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Best Film for the Pentax Program A

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Best Pentax Program A 35mm Film

´╗┐The best film to use in the Pentax Program A will be based on the lighting conditions, your lens, and type of film you want to use.

To avoid having to carry around a flash and/or tripod, pick a 35mm film that has an ISO of 400 or faster.

If you have a need to take pictures in low light, such as inside, ensure that you are using a fast lens. Have a look at my guide on the 5 Best Lenses for the Pentax Program A for recommendations.

Color Film

Consumer

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Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - A terrific option for a variety of lighting conditions. Using Kodak UltraMax 400 you should have the ability to handhold the Program A in just about all circumstances.

Expect images to look slightly warm with amazing skin tones.

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Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Based on where you are in the world, this film could have greater availability. It’s a fantastic alternative to Kodak.

Fuji pictures tend to have cooler colors with stronger blues and greens, compared to Kodak.

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Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

Lomography 800 - If you want an ISO 800 color film, there are only a few possible choices. This is the only 35mm film stock geared towards consumers.

Furthermore, if you own a medium format camera, Lomography 800 is also available in 120 film format.

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Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film stock that was launched in the mid-1980s. The film has the look and feel of snapshots from the 1980s and 90s. Use a flash to get the “nostalgic” look.

Over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops to reveal the best look the film can achieve. This will ensure that you get the stunning colors everyone loves Gold 200 for.

Professional

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Kodak Portra 400

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

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

Black and White Film

Consumer

With low costs and more than acceptable favorable to be used in the Pentax Program A.

The primary draw for budget minded photographers and photography students is the very affordable price. Even if you do not put yourself in that group, it’s great to have economical rolls of 35 film available for testing newly acquired used cameras.

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Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - It is produced by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is good because that makes this the most widely available B&W film of the three.

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Foma Fomapan 400 Action

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

A great film to try for your initial few attempts at analog photography or home developing. Also a good selection if you are looking to test out a camera to ensure that it’s fully functional.

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Ultrafine eXtreme 400

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - The cheapest place to buy this film is online directly from Ultrafine.

If you develop 35mm color film at home, you could have used chemicals produced by them to process your film.

Professional

The two best black and white film emulsions are Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP-5+ 400. While they both possess different looks, they have numerous attributes in common that help makes them a favorite.

You can get excellent images after pushing both emulsions 2-stops. A roll of film can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them quite versatile.

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Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - Between the two films, HP5 Plus has lower levels of contrast and is cheaper. Less contrast can be good because contrast can be increased when making a print or editing digitally.

The film stock has subtle grain and still appears good when pushed 2-stops.

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Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film has got a more distinctive aesthetic to it. To bring out the classic grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it needs to be processed in Kodak D-76.

The film stock undeniably has higher levels of contrast. That is great if that is the overall look you would like because it results in less work when making a print in the darkroom or through digital processing.

Slide Film

Transparency film, also known as slide or reversal film, produces a positive picture. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to display the pictures.

This is distinct from the more often used negative film stocks that result in images that require the colors to be inverted for the image to be viewed.

Slide films have far less latitude and dynamic range when compared with negative film and so they are believed to be more challenging to use.

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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 show up oversaturated. Ektachrome is daylight balanced.

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Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Makes signature looking shots that have increased levels of saturation and contrast. It is razor-sharp and color balanced for daylight. When compared with all the transparency films available to buy, it has the best resolving power.

You can also get it in an ISO 100 version.

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Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Delivers natural and vibrant colors with medium contrast and color saturation. It has a daylight color balance and ultrafine grain.

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Foma Fomapan R100

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

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Professional films cost more since they have a greater dynamic range, are easier to push, and larger latitude.

There’s a disparity in where rolls of film can be purchased. Consumer films can more often than not be found in pharmacies and big-box stores in meager amounts. Pro film emulsions often need to be bought from a photography store or online retailer.

ISO

A film’s sensitivity to light is displayed by the ISO.

The higher the film’s ISO, the less light is required to capture an image. Also, be prepared for more noticeable film grain.

ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc) might be quite challenging to use handheld with the Program A. The can take longer will take more time than what you are able to handhold without resulting in motion blur unless you are out in full sun.

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

As a quick note, the dial to select film speed is marked as ASA on the Pentax Program A. The transition to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) came after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the amount of stops a film can be overexposed while still holding onto satisfactory photographs. Pro films have a larger latitude to go along with a slightly higher cost.

Negative film has more latitude compared to transparency film. That is one of the reasons why it is deemed to be challenging to use.

Dynamic Range

The range between the shadows and highlights details of an image is known as dynamic range. Areas of a photo that do not fit within this range will be rendered as black underexposed shadows or solid white overexposed highlights.

When shooting in a wide variety or quickly shifting lighting situations, films with a bigger dynamic range are a better choice.

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

Reversal film is viewed as tricky to use on account of the constrained dynamic range. A fantastic time to try it out is during the golden hour.

Film Type

The Pentax Program A takes 35mm film that is in metal canisters. It can also be described as 135 film, and it is the best-selling film format.

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

One of the wonderful things about film is that you can change the film you use and get a new look to your photographs.

DX Coded Film

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DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Most commercially available 35mm film offered for sale today has a DX code. This allows cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO when the film is put in the camera.

ISO (ASA) on the Pentax Program A must be selected manually. So DX-coding isn’t going to matter.

Pentax Program A Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

There are limited possibilities for where to have 35mm film developed. For a more extensive discussion of the possibilities read my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film is not developed on site at pharmacies and big box stores. They send film away to be processed by a separate company. That is why, you will not receive 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 least complicated method and what I would suggest using if you are just starting to use film is to ship your film to a lab to be processed and scanned. If you consistently use film, this can be a disadvantage since it can get really expensive.

There are a few actions that you are able to do to reduce the costs required to use film, assuming that you’re shooting a medium to high volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

One of the leading options to save some money on film is to buy a roll of 100 feet of film and load it into canisters by hand.

After you are done, you’ll end up with typically around 18 canisters of 36 frames each. Expect cost savings of 20-30% depending on your pick.

Bear in mind that you are only going to find rolls of black & white film. This is in part because black & white film is quite a bit easier and cheaper to develop yourself.

Home Developing and Scanning

You have the ability to process and digitize any film at home. It is a very good method to spend less so you can use more film with your Pentax Program A.

Black & white film is by far the easiest to process yourself. Developer temperature and development times are not as necessary to get correct with black and white films as they are for color negative or transparency film.