3 Types Of Film For Cameras Loved By Photographers
Image by Marta Locklear
Embarking on the timeless journey of film photography, or looking to infuse your digital captures with that classic film aesthetic, requires a comprehensive understanding of the diverse types of camera film available. Each film brand provides a distinct palette of film stocks, with unique characteristics in terms of color tones, contrast, saturation, and grain.
In this guide, we’ll explore not only the types of film, but also the different types of cameras used to capture that film-quality result - along with our favorite REFINED Co presets for desktop and mobile that help you easily create an authentic film look.
Before we dive in, keep in mind this important rule of thumb: Make sure the chosen type of film is compatible with your camera's format, whether that’s 35mm, medium format, or other, to accurately capture your photographic vision.
Now, on to the good stuff.
Image by Marta Locklear
WHAT ARE THE 3 TYPES OF FILM CAMERAS?
Film photography is a timeless craft that utilizes various camera types, each contributing to the unique allure of film photography. The three primary different types of film cameras are:
Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras: These cameras, which employ a mirror mechanism to display the exact image captured through the lens, offer photographers precision and versatility.
RangeFinder cameras: Rangefinder cameras, known for their double-image range-finding system to focus photographs, provide a more involved and tactile photography experience. The Leica cameras, for instance, are iconic in this category, offering unparalleled craftsmanship and a compact size that makes them ideal for street and documentary photography, delivering images with a rich contrast and clarity that's hard to match.
Medium Format Cameras: Among the different types of film cameras, medium format cameras offer a different kind of aesthetic and functional approach. The Contax 645 is a notable example, and it’s revered for its exceptional optics and ergonomic design. It’s a favorite among wedding and portrait photographers for its ability to produce sharp, detailed images with a distinctive depth. The Mamiya 645 is another type of medium format film camera that delivers the classic medium format look with a modern touch, producing images with a fine grain and a wide dynamic range. Meanwhile, the Pentax 6x7 brings a unique combination of the large film size and the handling ease of an SLR. It’s known for its ability to yield a 'larger than life' image quality that’s perfect for capturing detailed landscapes and high-impact portraits.
Each of these different types of film cameras offers a distinct approach to capturing the world on film, and the Refined Co presets are designed to match their outputs.
Image by Marta Locklear
WHAT ARE THE 4 COMMON FILM FORMATS?
Embarking on your film photography journey, you’ll come across various film formats, each catering to different types of film cameras and artistic visions. Let's delve into the four common film formats that have been beloved by photographers over the years.
35mm film: This is the most popular and widely accessible film format. Its ease of use and versatility make it a favorite among both amateur and professional photographers. The standard 35mm film can yield 24 or 36 exposures, providing ample opportunities to capture a range of moments.
Medium format film: Sought after for its superior image quality and larger negative size, medium format film is a preferred choice for portrait and landscape photographers. Photographers like Mary Dougherty and Casi Yost identify medium format (and 35mm film) as their preferred types of camera film for wedding photography. It typically comes in 120 or 220 rolls, the former offering 12 to 16 exposures, and the latter offering twice as many.
Large format film: Revered for its unparalleled image resolution and detail, large format film is used with view cameras. It’s the ideal type of camera film for fine art photography and commercial applications. Photographers like Willem Verbeek have shared their experiences about the joys of working in large format film. The film is sheet-based, with sizes starting from 4x5 inches to even 8x10 inches or larger.
Instant film: Capturing the essence of the moment, instant film provides the gratification of seeing your photo develop right before your eyes. Commonly used with Polaroid cameras, this type of film format is perfect for snapshots and capturing memories in real-time.
WHAT TYPE OF FILM DO CAMERAS USE?
The types of film you use are as crucial as the camera itself. The film type not only influences the aesthetic of your photographs but also dictates the kind of camera you should use. Let's explore the most common, different film types that cameras employ to capture stunning imagery.
