Top 5 Black and White Films to Start With

Top 5 Black and White Films to Start With

Guides and Tips

Top 5 Black and White Films to Start With

Even today, there are still many nice black and white film available in the market. If you are new to black and white film and figuring out where to start and what are the characteristics of them, I have picked 5 of my favourite black and white films that gives you the flexibility to shoot indoor and outdoor environments. Even though they are in black and white but they behave differently such as grain, sharpness, micro-contrast…etc.  The lens that you are using and the colour filter that you are using affect how they look.

Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222

This is my favourite black and white film not because it is a cinematic film but because of its character, it performs similar to Kodak Tri-X except it has stronger contrast and better latitude (room for error). So even if you mess up your exposures you can still save your shot by 1 or 2 stops. It has fewer highlight details than Tri-X which means when you overblown the bright area (highlights) they become white and less grey compare with other films.

Double-X default ISO is 250 daylight and 200 indoor, normally I shoot it at ISO 400 to give me the amount of contrast that I want. But I don’t recommend pushing this film to 800 or 1600 unless the environment has adequate light sources otherwise it will be very grainy but if you like the work from Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama you can push the film and develop in higher temperature.

You can refer to my Kodak Eastman Double-X review for extra information.

Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-eastman-double-x-5222-contrast-highlight-shadow-japan-summilux
Kodak Double-X 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-eastman-double-x-5222-hong-kong-tram-rail
Kodak Double-X 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-eastman-double-x-5222-hong-kong
Kodak Double-X 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-eastman-double-x-5222-summilux-asph-50mm-contrast
Kodak Double-X 400

Kodak Tri-X 400

Tri-X is a classic black and white film made by Kodak and resemble the essence of the vintage tone because it has more “grey” mid-tone than Double-X and Ilford HP5. It is great for documentary photography because it captures images with a great amount of contrast and balance every tone evenly and makes it looks timeless. The thing some people might not prefer Tri-X is the size of the grain, the picture of Tri-X is not as “clean” as HP5 or other Delta film from Ilford.

Overall, it is a signature black and white film and I highly recommend you to at least try a roll of Kodak Tri-X and Ilford HP5 to see which kind of black and white you like, whether you like more white than grey or you prefer grey and more details in the shadow.

You can refer to my Kodak Tri-X 400 review for extra information.

Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-tri-x-400-trix-classic-vintage-rolleiflex-2.8f-28f-portrait
Kodak Tri-X 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-tri-x-400-trix-classic-vintage-details-rolleiflex-2.8f-28f
Kodak Tri-X 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-tri-x-400-trix-classic-vintage-instagram-pier-hk-bamboo-makina-67-plaubel
Kodak Tri-X 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kodak-tri-x-400-trix-classic-vintage-hong-kong-contrast-makina-67-plaubel
Kodak Tri-X 400

Ilford HP5 Plus 400

HP5 has a wide range of tones full of blacks and whites with dark shadows and bright highlights. It’s a high contrast film great for pushing*. Normally my default ISO for HP5 will be 800 because it gives me the amount of contrast that I need at the same time I can use a smaller aperture to do zone focusing. At night I will use HP5 with ISO of 1600, 3200 or even 6400 depends on the available light. The contrast and the grain that HP5 gives me is a clear advantage more you compare with the result from pushing Tri-x or Double-X. If you use medium format cameras and you like to shoot it at night I think HP5 gives you the flexibility to use a faster shutter speed by pushing the film. Besides shooting indoor or low light condition with HP5, it is also great for abstract black and white photography.

*If you are new to black and white film photography, push means not following the original ISO, set it higher than what it is labelled and compensate with the developing time, it gives you a punchy look.

You can refer to my Ilford HP5 Plus 400 review for extra information.

Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-nikon-f3hp-f3p-105mm-f2.5-tele
Ilford HP5+ 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-hp5-ilford-400-summicron-35mm-leica
Ilford HP5+ 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-hp5-noctilux-push-ilford-800
Ilford HP5+ 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-ilford-hp5-push-800-infinity-lock-summilux
Ilford HP5+ 400

Kentmere 100/400

The good thing about Kentmere is that it always gives you a promising result even if you use a different kind of developers (when you send to different labs). It has the standard HP5 look at ISO 400. It is suitable for general photography and if you like a lower contrast film with normal sharpness, Kentmere is a good and budget choice for you to begin with. I have shot so many rolls with Kentmere 400 and I like how it performs at ISO 400, 800 or even 1600.

You can refer to my Kentmere 400 review for extra information.

Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kentmere-400-100-summilux-infinity-lock-hong-kong-boxing-rodinal
Kentmere 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-kentmere-400-100-rigid-summicron-hong-kong
Kentmere 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-japan-kentmere-400
Kentmere 400
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-japan-kentmere-400-2
Kentmere 400

Rollei Retro 80s

If you are looking for a fine grain low ISO film, Rollei 80S has broad tonal range and sharpness because it an extended sensitivity to red colour which makes it great for portraiture (better skin tone). It also clear haze and fog that helps to capture great landscape photographs. I like to use this film when I want to use fast lenses during the day which allows me to separate the subject with the background and add extract contrast.

Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-rollei-80s-fine-grain-sharpness-lamma-hong-kong
Rollei Retro 80s
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-cambodia-portrait-best-fine-grain-summicron
Rollei Retro 80s
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-summicron-50mm-fine-grain-bokeh-rollei-80s
Rollei Retro 80s
Top-5-five-bw-black-and-white-film-films-recommend-pick-selection-negative-photography-camera-start-beginner-guide-prague-rollei-80s-fine-grain-broad-tonal-review
Rollei Retro 80s
where-to-buy-film-films-hong-kong-135-125-shootfilm-types-location-prince-edward-recommendations-classical-camera-shop
Prev Repairing film cameras and lenses in Hong Kong
Next Top 5 Colour Negative Films You Should Try
top-5-five-colour-color-negative-films-film-start-try-must-best-c41-guide-list-kodak-ektar-100-sunset-tokyo-odaiba-rail-train-travel-warmth-warm

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.