A quick guide to film

The short answer

If you're just getting started shooting film and want to jump straight in I'd recommend Kodak Gold 400 (also called Ultramax). It's fairly cheap, has nice colours, is pretty fast (ISO 400), negative film that you  can get at K-Mart.

To get it developed I'd go to Digital Camera Warehouse as their prices are pretty good. 

Buy it, shoot it, love it. Its great stuff.

If you want to shoot B&W there are a lot more options out there but I would recommend Ilford HP5 its very flexible, reasonably priced and very high quality.
(Its worth pointing out that that link says "Ilford HP5 Plus Black and White 120 Medium Format Film" but it looks like they have the listing wrong and it should be 35mm.)

Again, buy it, shoot it, love it. 



The long answer

First up, things you need to consider when buying film.

With film you have 3 different types;

Colour Slide film. Also called positive or transparency. Traditionally used for projection and developed in E-6 chemicals. This stuff is pretty expensive and sometimes tricky to use so I wouldn't bother with it.

Colour Negative film. Which is what Kodak Gold is. Traditionally used to make prints and developed in chemicals called C-41. If you have any mini-labs (like Big-W or maybe a dry cleaners) they will develop this film. 

Black and white negative. My personal favourite. There are shit loads of different films and developing chemicals still available so I'll talk about this separately. However you'll have to get it processed at a pro-lab because it was less common for people to shoot B&W back in the day.


 Next thing to consider is the ISO rating of film.

The ISO rating is how sensitive the film is to light. ISO 50 and below is considered slow, 100-200 is medium, 400-800 is fast and 1600 and up is very fast. These ratings are exactly the same in the digital cameras.

Lower ISO ratings will give more detailed images with greater dynamic range. However they will need more light for proper exposure.

High ISO ratings will have more grain, reduced dynamic range and colour accuracy may be an issue BUT you can shoot in much lower light.


Why I recommend Kodak Gold.

  1. It seems almost counter intuitive but colour negative film is cheaper to buy and to process than black and white and positive film.
  2. Negative films are very forgiving when it comes to over or under exposure.
  3. You should be able to get it at K-Mart and maybe processed there as well but things are changing quickly these days so who knows.
  4. Its also actually very nice film with great colours, a fast speed of ISO 400 which should be good for both indoor and outdoor photos and it has a decent amount of room for error.