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HomePhoto TipsFilm Types

Film Types

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Film Types and Characteristics

Let’s start with basics..

Black & White Film

Low speed film (100) will be pretty fine grained because the silver salts are smaller and packed closer together.

High speed film like (400) is much faster because (basically) the silver salts are larger, thus more sensitive to the light, but will tend to be a bit more grainy in appearance.

Film Grain

HOT TIP: The numbers and brand name you see on the edge of developed film were put there by the film maker. If those letters and numbers are not solid black … the film was not developed properly. If the characters are lighter – grayish – the film was under-developed. And, if they are VERY black, the film was over-developed.

Film Grain

Film Grain

Graininess used to be a problem years ago but film manufacturers have constantly improved every aspect of each film… and now graininess is not an issue, except for extreme lighting situations. Since the majority of magazine and newspaper photographers use Fuji 400 – and 800 – speed films every day, I would guess it is good enough for the rest of us. To minimize the potential of graininess, it is important that you develop each film with the chemical developer designed for that film.

Kodak T-Max should be developed in T-Max developer, Ilford 400 in Ilford developer,etc. I would avoid using ANY “Max” films for critical photographic work! As of now Kodak and Ilford make standout B&W films that offer consistency and predictability from roll to roll.

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Kodak and Fuji are now making superior color films (Films whose names end with “chrome” are slide films… if the name ends with “color” it is a color negative film for making prints) … all others are less consistent and more problematic. Most every
pro out there is using Kodak or Fuji AND are very careful who they allow to develop and print their images.

There a batch of wonderful films out there, but…. for now…. I would prefer you choose one film (either Fuji or Kodak 400) and stick with it for a while. Learn to use it well, take notes and get to know it’s subtleties and capabilities before you start experimenting with other brands or types.

THE BOTTOM LINE: If you have a great negative, you have it made. But, if the negative is lacking in quality you will never get the quality back….NO MATTER HOW GOOD THE PRINTER OR THE PRINTING PAPER. PERIOD.



Black & White and color papers are constructed in a manner similar to film. There are so many varieties of films and papers that you simply must check around and try those that look like they will fit your needs. Same with color. I have found that certain drug stores now are processing color film within the store and some are quite good. If they clean their machines daily and do a quality control check daily the results are very good. If you find a good one in your area… STICK WITH THEM.

Or, you could process your own film!!! There are kits (available at good camera shops) that contain all the chemicals and good, easy-to-understand directions. Simply buy a Nikkor developing tank, a few reels, and a good thermometer and you’re in business. IT IS A LOT EASIER THAN YOU THINK….. JUST BE PRECISE WITH TIME AND TEMPERATURE.

AND NOW SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT BATTERIES

Camera Batteries

After shooting in the sub-zero climates of Minnesota, Canada, and Wisconsin (-20 to -50 below) AND the 115 temps of South Florida ……I do not recommend using anything but name-brand alkalines and only two are worth the money….

The new titanium/alkalines by Eveready (above/silver) and Radio Shack alkalines.

For the past 25 years, I have done most of my photography using rechargeable batteries … in my camera motors, strobe units, and other equipment. And I have saved thousands of dollars each year because of that. Rechargeable batteries usually last up to 5 years … and you can get a lot of shooting done with that. I only use equipment that uses AA rechargeables, thus avoiding a lot of confusion. Rechargers have different designs, but – here again – I would suggest the Eveready model below.

Battery Charger

NOTE: You can find some excellent buys on rechargeable batteries using Amazon. I would suggest you make sure you buy those that are rated at 2300 mAh or higher. Amazon also does a great job of having batteries for your specific digital camera.

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3 COMMENTS
  1. Hi I am scanning color 1949 negatives. what film type would have been used back then? there are no markings in the negatives. Thank you

  2. If they’re in good shape I’d keep them as antiques. If you aren’t really interested in keeping them I’d test the water on ebay to see what they might bring in. I did a quick search and it looks like not all that much, maybe $100 each.

  3. Here is a question I have had difficulty getting an answer to. I have an old Canon FTB (1971) and a Minolta x-700 (1985) both have several lenses. I am now purchasing a digital Nikon d5000. The camera shop is offering to buy my old equipment to use towards the purchase of my new camera. My question is since I have not used either camera in several years, what would be a reason to keep the cameras considering how digital seems to be pushing out film with the exception of portrait photography. I would value your thoughts.

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Did you learn anything? Maybe consider giving a small donation 🙂
We’ll get straight to the point. To keep quality high, we work together with the best photographers in the world. As a company, we are spending a lot of money to give our writers a fair compensation. 

To stay online and become better in what we do, we depend on contributions and some products we sell. If everyone who enjoyed reading the above article gave just a little, we could keep Photographycourse.net thriving for years to come. The price of a cup of coffee is all we ask.

We know that most people will ignore this message. But if photographycourse.net is useful to you, please consider donating $2, $5, $10 or whatever you can to protect and sustain Photographycourse.net. 

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CEO Photographycourse.net

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