Best Film for the Pentax Program A

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

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

To eliminate having to haul around a tripod or flash, get a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or higher.

Ensure you have a fast lens if you want to shoot photos in low light, conditions that are commonly found indoors.

Color Film

Consumer

Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A fantastic selection for a variety of lighting conditions. Kodak UltraMax 400 is fast enough so that you should be able to handhold the Program A in lots of scenarios.

Expect photographs to look slightly warm with amazing colors.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Based on where you are in the world, this film could be more widely available. It's a great alternative to Kodak film.

Fuji photographs tend to have cooler tones with notable greens and blues when compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - You're limited to a small number of possibilities if you want a color ISO 800 film. For 35mm film stocks targeted towards consumers, this is the only available choice.

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

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film emulsion that was launched in the mid-1980s. It provides the look and feel of snapshots from the 80s and 90s. For the classic shooting experience have a flash.

To bring the best out of the film, you'll have to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will produce the eye-catching colors people love the film for.

Professional

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 Portra 400 by 1 or 2-stops to get the overall look the film is known for.

Plus, ISO 800 and 160 emulsions of Kodak Portra. 8x10 sheets, 4x5 sheets, and rolls of 120 are also manufactured.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm film that is closest to Kodak Portra 400, but with a different color appearance. Expect more vibrant blues and greens.

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

Black and White Film

Consumer

With low costs and more than acceptable favorable for use in the Pentax Program A.

The biggest attraction for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the reasonable cost. Even if you would not put yourself in those groups, it's good to have low-priced rolls of 35 film readily available for trying out recently obtained used gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

Kentmere 400 - It's manufactured by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is good considering that allows this to be the most commonly sold 35mm film out of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - Might be much easier to find in Europe as the film is manufactured by Foma Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

A good quality film stock to choose for your first few attempts at home developing or analog photography. Also, a good choice if you happen to be trying out a camera to be sure that it's working properly.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the cheapest price by buying it straight from Ultrafine.

They make chemical developer kits for 35mm color film, so if you process film at home you might have previously interacted with them.

Professional

The 2 best black and white film stocks are Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400. While they both do have individual looks, they have quite a few characteristics that are equivalent that help makes them so well-liked.

Both film stocks can be pushed 2 stops and while still producing great photographs. A roll can be used at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them quite flexible.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The most important differences are that HP5 Plus is more affordable and has lower levels of contrast when compared to Tri-X. Minimal contrast can be an advantage because of the fact that contrast can be changed when making a print or editing digitally.

The film emulsion still looks outstanding when pushed 2-stops. It is also notable for having subdued grain.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock has got a more distinctive style. To achieve the legendary grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be processed in D-76.

Kodak Tri-X certainly has considerably more contrast. That is helpful if it's the look you will want because it means considerably less work when through digital post-processing or making a print in the darkroom.

Reversal Film

Reversal film, also known as transparency film or slide film, generates a positive picture. That means a lightbox or projector can be used to show the photos.

This is distinct from the more commonplace negative films that create pictures that require inverting the colors so that they can be viewed.

Slide films have a lot less dynamic range and latitude than negative film and so they are thought to be challenging to use.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for fine grain and great skin tones. The colors do not be seen as oversaturated. The film has a daylight color balance.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Makes appealing looking photos that have considerably increased levels of contrast and saturation. It is an exceptionally sharp daylight color balanced film. Matched against all the reversal films you can get, it has the best resolving power.

An ISO 100 version is also available to buy.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Offers vibrant and natural colors with medium color saturation and contrast. It's an ultra-fine grain film with a daylight color balance.

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white transparency film, described by Fomapan as having very fine grain, increased levels of contrast, and high resolving power. It is also regarded as an alternative for the long-discontinued Agfa Scala.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro film stock have better latitude, are easier to push, and increased dynamic range, that is why pro-film costs more.

You should be prepared for a difference in supply. Consumer film stocks can commonly be purchased from big-box stores and pharmacies in limited amounts. Pro film stocks usually need to be bought from a photography store or online retailer.

Film ISO

The speed of the film is listed as ISO, which can also be regarded as the film's light sensitivity.

The higher the film's ISO, the less light will be necessary to get a frame. This comes at the tradeoff of noticeably increased film grain.

It is often difficult to handhold the Program A with ISO 100 or slower films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc). They might take more time will probably be longer than what you could handhold without producing motion blur unless you're out in full sun.

A flash, fast lens, and/or tripod can assist you with longer shutter speeds. The extra accessories might not be needed if you choose a faster ISO 400 or ISO 800 film.

The ISO dial is labeled as ISO on the Pentax Program A. Older cameras may be labeled with ASA instead of ISO. The change to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the number of stops a film can be overexposed while having acceptable images. Pro film emulsions have a larger latitude to go along with a somewhat increased price.

Reversal film has less latitude than negative film. That is a reason it's believed to be difficult to shoot.

Dynamic Range

The difference between the shadows and highlights parts of a picture is known as dynamic range. Sections of an image that do not fit within this range will be seen as white overexposed highlights or completely black underexposed shadows.

A larger dynamic range is preferable due to the fact that it tends to make shooting in a variety of lighting conditions easier.

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

The small dynamic range of reversal film is a second reason why it is regarded as tricky to shoot. A fantastic time to give it a try is during the golden hour.

Film Type

35mm film that is in metal canisters is used by the Pentax Program A. In addition, it’s the most often used type of film and in some instances is described as 135 film.

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

Swapping the film you are using will alter the look of your photographs. This is one of the best things about film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Virtually all commercially available 35mm film on the market currently has DX encoding. This will allow electronically controlled cameras to detect and set the ISO of the film canister loaded.

DX-coding doesn't change anything for the Pentax Program A because ISO must be manually dialed in with the ISO knob.

Pentax Program A Resources

Where to Get 35mm Film Developed?

You will find a range of options for where to get 35mm film processed. For a more thorough explanation of the possibilities, you can check out my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film is not processed on-site at big box stores and pharmacies. They send film off-site to be processed by a 3rd party. As a consequence, you won't 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

Sending film to a mail-order lab to be processed and scanned is the least complicated choice if you are just starting to use film. If you consistently use film, this could be a drawback because it can get really expensive.

So long as you're using a medium to high volume of film, there are two activities that can be done to cut back on your costs.

Bulk Loading Film

Purchasing a roll of 100' of film and manually loading it into canisters by hand is certainly one of the most well-known ways to lower expenses.

A 100-foot roll of film should fill up typically around 18 canisters of film containing 36 frames each. Look forward to cost savings of 20-30% depending on your pick.

Be aware that you are limited to rolls of black and white film. This is in part because black & white film is much easier and less expensive to process at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

Any film can be processed at home. It's an intelligent option to reduce costs so that you can use more film with your Pentax Program A.

Black and white film is significantly easier to process yourself. Developer temperature and development times are not as crucial to get correct with black and white films as time and temperatures are for color negative or slide film.

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