Best Film for the Vivitar 420 SL

Best Vivitar 420 SL 35mm Film

The best film to use in your Vivitar 420 SL should be based on your lens, lighting conditions, and if you want to use color or black & white.

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

If you would like to take pictures inside or anytime there is low light, ensure that you are using a fast lens. Check out my blog post on the 5 Best Lenses for the Vivitar 420 SL for lens ideas.

Color Film


Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film handles a variety of lighting conditions well and is an excellent pick for a color 35mm film. Using this film you should have the ability to handhold the 420 SL in lots of situations.

The pictures will have great colors and is on the warm side.

Fujifilm Superia X-Tra 400

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - An alternative to Kodak that could have better availability based on where you are in the world.

Fuji pictures tend to have cooler colors with an emphasis on greens and blues, when compared to Kodak.

Lomography Color Negative 800 ISO

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

It can also be bought in the 120 film format, for use in medium format cameras.

Kodak Gold 200

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film that started production in the mid-1980s. It provides the look and feel of snapshots from the 80s and 1990s. For the classic photography experience try a flash.

To really bring the best out of the film, you will want to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will produce the gorgeous colors everyone loves Kodak Gold for.


Kodak Portra 400

Kodak Portra 400 - Among photography enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is undoubtedly the most widely used color 35mm film emulsion. Overexpose it by 1 or 2-stops to get the overall look the film is highly regarded for.

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

Black and White Film


These film stocks have low costs and good quality, making them favorable to use in the Vivitar 420 SL.

The biggest appeal for budget minded photographers and photography students is the reasonable cost. Even if you would not put yourself in that group, it’s great to have low-priced rolls of 35 film readily available for testing newly delivered camera gear.

Kentmere 400

Kentmere 400 - It is made by the parent company of Ilford, Harmon Technology. This is notable since that allows this to be the most broadly sold 35mm film out of the 3.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - Will be much easier to purchase in Europe as the film is made by Foma Bohemia out of the Czech Republic.

A very good film emulsion to employ for your first couple of attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also a good choice if you are testing out a camera to be sure that it is fully operational.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - The best place to get this film is online directly from Ultrafine.

They sell chemical developer kits for color film, so if you process film at home you may have already interacted with them.


Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are the 2 top selling black and white 35mm film emulsions. While they both possess unique appearances, they possess quite a few traits in common that makes them so popular.

You can create good photographs after pushing both emulsions 2-stops. A 35mm roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them very versatile.

Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The main differences are that HP5 Plus is cheaper and has less contrast compared to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be nice because of the fact contrast can be adjusted when making a darkroom print or during digital processing.

The film emulsion has subdued grain and still looks great when pushed 2-stops.

Kodak Tri-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400 - This film stock possesses a more distinctive style to it. To reveal the traditional grain structure, contrast, and look of the film, it should be processed in D-76.

Tri-X 400 unquestionably has considerably more contrast. That is good if it’s the look and feel you need because it means considerably less work when making a print or through digital post processing.

Reversal Film

Reversal film, also known as slide film or transparency film, gives you a positive picture. That means a projector or lightbox can be used to showcase the pictures.

The colors don’t need to be inverted to be viewed, contrary to the more often used negative films.

Slide films have less latitude and dynamic range when compared to negative film and so they are regarded as more difficult to shoot.

Kodak Ektrachrome E100 Transparency Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - This is a fine grain film known for beautiful skin tones. There’s no hypersaturation of colors. Ektachrome is daylight balanced.

Fujichrome Velvia 50

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - This is a seriously sharp daylight color balanced slide film with lots of saturation and contrast, giving shots a appealing appearance. Matched against all the reversal films available for purchase, it has the highest resolving power.

An ISO 100 speed is also available for purchase.

Fujichrome Provia 100F

Fujichrome Provia 100F - Produces vivid and realistic colors with medium contrast and color saturation. It is a ultra fine grain film with a daylight color balance.

Foma Fomapan R100

Foma Fomapan R100 - This is a black & white slide film, noted by Fomapan as having very fine grain, very good resolving power, and elevated contrast. It is also regarded as a replacement for the discontinued Agfa Scala.

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro film stocks cost more due to the fact that they are easier to push, have improved latitude, and dynamic range.

You should expect to see a significant difference in availability. Consumer film stocks can generally be purchased from pharmacies and big-box stores in anemic quantities. Professional level film emulsions needs to be ordered from a online retailer or specialized camera store.


The ISO shows the film speed, that can also be thought of as the film’s sensitivity to light.

The less light there’s available to expose an image, the bigger the ISO will be needed. Furthermore, be prepared for increased film grain.

ISO 100 and slower films (ISO 25, ISO 50, etc) may be difficult to shoot handheld in the 420 SL. This is because if you do not have full sun, the exposure times can be longer than what you can handhold without causing motion blur.

To stop motion blur you are going to need to use a tripod, flash, and/or fast lens. Using a high speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film will make the additional gear not needed.

The dial to select film speed is marked as ASA on the Vivitar 420 SL. The move to using ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) came after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).


Latitude is the amount of stops film can be overexposed while keeping tolerable results. Professional films have a greater latitude along with a slightly higher price.

Reversal film has less latitude than negative film. That is a reason why it is thought of more challenging to use.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range represents the range between the brightest and darkest parts of a photo that can be recorded. Sections of an image that don’t fit in this range will be seen as solid black underexposed shadows or solid white overexposed highlights.

When working in a wide variety or quickly changing lighting situations, films with a larger dynamic range are a superior choice.

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

The constrained dynamic range of transparency film is an additional reason it is viewed as a challenge to shoot. Golden hour is the prime time to use transparency.

Film Type

35mm film that comes in metal canisters is used by the Vivitar 420 SL. It’s also the most widely used film format and is on occasion referred to as 135 film.

120 or 220 film, used by medium format cameras, is the only other type of film you are likely to encounter}.

One of the fantastic things about film is that you can change the film emulsion you use and get a totally different look to your shots.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

All commercially available 35mm film sold at this point has DX encoding on the canister. This will allow electronically controlled cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO of the film canister put in the camera.

The ASA (ISO) on the Vivitar 420 SL must be manually set. For that reason DX-coding does not matter.

Vivitar 420 SL Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

You will find a variety of options for where to get 35mm film processed. For a more thorough explanation of the choices go to my guide on Where to Develop Film.

WARNING: Pharmacies and big box stores do not develop film on location. They mail film away to be processed by a separate company. Because of that, you won’t receive 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 developed and scanned is the most convenient option if you are just beginning to shoot film. If you consistently use film, this might be a downside since it can get very expensive.

Assuming that you are using a medium to high volume of film, there are a few things that you are capable of doing to reduce your expenses.

Bulk Loading Film

Getting a bulk roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading in into canisters by hand is considered one of the ideal ways to reduce costs.

All said and done, you will end up getting typically around 18 canisters of 36 exposures. Count on discounts of 20-30% depending on the film you pick.

Bear in mind that you’re going to be limited to 100’ rolls of black & white film. This is due to the fact black & white film is much easier and more affordable to process at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

You can develop and digitize any film yourself. It is an excellent method to cut costs so that you can shoot more film with your Vivitar 420 SL.

Black & white film is much less difficult to develop. Developer temperature and time are not as essential to get correct with black and white film as time and temperatures are for color negative or slide film.