Buying Film: Places and Prices

Over the last two years, I have seen emulsions disappear and prices skyrocket. For example, two years ago, I bought two rolls of 35mm Kodak Ektar to use for garden shots. Those two rolls sat in my freezer until this July, when I finally used one. Thankfully, many of the floral images were beautiful. After having had a not-so-great experience with 120 format Ektar (which I now know was due to my lack of knowledge of proper scanner settings), I now love Ektar for garden shots. I bought those original rolls from an Amazon seller for a little more than 9.00 per roll. When I went back to buy more, the price was nearly 16.00 per roll!!! I panicked. I knew prices were going up, but that much of a jump was a complete shock.

I started shooting film in 2019, and I bought enough film to have on hand—maybe about 20 rolls of various emulsions. My biggest pool was 35mm Ultrafine Xtreme. Because I had film on hand, I did not pay much attention to price increases or scarcity. The Ektar wake-up call sent me scrambling to get film before the prices went even higher. Kodak Portra provided the next shock. In 2019, I bought a 5-roll pack of 35mm Portra 400 from my photo lab for 36.00, which, at the time, I thought was quite expensive. I even justified the cost by convincing myself I was supporting a local business. When I went looking for Porta 400 last month, many sellers had none, and the price was 50.00 or higher. Ouch.

I have been digging around online, looking for reliable sources and good prices. These are my findings over the last eight to ten months:

B&H Photo
After Amazon, B&H Photo was the seller I had used most often. Unfortunately, everyone seems to use B&H, so that what I want is often out of stock. B&H has free shipping for orders of 49.00 (2nd day), and since I buy film, chemicals, and accessories from them, getting to 49.00 is easy. I do have to pay tax, though. I once bought developing tanks that had defective reels. B&H was responsive and immediately corrected the problem—excellent customer service. While B&H has much to commend, I do find prices are higher. Admittedly, sometimes I am willing to pay higher prices when concerned about an order arriving quickly.

Freestyle Photo
I used Freestyle in the past, but lately, they seem to be out of the specific film stocks I want. Otherwise, I have only had positive experiences. They have the best film search function of all the sites I’ve tried.

UltrafineOnline
UltrafineOnline (PhotoWarehouse) entered my life via Ultrafine Xtreme B&W 35mm film, which no longer exists. On their main website, many items are out of stock. What I find odd is that UltrafineOnline also sells through Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, and I have been able to buy film from UltrafineOnline through those sites that I could not find on the main site. (Maybe I used the wrong search???)

UltrafineOnline sells a lot of expired, hard-to-find film. Also, they are one of two places I know of where one can buy 12-exposure 35mm film. I have bought Tri-X, TMax 100, Fuji 100 CN, and Kodacolor 200 from them in 12-exposure rolls. Customer service has always been exemplary. In fact, they refunded my money for a few rolls of Kodacolor 200 that proved to be unusable.

Adorama
I have used Adorama twice. They had 35mm Ektar when everyone else was sold out. Prices seem to be on par with B&H. Shipping is free in many cases. No complaints.

Unique Photo
I like Unique Photo for its extensive film inventory and reasonable prices. They tend to have lower prices than Adorama and B&H; however, they charge for shipping. I had an issue with one large order that contained a request for two rolls of 120 Ektar.   I was sent Kodak Portra 160 instead of the Kodak Ektar 100 I ordered. They responded and offered to correct the problem. I decided to keep the Portra and buy the Ektar elsewhere. They did not charge me the price difference between the two.

Since Unique Photo allows one to choose the shipping carrier, tends to have lower prices, and does not charge tax,  Unique Photo became my main film supplier.  Then, I discovered the Film Photography Project Store.

Film Photography Project
I had seen references to the Film Photography Project many times and had occasionally read their blog, but I never considered buying film from them until this summer. At one point, I was desperate to find Kodak UltraMax (24 exp), which I prefer to Fuji 400, and it was out of stock everywhere I looked. Unfortunately, FPP had only 36-exposure rolls. However, looking through the FPP store, I found they had the most extensive collection of emulsions I have seen anywhere. Even better, the prices were the lowest of all the sites I’ve bought from. They also have many Lomography emulsions at lower prices than other sites.

