There are a plethora of films out there and it can be a little daunting at first finding out which film is the best for the style of photography one is shooting. When deciding on the best film for the Canon AE-1 I’ve always really loved the Kodak films.
If shooting black and white, typically the Kodak T-Max 400 Professional or Kodak Tri-X 400 give excellent results for a broad range of shooting conditions. The key difference between the two is grain.
The T-Max produces a much sharper image with less grain while the Tri-X produces much more grain in an image.
The Following Are All Kodak T-Max 400 Photographs
The Following Are All Kodak Tri-X 400 Photographs
Notice the differences between the two? Tri-X has more grain and less contrast.
The Tri-X should seem more washed out in comparison and grainier. It gives a more nostalgic characteristic don’t you think? It embodies the classic black and white film photograph characteristics.
Whereas the T-Max is very sharp and crisp with high contrast, you might even mistake some shots for digital. This is one of the biggest arguments against using T-Max – why use it when it merely replicates a digital monochrome photograph?
It’s also important to understand the effect different ISO values have on images. Basically, lower ISO numbers produce sharper images. This is because they have a much wider latitude for light or a greater dynamic range.
As the ISO value goes up to 3200 or higher, the dynamic range becomes narrower and photographs will more easily become blown out or produce dark patches if the lighting is not appropriate.
If you want a truly grainy image that is reminiscent of early photography check out Ilford HP5.
They have more grain than you could poke a stick at, check out the shot below.
My Pick Of Best Film For The Canon AE-1: Portra 800
If color is more your thing, there’s an unofficial consensus out there that Portra 800 reigns supreme as the 35mm color film of choice. It beats the others due to its accurate color palette and soft skin tones – which means it’s great for shooting people and portraits.
I use it exclusively for shooting wedding photos.
You can see all the wedding shots I’ve taken on Portra 800 with my Canon AE-1 Program – here.
If shooting landscape, a lower ISO film and more contrast may be preferred such as the Fuji Velvia 50. This will make the landscape pop through dazzling vivid colours. Check out the photographs below.
These absolutely pop, don’t they. If you’re into your bright, vibrant colors then you may find this to be the best film for your Canon AE-1. It’s like someone grabbed the vibrance dial and cranked it straight up to 11.
Notice that photograph of the beach with the two swimmers, Fuji Velvia 50 doesn’t play nice with skin tones – everyone comes out looking orange like they’ve bathed in Cheetoh dust.
I hope these images have helped you along your way to choosing some film to shoot with.
Remember, it’s fun to experiment so don’t get too hung up on selecting the best film for Canon AE-1 or other 35mm camera, because at the end of the day it is more a matter of taste than anything else.
Comment below and let us know which film is your favorite!
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I’ve been photographing for 13 years and have a penchant for 35mm and medium format film. Black and white street photography is my go-to. My work has been featured in online and print media through a few publications like Shutterstock, Brooklyn Resource Mag, Off The Rails and Collective Quarterly.