How to Buy Affordable Film for Your Camera

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How to Buy Affordable Film for Your Camera

While digital cameras have become almost ubiquitous amongst consumers, there are still many keen amateur and professional photographers using film cameras alongside or instead of their digital cameras. Many types of camera film can still be found easily online.

About Camera Film

Camera film, or photographic film, is made of thin plastic sheets coated with a silver halide salt emulsion. The film’s properties, such as sensitivity and resolution, depend upon the size and composition of these salts. When light shines upon the film, the silver halide salts act as a filter and an image is imprinted on it.
The salt layer is different depending on the type of film, with black and white film having one layer and colour film using multiple layers. Colour film also has chemicals known as colour couplers or dye couplers, and it is these which are responsible for the development of colour in colour images.

Obtaining Quality Images

Several guidelines must be followed to obtain good-quality film images. The film needs to be exposed properly, by the right amount, in order to have an image imprinted on it. The film is typically wound back into its container which keeps it away from further light exposure. It then needs to be developed, a process which, for colour film, involves activating the colour dyes, converting the silver image back into silver halides and then removing these, and then washing, drying and cutting the film. The process is slightly different for black and white film and for transparency (slide) film.
Film is still popular amongst many photographers. This applies especially to black and white film, which is often regarded as giving more atmospheric shots than digital cameras. Many photographers refer especially to black and white film’s performance in low-light conditions and the clarity of resolution when comparing it to digital. Working with camera film has in several ways a more creative and tangible feel. Shooting with Polaroid film also gives the ability to view images on film instantly.

Choosing Affordable Camera Film

Which type of film is required depends upon various factors. These include the camera, shooting conditions, style of photography, and what the image is to be used for, for example, photographs or slides.

Type of Camera

The size of film required depends upon the camera. Most film cameras take 35 mm film, but some take 60 mm 120 and 220 film. Cameras that take 120 and 220 film are referred to as medium format cameras. Film for unusual formats may be more difficult to find.
There are various types of film camera, but the most popular are the point and shoot or rangefinder and the single lens reflex (SLR) camera. They typically take 35 mm film, but are also available in medium format film models. Large format cameras take 4x5 or 8x10 film. Medium and large format cameras produce images that can be enlarged further without losing resolution and appearing grainy.
Polaroid cameras, also known as instant cameras, use instant film.

Type of Film

The three basic types of film for standard cameras are black and white, colour, and transparency. Instant film, designed for use with Polaroid cameras, is also available in colour and black and white.

Black and White Film

Whether colour or black and white film is required obviously depends upon the style of images desired. Black and white photography, particularly for film cameras, is renowned for its ability to conjure up a sense of elegance and timelessness. If serious artistic shots are required, black and white is often the film of choice. Black and white film can capture tones and textures in a very striking way, giving shots more depth and character. It is popularly used for portraits and for images with a still or simple quality.
Black and white film is, usually, a type of negative film, where black and white tones are inverted.

Colour Film

Colour photography, on the other hand, is the film to use when the colours and background are integral to the shot, or when qualities such as activity and energy need to be highlighted. If there is a lot of detail in the shot, then colour can handle this better than black and white.
Standard colour film is a type of negative film, where the colours are inverted. Films are tinted dark orange and they are sometimes known as C-41 films.

Transparency Film

As well as black and white and colour, there is a third basic type of film. This is transparency film, also known as slide film or reversal film. This can be used in the same cameras as any other film, depending on the size.
Transparency films are converted into mounted slides during processing, which can then be used in slide projectors. Unlike colour negative films and most black and white films, transparency film is a positive film. Colours are not inverted, but the image actually appears on the film as it will on the projector.

Instant Film

Instant film contains the chemicals required for image processing. The camera processes the image straight after it is taken. Like other types of film, it was initially manufactured and sold in rolls. This format gave way to sheets, and it is now usually sold in packs of eight or 10 sheets.

Film Properties

Film properties to consider include exposure latitude and film speed. These affect the quality of the image and how well the film will perform in poor light or other challenging conditions.

Exposure Latitude

Exposure latitude is the amount of overexposure or underexposure a film can tolerate. This is not a definitive range, but depends largely on subjective judgement. Exposure latitude is connected to dynamic range, which is the amount of light intensities that can be captured in detail.
Colour negative film has the largest exposure latitude of the three basic films. It is the most forgiving of underexposure and overexposure. Black and white film also has good exposure latitude. Transparency film has little exposure latitude and does not handle underexposure or overexposure well.

Film Speed

The film speed is expressed as an ISO rating. Typical ISOs are 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800, though ISO 25, 1600 and 3200 films are also available. Lower numbers denote slower films and higher numbers denote faster films. What the ISO actually corresponds to is how sensitive the film is to light. Faster films are better for low-light conditions as they are able to capture more information and give a better image. They are also better for action shots which need shorter exposures. Slower films need good light conditions but in these conditions they can give a clearer and less grainy image. Tripods can be used with slower films and long exposures.

Affordable Camera Film

Standard types of camera film can still be found simply at affordable prices. Many of the more commonly used films are still in mass production and available at low cost. Other, less common, types of film may also be found, either expired film or that available through specialised production.

Buying Expired Film

Expired film can still produce excellent images. Camera film loses quality over time due to chemical degradation, but film manufacturers give a good amount of leeway when stating expiry dates and also the environmental conditions in which the film has been stored influence the process. Film stored in dry, cool conditions remains in better quality than film stored in warm, damp, or humid conditions. Expiry dates typically assume that the film will be stored in fairly warm conditions. In practice, unused film can stay in excellent condition for up to two years or more past its expiry date, so long as it has been stored at room temperature or lower. If the film has been stored in moisture proof containers and refrigerated or frozen, it will stay in good condition even longer than this.


Camera film can be found online at affordable prices. Despite the increasing popularity of digital cameras, film cameras are still frequently used. This is especially true with regards to black and white film, which has a special quality valued amongst photographers. Purchasing the right camera film involves consideration of factors such as the type of camera and film format required, as well as film speed which indicates whether the film can handle low-light conditions.

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