Film Photography

Five (relatively) inexpensive films you should try

Inexpensive films aren’t as inexpensive as they used to be. Not that long ago, several films could be had for under $3 a roll. Sadly, those days are over. But plenty of films cost less than $10 per roll, several cost less than $5 per roll, and one or two get close to that magic $3 per roll.

I use these five relatively inexpensive films all the time and recommend them!

Kosmo Foto Mono

This classic ISO 100 film offers rich blacks with managed contrast and fine grain. It’s similar to Foma’s Fomapan 100, which is also sold as Arista EDU 100 and Lomography Earl Grey 100. When you buy Mono you support a small business run by a pillar of the film community. Available from most online film retailers (and at the Kosmo Foto site itself) in 35mm and 120.

Flowers
Yashica-12
The old barn in the city
Nikon F2AS, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Macy's Chicago at Christmas
Olympus XA

Fujifilm Fujicolor 200

This might be the ultimate cheap and cheerful film. I’ve shot way more Fujicolor 200 than any other film — when you test as many old cameras as I have, you need an inexpensive film that performs well and consistently. It has a classic look with well-saturated color and fine grain. This film has great exposure latitude; it’s hard to over- or under-expose it. I often shoot it at ISO 100 on purpose because it brings out extra color richness. Available from online film retailers as well as many drug and big-box stores, in 35mm only.

Kirklin
Olympus XA
In the War Memorial
Sears KS Super II, 50mm f/2 Auto Sears
Ford F-500 fire truck
Konica Autoreflex T3, 50mm f/1.7 Hexanon AR
Happy student
Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80

Foma Fomapan 200

Fomapan 200 is my go-to inexpensive black-and-white film. (I like shooting at ISO 200!) It’s also sold as Arista EDU 200. It offers managed grain, good tonal range, and moderate contrast. Some say that this is best shot at about ISO 125. I’ve found that to be true when I develop it myself, but when I send it out to a lab I always get great results at box speed. The labs must have some magic that I lack! Available at most online film retailers in 35mm and 120.

My Old Kentucky Home
Nikon FA, 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 AI-s Zoom Nikkor
Margaret
Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Callery pear
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M

Kodak UltraMax 400

For some, this is the ultimate cheap color film. I still reach for Fujicolor 200 first, but I’ve never been disappointed by UltraMax 400’s warmth, managed grain, and bold color. It also offers tremendous exposure latitude, making it very hard to misexpose a shot. I like UltraMax 400 slightly more than Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, which costs about the same. I find this film to be especially long-lived — several rolls of the UltraMax 400 I’ve shot were ten years expired, and most of it behaved like new. Available at online film retailers and sometimes in drug stores, in 35mm only.

Melts in your mouth, not in your hand
Nikon F3, 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor
'murica
Olympus Stylus
The house across the street
Olympus OM-2n, 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro

Ultrafine eXtreme 100

The Ultrafine eXtreme films are the least expensive black-and-white films I know of. Its ISO 100 version is a classic-grained film offering great definition and sharpness with fairly high contrast. Available at Photo Warehouse in 35mm and 120. Stock is limited as of this writing; keep checking their site for availability.

Carpentry Hall
Minolta XG-1, 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor-X
Dad and Sons
Zeiss Ikon Contessa LK
AT&T
Olympus XA2

Other inexpensive options

I didn’t include any lower-priced ISO 400 black-and-white films here because I’ve not shot any of them (yet). But based on the performance of the Foma Fomapan and Ultrafine eXtreme films I have shot, I feel good recommending their ISO 400 offerings.

You can sometimes find a good bargain on Kodak Gold 200 (example images here) and Kodak ColorPlus (example images here). Gold offers well-saturated color and fine grain. ColorPlus is a real throwback, offering a classic Kodak look from years gone by. Some say it’s the old Kodak VR200 film formula from the 1990s.

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Film Photography

Autumn scenes on expired Kodak Gold 400

Gourds

After testing the new light seals in my Nikon F3 recently I wanted to keep going with this satisfying camera. I loaded my last roll of Kodak Gold 400, expired since January of 2008. My previous roll of this film looked very good shot at box speed, so I shot it that way this time too. The results showed greater color shifts and noise than last time, but a little quick Photoshoppery made these images look much better.

Corn

I mounted my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens to the F3 for this outing. Despite its noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end, I really like this lens. It’s small and light, and its zoom range gives me good flexibility.

Family

We met our granddaughter and her mom in downtown Zionsville, where there were gourds and pumpkins for sale. Here are three of Margaret’s kids, our “granddog” Obie, our granddaughter, and her mom.

With Grandma

We see our granddaughter most Sundays now, and it’s been lovely. When the weather’s nice enough we meet in town or in a park.

Book blind date

The used bookstore was open this day, running a clever promotion where they wrapped books in kraft paper, wrote what the book was about on the front, and sold them as book blind dates.