Of course, there is always a drawback, and in this case, it’s shipping time. The FPP store states up-front that it may take up to five days to ship an order,  but I was unaware of this delay the first time I ordered. After three days had passed and the status of my order had not changed, I sent an email asking what was going on. I received a very nice explanation and now know to bake in a few extra days for delivery time.  Shipping is extra, but one can select USPS first class, which for me has been more predictable than the other major carriers. FPP is now my preferred vendor.

Well, that’s my list—hope it helps!  Do you have a favorite that isn’t on this list?

6 Comments

  1. Good list! The only one on here that I have really used is B&H, since their prices used to be good, there was the free shipping on items $49 and over, and all the other sundries they carry. I got all my “darkroom” stuff from them for the most part, but still haven’t broken into it.

    I’ve gotten a couple three packs of Ultramax in 24 exposure rolls from Retrospekt. Their online shop doesn’t list it, but their eBay shop does. $18 is a bit more than I care for, but nobody else seems to have it these days.
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/265021690318

    And my go-to is Blue Moon here in Portland. They have a great selection and actually pretty good prices. Yeah, you’ll have to pay for shipping, though since I’m in Portland I can do store pick-up for free. A bonus: They list the in-stock quantity of an item on the website.
    https://bluemooncamera.com/

    1. Author

      Retrospekt is on the high side. Ten bucks for HP5 is crazy. Blue moon prices look good, though.

      Because I have to pay shipping, I have been buying 10-15 rolls at once. Now, I’m stocked up for a while, come locusts or whatever is next.

      1. Retrospekt is pricey, but they have free shipping. So it’s not bad if you are looking for a couple rolls, but does add up if you are buying multiples.

        I used Shot on Film in Seattle for a few orders last year. But their prices have shot WAY up (nine bucks for ColorPlus?!) and selection dwindled precipitously. They occasionally have some interesting/oddball stuff, though. They used to be a good source for Russian Astrum film, which I liked.

        As for HP5+ (and Tri-X), the price has gone up pretty much everywhere. I’ve been sticking with cheaper black-and-white stocks. Kentmere is sort of boring but dependable, and cheap: $5.25 at Blue Moon. I’ve heard rumors that Xtrafine was Kentmere stock, but can’t confirm. I’ve also liked the results from Agfa APX 400 and Rollei RPX 400, and those are in the $6-7 range. I’m also supposed to pick up some Bergger Pancro which only goes for $6.25. I love HP5 and Tri-X (and TMAX too) but price-wise I may be sticking with these options.

        1. Author

          Thanks for all the info you’ve given. I will try Blue Moon next time I’m buying, which won’t be for a while.

          I avoid Tri-X and Fuji 400 because both curl too much. HP5 is my fav fast B&W film. Fortunately, I still have some Xtreme 100 and 400, and I think FP4 may replace the Xtreme 100.

          Unique Photo has HP5(24) for 5.75 per roll and 120 for only 5.79. FP4+(24) is only 5.60. All are reasonable prices. They don’t charge tax, but shipping is extra. To here, First Class USPS is only about 5 dollars and takes 2-3 days. So, HP5 and FP4 are still good options for me. FPP has HP5 (36) for 5.99.

          1. Since I don’t develop (yet), I don’t take into consideration curling. So I still use Tri-X, but not that often. I’m guessing that Kentmere 400 may be ok in that department since they are an Ilford stock?

          2. Author

            I’ve never tried Kentmere because I used Xtreme films. From what I’ve read, Kentmere does dry fairly flat.

            I still have a few rolls of Tri-X left. I may use them now that I discovered rolling the dried negative with the emulsion side out then letting it sit in the plastic case for day significantly reduces curl. This trick worked well with Fuji.

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