Post Summary: The Best 35mm Film For Gorgeous Color Images
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You got your first film camera – congratulations!
One of the most enjoyable parts about shooting film is the wide variety of 35mm color film stock you can choose from.
In this post, we’re breaking down the best film for 35mm cameras, with descriptions and image examples to help you find the right film for your adventure.
Let’s get started!
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Why do cameras use a 35mm Film Size?
When we refer to 35mm film size, we’re talking about the measurement of each square of the film rolls that go into your camera. (See visual below)
So, what are the benefits of shooting with 35mm film?
For starters, it’s more cost-effective than medium format film. There are more shots per roll, between 24 and 36 shots for a 35mm film roll, compared to 12-16 provided by a medium format film roll.
There are also a much wider variety of types of 35mm film that are available, making it an easy and convenient choice for film photographers.
Note: We’re only covering 35mm color film in this post. Stay tuned for another post about 120mm / medium format film in the future – we’ll link it here when it’s available.
The 12 Best 35mm Film Rolls In Colors For Stunning Images
Just a little disclaimer – there’s really no “RIGHT” way to shoot film. Like any art form, rules are sometimes meant to be broken.
Please use this 35mm color film guide as our personal recommendations, but don’t use this post as a hard and fast rule. Use them how you please and get creative!
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1. Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Ektar 100 is like the Wes Anderson of color film stock. The ability to produce vivid colors in bright light makes images visually interesting, with high saturation and crisp captures.
Personally, we think this is one of the best 35mm film stock to take on your sunny vacation, a trip to the county fair, or a desert escape.
(Or not! See below – we took our Kodak Ektar 100 to some rainy Washington beaches, and it turned out great too!)
2. Lomography Color 400
For those vintage, old-school captures, Lomography Color 400 is the best 35mm film stock.
The combination of high contrast, vivid colors, and grain doesn’t try to replicate the real-world scene, but rather brings out interesting features you may have not noticed before.
3. Kodak Ektachrome E100
Revived from discontinuation in 2018, Ektachrome has solidified its place in film stock history for iconic color, true to real life. It was widely used in the pre-DSLR era by National Geographic photographers for steadfast colors and journalist endeavors.
This film looks awesome as negatives (they are super colorful after development) but Ektachrome 100 also comes with a bigger price tag than most 35mm color film, and it costs more to develop too.
Be patient with this 35mm color film stock – it can take a minute to figure out how to properly expose Ektachrome 100. Ektachrome is called a “slide film” which means it’s really important to expose it exactly right.
4. Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400 is a classic & reliable 35mm color film stock for people who want to capture portraits. This film does a fantastic job of reproducing a natural skin tone color and can work well even in low light. Kodak 400 is known for its high color saturation and low contrast.
Once you master the settings on a Kodak Portra 400, the results are incomparable with fine grain and high-quality images. It’s nearly impossible to recreate this look on a digital camera!
(Also, this is a pretty difficult color film to find in 35mm – we’re including a Kodak Portra 400 photo below in 120mm, medium format.)
5. Kodak Portra 800
This high-speed film provides Kodak Portra 800 users with sharp images with fine grain and natural skin tones.
It differs from other Portra films (160 and 400) for its ability to capture brilliant photos in low light and shadows.
If you are venturing out to a location with inconsistent lighting or shooting in the blue hour, this is the color film stock for you.
This is also one of the best 35mm film stock options to choose if you are shooting high-speed events like aerial flights, sports, or festivals.
Personally, it’s our favorite and most reliable roll of 35mm film to use for a wide variety of activities.
6. Fujicolor Pro 400H (*Discontinued*)
Fuji Pro 400H was one of the best 35mm film choices for wedding & portrait photographers who want to capture rich details of skin tones, nature, and balanced highlights/shadows.
We particularly like the greens from this film – they create a dreamy, smooth texture that brings the images to life. This is a great 35mm color film stock to choose from if you are wanting to print your work!
7. Kodak Gold 200
Kodak Gold 200 is the go-to film for practically any film photographer that’s traveling on a budget. It’s widely available and relatively inexpensive, making it one of the most popular color film stocks to use.
Its warm tones and rich color bring vintage vibes to life, giving an image a sense of nostalgia. It brings out rich, full colors on sunny days, so save this 35mm film in color for a fun day outside!
8. Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400
The Superia X-TRA 400 is known as a general, all-around dependable 35mm color film stock. Used outdoors or indoors, it is reliable in a wide variety of lighting conditions.
Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400 is often used for city lifestyle photography, capturing neon signs, car lights, and mixed lighting with relative ease.
9. Kodak Gold 400
Kodak Gold 400 is a great 35mm color film option for rich color saturation and fine grain. It can work well in a variety of light situations and will surprise most users with its versatility in low-light conditions.
In our research, this color film was very often compared to the Kodak Ultramax 400, which makes us think this isn’t widely available.
To get similar colors in another film stock, we suggest choosing Kodak Gold 200, but consider sunnier locations to keep the images from looking fuzzy.
10. Kodak Colorplus 200
Kodak Colorplus 200 is one of the cheapest and best 35mm films on the market for affordable photography. This also makes it one of the most widely used 35mm film!
This 35mm color film stock works well in consistent lighting environments (not a lot of change) and produces images with brilliantly saturated colors for outdoor shooting.
If you are a beginning film photographer and just starting out – practice on Kodak Colorplus 200. This way, you can understand the relationship between lighting, exposure, and ISO without wasting more expensive film!
11. Kodak Portra 160
Kodak Portra 160 is a great option for photographers who are venturing out to sunny destinations because it can work well in harsh light conditions. Portra 160 provides smooth textures and natural skin tones, making it a preferred choice for commercial, portrait, and editorial shoots.
With very little grain and true-to-tone colors, this is an extremely reliable film with a slightly warmer tone. Kodak Portra 160 also does an excellent job of bringing out the color details in the highlights and lowlights.
Last picture: Taken on expired 35mm film – all the shots in this roll had vivid red light leaks.
12. Kodak Ultramax 400
The Kodak Ultramax 400 was created to give snap-happy, general shooters an inexpensive 35mm color film to burn through on a regular basis.
Being at a higher ISO rating (400), you’ll see that the grain is much more noticeable, but it doesn’t deter from the overall image. Higher ISO also means it can shoot higher action moments better than say Kodak Gold 200 or Portra 160. If you were part of the paparazzi in the film-only days, you’d probably use Ultramax 400 to capture your subjects – this film works well with zoom lenses and freezes quick movements!
In more practical day-to-day terms, you can rely on this 35mm color film stock to capture lifestyle scenes with active subjects, outdoor street life, and lively festivals. Expect flatter, more subtle color, and don’t be afraid to overexpose this film.