Best Film for the Pentax MZ-50

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

The best film to use in your Pentax MZ-50 will have to be based on the lens, lighting, and if you want to shoot color or black & white.

To eliminate having to lug around a flash and/or tripod, go with a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.

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

Color Film


Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - This film works well in a large range of lighting conditions and is a good selection for a 35mm color film. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the MZ-50 in lots of scenarios.

The photographs will have great colors and is on the warm side.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Based on where you are in the world, this film can be more widely available. It is a top-quality alternative to Kodak.

Fujifilm photographs appear to have cooler tones with an emphasis on blues and greens when compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - If you want a color film with an ISO of 800, there aren't many offerings. For 35mm film geared towards consumers, Lomography 800 is the sole available choice.

In addition, if you own a medium format camera, it's also offered in 120 film format.

Kodak Gold 200 - A great way to achieve that mid-80s through 90s look. Use a flash to get the "nostalgic" look the film is known for.

To bring the best look out of the film, make sure to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will ensure that you get the attractive colors everyone loves Kodak Gold 200 for.


Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 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 style the film is highly regarded for.

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

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm equal to Kodak's Portra, but with a distinctive color profile. Expect to see more vibrant blues and greens.

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

Black and White Film


These film stocks have affordable costs and good quality, making them very popular to try in the Pentax MZ-50.

The biggest attraction for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the reasonable cost. Even if you do not put yourself in that group, it is nice to have relatively cheap rolls of film on hand for trying out recently delivered camera gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - Made by Harmon Technology, which is also the owner of Ilford. This is notable because that allows this to be the most broadly available B&W film out of the three.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It will probably easier to purchase in Europe as the film is produced by Foma Bohemia inside of the Czech Republic.

A fine film stock to employ for your initial few attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Additionally, a good selection if you happen to be trying out a camera to guarantee that it's working properly.

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

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


The 2 most commonly used black & white film stocks are Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400. They have numerous capabilities that are equivalent that helps make them a favorite while retaining distinctive looks.

You can enjoy high-quality photographs after pushing both emulsions 2-stops. This makes the film versatile as a roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The largest differences are that HP5 Plus has less contrast and is cheaper compared to Tri-X. Minimal contrast can be a benefit because contrast can be changed when making a print or through digital processing.

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

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film emulsion has a more distinctive rendering. To produce the classic grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be processed in Kodak D-76.

You will undeniably notice far more contrast with Tri-X. That is helpful if that is the look and feel you would like because it results in a smaller amount of work when editing digitally or printmaking.

Slide Film

Film stocks that create a positive image can be called reversal, transparency, or slide film. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to showcase the pictures.

The colors are not required to be inverted to be viewable, unlike the more readily available negative film emulsions.

Slide films are regarded as very difficult to shoot because slide film has substantially less latitude and dynamic range when compared to negative film.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for fine grain and exquisite skin tones. The colors will not be seen as oversaturated. Ektachrome has been color balanced for daylight.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Delivers distinct looking shots that have high levels of contrast and saturation. It is amazingly sharp daylight balanced film emulsion. When compared to all the reversal films available to buy, it has the highest resolving power.

It is also available in an ISO 100 version.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Creates natural and vivid colors with medium color saturation and contrast. It's a ultrafine grain film with a daylight color balance.

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

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional films cost more due to the fact that they have better dynamic range, latitude, and are easier to push.

You should expect to see a disparity in availability. Consumer films can more often than not still be purchased from pharmacies and big-box stores in anemic quantities. Pro film stocks should be ordered from a online retailer or camera store.

Film ISO

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

The less light available to expose an image, the bigger the film's ISO should be. Additionally, be prepared for larger sized film grain.

It can be difficult to handhold the MZ-50 with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc). This is because if you don't have full sun, the shutter speeds can take more time than what you could handhold without producing motion blur.

To avoid motion blur you are going to need to use a flash, fast lens, and/or tripod. Using a high-speed ISO 800 or ISO 400 film often makes the additional accessories unnecessary.

The ISO is set by the Pentax MZ-50 electronically. This is different from previous SLRs that have a physical ISO dial.

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the range of stops film can be overexposed while still keeping usable quality. Pro film emulsions have a greater latitude along with a somewhat increased cost.

Negative film has more latitude when compared to slide film. That is a reason it's deemed to be harder to use.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is the range between the darkest and brightest details of a photograph that can be recorded. Sections of a picture that don't fit in this range will be rendered as totally black underexposed shadows or solid white overexposed highlights.

When working in a variety of quickly shifting lighting situations, film stocks with a larger dynamic range are a much better choice.

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

The limited dynamic range of transparency film is a further reason it's considered to be tricky to shoot. The golden hour is the best time to shoot slide film.

Film Type

35mm film that comes in metal canisters is used by the Pentax MZ-50. The film can also be called 135 film, and it's the most commonly used film format.

The only other type of film you are probably going to come across is 120 or 220 film that is used with medium format cameras.

Swapping the film you are working with will alter the look of your shots. This is an example of the marvelous things about using film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Just about all available 35mm film made at this point has DX encoding on the canister. This makes it possible for cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO when the film is loaded into the camera.

The Pentax MZ-50 will set the film ISO automatically. This is because the camera can read the DX-coding on film canisters.

Pentax MZ-50 Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

You will find a range of possible choices for where to develop 35mm film. For a more complete explanation of the options check out my guide on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film is no longer processed locally at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship the film off-site to be developed by a 3rd party. This means that, 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 film to a mail-order photo lab to be processed and scanned is the least difficult option if you're just getting started using film. If you consistently shoot film, this may be a downside since it can get expensive.

So long as you're going through a moderate to high volume of film, there are a few things that can be done to lower your expenses.

Bulk Loading Film

Getting a roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading it into canisters yourself is one of the most popular ways to save money.

Once you are done, you will get typically around 18 rolls of 36 frames. Expect cost savings of 20-30% based on the film.

Take into account that you're going to be limited to bulk rolls of black and white film. This is due to black and white film is less difficult and more affordable to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

You have the ability to process and digitize film at home. It's an intelligent way to lower your costs so that you can shoot more film with your Pentax MZ-50.

Black & white film is by far the easiest to process. Developer temperature and development times are not as vital to do correctly with black & white films as time and temperatures are for transparency or color negative.

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