Best Film for the Pentax P3

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: March 13, 2020
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35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in the Pentax P3 will have to be based on the lighting conditions, lens, and type of film you want to use.

To avoid having to haul around a flash and/or tripod, choose a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.

If you want to shoot pictures inside or anytime there is low light, ensure you are using a fast lens.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film handles a wide variety of lighting conditions well and is a good pick for a 35mm color film. Using this film you should have the ability to handhold the P3 in the majority of scenarios.

Expect images to appear slightly warm with pleasant skin tones.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Based on your location, this film could be more widely available. It's a top-quality alternative to Kodak emulsions.

When compared to Kodak, Fujifilm appears to be a little cooler with an emphasis on blues and greens.

Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color film, there are only a small number of possible choices. For film stocks focused on consumers, Lomography 800 is the single available choice.

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

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film emulsion that was launched in the mid-1980s. It has the look of home snapshots from the 1980s and 90s. For the authentic experience have a flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to create the most popular look the film can achieve. This will produce the appealing colors everyone loves Gold 200 for.

Professional

Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 35mm Film

Kodak Portra 400 - Among the photography enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is by far and away the most widely used color 35mm film. Overexpose Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the appearance the film is well known for.

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

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm equivalent to Portra, but with a distinct color appearance. Expect more vibrant blues and greens.

8x10 or 4x5 sheets of film are not produced, but 120 is available.

Black and White Film

Consumer

With low costs and more than acceptable favorable to use in the Pentax P3.

The biggest attraction for budget-minded photographers and photography students is the affordable price. Even if you do not put yourself in those groups, it is great to have economical rolls of 35 film on hand for trying out recently obtained camera gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - Manufactured by Harmon Technology, which is the parent company of Ilford. This is excellent due to the fact that allows this to be the most commonly available film out of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - Might be less difficult to obtain in Europe as the film is produced out of the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.

An excellent film to employ for your initial couple of attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also, a good option if you happen to be testing out a camera to make sure that it's completely operational.

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

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

Professional

Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are the two most widely used black & white films. They possess a large amount of traits in common that helps make them so well received while keeping individual rendering.

You can achieve professional results after pushing both film emulsions 2-stops. A 35mm roll can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them very flexible.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The largest differences are that HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is more affordable compared to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be advantageous due to the fact that contrast can be changed when making a print in the darkroom or during digital post-processing.

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

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock has a more distinctive rendering to it. To produce the old-school grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it will need to be processed in Kodak D-76.

You will without a doubt see considerably more contrast with Kodak Tri-X 400. That's ideal if it happens to be the style you would like because it means considerably less work when through digital processing or printmaking.

Slide Film

Film stocks that produce a positive image are referred to as reversal, transparency, or slide film. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to view the slides.

Colors are not required to be inverted to be viewable, unlike the more commonplace negative film emulsions.

Slide films have much less dynamic range and latitude than negative film and so they are perceived as more difficult to shoot.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a film known for fine grain and striking skin tones. The colors will not show up oversaturated. Ektachrome has been balanced for daylight.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Produces beautiful looking images that have appreciably increased amounts of saturation and contrast. It is a remarkably sharp daylight balanced film emulsion. Matched against all the reversal films available for purchase, it has the greatest resolving power.

An ISO 100 emulsion is also available.

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

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white reversal film, claimed by Fomapan as having higher levels of contrast, very good resolving power, and fine grain. It is also mentioned as a substitute for the discontinued Agfa Scala reversal film.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional film stock have larger latitude, are easier to push, and larger dynamic range, which is the reason pro-film costs more.

You should expect a big difference in businesses that sell it. Consumer film stocks can generally be bought from big-box stores and pharmacies in anemic quantities. Pro film stocks will need to be ordered from an online retailer or camera store.

Film ISO

A film's light sensitivity is shown as the ISO.

The less light available to capture an image, the higher the ISO of the film will need to be. Furthermore, be prepared for more noticeable film grain.

ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc) may be challenging to shoot handheld with the P3. They can be longer will likely be longer than what you could handhold without resulting in motion blur unless you are working in full sun.

To avoid motion blur you are going to need to use a flash, fast lens, and/or tripod. The additional accessories might not be needed if you go with a higher speed ISO 800 or ISO 400 film.

The ISO is set by the Pentax P3 electronically. This is a change from older SLRs that use an ISO dial.

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the number of stops a film can be overexposed while still keeping tolerable photographs. Professional film emulsions have a larger latitude paired with a slightly increased cost.

Reversal film has a smaller amount of latitude when compared to negative film. That is a reason it's deemed to be challenging to work with.

Dynamic Range

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

A larger dynamic range is advantageous given that it helps make shooting in variable lighting conditions easier.

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

Transparency film is regarded as difficult to use as a consequence of the constrained dynamic range. The golden hour is the prime time to shoot reversal film.

Film Type

35mm film that comes in metal canisters is used by the Pentax P3. It’s also the best-selling type of film and occasionally described as 135 film.

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

One of the excellent properties of film is that you can switch the film you use and get a totally different look to your photographs.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Most new 35mm film sold at this point has a DX code. This lets cameras to detect and set the ISO when the film canister is loaded into the camera.

The ISO on the Pentax P3 will be set automatically. This is due to the fact that the camera has electronics to read the DX-coding on film canisters.

Pentax P3 Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

There are a handful of possible choices for where to process 35mm film. For a more in-depth explanation of the possible choices read my article on Where to Develop Film.

WARNING: Film doesn't get processed locally at big box stores and pharmacies. They send film away to be processed by a separate company. Because of this, you will not get 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 convenient method and the method I suggest doing if you're just getting started using film is to mail your film to a photo lab to be processed and scanned. A disadvantage of this is that it will get really expensive if you are regularly using film.

Assuming that you are using a moderate to high-volume of film, there are a few activities that you are able to do to lower your costs.

Bulk Loading Film

Ordering a roll of 100 feet of film and loading it into canisters by hand is considered one of the most well-known options to cut costs.

A 100-foot roll should load typically around 18 canisters of film containing 36 exposures. Count on savings of 20-30% based on the film.

Bear in mind that you're limited to 100-foot rolls of black and white film. This is in part because black & white film is less difficult and more cost-effective to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

Any film can be processed by hand. It's an intelligent option to spend less so you can use more film with your Pentax P3.

Black and white film is significantly less difficult to develop. Chemical temperature and development times are not as imperative to do correctly with black & white films as temperatures and time are for color negative or slide film.

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