film recommendations?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by emily_barton, Jun 16, 2015.

  1. Hi, I'm shooting with an Olympus XA2 that I just got off eBay and I'm trying to decide what the best film would be for me to buy before I go off on holiday for just over a month. I'll be taking pictures of friends mostly, maybe some nice Canadian scenery... and I was wondering what the best film would be for this? I'm thinking that iso 400 would be the best way to go since I'll be taking photos in all different light but especially low light e.g. sunsets etc.
    I'm wondering as I have only ever used fujifilm superia x-tra 400 and have not been moved by the results if you get what i mean?...the photos aren't bad but they don't exactly jump out at me. I'm also looking for film on a budget so trying to avoid kodak portra and other expensive options like that.
    Ideally I want something that will give me nice skin tones, soft sunset-y colours..nice colours basically! So far I've gathered from doing some research in these forums and on flickr discussions that kodak ultra max or fuji superia (what I've been using) might be good. I have also read that any brand that isn't kodak or fuji should be avoided but i was wondering if this was true as one of my favourite online photographers uses agfa vista 400 and I love the results. So if anyone has ever used agfa vista 400 and has an opinion that would be greatly appreciated as well.
    Thank you so much to anyone who answers this!
  2. Hi Emily.
    You can't go far wrong with any of the Kodak or Fuji films. Here's a radical suggestion. Use a 400 film and set the ISO to 100. The reason is that auto exposure cameras have a nasty habit of under exposing and that's very bad news on negative film. Don't worry about over exposure, if the camera gets it wrong in the other direction the film can take it. After that the quality of your results will be down to the scanning and not the film.
  3. Available Answers = (Film Choices) x (Film Photographers).
    Film cameras are cheap, and we love film because the cost per shot is low with those great old darned near free cameras. So, cost is not a consideration of mine.
    Therefore, I choose among the following, depending on the subject matter:
    1) Fuji Velvia (ASA 50 slides): Perfect for that vacation sunset shot. Super saturated and extremely contrasty. You will get THE BEST COLOR for your sunset (see below.) A great film for THINGS. A horrible film for your friends, who will look awful on this film. You might want to tote a tripod for this ASA 50 film.
    2) Fuji Provia (ASA 100 slides): Very good for the sunset, pretty good for your friends. Saturated contrasty. A very good film for things. A (arguable) pretty good film for people.
    3) Kodak Portra (ASA 160 print): Okay for sunsets and things. Excellent for friends. A bit grainy for my taste, which runs to smooth slides. Lower contrast and saturation.
    4) Kodak Gold: My experience with this is many years old. It blocked reds in a very unnatural way, and I couldn't use it. I don't know if it is still available.
    There will be many others who chime in. You can average out their recommendations, and take the several perspectives to come up with your own conclusion. Those are my thoughts. You can peruse my gallery to see how my Velvia and Provia shots come out.
    Provia Sunset:
    Velvia Sunset:
    Provia People:
    Velvia People:
    (See your butcher counter for the color of raw steak)
  4. Use only silver oxide batteries in your XA's to avoid under exposure. And setting an XA to 320 for Iso 400 film couldn't
    hurt. Setting to 100 might be a bit drastic with fresh, proper batteries.

    But each camera is a bit different in its older age so play around to learn what works best for your copy.
  5. I don't think that the auto exposure of the XA2 is good enough for slide film. Remember if it's wrong exposure with slide film it's wrong. I agree with the above posts about setting film speed for negative film lower to take account of underexposure. One third of a stop (320 instead of 400) is next to nothing in this context. Maybe 100 could be viewed as going a little bit too far by some but I agree with Gareth that it will work well.

