Best Film for the Vivitar 420/SL

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: March 5, 2020
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35mm Film To Use

The best film to use in your Vivitar 420/SL is going to depend on your lens, lighting, and if you want to use color or black & white.

Working with an ISO 400 35mm or higher speed will enable you to skip needing to haul around a flash and/or tripod.

Make sure that you have a fast lens if you want to shoot images in low light, conditions that are commonly encountered indoors.

Color Film


Consumer 35mm Color Negative Film

Kodak UltraMax 400 - The film works well in a plethora of lighting conditions and is a very good pick for a 35mm color film. Using Kodak UltraMax 400 you should have the ability to handhold the 420/SL in just about all scenarios.

Expect images to look slightly warm with wonderful skin tones.

Fujifilm Superia X-TRA ISO 400 - Depending on your location, this film can have greater availability. It's a top-quality alternative to Kodak.

Fujifilm photographs tend to have cooler colors with notable blues and greens compared to Kodak.

Lomography 800 - You're limited to a small number of choices if you want an ISO 800 speed color 35mm film. For 35mm film emulsions targeted towards consumers, Lomography 800 is the single available choice.

Lomography 800 can also be purchased in the 120 film format, to be used with a medium format camera.

Kodak Gold 200 - A staple film stock that was launched in the mid-1980s. Kodak Gold 200 provides the look and feel of family snapshots from the 80s and 90s. Use a flash to get the "authentic" look.

To bring the best look out of the film, you'll have to over-expose it by 1 or 2-stops. This will produce the great colors everyone loves Gold 200 for.


Kodak Portra 400 ISO Color Negative 35mm Film

Kodak Portra 400 - Among the film shooting enthusiasts online, Portra 400 is definitely the most frequently used color 35mm film. Overexpose it by 1 or 2-stops to get the rendering the film is known for.

There's also ISO 160 and 800 versions of Portra. As well as in rolls of 120, 4x5 sheets, and 8x10 sheets.

Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 400H - The Fujifilm emulsion that is most similar to Portra 400, but with a distinctive color profile. Expect to see stronger greens and blues.

It is offered in 120, but not in 8x10 or 4x5 sheets.

Black and White Film


With low costs and more than acceptable favorable to be used in the Vivitar 420/SL.

The main appeal for photography students and budget-minded photographers is the very affordable price. Even if you would not put yourself in those groups, it's good to have comparatively cheap rolls of 35 film on hand for evaluating recently acquired used gear.

Consumer Black & White 35mm Film

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 available B&W film out of the three.

Foma Fomapan 400 Action - It's less difficult to get in Europe as the film is made out of the Czech Republic by Foma Bohemia.

An excellent film stock to choose for your initial few attempts at analog photography or developing film at home. Also, a good option if you're attempting to check out a camera to check that it's totally operational.

Ultrafine eXtreme 400 - You can get the lowest price on this film by purchasing it straight from Ultrafine.

They manufacture chemical developer kits for 35mm film, so if you process film at home you could have already interacted with them.


Ilford HP-5 Plus 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are the two best black & white film stocks. They do have a number of capabilities in common that helps make them a favorite while maintaining distinctive rendering.

You can achieve good quality results after pushing both film emulsions 2-stops. A 35mm roll can be shot at ISO 400, 800, or 1600, making them quite useful.

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

Ilford HP5 Plus 400 - The major differences are that HP5 Plus has less contrast and is more affordable when compared to Tri-X. Lower levels of contrast can be nice because contrast can be changed when making a print or during digital processing.

The film emulsion still appears outstanding when pushed 2-stops. It is also known for having a subtle grain.

Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm Film

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

You're going to undeniably notice considerably more contrast with this film stock. That is ideal if it is the overall look you want because it involves a great deal less work when through digital processing or making a print in the darkroom.

Slide Film

Film emulsions that create a positive image can be called reversal, transparency, or slide film. This means the slides can be showcased with a lightbox or projector.

The colors are not required to be inverted to be viewable, contrary to the more widespread negative film emulsions.

Slide films have much less dynamic range and latitude compared to negative films and so they are perceived as more challenging to use.

