Colour, black & white or slide film?
You've got 3 types of film to make a choice from:
- Color negative film
- Black & white negative film
- Color positive film
There are several differences between negative film and positive film, but I won't get into any technical details here. I'll just explain the basics:
Negative film is the most commonly used type and it can either be in color or black & white. Positive film is probably better known to you as slide film and it is usually a bit more expensive to buy. There are a few advantage with positive film: The resulution is higher and it will store a lot more details in comparison to negative film. It will also produce more realistic colors and give you photos less grain. One cool thing with positive film is that it can be cross processed! I'll telle you more about that in a minute.
Personally I really like black and white 120 film. As a beginner it is quite easy getting impressive results with black and white film and it works exceptionally well on gray, overcast days as well. I really like the old-fashioned look that you get!
What is ISO?
This might be the key part when it comes to choosing 120 film. The ISO rating generally affects two factors:
- In what lightning circumstances the film may be used
- The level of visual grain in the photos
As an amateur medium format photographer ISO 400 film is a good beginner's choice. It will do the trick in a number of lightning conditions. An ISO 100 film (a slow film) on the contrary, is best applied in intense sunshine (or with a flash). An ISO 3200 film (a high speed film) can be used in low light conditions ( flash not needed). High speed films typically will have distinct perceptible grain and slow films scarcely have any kind of evident grain. High speed films are also good for shooting fast actions and sports.
Here is a list of the most common ISO ratings:
- ISO 50
- ISO 100
- ISO 125
- ISO 160
- ISO 800
- ISO 1600
- ISO 3200
Want something unique?
If you are into lomography (which is an experimental and artistic genre of photography) here is a list of some unique films I recommend that you try:
- Redscale film
A beautiful type of color film that captures warm shades of red, yellow, pink and orange.
- Infrared film
A very unique kind of black and white film that captures infrared light, which normally isn't visible to the human eye. It gives your photos a very special feeling.
- Super high speed film
If you use super high speed film, for example Ilford Delta ISO 3200, you'll get pictures with wonderful analog grain. Adds an old-school feeling to your photos!
- Slide film
If you choose to cross process your slide films, you will get really crazy and fun photos with high contrasts and over saturated colors (see example below). Cross processing is the procedure when developing a slide film as if it was a normal negative color film. Not all photo labs will let you cross process your slide film, but some will.
Adapt the film to the subject
In some cases you might know in advance what subject you will be shooting. At those times you can adapt the choice of film to the subject. For example, if you will be shooting portraits, use the Kodak Portra. It is a film specially made to create beautiful and natural skin tones. Another film called Fuji Pro 400 is very popular for shooting weddings. A third example is the slide film Fuji velvia which has become very popular among nature and landscape photographers.