Best Film for the Pentax MZ-50

Best Pentax MZ-50 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in the Pentax MZ-50 will have to be based on the available light, lens, and if you want to use color or black & white.

Choosing an ISO 400 film or faster will enable you to avoid needing to lug around a tripod or flash.

If you have a need to take pictures in low light, such as inside, make sure that you are using a fast lens. For lens lens suggestions check out my blog post on the 5 Best Lenses for the Pentax MZ-50.

Color Film


Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A good selection for a diverse range of conditions. Using Kodak UltraMax 400 you should have the ability to handhold the MZ-50 in just about all circumstances.

The photos will have extremely good colors and is on the warm side.

Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Based on your location, this film may have greater availability. It’s a top quality alternative to Kodak.

When compared to Kodak, Fujifilm tends to be a bit cooler with stronger greens and blues.

Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - If you want a color 35mm film with an ISO of 800, there are only a small number of options. This is the only film stock geared towards consumers.

It is also sold in the 120 film format, to be used in a medium format camera.

Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film that was released in the mid-1980s. It provides the look and feel of snapshots from the 80s and 90s. For the authentic experience have a flash.

To really bring the ideal look out of the film, you’ll need to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will produce the gorgeous colors people love the film for.


Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400 - By far the most popular color negative film among enthusiasts online. Overexpose it by 1 or 2-stops to get the rendering the film is known for.

Kodak Portra is also for sale in ISO 160 and 800 emulsions. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 are also available to purchase.

Black and White Film


These film emulsions have low prices and good quality, making them favorable for use in the Pentax MZ-50.

The main appeal for photography students and budget minded photographers is the affordable price. Even if you would not put yourself in those groups, it is great to have low-priced rolls of 35 film on hand for evaluating recently purchased camera gear.

Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - Produced by Harmon Technology, which is the owner of Ilford. This is excellent since that allows this to be the most commonly sold 35mm film out of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action

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

An appropriate film stock to choose for your initial couple of attempts at home developing or film photography. Also a good selection if you happen to be attempting to test out a camera to ensure that it’s fully operational.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400

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

They produce developer kits for film, so if you develop film at home you might have previously had interactions with them.


The 2 most popular black and white film emulsions are Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400. They possess a large amount of qualities in common that make them so well received, while keeping different appearances.

Both film emulsions can be pushed 1 or 2 stops and still deliver high quality photographs. A roll can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them remarkably versatile.

Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The main differences are that HP5 Plus is cheaper and has less contrast compared to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be advantageous due to the fact contrast can be adjusted when making a darkroom print or during digital processing.

The film stock still looks outstanding when pushed 2-stops. It is also recognized for having subtle grain.

Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film provides a stronger rendering. To create the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it needs to be developed in Kodak D-76.

You are going to certainly notice considerably more contrast with Kodak Tri-X. That’s very good if that is the look you will want because it means much less work when making a print or during digital post processing.

Slide Film

Films that make a positive image are typically referred to as reversal, transparency, or slide film. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to view the photographs.

This is different from the more commonly available negative films that result in photographs that require the colors to be inverted in order to be viewable.

Slide films are believed to be hard to shoot due to the fact slide film has far less latitude and dynamic range compared to negative film.

Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a film known for fine grain and stunning skin tones. The colors won’t be seen as oversaturated. It’s daylight balanced.

Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Offers distinct looking photos that have significantly elevated amounts of saturation and contrast. It is amazingly sharp daylight balanced film. Velvia has the highest resolving power of any available slide film emulsion.

There’s also another speed that is ISO 100.

Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Delivers natural and vibrant colors with moderate color saturation and contrast. It has ultrafine grain with a daylight color balance.

Foma Fomapan R100

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

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional film stock have greater latitude, dynamic range, and are easier to push, which is why they cost more.

There might be a significant difference in availability. Consumer film stocks can commonly still be seen in pharmacies and big-box stores in limited quantities. Pro film emulsions needs to be ordered from a online or camera store.


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

The less light there is available to capture an image, the bigger the film’s ISO will be required. Additionally, be prepared for noticeably increased film grain.

ISO 100 and slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc) is often quite challenging to use handheld in the MZ-50. The are going to be longer can take more time than what you can handhold without resulting in motion blur unless you are in full sun.

To prevent motion blur you are going to need to use a flash, tripod, and/or fast lens. The additional gear might not be needed if you go with a faster ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.

The ISO knob is labeled as ASA on the Pentax MZ-50. The shift to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Latitude is the range of stops film can be overexposed while having usable results. Professional film stocks have a larger latitude to go along with a slightly increased cost.

Transparency film has less latitude compared to negative film. That is one of the reasons it’s perceived as challenging to shoot.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the difference between the brightest and darkest details of a picture that can be captured. Parts of a picture that don’t fit within this range will be seen as solid black underexposed shadows or completely white overexposed highlights.

When working in a variety or quickly changing lighting situations, film stocks with a bigger dynamic range are a better choice.

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

The constrained dynamic range of reversal film is another reason it is considered to be tough to shoot. An excellent time to give it a try is during the golden hour.

Film Type

The Pentax MZ-50 uses 35mm film that comes in metal canisters. It can also be referred to as 135 film, and it is the most commonly used type of film.

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

Switching the film stock you are working with will alter the look of your photographs. This is an example of the terrific things about using film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

All new 35mm film made today has a DX code. This allows electronically controlled cameras to detect and set the ISO when the film is loaded into the camera.

DX-coding will not change anything for the Pentax MZ-50 because ISO must be manually selected with the ASA knob.

Pentax MZ-50 Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

You will find a few possibilities for where to have film developed. For a more detailed explanation of the choices have a look at my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Pharmacies and big box stores have ceased processing film locally. They mail film off-site to be developed by a separate company. As a consequence, you will not get your 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 photo lab to be developed and scanned is the most straightforward option if you’re just beginning to use film. A downside to this is that it ends up being really expensive if you consistently shoot film.

Assuming that you are using a medium to high volume of film, there are a few activities that you are able to do to help reduce your expenses.

Bulk Loading Film

Purchasing a roll of 100’ of film and loading in into canisters yourself is one of the most well known options to save money.

A 100’ roll of film can fill up around 18 rolls of film containing 36 exposures each. Expect to save 20-30% based on the film you purchase.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you are going to be limited to 100’ rolls of black & white film. This is because black and white film is quite a bit easier and more cost-effective to develop at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

You can easily develop and digitize any film at home. It is a smart way to spend less so you can shoot more film with your Pentax MZ-50.

Black and white film is much less difficult to process yourself. Chemical temperature and time are not as important to do correctly with black and white film as time and temperatures are for color negative or slide film.