Get ready to point and shoot with our pick of the best camera film on the market
Analogue photography is in the midst of a real renaissance. While digital’s practical benefits can’t be denied, the best camera film offers a look and feel that no number of megapixels can ever truly replicate.
From professional studio shoots to candid travel snaps, an ever-growing number of photographers are turning to film for its unique charm. Indeed, with rolls of rich, vibrant colour and timeless black and white emulsions to choose from, film photography presents analogue enthusiasts with options to suit just about any situation.
To help you hone in on the ideal film for your photographic pursuits, we’ve put together a brief buying guide followed by our tried and tested roundup of some of the best camera film on the market today. Whether you’re looking to dust off your old Pentax, load up your latest eBay purchase or spend some quality time in the darkroom, you’ll be sure to find the analogue ammunition you’re looking for.
How to choose the best camera film for you
What type of camera film is best?
If you’re hoping to find one single roll that rules supreme over the rest, you may be disappointed. Much like flavours of ice cream, there are plenty of truly excellent options but there’s no one single option that’s universally prized above all others. Instead, you’ll find a wide range of quality photographic films, each with its own distinctive characteristics that suit particular moods, scenes and styles.
Where can I get camera film developed?
Let’s get the practical stuff out of the way first. Analogue photography is a multi-step process so, unless you’re using an instant camera, you’ll need to develop your film before you can see your photos. Photo labs may no longer be a high street staple but they’ve not gone the way of the dodo quite yet. Some branches of Boots, Jessops, Max Spielmann and Snappy Snaps still offer convenient walk-in film processing. Alternatively, you can have your film processed by sending it off in the post to Harrison Cameras, Peak Imaging, Analogue Wonderland or Take It Easy Lab.
The pricing, turnaround times and services offered by each photo lab vary, but most will accommodate colour development along with the option to have your shots delivered as prints or digital scans. Black and white, slide film and larger format film processing can be a little more specialised so you may need to enquire with the lab before sending off your film.
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Camera film speed or ISO
Every camera film, whether black and white or colour will display an ISO number. Sometimes referred to as a film’s speed, this number is usually found in multiples of 100 and denotes the film’s sensitivity to light – the higher the number, the more light-sensitive the film.
Higher ISO films of 800 and above are best suited to lower-light environments or for capturing fast-moving action. Higher ISO films will, however, be noticeably grainier. Films with an ISO value of 200 or below generally produce cleaner results but will require more light, making them less suitable for indoor shots. ISO 400 generally provides a nice versatile middle ground.
Camera film formats
Camera film is available in a variety of formats, which is to say it comes in various sizes to fit different types of cameras. By far and away the most common camera film format is the venerable 35mm. Used by amateurs and professionals alike, if you’ve dug an old camera out of the loft or picked up a point-and-shoot from the thrift store, chances are it will take standard 35mm film.
Given its unrivalled popularity, we’ll be concentrating on 35mm film throughout our recommendations in this roundup, but it’s worth being aware of some of the other common formats available.
Medium format is the next size up from 35mm. Spooled onto rolls, 120 (or increasingly rarely 220) film is used in professional studio cameras such as those from Hasselblad, Rolleiflex or Mamiya, along with some more quirky cameras such as the Holga 120N.
As the name suggests, large format film is even larger still. Large format essentially refers to anything that’s bigger than medium format and comes in a range of different sizes to suit different cameras. Most commonly found in 4×5 or 8×10, large format is sold by the sheet with one sheet making one shot.
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Pictures per roll
While there are some outliers, the vast majority of 35mm films offer either 24 or 36 shots per roll.
As you may imagine, 24-shot rolls tend to command a lower upfront cost, but given that most photo labs charge flat-rate development costs per roll regardless of the number of shots, 36-shot rolls almost always represent better per-shot value.
For medium format cameras, the number of pictures you can take per roll will depend on the aspect ratio of the camera you’re using (15 shots for 645, 12 for 6×6, 10 for 6×7 etc) and for large format, you’ll be dealing with one roll per sheet.
Camera film stock and availability
Increased interest in analogue photography, combined with global supply issues, has led to a real squeeze on the availability of film. It’s not uncommon to find certain brands of film out of stock for weeks at a time and for fresh shipments to get snapped up at very short notice. Camera film is still in production, however, so if you’re patient, you should be able to get your hands on the right thing.
How we test camera film
To evaluate camera film, we load up each roll into an analogue camera and get shooting. Although the likelihood is that most rolls of film from various manufacturers will be pretty uniform in shape, assuming they’re the same size, we note any difficulties/issues, if any, we experience during the loading process. Given its popularity, we have largely focused our testing on 35mm format film, shooting pictures based upon the advice for each particular camera stock. For instance, with the Kodak ColorPlus 200, we set our cameras to an ISO rating of 200 and captured photos in fairly bright conditions. Once pictures have been taken, each roll of film is professionally developed with the resulting photos assessed.
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The best camera films you can buy in 2024
1. Kodak Portra 400: Best all-around colour film
Price when reviewed: £83 (pack of five) | Check price at Amazon
Lauded by professionals and enthusiasts alike, Kodak Portra 400 is one of the most sought-after colour films on the market today. Portra 400 is characterised by its beautiful pastel colours, excellent dynamic range and unobtrusive grain. As its name suggests, Portra 400 is particularly well suited to portrait photography, dependably rendering true-to-life skin tones.