    A new camera for a month's holiday? Try a roll a.s.p! before you go. Try the 100 setting for 400 film while you're at it.
  6. AJG


    Before you give up on the Fuji film, consider where you are getting it processed. Labs can vary a lot, and some labs will make bad prints from perfectly good negatives. I know you mentioned trying to do this on a small budget, but you might want to test a couple of labs before you commit to processing everything from your trip.
    ASA 400 film is probably a great choice for what you want to do unless you want to make really enormous prints, in which case I would want to move a little further up the food chain for a camera as well as slower film and a good tripod.
  7. I still like Portra 160 for a good all around color negative film. Just seems to deliver for about 90% of what I want a negative film to do. Add a few rolls of something in 400 speed just in case.
    Rick H.
  8. The Oly XA2 has three-zone focusing, so it approximates a bit. This means you may want to avoid the largest lens apertures, where you don't have as much depth of field. Using a faster film, like EI 400, will help with this. Also, the four-element lens in the XA2 will perform a shade better at smaller apertures (within reason).
    I'd go with Portra 400, although I know you said you wanted to use something less expensive. It has fine grain and killer skin tones, and actually I continue to shoot Portra largely for its color balance. YMMV, of course. Portra's a little more than twice as expensive as Agfa Vista, but if you're paying for high quality developing and scans, that's where a lot of the cost is.
    Film photography is an expensive pursuit anyway these days, and the only thing that's cheap is the cameras. I buy my Portra and other film over the internet from B & H.
    Also, welcome to! Stick around and show us some of your work when you get back.
  9. With good processing the Fuji Superia 400 should be fine. You can adjust saturation, contrast, brightness, etc. of the scans on your computer. If possible try a test roll before taking any important shots. Take three shots of same subject for the test- one at 400, a second at 200, and a third at 100. Examine the scans to see which exposure works best for the XA2. BTW, don't overlook the ability of the XA2 to make timed exposures lasting several seconds. I usually set mine on a table and trip it with the self-timer.
  10. For color negatives, VPS was my favorite for many years, and then Portra 160 after that. I don't think I ever tried Portra 400. I haven't priced it lately, but I don't think it is all that much more.
    If you are interested enough to ask here, and aren't shooting too many rolls, it should be worth doing right.
  11. I would add that all film struggles to a degree in low light and/or high contrast situations. There is no magic film that will automatically make all of your photos shine, and the film itself I would say is secondary to good exposure.
    Having said that, I would recommend the cheapest, fresh 400-speed colour negative film from either Kodak or Fujifilm that you can find. If you are in the US, probably the way to go is to buy at B&H or Freestyle.
  12. Cannot really advice what to take, but just some extra food for thought, maybe:
    I've been shooting a lot of Kodak ColorPlus 200, as I was given a bunch of it for free (expired, older emulsion marked 200-7) and get it 'as replacement' for what I bring to the lab (which is new, current emulsion marked 200-8). The 200-7 is quite nice, the 200-8 less so (and that is the one you'd buy to doday). So, my take on it: this is *not* the film you're after. Sure it is cheap, very cheap, but the greens tends to come out quite subdued. Fuji X-Tra400: I didn't like the results I got with it. Fuji C200 not too bad, cheap as chips too, but very similar to ColorPlus, which is easier to find and cheaper.
    So, neither seem a decent choice. But, on the other hand - these films are dirt cheap and do the job. The photos you really like, you can get scanned, and then fix the scan such to make them look the way you want, and have that printed. It may not be what you've got in mind, but it does do the trick, and wouldn't cost too much.
  13. Back when we were still shooting film for news, one of my wire service friends used Superia 400 every day and got me hooked on it. I still use it for general purpose on the rare occasions that I still shoot film. For any sort of portrait work I use Portra 400. The big difference is taht Superia is in the consumer line of films, which are contrasty with saturated colors while Portra is lower contrast with more subtle colors. If I had to choose one it would be Portra -- it's easier to crank up the contrast and color after the fact than it is to tone it down.

    Given that you're new to film and trying to work within a budget, I would stick with Superia. The exact look you're going to get from it is going to depend on how you shoot it and how it's scanned or printed, but it can be very good.

    Superia comes in various speeds but I consider 400 "normal." Anything faster can start to show grain and more contrast while anything slower requires wider apertures and slower shutter speeds and less flexibility to work under lower light.

