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Best Film for the Pentax MZ-5

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Best Pentax MZ-5 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in your Pentax MZ-5 should depend on the lens, lighting, and type of film you want to shoot.

Choosing an ISO 400 film or faster will help you eliminate being burdened with a flash and/or tripod.

Make sure that you have a fast lens if you want to capture photos in low light, conditions that are frequently found indoors. For lens recommendations read my article on the 5 Best Lenses for the Pentax MZ-5.

Color Film

Consumer

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Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film can be used in a large range of lighting conditions and is a great selection for a color film. The film is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the MZ-5 in lots of situations.

The pictures will have wonderful skin tones and is on the warm side.

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Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - A different option than Kodak that might have greater availability depending on what country you are in.

Fujifilm pictures appear to have cooler colors with an emphasis on blues and greens, compared to Kodak.

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Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - There are a small number of offerings if you want an ISO 800 speed color 35mm film. This is the only 35mm film stock geared towards consumers.

It is for sale in the 120 film format, for use in a medium format camera.

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Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A surefire means to achieve that mid-1980s through 90s feeling. For the authentic experience use a flash.

To bring the ideal look out of this film, you will want to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will help you achieve the striking colors everyone loves Gold 200 for.

Professional

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Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400 - Among the film enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is undoubtedly the most frequently used color negative film. Overexpose the film by 1 or 2-stops to get the color the film is known for.

There’s also ISO 800 and 160 emulsions of Kodak Portra. It is also offered in rolls of 120 film, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.

Black and White Film

Consumer

With low prices and good quite popular for use in the Pentax MZ-5.

The largest appeal for photography students and budget minded photographers is the low price. Even if you would not put yourself in those groups, it is nice to have low-priced rolls of film available for testing newly purchased used cameras.

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Kentmere 400

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

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Foma Fomapan 400 Action

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It will probably easier to find in Europe as the film is manufactured by Foma Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

A pretty good film to choose for your first few attempts at developing film at home or film photography. Also a good option if you happen to be trying out a camera to be sure that it is functioning properly.

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Ultrafine eXtreme 400

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - The cheapest place to buy this film is straight from Ultrafine.

They make chemical developer kits for 35mm film, so if you develop film at home you might have already had interactions with them.

Professional

Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are the 2 most frequently used black & white films. They do have a number of characteristics in common that make them popular, while keeping unique styles.

Both film stocks can be pushed 2 stops and while still providing great results. A roll of film can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them very versatile.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - Between the two film stocks, HP5 Plus is less expensive and has less contrast. Minimal contrast can be a benefit because contrast can be changed when making a print in the darkroom or through digital post processing.

The film has subtle grain and still appears outstanding when pushed 2-stops.

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Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film provides a more distinctive aesthetic to it. To reveal the legendary grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be processed in D-76.

Kodak Tri-X undeniably has more contrast. That’s very good if that is the look and feel you need because it means significantly less work when making a darkroom print or during digital processing.

Slide Film

Film stocks that create a positive image are commonly referred to as reversal, slide, or transparency film. This allows the photographs to be displayed with a projector or light box.

This is distinct from the more often used negative films that make images that need inverting the colors so that they can be viewable.

Slide films have a smaller amount of latitude and dynamic range compared to negative films and so they are viewed as challenging to work with.

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Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a film known for fine grain and beautiful skin tones. The colors don’t look oversaturated. It is daylight balanced.

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Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is a incredibly sharp daylight balanced film with lots of contrast and saturation, giving shots a unique appearance. When compared to all the slide films you can get, it has the top resolving power.

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

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Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Produces realistic and vivid colors with moderate color saturation and contrast. It is a film balanced for daylight with ultra fine grain.

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Foma Fomapan R100

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black and white slide film, noted by Fomapan as having very good resolving power, very fine grain, and higher levels of contrast. It is also billed as a alternative for the long discontinued Agfa Scala.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro film stocks cost more because they have greater dynamic range, latitude, and are easier to push.

There’s a significant difference in where it can be purchased. Consumer film stocks can generally be bought from pharmacies and big-box stores in limited quantities. Professional quality film emulsions often need to be bought from a specialized camera store or online.

ISO

A film’s sensitivity to light is shown as the ISO.

The less light available to expose an image, the higher the ISO will need to be. This comes at the tradeoff of noticeably increased film grain.

It can be tricky to handhold the MZ-5 with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). This is due to the fact that without full sun, the exposure times are going to take longer than what you are able to handhold without causing motion blur.

A fast lens, tripod, and/or flash can assist you with longer shutter speeds. Using a high speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film will help make the additional gear not needed.

As a quick note, the dial to select film speed is listed as ASA on the Pentax MZ-5. The shift to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) came after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Latitude is the amount of stops film can be overexposed while keeping satisfactory images. Professional films have a greater latitude along with a somewhat higher cost.

Negative film has a larger amount of latitude than slide film. That is a reason why it’s considered difficult to shoot.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the difference between the darkest and brightest details of a photograph that can be captured. Areas of a photograph that are not in this range will be seen as white overexposed highlights or black underexposed shadows.

When working in a variety or quickly shifting lighting situations, films with a larger dynamic range is better.

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

Reversal film is viewed as challenging to use as a consequence of the limited dynamic range. Golden hour is the ideal time to use reversal.

Film Type

The Pentax MZ-5 uses 35mm film that is sold in metal canisters. It can also be described as 135 film, and it is the most popular film format.

120 or 220 film, used with medium format cameras, is the only other film format you are probably going to come across}.

One of the fantastic properties of film is that you can swap the film stock you use and get a unique look to your shots.

DX Coded Film

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DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Most available 35mm film offered at this time has a DX code. This lets cameras to auto detect and set the ISO when the film is put in the camera.

DX-coding isn’t going to make a difference for the Pentax MZ-5 because ISO is required to be manually dialed in with the ASA knob.

Pentax MZ-5 Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

You will find a variety of possible choices for where to have film processed. For a more thorough discussion of the choices go look at my guide on Where to Develop Film.

WARNING: Film is not processed locally at pharmacies and big box stores. They ship the film away to be developed by a third party. Consequently, 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

The least difficult option and what I would suggest doing if you’re just beginning to shoot film is to ship your film to a lab to be developed and scanned. A disadvantage to this is that it ends up being really expensive if you are consistently using film.

There are two actions that can be done to minimize the costs required to use film, provided that you are using a medium to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

Ordering a bulk roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading in into canisters by hand is one of the most popular options to lower your expenses.

A 100 foot roll will fill around 18 rolls of film with 36 exposures each. Based on the film you are likely to save 20%-30%.

Bear in mind that you’re only going to be able to get bulk rolls of black and white film. This is in part because black & white film is a lot easier and more affordable to develop yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

It’s possible to develop and scan film yourself. In fact it is a very good way to lower your costs so you can use more film with your Pentax MZ-5.

Black and white film is by far the simplest to develop at home. Chemical temperature and time are not as necessary to get correct with black & white film as they are for color negative or transparency film.