Its ISO 400 rating makes it a versatile option, allowing it to cover most types of photography. Portra 160 and Portra 800 films, both with similar although not identical colour and contrast characteristics, are also available should you need more or less light sensitivity.
The only real issue with Portra 400 is its gradual but not insignificant price increase. With packs of five rolls now exceeding £75 – when you can find it in stock – it’s best saved for carefully considered shoots.
Key specs – Formats: 35mm, Medium format, 4×5, 8×10; ISO: 400; Shots per roll (35mm): 36; Processing: Colour negative (C-41)
2. Kodak ColorPlus 200: Best budget colour film
Price when reviewed: £15 | Check price at Amazon
While it can’t match the fidelity of Kodak’s professional film stocks, the point-and-shoot pricing of Kodak ColourPlus 200 makes it ideal for beginners and budget-conscious enthusiasts.
ColorPlus is a vibrant 35mm colour film that leans towards a more retro aesthetic. It washes scenes with a slightly lo-fi, filtered look with warmer colour shifts, soft shadows and visible film grain. Its ISO rating of 200 means that it’s a film best suited to bright daylight scenes but, paired with a flash, lower-light shots aren’t out of the question.
ColorPlus 200 is available in both 24- and 36-shot rolls, so be sure to check which version is in stock when considering your purchase.
Key specs – Formats: 35mm; ISO: 200; Shots per roll (35mm): 24 or 36; Processing: Colour negative (C-41)
3. Kentmere 400: Best budget black and white film
Price when reviewed: £20 | Check price at Amazon
While black and white photography offers a number of budget-friendly options, our top pick is Kentmere 400. Readily available and affordable, Kentmere 400 is a great option for everyday monochromatic images.
Kentmere 400 has a medium contrast look. It maintains a decent amount of detail in both the highlights and the shadows and offers more of a grey tonality than some of the punchier monochromatic films. Its ISO 400 box speed allows it to cover the majority of available light situations but it can be user-rated as high as ISO 1600 provided you ask your lab to compensate during processing (and you don’t mind particularly grainy shots).
Speaking of grain, Kentmere 400 is noticeably grainier than pricer ISO 400 black and white film stocks, such as Ilford HP5 Plus or Kodak Tri-X. Depending on the overall look you’re going for, however, this isn’t necessarily an issue.
Key specs – Formats: 35mm; ISO: 400; Shots per roll (35mm): 24 or 36; Processing: Black and white
4. Kodak Gold 200: Best everyday colour film
Price when reviewed: £13 | Check price at Amazon
When it comes to picking the best everyday colour film it’s a near toss-up between Kodak’s Gold 200 and Ultramax 400. Ultramax’s higher ISO of 400 makes it a touch more versatile but Gold 200 tends to be a little cheaper and easier to find. It has also recently been made available in medium format too, making it the cheapest 120 colour film around.
Gold by name, golden in nature, this film leans towards warmer tones and oozes nostalgic 90s and early 2000s vibes – think turn of the century sun-soaked holiday snaps. It has a rich look that works well for travel, landscape and moody portraiture. Its lowish ISO 200 rating means that it works best when there’s a decent amount of light around, but indoor work is possible with flash. For more low-light versatility, the aforementioned Ultramax 400 is always a good alternative.
Kodak Gold 200 is available in both 24- and 36-shot rolls and can also be found in two- and three-roll multipacks.
Key specs – Formats: 35mm, medium format; ISO: 200; Shots per roll (35mm): 24 or 36; Processing: Colour (C-41)
5. Ilford HP5 Plus: Best all-round black and white film
Price when reviewed: £8 | Check price at Wex
With rich contrast, a traditional rendering and just the right amount of film grain, Ilford HP5 Plus is one of the most popular black and white film stocks around. Although slightly more expensive than our budget pick, Kentmere 400, HP5 Plus offers an all-round cleaner, sharper and punchier look. It’s also produced in a wider range of formats, with 35mm, 120 and large format versions all readily available.
Ilford HP5 Plus is a highly versatile film stock. While its box-rated ISO of 400 should capably handle most everyday encounters, it responds very well to push processing. Provided the right compensations are made during development, HP5 Plus is commonly rated as high as ISO 1600 for street photography, freezing fast-moving subjects and working in low light.
If you’re after a do-it-all black and white film, look no further.
Key specs – Formats: 35mm, medium format, 4×5, 8×10; ISO: 400; Shots per roll (35mm): 24 or 36; Processing: Black and white
6. Fujifilm Velvia 100: Best slide film to start out with
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Analogue WonderlandBack in the days of analogue photography, professional photographers often shot on slide film, which was considered superior in terms of colour depth and clarity. It packs a real punch but generally, it’s not cheap. However, if you’re new to slide film and want to explore without committing too much money, Fujifilm Velvia 100 is a great place to start out.
Velvia 100 is a great all-round slide film, with accurate colours that make it ideal to shoot both landscapes and people. With an ISO rating of 100, you’re going to need to shoot in bright conditions or with the aid of artificial light. You can push it a little to ISO 125 but it also responds well to pull processing at ISO 50. Any higher than ISO 125 and you’ll lose the beautiful grain-free tones and sharpness that this slide film is known for. With bright and vivid colours, this is an ideal film to start out experimenting with.
Key specs – Formats: 35mm, medium format, 5×4; Shots per roll (35mm): 24 or 36; Processing: E6