Color negative film: This is the most common type of film used in cameras. Color negative film is known for its versatility and forgiving nature, making it suitable for a range of lighting conditions. It produces negatives that need to be processed and then printed or scanned to view the positive image.
Black and white film: For those seeking a timeless and classic look, black and white film is the go-to option. It captures images without color, focusing on contrasts, textures, and tones to convey the story. This film type requires a different processing method compared to color negative film.
Slide film (color positive film): Slide film produces positive images, meaning that the developed film can be viewed directly without the need for printing. This film type is known for its vibrant colors and sharpness but is less forgiving in terms of exposure.
Let’s dive deeper into each of these different film types.
Image by Marta Locklear
HOW MANY TYPES OF CAMERA FILM ARE THERE?
The 3 types of camera film just mentioned are the most widely used, but there are additional types of film, like infrared and instant. However, color negative, black and white, and slide film are likely going to be the ones you work with most as a photographer, so let’s focus just on these for now.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF COLOR NEGATIVE FILMS
Recognized as the quintessential film, color negative film, or color print film, stands as the most popular type of film for cameras. Color negative film is typically economical and presents an ease of development that is attractive to photographers of all levels.
Let us delve into a few notable color negative film brands and their respective stocks:
KODAK PORTRA: Kodak Portra, characterized by its natural color reproduction, impeccable skin tones, and minimal grain, shines in natural light settings, making it a favored choice for photographers specializing in weddings, family portraits, and fashion photography. Its versatility is evident in its ability to yield a warm and neutral aesthetic in photographs.
An intriguing aspect of Portra films is their adaptability topushing—a process that enhances contrast and grain to achieve a richer, more profound image.
A myriad of options exist within the Kodak Portra collection, such as:
Kodak Portra 160
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 800
Capture this unique type of film with Refined Co x Tec Petaja presets, which are inspired by the distinctive tones, contrast, shadow depth, and grain of Portra film.
KODAK GOLD 200: Kodak Gold 200, recognized for its luminous and vibrant visual appeal, is another preferred option within types of color negative camera film. As the name suggests, Gold 200 introduces a golden hue accompanied by moderate contrast and saturation, producing a rich and versatile color palette suitable for capturing travel, landscapes, and candid moments.
KODAK EKTAR 100: Ektar 100 elevates the brightness and vivacity of images with its heightened saturation and contrast, rendering it an excellent choice for those aiming to capture striking, colorful photographs.
You can capture the vivid quality of Ektar and elevate your photos easily with our REFINED Ektar collection of presets for Lightroom and Capture One.
FUJICOLOR PRO 400H: For an ethereal, light, and airy film aesthetic, Fujicolor Pro 400H is the ideal type of camera film. Fujicolor 400H is renowned for its accurate skin tones, pastel hues, cyan-tinted greens, and low saturation, making it a popular selection among wedding and family photographers.
Similar to Portra, Fujicolor films can be pushed to achieve heightened contrast and grain for a more impactful visual narrative. REFINED x KT Merry captures this essence with 5 presets inspired by Fuji 400H film that bring out your photo’s luminous colors.
FUJICOLOR SUPERIA 400: A versatile choice among the different film types for everyday photography, Fujifilm Superia 400 offers a balanced and vivid representation of images. With its deeper reds and neutral shadows, Superia 400 strikes a balance between vibrancy and subtlety, finding its place in natural and low-light photography.
CINESTILL 800T: Cinestill 800T, a beloved classic within the realm of night film photography, encapsulates the cinematic essence in still photographs. With its tungsten balance (denoted by the "T"), Cinestill 800T is a type of film that excels in capturing the allure of neon lights and halation, providing a distinct visual narrative characterized by vibrant reds, edgy blue-greens, and a signature pink glow around lights.
TYPES OF BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY FILM
An exploration of different film types would be incomplete without delving into the timeless realm of black and white photography. The absence of color in these types of film opens a vast horizon for storytelling, as it accentuates the emotional quotient of the image.
