Which Camera Film Is The Best For You? Easy Guide

Over the years I’ve shot so many different kinds of camera film and I’ve found some I love and some I really hate.

Figuring out which film stock is the best for you can be really hard, especially if you’re just starting film photography. There are so many brands, 800T this and Ektar that, it can get real confusing!

That’s why I’ve put together this guide, I’m going to show you the best film stocks for people shooting on a budget, travelling, people who want to shoot great portraits and all sorts and I’ll even link to broader articles about each of those things.

A Helpful Terminology Guide

Before I go on, I think it’ll be really helpful to explain to you guys what certain letters and numbers mean when it comes to film.

You’ll notice that most film is named something like Kodak Gold 200 or Cinestill 800T and that can seem a bit confusing if you’re new to film.

Usually, the name of a film stock starts with the brand itself, so that’s Kodak Gold 200 or Cinestill 800T. This isn’t that important but generally, Kodak makes the best film, Fujifilm still has some great stocks, Cinestill makes some interesting film and Lomography has some good stocks too (other brands are good too but those are like the big four).

After the brand name often comes the ‘range’ name, so Kodak Gold 200 or Kodak Portra 400. In this example, Kodak Gold suggests that it’ll have a gold hue and Kodak Portra is known as Kodak’s professional range.

Then there’s usually a number, between 50 and 1600 or so, this is the ISO of that particular film stock. So Kodak Portra 800 is Kodak’s professional range and it’s 800 ISO.

The only other bit of terminology is that some film stocks have a letter after the number, like Cinestill 800T. In this instance, the T stands for tungsten, which basically means that this film stock is balanced for unnatural light and tends to have a more blue hue. Whereas, Cinestill 400D is balanced for daylight, hence the D.

Anyway, why don’t we get on to deciding what kinds of film is best for you.

On A Budget

There are a few good film stocks available for someone shooting on a budget (if you can really call it that these days). Most of the time, budget means low quality, so I’ll suggest a few and give you the best one in my opinion.

Kodak Colorplus is the classic budget film stock, back when I first started shooting film, I could grab Colorplus for £4 a pop and I’d shoot to my heart’s content. These days, it’s more like £10-12 a roll and it’s harder to really justify it. Colorplus is a colour film stock with a vintage feel and moderate contrast, I’ve always enjoyed shooting it but it’s not the highest quality.

Ilford HP5 is basically some of the cheapest film you can buy, I think it’s like £6 a roll but this is because it’s black and white. Black and white film is usually cheaper but it seems like the development costs are far more expensive. I don’t really shoot black and white but if you do then you can’t really go wrong with HP5.

Kodak Gold 200 is strangely the same price as Colorplus but it’s arguably quite a bit better. It’s got a slight golden hue, finer grain and a bit more dynamic range than Colorplus too. If I was going to vote for my ideal budget film stock then it’d be Kodak Gold 200.

Kodak Gold 200 is the ideal Budget film stock

On Your Travels

It’s kind of difficult to determine which film stock is best for your travels because it’d be different depending on where you’re travelling to.

I’ll suggest a few different colour film stocks that’ll depend on your budget and whether you want to take high-quality shots or if you’re just interested in shooting for fun.

Kodak Gold 200 would definitely also feature in this one too, it’s pretty ideal for a sunny getaway, 200 ISO is generally more than enough in a bright place and because it’s a budget film stock, you can enjoy it a bit more freely.

Kodak Ultramax 400 Is kind of like a 400 ISO version of Colorplus but with more saturated colours. It’s not a high-quality film stock but it’s usually the same price as Kodak Gold. So if you need that extra ISO, it’s a good option!

Cinestill 400D is a fun film stock that I thought I’d throw into the mix. This one is a bit more interesting because it’ll have halation in the highlights, so it’ll really give your shots a more vintage feel and an impactful look. It’s fairly expensive but it’s ideal if you want something that’s a bit different.

Kodak Portra 800 is my final suggestion and it’s really expensive but I’d put this in the category of someone who’s going travelling but wants to take really high-quality shots. Portra 800 is ideal for low-light too so if you’re going somewhere that isn’t quite as light or you’re shooting more in the mornings/evenings then this is the ideal film stock for you!

Taking Portraits

The perfect portrait film stock is a little bit more simple to me, there are only a few stand-out film stocks for portraiture.

Kodak Portra 400 is the ideal film stock for a lot of kinds of photography, Portraiture being one of them. It has fine grain, great exposure latitude and its colours are quite muted which allows you to edit it and create your own style. Yes, it’s expensive but it’s one of the best film stocks going.

Kodak Portra 160 is another great option and it’s really similar to Portra 400 but it has even less grain so its shots will be clearer. There are some slight differences with colour and exposure latitude but nothing major. This is ideal if you really want to capture as much detail as possible.

Cinestill 800T is the wildcard option. It’s a high-quality film stock but it’s tungsten-balanced so your portraits will look weird. But if weird is what you’re going for then you should definitely try it out.

For Landscape

Landscape photography has two big dogs when it comes to film stocks, Fuji Velvia and Ektar 100.

Fuji Velvia 50 is basically the best landscape film ever, with incredibly low ISO, clear detail and beautiful colours. The only problem with Velvia is that it costs a lot per roll and it’s also slide film so it needs to be developed differently than normal film.

Kodak Ektar 100 is also another classic landscape film that has low ISO, clear detail and brilliant colours. It’s a cheaper option than Velvia but it’s still a heavy hitter when it comes to landscape-specific film.

For Street Photography

Film stocks for street photography are a bit more subjective but I’ll give you some popular options. It’s definitely not as clear-cut as landscape photography though!

Kodak Portra 800 is a great option because light is ever changing when you’re shooting street so the 800 ISO gives you a bit more leeway. Portra 800 also has really good exposure latitude and beautiful colour that’s easily editable.

Cinestill 800T is a bit more of a creative option for street photography, especially if you’re shooting at night. This is something that I see pretty often and I kind of get why people use it, it gives your photos a bit of identity.

Kodak Tri-X is a really good black-and-white option, it’s some of the best black-and-white film, quite contrasty and a bit grainy.

Whatever you want to shoot can be shot in street photography. I really want to make sure people don’t think they absolutely have to shoot a certain type of film for a certain style of photography. You can shoot whatever you like and whatever you can afford but there are just certain types of film that are better suited to certain types of photography.

I shot Kodak Colorplus for the first few years that I shot street photography and I don’t really regret it. The price of it allowed me to shoot more and it’s good enough to get OK looking shots.

For Creative Photography

This is a whole different ball game here, creative types of camera film are really interesting, especially if you’ve got some fun ideas. Usually, I’d say this is mainly the domain of Cinestill and Lomography, as they produce some more weird kinds of film.

You can make creative photos with all kinds of photography but you can make especially weird pictures with these film stocks.

Cinestill 800t is a good option once again, with its signature halation and unnatural light balance, it can produce some pretty interesting shots!

Cinestill 400d is another good option which is basically the same as 800t but it’s balanced for daylight so it has more of an orange hue. Having the signature halation of Cinestill adds to the creative feel of 400d.

Lomo Purple is a good option if you really want to shoot some ‘out there’ stuff. This renders everything in different shades of purple and allows you to make some really different shots.

Final Word

Hopefully, this is just a helpful guide for you to work out which film stock is the best for you. It can be really difficult to figure out what to use when you’re just starting to shoot film photography so hopefully, this will help!

Obviously, you can use all kinds of film stocks for all kinds of things. These are just the best film stocks for these specific kinds of photography.

If you’re looking to pick up some film and you’re not too sure how to store it properly, then check out this article here!

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