Kodak Ektachrome 100 35mm Film

Kodak Ektachrome 100 - The film is known for its superb skin tones and fine grain. There is no hypersaturation of colors. It has been balanced for daylight.

Fujifilm Velvia 50 - Delivers beautiful looking photographs that have increased amounts of contrast and saturation. It is astonishingly sharp and color balanced for daylight. Velvia has the best resolving power of any available reversal film emulsion.

An ISO 100 speed is also available to buy.

Fujifilm Provia 100F - Creates realistic and vibrant colors with moderate contrast and color saturation. It is an ultra-fine grain film balanced for daylight.

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

Film Basics

Consumer vs Professional Film

Pro film stock have better dynamic range, latitude, and can more easily be pushed, which is why they are more expensive.

There is a disparity in where it can be purchased. Consumer film emulsions can usually be bought in big-box stores and pharmacies in small amounts. Pro film stocks often need to be bought from an online or camera store.

Film ISO

A film's sensitivity to light is listed as the ISO.

The less light there is available to expose an image, the bigger the film's ISO will be needed. In addition, be prepared for noticeably increased film grain.

It might be difficult to handhold the 420/SL with ISO 100 or slower speed films (ISO 50, ISO 25, etc). This is due to the fact that if you do not have full sun, the shutter speeds will be longer than what you could handhold without creating motion blur.

A fast lens, flash, and/or tripod will assist you with longer shutter speeds. The additional accessories might not be needed if you use a higher speed ISO 400 or ISO 800 film.

The ISO knob is marked as ASA on the Vivitar 420/SL. The shift to labeling ISO from ASA (American Standards Association) happened after the creation of the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Film Latitude

Film latitude is the range of stops film can be overexposed while maintaining satisfactory photographs. Pro film stocks have a greater latitude paired with a somewhat higher cost.

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

Dynamic Range

The difference between the highlights and shadows details of a photograph is referred to as dynamic range. Parts of a photograph that don't fit within this range will be rendered as totally white overexposed highlights or solid black underexposed shadows.

When working in a variety of quickly shifting lighting situations, film stocks with a bigger dynamic range is better.

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

The limited dynamic range of reversal film is one more reason why it is considered to be tricky to shoot. The golden hour is the prime time to shoot reversal film.

Film Type

35mm film that comes in canisters is used by the Vivitar 420/SL. It is also the best-selling film format and in some instances is described as 135 film.

120 or 220 film, used in medium format cameras, is the only other type of film you are probably going to come across.

Switching the film stock you are working with will transform the look of your shots. This is an example of the best things about shooting film.

DX Coded Film

DX Encoding on a 35mm Film Canister

Almost all new 35mm film on the market currently has a DX code. This enables electronically controlled cameras to automatically detect and set the ISO when the film canister is put in the camera.

DX-coding does not change anything for the Vivitar 420/SL because ISO needs to be manually dialed in with the ASA knob.

Vivitar 420/SL Resources

Where to Get Film Developed?

You will find limited possible choices for where to get 35mm film processed. For a more thorough explanation of the possible choices check my article on Where to Get Film Developed.

WARNING: Film doesn't get developed locally at big box stores and pharmacies. They ship film off to be processed by a separate company. Consequently, you will not 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

The least complicated method and the method I suggest doing if you are just getting started using film is to mail your film to a photo lab to be developed and scanned. If you frequently use film, this could be a disadvantage since it can get very expensive.

There are a few activities that can be done to greatly reduce the costs required to shoot film, assuming that you are using a medium to high-volume of film.

Bulk Loading Film

Getting a roll of 100 feet of film and manually loading it into canisters yourself is considered one of the most widely used ways to save money.

A 100-foot roll should fill up around 18 rolls of film containing 36 exposures. Expect to see discounts of 20-30% depending on your pick.

Be aware that you're limited to 100' rolls of black & white film. This is due to the fact black and white film is less difficult and more affordable to develop at home.

Home Developing and Scanning

All film can be processed by hand. It's an intelligent option to cut costs so you can use more film with your Vivitar 420/SL.

Black & white film is by far the easiest to develop at home. Developer temperature and time are not as essential to do correctly with black & white film as temperatures and time are for transparency or color negative.

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