Here are a few notable types of black and white camera films you might want to experiment with:
Ilford Black and White Films
ILFORD PAN F PLUS: Ilford is synonymous with black and white film photography, priding itself as the bastion of this classic medium. Pan F Plus, a high-contrast film with a rich tonal range and fine grain, thrives in bright natural light and studio settings. This type of camera film’s deep shadows and moody tones make it an ideal choice for those seeking a dramatic visual narrative.
ILFORD HP5: HP5, a versatile type of film with medium grain and contrast, is relatively brighter than Pan F, rendering it adaptable to a diverse range of lighting conditions. This film is commonly used in street photography, photojournalism, and documentary-style photography.
ILFORD DELTA 3200: Ilford Delta 3200, known for its pronounced grain and glowing highlights, is an excellent option for challenging lighting situations or action photography. KT Merry is an expert in capturing the unique qualities of Ilford camera film for her black and white photography, which is why we partnered with her on the REFINED x KT Merry BW presets. Now you can apply the incomparable fine grain and balanced lighting of Delta 3200 film to your own black and white photos easily and efficiently.
Kodak Black and White Films
KODAK TRI-X 400: Tri-X 400 is a type of medium-contrast film with a beautiful fine grain, versatile enough to suit a variety of photography genres and lighting conditions.
KODAK T-MAX 3200: T-Max 3200 stands out with its high grain, accommodating contrast, flat shadows, and overall smoothness, making it a top choice for photos with a gritty aesthetic that demand detail preservation in low-light conditions.
Fujifilm Black and White Films
FUJIFILM NEOPAN ACROS 100: Acros 100 is celebrated for its fine grain and rich, clean tones, offering a deeper tonality and brighter appearance compared to Tri-X 400. This type of camera film is perfect for capturing moody indoor scenes.
TYPES OF SLIDE FILM FOR CAMERAS
Slide film—also referred to as color reversal or color positive film—possesses its own unique set of characteristics. While it may be considered less common due to its higher cost, reduced accessibility, and more complex development process, types of slide film are highly esteemed for its vibrantly rich colors, fine grain quality, and an authentic vintage ambiance.
Let’s explore a selection of notable types of slide films for cameras:
Kodak Slide Film
KODAK EKTACHROME E100: Ektachrome E100 is a testament to nostalgia with its luxuriously warm color tones and gentle highlights, catering to those seeking a retro aesthetic with a delicate grain, particularly under daylight conditions. This type of film is often used in portrait, lifestyle, and fashion photography. Photographer Wendy Laurel gives a good example of how to use Ektachrome film and its capabilities in this article.
Fujifilm Slide Film
FUJICHROME VELVIA 50: Fujichrome Velvia 50 is celebrated for its vibrant colors, refined grain, and pronounced shadows, creating an impactful visual experience. Velvia 50 unveils an array of bright reds juxtaposed with subdued blue-green hues, making it a prime choice among different film types for travel, landscape, and lifestyle photography that demands a burst of vivid color.
FUJICHROME PROVIA 100F: Provia 100F, while equally vibrant, offers a more subdued aesthetic compared to Velvia 50, with its balanced medium contrast and saturation. Its distinct magenta tones lend a contemporary edge, rendering Provia 100F a preferred option for fashion, studio, and lifestyle photography. Here, photographer Alex Roddie shares his experience learning to shoot with Provia 100F, his top tips, and the results.
MASTERING THE DIFFERENT FILM TYPES
Embarking on the timeless journey of film photography enriches your photographic repertoire, offering an expansive palette of aesthetics from various film stocks. Now, armed with the knowledge about types of film and cameras, you’re well-equipped to emulate these film aesthetics digitally. Embrace the world of tangible films, ensure compatibility with your camera's format, and let your artistic vision guide your choice, unlocking a universe of potential for your photographic endeavors.
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