When it comes to films you really cannot be more of a cheap bastard than shoot in black and white and develop on your own. 😉
But for completeness I will examine color films as well.
Remember, this is not the “guide to the best films on the market”, but the “cheap bastard” one.
However, given that it would be foolish to skimp on the quality of film if the results were poor the recommended ones are still really good choices, in fact outstandingly so; but some of them do not make use of the last cutting edge technology.
When it comes to color you have the choice between negative and slide film. Frankly shooting slides nowadays does not makes a lot of sense, that is if you intend to scan them later.
Yes, they are beautiful, but a negative has often comparable colors – no, I’m not talking about Velvia, sorry this one is quite unique – with a much larger exposure latitude.
Moreover, I was a big fan of Fuji Sensia – cheap but with beautiful colors – and now it has been discontinued.
The remaining alternatives are all quite expensive, so if you insist in shooting slides just buy the ones that can give you the looks you prefer.
For print films the situation is less grim. I would recommend:
- Agfa Vista
- Fuji Superia
- The cheapest Kodak ones (they are sold under different names in different countries)
I’m also testing the Rollei Digibase, but I’ve still shot too little with this one to make a final call.
BLACK AND WHITE FILMS
With black and white films, at least for now, we can relax again given that we still have a fairly vast choice.
But, like I said, here we are “cheap bastards”, so the uncontested king, the one that rules them all is (drum roll please):
- Shanghai GP3 100 iso
You will have to order it often directly from China, but it costs half the price of the other films – yes, shipping included – and has beautiful tonalities. It has instantly become one of my favorite films, no matter the price. The one cons it has it is that the grain is not so fine, but nothing to worry too much. Soup it in Rodinal semi-stand at 1+200 and you will be in for a treat…
Like I said, lot of alternatives here, so you may also like to try:
- Foma Fomapan 100 Classic
- Foma Fomapan 200 Creative
- Ilford FP4 125 iso
- Ilford HP5 Plus 400 iso
- Kodak T-Max 100
- Kodak T-Max 400
- Kodak Tri-X 400
- Rollei Retro 80s
- Rollei Retro 400s
The T-Max has tabular grain, almost invisible. The other ones have more of a traditional grain structure, but to my eyes often better tonalities too.
Here I got three suggestion for you, two commercially available and one to prepare on your own. But black and white developers are hundreds, and many quite cheap. So you should do your own research to see which one performs more to your likings coupled with the specific film selection of your choice.
- Rodinal (and clones, like R9 etc.)
- Kodak X-Tol
You can use the Rodinal up to 1+300 (yes, one part of developer for 300 parts of water) and it lasts pretty much a lifetime in a well closed bottle, so you may well infer how it is the “cheap bastard” first choice.
The Caffenol is what you think it is, a developer based mostly on coffee (or caffeic acid, to be precise). There are various recipes on the net, just do your homework while you brew and sip a cup of joe.
To the next time, when we will discuss how to digitize – yes, I purposely didn’t say scanning – your pictures.