Time was, when you wanted a roll of film you could walk into any drug store and buy one in any common size — 126, 127, 110, 120, 620, or 35mm. Those days are long gone; digital and phone photography killed them dead. Yet a growing number of us have discovered film, or returned to film, or never left film — and need reliable sources for the films we like to shoot. So where, exactly, do you buy film today? Can you still buy film?
If your town has a camera store, check there first. The camera store where I live, Roberts in Indianapolis, happens to be the US distributor for Ilford products and therefore has a pretty good selection of films.
Chain drug stores are a reliable source of consumer-grade Kodak films at full retail prices. Your nearby big-box store might sell Fujifilm’s consumer color films at attractive prices. I buy Fujicolor 200 at Meijer, a competitor to Walmart in the Midwestern US, four rolls for $11. That’s a solid bargain, and it’s pretty good stuff. Check it out:
The surest way to get the film you want is to buy it online. I’ve shopped around a lot over the years, but keep coming back to these online stores.
Film Photography Project Store — Check them out here. I love the FPP for reminding film shooters everywhere to not overthink this hobby, and to have fun experimenting with it. Their store carries many of the fresh films you are looking for from Kodak and Fuji. They also keep some fresh Agfa and Lomography films in stock.
What sets the FPP Store apart is all the audacious extra stuff it carries. Russian films, motion-picture films, surveillance films, extra slow films (ISO 0.6 anyone?), and infrared films, all hand-rolled into 35mm canisters.
The FPP Store also carries fresh 110, APS, sheet, instant, and Super 8 films. They also hand cut and roll various defunct formats like 620 and 116. Sometimes they find a stash of expired but cold-stored defunct formats and sell them. You can buy bulk 35mm film from them, too, and roll it yourself.
Freestyle Photographic Supplies — Check them out here. This store caters to the educational market, and still features film prominently. They carry fresh films from all the major manufacturers in 35mm, 120, and various sheet sizes. They also carry instant and Super 8 films, as well as bulk 35mm films. You can also buy everything you need to process your own film, and kit out a complete darkroom, from Freestyle.
What I like most about Freestyle is their house brand, Arista, which includes black-and-white films in 35mm and 120 at bargain prices. You’ll find Arista.EDU in ISO 100, 200, and 400; it’s said to be made by Foma in the Czech Republic.
I favor FPP and Freestyle because of price and service, and because I’m buying from smaller companies. But I sometimes buy film from these more obvious outlets:
Adorama and B&H — These are the two big New York City camera stores. Photographers have bought film from them for decades. It might take you a minute to find their film selection on their Web sites — it’s there, just well buried. So I’ve made it easy for you: see Adorama’s film stock here, and see B&H’s film stock here.
You can get all the big film brands from them: Kodak, Fuji, Ilford, Agfa, Kentmere, Lomography, and more, in 35mm and 120. They also carry sheet film, movie film, and instant film.
B&H even carries a limited stock of defunct film sizes, hand re-rolled: 620, 127, and 828. But I’m a little squicky about buying from B&H since the news broke about how they might be treating their Hispanic workers.
Amazon.com — You’d think Amazon has amazing selection and prices, right? Wrong. They offer lots of film for Instax cameras and a smattering of other films. What they stock is often eye-popping expensive. I think it’s because they figure shipping cost into the price of each roll, thanks to free two-day Prime shipping.
Sometimes good deals do pop up. At the time I’m writing this, four-packs of 35mm Fujicolor 200 are $10.79. You have to be there at the right time, and get it while it lasts.
Sometimes a particular film will be part of their “Add-On Item” program at a good price. You have to buy $35 in stuff from them to get that price — but your order can be all Add-On items. So if you come upon 35mm Tri-X for $4.95 as an Add-On item, you can order seven rolls of the stuff to clear the $35 bar and get it at that price.
Finally, here are a few stores I would be remiss not to mention, but which I have not yet tried.
Blue Moon Camera and Machine — Reading their Web site, this has got to be the coolest camera store on planet Earth. I want to book a flight to Portland, Oregon, just to visit Blue Moon! They carry a selection of the most popular films from Kodak and Fuji, but what really sets them apart is the unusual film brands they carry (Rollei, Bluefire, CineStill) and the defunct film sizes they list. They say they can get 103 film! It was used in swing-lens panoramic cameras from the early 1900s; the film went out of regular production in 1949. They don’t always have every defunct film in stock, but they invite you to inquire, just in case.
Lomography.com Shop — Check them out here. I give them huge props for resurrecting 110 film. Every now and again a 110 camera falls into my hands, and thanks to them, I can shoot it! They offer several films in 110, 120, and 35mm under their own brand, all made by other manufacturers. They also offer films of other brands in 35mm, 120, 110, sheet, and instant. They also carry 16mm movie film!
Analogue Wonderland — Check them out here. This UK online-only shop offers films I’ve never heard of before (Bretz! Dubble! Revolog! Yodica!) plus many of the usual suspects. They offer instant, 35mm, 120, 110, 16mm movie, and sheet films. Their warehouse is in the UK so if you’re in the US shipping will cost you. They tell me they hope to open a US warehouse at some point, so keep checking.
CineStill Film — Check them out here. You may know CineStill for its motion-picture films rolled into 35mm canisters, but they sell far more than that. You can buy fresh Kodak film from them, and a monobath to process your black-and-white film in one step.
Photo Warehouse / Ultrafine Imaging Products — Check them out here. They sell color and black-and-white films under their own Ultrafine label as well as from several of the usual manufacturers and a few you might not know. They stick to 35mm and 120 films. You can also kit out your darkroom at Photo Warehouse.
Finally, if you want to shoot a defunct film format like 127 or 116, you might find some on eBay. For example, eBay user jrdnmark offers a bunch of hand-cut and -rolled 127 and spy (16mm) films. You’ll also find a smattering of expired films in a whole bunch of formats there.