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:
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.
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 (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.
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.
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?