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Best Film for the Pentax P3

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Best Pentax P3 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in the Pentax P3 will be based on your lens, lighting conditions, and if you want to shoot color or black & white.

To avoid having to haul around a flash or tripod, get a film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.

If you want to shoot images in low light, such as inside, ensure you have a fast lens. For lens suggestions go read my list on the 5 Best Lenses for the Pentax P3.

Color Film

Consumer

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Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A good option for a plethora of lighting conditions. The film is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the P3 in almost all circumstances.

Expect images to appear slightly warm with amazing colors.

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Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Depending on your location, this film could have greater availability. It’s a great alternative to Kodak.

Fuji photos tend to have cooler colors with notable greens and blues, when compared to Kodak.

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Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - You’re limited to a few choices if you want a color ISO 800 film. For film geared towards consumers, Lomography 800 is the only choice.

In addition, if you have a medium format camera, it is also available in 120 film format.

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Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A surefire option to achieve that mid-80s through 90s feeling. For the classic experience try a flash.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to bring out the best look the film can achieve. This will give you the striking colors people love Gold 200 for.

Professional

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Kodak Portra 400

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

Additionally, ISO 800 and 160 versions of Kodak Portra. It is also offered in rolls of 120 film, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.

Black and White Film

Consumer

With affordable costs and excellent favorable to use in the Pentax P3.

The main draw for photography students and budget minded photographers is the affordable price. Even if you would not put yourself in that group, it’s nice to have comparatively cheap rolls of 35 film on hand for testing recently delivered camera gear.

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Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - It’s manufactured by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is great considering that makes this the most widely sold B&W film of the three.

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Foma Fomapan 400 Action

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

An excellent film stock to work with for your first couple of attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also a good selection if you are testing out a camera to make sure that it’s functioning correctly.

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Ultrafine eXtreme 400

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - The best store to purchase this film is directly from Ultrafine.

They have chemical developer kits for color 35mm film, so if you develop film at home you could have already had interactions with them.

Professional

Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400 are the 2 most frequently used black and white 35mm film emulsions. They possess several characteristics that are equivalent that help make them so popular, while keeping different looks.

You can obtain 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.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - Between the two film stocks, HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is cheaper. Low amounts of contrast can be nice because of the fact contrast can be adjusted when making a print in the darkroom or during digital post processing.

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

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Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock possesses a stronger rendering. To bring out the classic grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be developed in Kodak D-76.

Tri-X certainly has far more contrast. That’s awesome if it is the overall look you want because it results in less work when during digital post processing or making a darkroom print.

Reversal Film

Slide film, also known as transparency film or reversal film, gives you a positive image. That means a lightbox or projector can be used to exhibit the pictures.

Colors are not required to be inverted to be seen, contrary to the more commonly available negative film stocks.

Slide films are perceived as hard to use because slide film has far less latitude and dynamic range than negative film.

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Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for fine grain and gorgeous skin tones. The colors will not be seen as oversaturated. It’s daylight color balanced.

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Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is a unbelievably sharp daylight balanced reversal film with lots of saturation and contrast, giving photos a beautiful appearance. When compared to all the reversal films available to buy, it has the greatest resolving power.

There’s another version that is ISO 100.

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Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Delivers realistic and vivid colors with medium color saturation and contrast. It’s a daylight color balanced film with ultrafine grain.

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Foma Fomapan R100

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white reversal film, reported by Fomapan as having excellent resolving power, elevated levels of contrast, and fine grain. It’s also mentioned as a replacement for the discontinued Agfa Scala film emulsion.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro film stock have a greater dynamic range, are easier to push, and larger latitude, that is why they will cost more.

There might be a disparity in availability. Consumer film stocks can oftentimes be found in pharmacies and big-box stores in anemic amounts. Professional level film emulsions needs to be ordered from a online or specialized camera store.

ISO

The speed of the film is listed as ISO, which may also be thought of as the film’s light sensitivity.

The bigger the ISO of the film, the less light is necessary to capture a photograph. This comes at the expense of larger sized film grain.

ISO 100 and slower speed films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc) may be quite challenging to use handheld with the P3. The will probably be longer will be longer than what you can handhold without producing motion blur unless you’re shooting in full sun.

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

As a quick note, the ISO dial is marked as ASA on the Pentax P3. The change to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened 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 adequate quality. Professional film stocks have a larger latitude paired with a slightly increased price.

Negative film has a larger amount of latitude compared to slide film. That is one of the reasons it’s considered difficult to shoot.

Dynamic Range

The difference between the darkest and brightest details of an image is referred to as dynamic range. Sections of an image that fall out of this range will be rendered as completely black underexposed shadows or solid white overexposed highlights.

A bigger dynamic range is better since it makes working in a variety of lighting conditions easier.

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

The constrained dynamic range of reversal film is another reason it is regarded as tricky to shoot. Golden hour is the best time to shoot reversal.

Film Type

The Pentax P3 takes 35mm film that is in canisters. 35mm film can also be described as 135 film, and it’s the most popular type of film.

The only other type of film you are going to encounter is 120 or 220 film that is used in medium format cameras}.

Switching the film emulsion you are using will alter the look of your shots. This is one of the fantastic things about using film.

DX Coded Film

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DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Nearly all commercially available 35mm film on the market these days has a DX code. This lets cameras to detect and set the ISO when the film canister is put in the camera.

ISO (ASA) on the Pentax P3 needs to be manually selected. Which means DX-coding does not be of any use.

Pentax P3 Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

You will find only a few possible choices for where to get 35mm film processed. For a more complete explanation of the possible choices check my guide on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film is not developed on site at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship film off to be processed by a third party. As a result, you will not be given 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 your film to a mail-order lab to be processed and scanned is the least complicated solution if you are just beginning to use film. A downside to this is that it can become really expensive if you regularly use film.

There are a few actions that can be done to lower the costs required to use film, if you’re going through a medium to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

One of the common ways to get a better price on film is to buy a roll of 100 feet of film and manually load it into canisters by hand.

After you’ve finished, you’ll get approximately 18 rolls of 36 exposures each. Based on the film stock you can expect to save 20%-30%.

Bear in mind that you are going to be limited to bulk rolls of black and white film. This is due to the fact black and white film is much easier and more cost-effective to process yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

Any film can be processed by hand. It’s an excellent option to lower your costs so that you can shoot more film with your Pentax P3.

Black and white film is by far the easiest to process yourself. Developer temperature and time are both not as important to get correct with black and white film as they are for slide or color negative.