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Best film: our picks of the best 35mm film, roll film, and sheet film for your camera

Best sheet film

If you thought that large format film was scarce by now, you'll be pleasantly surprised! Again, there are more films out there than we have space to list, so we've picked a few highlights to give you a flavour of what you can get. Processing sheet film is trickier than with smaller formats, but we figure if you've got the dedication and skill to handle a large format camera you're not going to be daunted by the processing. 

We've picked the 'universal' 5 x 4 inch format for our buying links, but note than may of these films are available in larger sizes too, up to 10 x 8 inch and beyond! Be aware that while large format film is easy enough to get in the US, you might have to resort to some international shopping in other territories.

Best 35mm films    
Best 120 roll films for medium-format cameras   
Best sheet films for large-format cameras
Best film cameras in 2020
The best film scanners in 2020

Color negative sheet film

1. Kodak Ektar 100 5 x 4" (10 sheets)

You could say it's like the Velvia of the colour neg world

Specifications

Type: Color negative
Format: 5" x 4", 10" x 8"
ISO: 100
Exposures: 10
Chemistry: C-41

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra fine grain
+
High saturation
+
Regular C-41 processing
+
Versatile

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Kodak's fine grain color negative film with high saturation and sharpness is available in large format sheet film sizes too. With the advent of digital imaging and tools for colour negative film masking, large format photographers are not necessarily restricted to just transparency or black and white film.

2. Kodak Portra 160 4" x 5" (10 Sheets)

Kodak's portrait color neg films span 35mm right up to large format

Specifications

Type: Color negative
Format: 5" x 4"
Exposures: 10
Speed: ISO 160
Chemistry: C-41

Reasons to buy

+
Optimized for portraits
+
Designed with scanning in mind
+
Regular C-41 processing
+
Available in lots of sizes

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Large-format portrait photographers have a ready-made film in Portra 160. There are ISO 400 and 800 versions too, but if you're working with a large format camera you're hardly likely to be running around taking handheld shots via available light, so the ISO 160 version looks the best best for quality.

Black and white sheet film

Ilford Delta 100 Professional 4" x 5" (25 Sheets)

3. Ilford Delta 100 Professional 4" x 5" (25 Sheets)

A fine emulsion for fine art photographers working with large-format cameras

Specifications

Type: Black and white
Format: 5" x 4", 7" x 5", 20" x 12"
ISO: 100
Exposures: 25
Chemistry: Black and white

Reasons to buy

+
Medium speed
+
Very fine grain
+
Sharp and contrasty
+
Variable ISO rating

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Ilford Delta 100 comes in sizes from 35mm through medium format and right up to sheet film size. The Delta range is like a more modern, finer-grained replacement for Ilford's classic black and white films like FP4, though many photographers still prefer the look of the older product and you can still buy both.

Ilford FP4 Plus 4" x 5" (25 Sheets)

4. Ilford FP4 Plus 4" x 5" (25 Sheets)

Ilford's classic medium speed large format sheet film looks as good as ever

Specifications

Type: Black and white
Format: 5" x 4", 7" x 5", 10"x 8", 14" x 11", 20" x 14"
ISO: 125
Exposures: 25
Chemistry: Black and white

Reasons to buy

+
Fine grain
+
Legendary tonality
+
Sharp and contrasty

Reasons to avoid

-
Not Ilford's latest film tech

This is the same FP4 Plus offered in medium format and 35mm sizes, though when used in large format cameras its fine grain pattern will be far less visible and you can concentrate instead on its tonal qualities. You have a choice of developers, including Ilford ID11, Kodak D-76) the same thing or various liquid concentrates.

Kodak Professional T-Max 100 4" x 5" (10 Sheets)

5. Kodak Professional T-Max 100 4" x 5" (10 Sheets)

Kodak's T-Grain technology brings grain you can't see but quality you can

Specifications

Type: Black and white
Format: 5" x 4"
ISO: 100
Exposures: 10
Chemistry: Black and white

Reasons to buy

+
Fine grain
+
Adjustable development
+
Sharp and contrasty
+
High resolving power

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Kodak Professional T-Max 100 is like the Kodak equivalent of Ilford's Delta 100 film, boasting very fine grain, thanks to Kodak's T-Grain technology. In fact, Kodak says it's the finest-grain film of its speed in the world. Yes, another one. Don't worry, this was what they argued about in the days before autofocus speed comparisons.

Kodak Professional Tri-X 320 4" x 5" (10 Sheets)

6. Kodak Professional Tri-X 320 4" x 5" (10 Sheets)

Perfect for portraits, interiors and bright environments

Specifications

Type: Black and white
Format: 5" x 4", 7" x 5", 10" x 8"
ISO: 320
Exposures: 50
Chemistry: Black and white

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile
+
Good for portraits and interiors
+
Easily adjustable processing

Reasons to avoid

-
Grainier than ISO 100 films

Interestingly, the large format Tri-X is rated at a slightly lower speed than the 35mm version. It's recommended for portraits, indoor photography and situations with high brightness ranges – this is a classic virtue of faster black and white films that can often offset their increased grain for pictorial photography.

More film photography buyers' guides:
The best 35mm film
The best 120 roll film
Best film cameras
The best film scanners

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.