A wide variety of 35mm film types and brands are available for purchase. Several factors should be taken into consideration before buying camera film at a store or online.
ISO: 35mm film with an ISO of 200 or 400 seems to be most commonly used. According to Kodak, their Kodak MAX 400 ISO film is very versatile and can be used for most purposes. However, Kodak also indicates that 800 ISO is better for some photos involving especially fast movement, as well as low light photographs. Check to see if your camera has an ISO control, if so you may want to select a type of film it is capable of being set to. If the camera has a flash and you plan on using it, an ISO of 200 or higher should be selected. 200 and 400 ISO film are often similar in price, while 100 is cheaper (but harder to find) and 800 is usually more expensive.
B&W/COLOR: While color is usually preferred for most purposes, black and white film can be useful for some effects, such as making a photograph seem “old” or giving it a different “mood”, as when photographing a cemetary, for example. Black and white is available at some drug stores; it tends to be more expensive than color.
INSTRUCTIONS: Your camera’s instructions may provide a recommendation on what type to use. For example, Vivitar suggests using ISO-400 color film for their “EZ Motor” camera, and the Quickshot DI-4410 recommends using ISO 200 for outdoor photos in bright sunshine, or ISO 400 for flash photography. According to the Vivitar BV-997’s instructions, the range of the built-in flash is greater on films with a higher ISO. The Bell & Howell BF35’s manual recommends 100, 200, or 400 ISO depending “on the light condition.”
NUMBER OF EXPOSURES: Most rolls of 35mm film can hold somewhere between twelve and thirty-six exposures (photographs). If there is a large number of exposures, you won’t need to put a new roll in or develop it as often. On the other hand, a lower number of exposures allows you to finish using the film and develop it sooner, not having to wait as long to see your photos. If you only plan to use the camera occasionally, fewer exposures might be preferable because the film will be less likely to surpass its expiration date before all of the exposures have been used.
SLIDE/PRINT: Make sure you are purchasing either slide or print film depending upon how you plan to develop the photographs.
BRAND: Some photographers claim that generic 35mm film is just as good as film made by larger brands (like Kodak and Fujifilm), while others recommend a particular major brand as better than others. It is likely that different generic manufacturers produce different qualities, so it is not really possible to make a general comparison of them with larger brands. I have always used Kodak 35mm film and had good results with it. I once used a 36 exposure roll made by a German brand (Agfa) and the results were good as well.
FREE OFFERS: Some developers (like Shaw’s grocery stores) offer to include a free roll of generic film when a roll from any brand is developed. Also, at least a couple of store chains offer cameras which include a free roll each time the film in them is developed (for the life of the camera). The ExpressShot 35mm cameras offered by Eckerd pharmacies are an example of this. However, the Eckerd’s website states that these cameras come with a one-year warranty but are expected to last for 7-10 rolls of film before failing. The cost of purchasing 7-10 individual rolls and a regular 35mm camera would be greater than the $10-20 Eckerd’s charges for these, although the use of cameras which only last this long might be considered somewhat wasteful.
EXPIRATION DATE: Be sure to check that the film has not expired before buying it. The expiration date will usually be printed on the box. Most stores are unlikely to sell you expired film, but it is worth checking the date if it is a type of store which probably doesn’t sell it very often. If you are buying 35mm film online, ask the seller for an expiration date if it is not indicated on their website or auction listing.
WHERE-TO-BUY: It can be purchased at a wide variety of stores, including most grocery, pharmacy, and camera stores, along with some convenience stores, book stores, and gift shops. It is often less expensive to purchase a box of several rolls instead of a single roll. It is also available at online shopping websites and internet auctions. Purchasing film online can provide fairly substantial savings, although you probably wouldn’t want to purchase any fewer than ten rolls at a time because of shipping costs.
Finally, keep in mind that it is important to choose the appropriate film because the quality of all your photographs partially depends upon it.