Cheapskate’s choice of 35mm black and white films
I recently compiled a list of good but affordable colour negative films, and as a logical next step, I thought a similar list of black and white films would be in order too.
There’s perhaps a bit less variety in cheap black and white films, compared to their colour counterparts, but there are definitely few stand-outs to recommend.
1. Fomapan films
Fomapan films are probably the most well known go-to cheap black and white films. The line-up consists of three different options: Fomapan 100, 200 and 400 films (named after their ISO sensitivity). These are cheap films for a reason. I’ve shot all of them and the results are sometimes pretty good. In all honesty though, I wouldn’t perhaps start my film shooting hobby with these films, because the results may be… how should I say this… a bit unpredictable. And not in the good way necessarily.
There’s a certain charm in Fomapans, but you’ll have to learn how to use them. There are photographers who swear by them.
Fomapan brings much needed variation to the market. I don’t see why every film should look exactly the same and in that regard, there might be a legitime reason to have a film that sometimes resembles a used sandpaper.
If you are a beginner, I’d definitely look into Fomapans, but just be aware of their shortcomings. In a nutshell, the grain structure isn’t known for it’s beauty and the exposure latitude can make anyone cry. You can take a photo of a black hole and still overexpose it. But who’s to say these are necessarily bad things, if you’re going for that kind of aesthetics?
The prices vary of course, but at the moment a roll of any Fomapan (36 exposure roll) costs around 4€, which is almost half the price of, for example Kodak Tri-x, which cruises around 7,50€—8€.
2. Kentmere 100 & 400
Kentmere films are produced by Harman Technology, who’s also responsible for the glorious Ilford professional line of black and white films. I suppose you could say Kentmere films are their so called amateur line-up. The fact that these are basically just budget Ilfords is a very promising thing. I have not yet personally tried Kentmere films, because they haven’t been available on my neck of the woods. They are quite reasonably priced though, costing about 5,50 per roll (36 exp) and I have indeed heard much positive feedback.
3. Agfa APX 100 & 400
Agfa APX comes in ISO 100 and 400. I’ve shot both of these films and I’d highly recommend APX 400. It is very underrated and overshadowed by all the Ilfords and Kodaks in the world. It’s a really basic film with nothing particularly bad to mention. Good and reliable budget option.
APX 100 is an ok film too, but it is surpsisinly grainy for a such a slow film.
Agfa APX films cost around 5,50€—6,00€ per 36 exposure roll.
4. Lomography Earl Grey 100 and Lady Grey 400
Lomography also offers great options for 35mm black and white shooters. Earl Grey is one of the cheaper ones, costing about 5,50€ per roll. It only comes in 3 roll bundles though. As the name suggests, it is an ISO 100 film. I have not shot this film personally, but I’ll probably do a hands-on test sooner than later and update the article with a short reportage of the experience.
Lomography has some other interesting black and white films as well. For example Lady Grey 400 seems nice as well. It is also at a similar price point, even though slightly more expensive than it’s slower counterpart.
Cheap colour negative films?
If you’re interested in cheap colour negative films, check out my article on them as well.