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I've been getting into film photography recently, and was wondering what the differences are between different types of film, e.g., drugstore film vs Kodak portra vs Ilford, etc.

What are their different advantages and disadvantages, and how do you decide to go for one or the other?

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This question is quite broad, but I think it can work. Answerers, please try for comprehensive answers rather than just comments on one type or another. –  mattdm Feb 11 at 9:16

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"Drugstore" film could be anything but is normally consumer grade color film in a speed range of ISO 100 to ISO 400 and balanced for daylight color temperatures. Portra is a professional grade fine-grained color film balanced for daylight color temperatures available at sensitivities of ISO 160, 400, or 800. FujiColor Pro is a line of films very similar to Kodak's Portra offered in sensitivities of ISO 160 and 400. Ilford offers a range of monochrome (B&W) films in various sensitivities and grades.

Which you choose from among these or any others will depend on some basic factors:

  • The look you want. There is an obvious difference between a high contrast monochrome image and a color print made from a negative film such as Portra. Color reversal (slide) films offer other looks. There are more subtle differences between various films within either of those categories.
  • The shooting conditions. How much and what kind of light will you be working in? Will the light be fairly uniform and from sources with the same or very similar color temperatures? Or will you be working in an environment with multiple light sources that vary widely in their intensity and color temperature? In general lower speed films require more light but also provide finer grain. Higher speed films have a coarser grain but allow shooting in less light at the same shutter speed/aperture combinations. If shooting in a wide variety of light types monochrome may be the way to go.
  • Your budget. The prices of different films can vary widely. Most color film is developed using the C-41 process. Monochrome film is developed and printed using a Gelatin-silver process. How much it costs to process either one can vary depending on where you have it done.
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