Best Film for the Pentax MZ-5

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: March 12, 2020
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35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in the Pentax MZ-5 should depend on the lens, available light, and type of film you want to use.

Choosing an ISO 400 film or higher speed will allow you to skip being burdened with a tripod or flash.

Make sure that you have a fast lens if you want to shoot photos in low light, conditions that are commonly encountered indoors.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film handles a variety of lighting conditions well and is a very good option for a color 35mm film. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the MZ-5 in the majority of scenarios.

Expect pictures to appear slightly warm with pleasant colors.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Based on where you are in the world, this film could be more widely available. It's a very good alternative to Kodak emulsions.

Fujifilm images tend to have cooler tones with stronger blues and greens when compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - You're limited to just a few offerings if you want an ISO 800 speed color 35mm film. For film targeted towards consumers, this is the sole available choice.

It is for sale in the 120 film format, to be used in a medium format camera.

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film stock that was released in the mid-1980s. Kodak Gold 200 produces the look and feel of home snapshots from the 80s and 90s. For the genuine shooting experience have a flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to produce the best the film can achieve. This will give you the gorgeous colors people love the film for.

Professional

Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 35mm Film

Kodak Portra 400 - Among the film enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is definitely the most frequently used color 35mm film emulsion. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the rendering the film is well known for.

Kodak Portra is also available for purchase in ISO 800 and 160 versions. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 film are also manufactured.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm equal to Kodak Portra 400, but with "Fuji colors." Expect to see more vibrant greens and blues.

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

Black and White Film

Consumer

These film emulsions have reasonable prices and very good quality, making them favorable for use in the Pentax MZ-5.

The biggest attraction for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the affordable price. Even if you do not put yourself in those groups, it's great to have low-cost rolls of film on hand for testing recently obtained camera gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - It is manufactured by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is notable because that makes this the most broadly sold B&W film of the 3.

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

A good film stock to choose for your first couple of attempts at developing film at home or analog photography. Additionally, a good choice if you happen to be testing out a camera to guarantee that it's completely operational.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the cheapest price on this film by buying it from Ultrafine.

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

Professional

Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 are the 2 most commonly used black & white 35mm films. While they both possess distinctive rendering, they possess a large amount of capabilities that are equivalent that help makes them a favorite.

Both emulsions can be pushed 1 or 2 stops and produce professional photographs. A roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them remarkably flexible.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - Between the two film emulsions, HP5 Plus has less contrast and is more affordable. Low amounts of contrast can be an advantage because of the fact that contrast can be increased when making a print or through digital post-processing.

The film emulsion has subdued grain and still appears great when pushed 2-stops.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film emulsion has got a more distinctive style. To produce the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it needs to be processed in D-76.

You'll certainly notice more contrast with Tri-X. That's perfect if it happens to be the look and feel you want because it involves less work when through digital post-processing or printmaking.

Transparency Film

Reversal film, also known as transparency film or slide film, generates a positive picture. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to showcase the photographs.

This is different from the more widespread negative film emulsions that result in photos that require inverting the colors in order to be seen.

Slide films have a lot less dynamic range and latitude when compared to negative film and so they are viewed as more challenging to work with.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a film known for exquisite skin tones and fine grain. The colors don't be seen as oversaturated. Ektachrome is daylight color balanced.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is an unbelievably sharp daylight-balanced reversal film with high levels of contrast and saturation, giving shots a distinct rendering. Out of all the transparency films on the market, it has the greatest resolving power.

An ISO 100 emulsion is also out there.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Produces realistic and vivid colors with medium contrast and color saturation. It has an ultra-fine grain with a daylight color balance.

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black and white transparency film, marketed by Fomapan as having very good resolving power, increased levels of contrast, and fine grain. It is also billed as a substitute for the long-discontinued Agfa Scala reversal film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional film stock have better dynamic range, latitude, and are easier to push, this is why pro-film costs more.

You should expect to see a disparity in businesses that sell it. Consumer films can oftentimes be seen in big-box stores and pharmacies in anemic quantities. Professional film stocks has to be purchased from an online or specialized camera store.

Film ISO

A film's sensitivity to light is listed as the ISO.

The less light there's available to get an image, the bigger the ISO will be necessary. Additionally, be prepared for more film grain.

It is often frustrating to handhold the MZ-5 with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). They are going to take longer will probably take longer than what you are able to handhold without leading to motion blur unless you're out in full sun.

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

The ISO is set by the Pentax MZ-5 electronically. This is a change from previous cameras that use a physical ISO knob.

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the range of stops a film can be overexposed while still keeping usable photographs. Pro films have a larger latitude paired with a somewhat higher cost.

Negative film has a larger amount of latitude than slide film. That is a reason it's considered challenging to use.

Dynamic Range

The difference between the shadows and highlights details of a photo is known as dynamic range. Sections of an image that are not in this range will be rendered as solid white overexposed highlights or completely black underexposed shadows.

A bigger dynamic range is better due to the fact that a bigger range can make working in different lighting conditions easier.

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

Reversal film is viewed as tough to use because of the small dynamic range. A very good time to give it a try would be during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that is in canisters is used by the Pentax MZ-5. 35mm film can also be described as 135 film, and it's the best-selling film format.

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

Swapping the film stock you are using will transform the look of your photographs. This is an example of the terrific things about film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Just about all commercially available 35mm film manufactured at this point has DX encoding. This lets cameras to detect and set the ISO when the film canister is loaded.

The Pentax MZ-5 will set the film ISO automatically. This is due to the fact that the camera is capable of reading the DX-coding on film canisters.

Pentax MZ-5 Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

You will find a handful of possibilities for where to get 35mm film processed. For a more in-depth explanation of the options take a look at my guide on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film doesn't get processed locally at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship the film away to be processed by a separate company. Because of this, you won't 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 most straightforward choice and the method I suggest doing if you are just getting started shooting film is to ship your film to a lab to be processed and scanned. A disadvantage to this is that it ends up being expensive if you are consistently using film.

As long as you're shooting a moderate to high-volume of film, there are two activities that can be done to help reduce your costs.

Bulk Loading Film

Investing in a roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading it into canisters by hand is certainly one of the most popular methods to cut costs.

A 100' bulk roll of film should fill approximately 18 canisters of film with 36 frames. Based on the film you are likely to save 20%-30%.

Be aware that you are limited to 100' rolls of black and white film. This is because black & white film is easier and less expensive to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

All film can be processed by hand. In fact, it's an intelligent method to cut costs so that you can shoot more film with your Pentax MZ-5.

Black & white film is significantly easier to develop yourself. Developer temperature and development times are not as critical to do correctly with black & white films as they are for transparency or color negative.

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