If you use preloaded cassettes, such as for a Minox or half-frame camera, you must select from the film that is sold in the cassettes. But if you reload your own cassettes, you will have a wider selection of films to choose from.
Films vary in their type, speed, initital price, availablility, type of base, type of light, graininess, acutance (appearance of sharpness), processing price, processing availablility, processing speed and other factors. Let's take a look at these.
First, do you want black and white or color film? Many people never give this question a thought since they always use color film. But black and white can give you startling images and make your composition stand out more than a color shot. Using an occasional B&W roll, will help strengthen your color compositions.
Do you want slides or negatives? Many people never give this question a thought since they always use negative film. But there is a lot to be said for slide film. First, there is a wider variety of films available in slide format, from Kodachrome with its incredibly rich colors to color infrared with its incredibly strange colors. In addition, seeing a 6 foot slide on the wall is much more dramatic than a 6 inch print. Sure, it's a pain to set up the projector, but the impact makes it worthwhile.
Some films are designed for outdoor use, while others are based on tungsten illumination. Many people never give this question a thought since they always use daylight film. But if you plan on making shots indoors, the results will look much more natural if you shoot the scene with film balanced for indoor light -- tungsten illumination.
Some films are easy to obtain, others not. We usually just get film that is easy to obtain. Some films are harder to find, and might even be a special order -- such as Kodak 2475 Recording film -- but the results will be worth it.
Film speed or how much light the film needs is important to consider as well. Usually, the higher the film speed, the more the film will cost but for lower light levels, you have no choice.
Color intensity varies with the film speed. The higher the film speed, the less rich the colors. So if color is important in the shot, get the slowest speed you can get away with.
Graininess also varies with the film speed. The higher the film speed, the grainier the results. So if lack of grain is important in the shot, get the slowest speed you can get away with.
Acutance also varies with the film speed. The lower the film speed, the sharper the results. So if sharpness is important in the shot, get the slowest speed you can get away with.
Processing prices can vary tremendously from one film to another. Give this some though before choosing a film.
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