Zizzy

I finished the roll around the house. As the weather has grown chillier I’ve gone out less, but I’ve still wanted to make photographs. That means looking for new subjects, or new angles on old subjects, at home.

Purple crock

The 35-70 focuses from about 13 inches. I enjoy zooming this lens to 70mm and moving in close.

Heating the coals

Our last gas grill gave up the ghost last season after just three years of service. That’s the way of $250 gas grills. I didn’t want to blow another $250 that way so I bought a little Weber charcoal grill instead. It’s more hassle to grill on charcoal but the flavor is better. Anyway, I’m pleased that I was able to capture this fire so well.

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Film Photography

Up close with the Olympus OM-2n

The fellow who gave me the Olympus OM-2n gave me another, so I put a couple rolls through to test it. The first roll was Kodak T-Max 400, which I showed you recently. The second roll was some Kodak Gold 400 expired since January, 2008, that I had lying around. I mounted a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro lens that the fellow also gave me. This is one generous fellow.

What the heck is this?
Flowers up close
Flowers up close
Bee in the flower

These images look very good for film 12 years expired that was never stored cold. They needed very little post-processing. Color shifts are slight. Grain might be enhanced, but I never shot Kodak Gold 400 fresh before it was replaced by Kodak Ultramax 400 to know for sure.

Suncatcher
Ash leaves
High voltage

This 50mm macro lens performs beautifully. I own at least one more of them and have for years. This lens raises any color film above its station. This is also a fine lens for non-macro photography. Leave it focused at infinity for anything beyond a couple feet away. It makes your OM camera almost point-and-shoot simple.

The house across the street
Retention pond by the Interstate

The OM-2n is just a wonderful SLR. I’m smitten. My SLR loyalties have been to Pentax first and Nikon second. The OM-2n threatens to have Olympus usurp at least the #2 position.

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Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge in Broad Ripple
Pentax K1000, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax
Kodak Gold 400
2017

This bridge was built in 1906 to carry Guilford Avenue over the Central Canal in Indianapolis’s Broad Ripple neighborhood.

Underneath the deck, it’s a typical single-span concrete arch. What sets this bridge apart is its railings. The oval “links” are unique.

I have a dim memory from 25 or more years ago of the railings being painted in a more random color pattern. I have a clear memory of this railing being much shorter — in about 2013 a row of block was added underneath the links. See a photo of the shorter railing here. This was probably done to make it harder to fall off the bridge into the canal.

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Film Photography

single frame: The Rainbow Bridge in Broad Ripple

The Rainbow Bridge in Broad Ripple, an Indianapolis neighborhood.

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Film Photography

Expired Kodak Max 400 in the Nikon F3

Iron fence

Checking for a suspected shutter fault in my Nikon F3 I put two rolls of film through it late last year: one Kodak High-Definition 400 (see some of those photos here) and the other Kodak Max 400, photos from which I’m sharing here. Both rolls expired in 2007. I’m not a fan of expired film’s unpredictable results. So to me, the stuff is best used for a job like this.

Old house

The F3 went along on our day-after-Christmas road trip up the Michigan Road. All of these photographs are from the road, in and near Rochester. As I shared in this post, Rochester has a long row of lovely old houses on the road as you approach downtown from the south.

Fence

Even though it was midafternoon, given the time of year the sun rode fairly low in the sky and delivered some delicious light. The film’s colors all shifted a little, which is a hazard of being expired. But the Auto Tone tool in Photoshop fixed that right up in a second.

Catholic Church in Rochester

At full scan size you’ll see considerable grain in all of these photos. But at blog size the grain is managed well enough. I’m pleased that I was able to get a little blurred background at EI 400 with the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens I was shooting.

Tree

On Rochester’s square, apparently Santa comes to visit in this little house. On the day after Christmas it had not yet been removed.

Santa's house

I also aimed the F3 at the abandoned bridge abutment north of Rochester, which I wrote about more extensively here.

Old bridge abutment

This is the Tippecanoe River, placidly flowing past the bridge on which I stood.

Tippecanoe River

That bridge, a simple modern steel stringer, features this plaque commemorating its 1982 completion. I love the typeface they used for the plaque.

New bridge marker

Standing by that plaque I focused on the memorials on the old approach, enjoying the ever-fading afternoon light.

On the old bridge abutment

The F3 performed flawlessly, by the way. My worries about the shutter were unfounded.

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Mormon temple

Mormon temple
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M
Kodak Max 400 (x-10/2007)
2018

The Mormons’ Indianapolis temple isn’t actually in Indianapolis. It’s in Carmel, a city that borders Indianapolis to the north.

But I gather that this building is drop-dead gorgeous inside. After it was completed a few years ago, they offered tours to the public. My parents went, and my mom gushed for days about the quality of the materials and the attention to details. I wished I had made time to take a tour.

Because after the tours completed, non-Mormons were forever blocked from entering.

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Film Photography

single frame: Mormon temple

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