Film for the Nikon FM3A

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: May 27, 2020
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Best 35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in the Nikon FM3A will be based on the lens, lighting, and type of film you want to use.

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

If you want to shoot images in low light, such as inside, make sure you are using a fast lens.

Color Film

Consumer

Box of Kodak UltraMax 400 ISO 35mm film for cameras

Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film handles a large range of lighting conditions well and is a very good pick for a 35mm color film. Using this film you should be able to handhold the FM3A in just about all situations.

The photos will have extremely good colors and lean towards the warm side.

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

Fuji photographs tend to have cooler colors with notable blues and greens compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - You're limited to just a few options if you want a color ISO 800 film. This is literally the only 35mm film focused on consumers.

The emulsion is offered in the 120 film format, for use in a medium format camera.

Kodak Gold 200 - An awesome solution to obtain that mid-80s through 90s rendering. Use an on-camera flash to get the "classic" look the film is known for.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to reveal the most popular look the film can achieve. This will provide the eye-catching 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 the film by 1 or 2-stops to get the overall look the film is highly regarded for.

Portra is also available in ISO 160 and 800 emulsions. As well as in rolls of 120 film, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm emulsion that is closest to Kodak Portra 400, but with "Fuji colors." Expect more vibrant greens and blues.

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

Black and White Film

Consumer

With reasonable costs and more than acceptable favorable for use in the Nikon FM3A.

The biggest attraction for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the affordable price. Even if you wouldn't put yourself in those groups, it's good to have comparatively cheap rolls of film readily available for testing recently purchased used cameras.

Kentmere 400 black & white 35mm camera film

Kentmere 400 - Made by Harmon Technology, which is the owner of Ilford. This is notable considering that makes this the most widely sold B&W film of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It's less difficult to find in Europe as the film is manufactured out of the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.

A solid film emulsion to choose for your initial few attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Additionally, a good option if you're testing out a camera to confirm that it's working properly.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the best price by purchasing it directly from Ultrafine.

If you develop 35mm color film at home, you may have used developer sold by them.

Professional

Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400 are the two most frequently used black and white film emulsions. While they both do have individual appearances, they have a large number of attributes in common that help makes them popular.

Both film emulsions can be pushed 2 stops and produce professional photos. A roll of film can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them very useful.

Ilford HP5+ ISO 400 35mm Film

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The fundamental differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is more affordable in comparison to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be nice because of the fact that contrast can be increased when making a darkroom print or through digital post-processing.

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

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400TX Film Stock

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock provides a more distinctive aesthetic. To achieve the traditional grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it will need to be processed in Kodak D-76.

You'll unquestionably see a higher level of contrast with Kodak Tri-X 400. That is very good if it is the overall look you are after because it requires a great deal less work when through digital post-processing or printmaking.

Reversal Film

Films that create a positive image can be called reversal, slide, or transparency film. This means the pictures can be showcased with a light box or projector.

Colors are not required to be inverted to be seen, in contrast to the more commonplace negative film stocks.

Slide films have less latitude and dynamic range compared to negative film and so they are perceived as tougher to use.

Box of Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. The colors don't show up oversaturated. The film has been balanced for daylight.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is an amazingly sharp color balanced for daylight film with lots of saturation and contrast, giving shots a distinctive appearance. Out of all the reversal films you can buy, it has the top resolving power.

An ISO 100 emulsion is also on the market.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Offers vibrant and realistic colors with moderate color saturation and contrast. It's a film balanced for daylight with an ultra-fine grain.

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white slide film, claimed by Fomapan as having higher contrast, excellent resolving power, and very fine grain. It's also billed as a replacement for the long-discontinued Agfa Scala reversal film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

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

There will also be a significant difference in businesses that sell 35mm rolls of film. Consumer film stocks can more often than not be bought in big-box stores and pharmacies in anemic amounts. Pro film has to be ordered from a camera store or online retailer.

Film ISO

A film's sensitivity to light is displayed by the ISO.

The less light available to get an image, the higher the ISO of the film will need to be. In addition, be prepared to see noticeably increased film grain.

It is often troublesome to handhold the FM3A with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). They can be longer will probably take more time than what you could handhold without producing motion blur unless you are in full sun.

A flash, fast lens, and/or tripod are going to assist you with longer exposure times. The additional gear might not be needed if you use a faster ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.

The ISO knob is labeled as ISO on the Nikon FM3A. Older SLR cameras will be marked ASA instead of ISO. The switch to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) came after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Latitude is the number of stops a film can be overexposed while maintaining tolerable photographs. Professional film emulsions have a greater latitude paired with a somewhat higher cost.

Transparency film has a smaller amount of latitude when compared to negative film. That is a reason why it's deemed to be harder to shoot.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range represents the difference between the shadows and highlights details of a picture that can be captured. Areas of a picture that fall out of this range will be rendered as white overexposed highlights or completely black underexposed shadows.

When shooting in a variety of 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

Transparency film is viewed as difficult to shoot as a consequence of the limited dynamic range. The best time to test it out is during the golden hour.

Film Type

The Nikon FM3A takes 35mm film that comes in canisters. In addition, it’s the most often used type of film and sometimes called 135 film.

The only other film format you are likely going to see is 120 or 220 film that is used by medium format cameras.

Changing the film stock you are working with will change the look of your images. This is an example of the terrific things about using film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Nearly all available 35mm film for sale at this point has DX encoding. This enables electronically controlled cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO of the film put in the camera.

DX-coding is not going to matter for the Nikon FM3A because ISO needs to be dialed in manually.

Nikon FM3A Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

There are a variety of possible choices for where to have 35mm film processed. For a more thorough explanation of the choices have a look at my guide on Where to Develop Film.

WARNING: Film is no longer processed locally at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship film off-site to be processed by a separate company. Because of this, you will not 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

Shipping film to a mail-order photo lab to be processed and scanned is the most convenient solution if you are just starting to use film. A disadvantage of this is that it ends up being very expensive if you are regularly using film.

So long as you're going through a medium to high volume of film, there are a few things that can be done to cut back on your costs.

Bulk Loading Film

Considered one of the most widely used ways to save some money on film is to buy a roll of 100 feet of film and load it into canisters by hand.

A 100-foot bulk roll should fill up roughly 18 canisters of film with 36 exposures. You should expect to save 20-30% based on your choice.

Keep in mind that you are going to be limited to rolls of black & white film. This is due to black and white film is easier and less expensive to process at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

You have the ability to process and scan film yourself. In fact, it's an intelligent method to cut costs so you can shoot more film with your Nikon FM3A.

Black & white film is by far the least complicated to develop. Temperature and development times are 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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