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Best Film for the Pentax MZ-M

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Best Pentax MZ-M 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in the Pentax MZ-M is going to be based on your lens, lighting, and if you want to shoot color or black & white.

Using an ISO 400 35mm or faster will let you eliminate having to lug around a flash and/or tripod.

If you would like to capture photos in low light, such as inside, ensure you have a fast lens. Take a look at my list on the 5 Best Lenses for the Pentax MZ-M for recommendations.

Color Film

Consumer

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Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A great selection for a variety of conditions. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the MZ-M in almost all circumstances.

The photos will have great skin tones and tend to be on the warm side.

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Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - An alternative to Kodak that might have better availability based on where you are in the world.

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

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Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - You’re limited to a small number of options if you want an ISO 800 speed color film. This is literally the only 35mm film focused on consumers.

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

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Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A surefire option to achieve that mid-80s through 90s style. For the authentic photography experience have an on-camera flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to reveal the best look the film has to offer. This will provide the idyllic colors everyone loves the film for.

Professional

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Kodak Portra 400

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

Plus, ISO 800 and 160 versions of Kodak Portra. As well as in rolls of 120 film, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.

Black and White Film

Consumer

These film stocks have reasonable costs and more than acceptable quality, making them very popular for use in the Pentax MZ-M.

The primary draw for photography students and budget minded photographers is the very affordable price. Even if you don’t put yourself in those groups, it’s good to have low cost rolls of film available for trying out recently delivered used gear.

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Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - Manufactured by Harmon Technology, which is the parent company of Ilford. This is excellent considering that makes this the most commonly available 35mm film of the three.

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Foma Fomapan 400 Action

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

A decent 35mm film to choose for your initial couple of attempts at film photography or home developing. Also a good selection if you are testing out a camera to confirm that it’s functioning properly.

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Ultrafine eXtreme 400

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

If you process color 35mm film yourself, you might have used chemicals produced by them.

Professional

The 2 most popular black and white film stocks are Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400. While they both possess distinctive appearances, they have a number of characteristics that are equivalent that help makes them so popular.

Both film emulsions can be pushed 1 or 2 stops and deliver great results. This makes the film versatile as a roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The main differences are that HP5 Plus has less contrast and is cheaper compared to Tri-X. A lack of contrast can be advantageous because contrast can be added when making a print or through digital processing.

The film stock still looks very good when pushed 2-stops. It is also known for having subdued grain.

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Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock provides a stronger aesthetic. To reveal the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be processed in D-76.

You’ll certainly see greater contrast with Tri-X 400. That’s awesome if it is the overall look you would like because it involves not as much work when during digital processing or printmaking.

Slide Film

Film stocks that produce a positive image can be called transparency, slide, or reversal film. This means the slides can be exhibited with a projector or light box.

This is unique from the more readily available negative film stocks that create images that need the colors to be inverted for the image to be viewed.

Slide films are considered tricky to use due to the fact slide film has far less latitude and dynamic range when compared to negative film.

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Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

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

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Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is a remarkably sharp daylight balanced film with lots of saturation and contrast, giving shots a unique appearance. It has the greatest resolving power of any increased elevated.

It is also available in an ISO 100 version.

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Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Produces realistic and vibrant colors with moderate color saturation and contrast. It has a daylight color balance and ultra fine grain.

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Foma Fomapan R100

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white reversal film, noted by Fomapan as having excellent resolving power, higher contrast, and fine grain. It’s also regarded as a alternative for the discontinued Agfa Scala transparency film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional films cost more since they can more easily be pushed, have better latitude, and dynamic range.

There may be a big difference in where 35mm rolls of film can be purchased. Consumer films can frequently be bought from big-box stores and pharmacies in meager quantities. Pro film needs to be purchased from a online retailer or specialized photography store.

ISO

The filml speed is shown as ISO, which may also be regarded as the film’s light sensitivity.

The less light there’s available to expose an image, the higher the film’s ISO will need to be. This comes at the tradeoff of larger film grain.

It can be hard to handhold the MZ-M 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 will probably be longer than what you are able to handhold without causing motion blur.

To stop motion blur you’ll need to use a tripod, flash, and/or fast lens. Using a high speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film often makes the extra gear not needed.

The ISO dial is listed as ASA on the Pentax MZ-M. The change to using 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 still producing acceptable photographs. Professional film stocks have a greater latitude paired with a slightly increased price.

Negative film has a larger amount of latitude when compared to slide film. That is one of the reasons it’s viewed as more challenging to use.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range represents the range between the highlights and shadows details of an image that can be captured. Parts of an image that are not in this range will be seen as totally white overexposed highlights or solid black underexposed shadows.

When working in a wide 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

Transparency film is regarded as difficult to shoot because of the constrained dynamic range. Golden hour is the prime time to shoot transparency.

Film Type

The Pentax MZ-M uses 35mm film that is sold in canisters. It can also be called 135 film, and it’s the most frequently used type of film.

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

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

DX Coded Film

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DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

All available 35mm film offered for sale today has DX encoding on the canister. This will allow electronically controlled cameras to detect and set the ISO of the film canister loaded.

ISO (ASA) on the Pentax MZ-M must be selected manually. Which means that DX-coding will not matter.

Pentax MZ-M Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

You will find a variety of possibilities for where to get 35mm film processed. For a more complete explanation of the possibilities look at my article on Where to Develop Film.

WARNING: Pharmacies and big box stores have stopped processing film on location. They ship the film away to be processed by a separate company. Because of this, you won’t receive 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

Sending your film to a mail-order photo lab to be processed and scanned is the easiest solution if you’re new to using film. A drawback to this is that it will get very expensive if you’re frequently using film.

So long as you are using a moderate to high volume of film, there are two actions that you are able to do to help reduce your expenses.

Bulk Loading Film

Purchasing a roll of 100’ of film and manually loading in into canisters by hand is certainly one of the leading ways to lower your costs.

A 100’ bulk roll should fill roughly 18 rolls of film containing 36 frames. Depending on the film you can expect to save 20%-30%.

Bear in mind that you are going to be limited to rolls of black and white film. This is in part because black & white film is easier and more affordable to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

All film can be developed at home. It’s a good method to cut costs so that you can shoot more film with your Pentax MZ-M.

Black & white film is significantly less difficult to process yourself. Developer temperature and time are not as critical to get correct with black and white films as time and temperatures are for color negative or transparency film.