Best Film for the Pentax MZ-M
The best film to use in your Pentax MZ-M is going to depend on the lighting conditions, your lens, and if you want to shoot color or black & white.
To eliminate having to carry around a tripod and/or flash, pick a film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.
If you want to be able to to take pictures in low light, such as inside, make sure that you are using a fast lens. For lens recommendations read my list on the 5 Best Lenses for the Pentax MZ-M.
Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film handles a large range of lighting conditions well and is a good pick for a color 35mm film. Using this film you should be able to handhold the MZ-M in just about all circumstances.
The photos will have fantastic colors and leans towards the warm side.
Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - An alternative to Kodak that could have greater availability based on what country you are in.
When compared to Kodak, Fuji tends to be a small amount cooler with an emphasis on blues and greens.
Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color 35mm film, there are only a small number of offerings. For film stocks geared towards consumers, Lomography 800 is the sole option.
In addition, if you own a medium format camera, Lomography 800 is also sold in 120 film format.
Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film stock that was released in the mid-1980s. Gold 200 provides the look and feel of home snapshots from the 80s and 1990s. For the authentic photography experience have a flash.
To really bring the best out of the film, you will have to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will give you the spectacular colors everyone loves Kodak Gold 200 for.
Kodak Portra 400 - By far the most popular color negative film among film enthusiasts online. Overexpose it by 1 or 2-stops to get the overall look the film is known for.
Kodak Portra is also available for purchase in ISO 160 and ISO 800 emulsions. Portra is also offered in rolls of 120, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.
Black and White Film
These film emulsions have affordable prices and more than acceptable quality, making them very popular to try in the Pentax MZ-M.
The major draw for budget minded photographers and photography students is the very low price. Even if you do not put yourself in those groups, it is good to have low-priced rolls of 35 film readily available for testing recently purchased used cameras.
Kentmere 400 - It’s manufactured by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is excellent since that makes this the most widely available film of the 3.
Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It is less difficult to find in Europe as the film is produced by Foma Bohemia in the Czech Republic.
A pretty good 35mm film to work with for your initial couple of attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also a good choice if you happen to be attempting to try out a camera to be sure that it is fully functional.
Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the best price by getting it directly from Ultrafine.
If you process color 35mm film yourself, you might have used chemicals produced by them to develop your film.
Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400 are the two best black & white film stocks. While they both do have individual rendering, they have quite a few characteristics that are similar that help makes them popular.
You can obtain high quality results after pushing both films 2-stops. A 35mm roll can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them remarkably flexible.
Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The largest differences are that HP5 Plus is cheaper and has less contrast in comparison to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be nice because contrast can be added when making a print or through digital post processing.
The film still appears good when pushed 2-stops. It is also known for having subdued grain.
Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film emulsion has a stronger aesthetic to it. To reveal the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be developed in D-76.
You’ll undeniably see higher levels of contrast with Kodak Tri-X. That’s excellent if that is the overall look you are after because it results in substantially less work when through digital processing or making a print in the darkroom.
Slide film, also known as transparency or reversal film, generates a positive image. This means the photos can be displayed with a projector or light box.
This is distinct from the more commonly available negative film stocks that produce photos that need inverting the colors in order to be seen.
Slide films are viewed as hard to shoot due to the fact slide film has substantially less dynamic range and latitude when compared with negative film.
Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. There is virtually no hypersaturation of colors. It is daylight color balanced.
Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Delivers special looking photographs that have elevated amounts of saturation and contrast. It is razor-sharp and balanced for daylight. Compared to all the transparency films available, it has the greatest resolving power.
You can also get it in an ISO 100 speed.
Fujichrome Provia 100F - Delivers realistic and vibrant colors with moderate color saturation and contrast. It is a ultra fine grain film balanced for daylight.
Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black and white reversal film, reported by Fomapan as having very fine grain, increased levels of contrast, and very good resolving power. It is also mentioned as a substitute for the long discontinued Agfa Scala film emulsion.
Consumer vs Professional Film
Pro film stock have increased latitude, are easier to push, and larger dynamic range, which is the reason pro-film costs more.
There’s a difference in business that sell film. Consumer film emulsions can often be seen in pharmacies and big-box stores in anemic quantities. Professional film stocks should be bought from a online retailer or specialized camera store.
A film’s sensitivity to light is shown as the ISO.
The higher the ISO of the film, the less light will be necessary to capture a picture. Furthermore, be prepared for noticeably increased film grain.
ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc) can be quite challenging to use handheld in the MZ-M. The will likely be longer might be longer than what you’re able to handhold without producing motion blur unless you’re shooting in full sun.
A tripod, a fast lens, and/or a flash will assist you with longer exposure times. The additional accessories may not be needed if you use a faster ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.
As a quick note, the ISO selection knob is labeled as ASA on the Pentax MZ-M. The move to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).
Film latitude is the number of stops a film can be overexposed while maintaining acceptable images. Professional film emulsions have a larger latitude along with a somewhat increased price.
Negative film has more latitude than reversal film. That is one of the reasons it’s viewed as harder to work with.
The difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a photograph is known as dynamic range. Parts of a photograph that do not fit within this range will be rendered as solid black underexposed shadows or completely white overexposed highlights.
When working in a variety or quickly shifting 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
Slide film is thought to be tricky to shoot due to the limited dynamic range. The perfect time to try it would be during the golden hour.
The Pentax MZ-M uses 35mm film that comes in metal canisters. It’s also the most frequently used film format and occasionally referred to as 135 film.
120 or 220 film, used by medium format cameras, is the only other film format you are going to encounter}.
Changing the film you are working with will transform the look of your photographs. This is one of the excellent things about shooting film.
DX Coded Film
Just about all commercially available 35mm film offered at this time has DX encoding. This will allow cameras to auto detect and set the ISO of the canister put in the camera.
The ISO (ASA) on the Pentax MZ-M needs to be manually set. So DX-coding doesn’t be of any use.
Pentax MZ-M Resources
Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?
There are only a few possibilities for where to process film. For a more in depth explanation of the choices check my guide on Where to Get Film Developed.
WARNING: Pharmacies and big box stores have ended developing film locally. They mail film off-site to be processed by a 3rd party. Because of this, you will not get your negatives back.
- Develop Film at Home
- Use a Local Photography Lab
- Use a Mail Order Photo Lab
- Pharmacy or Big Box Store
The most straightforward solution and the method I suggest doing if you are just beginning to shoot film is to mail your film to a lab to be processed and scanned. If you consistently shoot film, this could be a drawback due to the fact that it can get really expensive.
As long as you are using a moderate to high volume of film, there are a couple of things that you can do to limit your expenses.
Bulk Loading Film
Getting a bulk roll of 100 feet of film and loading in into canisters by hand is certainly one of the common options to lower your expenses.
A 100’ bulk roll can fill up typically around 18 rolls of film containing 36 exposures. Based on the film you can expect to save 20%-30%.
Keep in mind that you are only going to be able to get rolls of black & white film. This is because black and white film is much easier and more cost-effective to develop yourself.
Home Developing and Scanning
It is possible to develop and scan film yourself. It’s a good option to cut costs so you can use more film with your Pentax MZ-M.
Black and white film is much simpler to process yourself. Developer temperature and time are not as imperative to get correct with black and white films as they are for color negative or transparency film.