    As a beginner, shoot 400 speed film at 400 until and unless you find a reason to do otherwise. 320 gives you a little protection against underexposure but 100 is overexposing by two full stops and there's no reason to do that.
  14. What are you going to do afterwards? Print? What sizes? Scan for the internet and for HDTV's?
  15. Since it's 2015, you need to make sure there's accessible/affordable/acceptable processing. More than film materials, that's what's changed for the worse for film shooters not into survivalist DIY alternatives. E-6(slide)processing is a memory in many areas and is now pricey, along with the narrow choice of film. Low volume at some surviving labs and crappy printing can put anyone off film when processing and prints fall short.
    Fuji Superia 200 and 400 are really about it in many areas for consumer film. If you're in Canada, that's really about all you'll see outside camera stores that stock a smattering of B&W and pro film in 35mm and 120. If you're in or near Toronto, does offer dirt cheap 35mm processing and scanning to CDR. It's only $5/roll but it's slooow(7-10 days). Skip the prints. Costco does a better job for less. I like Superia 200. Contrast and saturation are dialed back relative to coarser grained Superia 400, a film I never really liked(Superia 800 killed it rated at 500-640). Work from scanned negs and process them to suit your tastes and then print. Just too many variables that can, especially now, take a nicely exposed neg and produce a truly awful print if you're using a minilab.
    With respect, look into upgrading your camera, especially if you get carried away by film. So many great quality, late model film cameras going cheap now. Can't see the point of playing with relics when superb gear like late 90s Nikon and Canon AF bodies are going for peanuts. Buy the newest gear you can afford to get the most from film.
  16. Maybe straying a bit from original topic, but did you choose the XA-2 for its compactness? If film photography is a significant part of this trip you might want to pick up a camera that has more manual control than the XA-2, especially for night photography. Carry the XA-2 as back-up. Rather than bombard you with lots of recommendations, I would suggest visiting the Modern Film Cameras forum and Classic Manual Cameras forum and read about what others are using. I would recommend a couple anyway: for compactness and full manual control: Rollei 35. Lightweight auto everything with full manual control go for an EOS Rebel K.
  17. The XA2 is a great nighttime camera. Just put it on a mini tripod and use the self timer.
  18. The Fuji Superia 400 is the closest thing I've found for a reasonably-priced all-arounder. If you don't like the Fuji, quickly shoot a test roll of the comparable Kodak and see if you like it. Fuji and Kodak definitely have different colour palettes. There is no substitute for trying out a film, so order up some of that Agfa and give it a whirl!

    If you are being choosier about your subject/film matching, I highly recommend:
    - For portraits and people - Portra 160. I know it's expensive. It's worth it. This is 100+ years of experience making people look great, distilled into a roll of film. There is no better. I like it for landscapes too -- in post you can always add contrast and saturation.
    - For bright colours and landscapes - Ektar 100. This film is amazingly cheap for what it is. Grainless, sharp and lots of pop to the colours. It does work best with a lab who knows how to process it.
  19. I would take at least 2 films: Ektar 100 for sunshine, and Max 800 for low light. I would also learn how to change rolls back and forth in the middle of rolls. I'm not familiar with the XA. If it leaves the tongue sticking out of the cassette, you are all set. Mark the number of frames that have been shot on the cassette. When you re-insert a roll, keep the lens cap on and advance it one or two frames beyond the last frame shot. If the film tongue is inside the cassette after rewinding, you will need to get a film extractor. All minilabs have them. They are available on-line for $3 to $20.
  20. Ron, the XA series are manual rewind. But they have a sliding lens cover and no lens cap. You can't click the shutter
    unless the cover is fully open and if you cover the lens the auto exposure will hold the shutter open for a minute or more.

    Since they are cheap, it's easier to get a second XA2 and keep both in your pocket (they are tiny which makes them
  21. I would think that Ektar would have been mentioned more. I really like the colors it produces. Every so often a rumor floats around that it will be taken out of production but that has been happening for years. Otherwise I like what JDM said, he just buys the least exspensive film in the store usually.
  22. If you're in an experimental mood and
    want to get in a bit of black & white on
    your trip, throw a roll of Ilford XP2 in
    your bag. You can take it to your local
    hour lab and have it processed right
    alongside your color film, although
    your XP2 prints may come out with a
    slight tint (when I tried it my prints
    were slightly blue/purple, like a


    Billy S.

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