The Classic Look! The Best Black and White Film Emulsions.


Black and white film is such a beautiful, fun thing to work with.

There are lots of black and white film emulsions on the photography market. And quite honestly, it’s hard to find a bad one. Instead, you just have to understand them and expose each one according to what you want. But some brands have been making Black and White Film longer than others. And a few have a very iconic look to them. So how do you choose? Well, we dove into our Reviews Index to help pick out some of our favorites.

The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done by the staff. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge.

Pro Tips on Choosing the Best Black and White Film Emulsion

Here are some great pointers on choosing the right black and white film:

  • The world of black and white film is pretty vast. But for the most part, a few manufacturers end up really standing out. There are also various kinds of black and white film.
  • Most black and white film has to be developed specifically for black and white, but some are designed to be developed in C-41 labs.
  • Many people probably won’t be able to tell the differences between most black and white films. However, some are more iconic than others. Kodak Tri-X was used for so much of the world’s photojournalism, for example.
  • Pushing film usually means it was pushed it in the development process. For example, you’d usually do this if you expose an ISO 400 film for ISO 3200 or something like that.
  • Pulling film usually means you pulled it in the development process. Do this if, for example, you expose an ISO 400 film at ISO 100 by mistake.
  • Try using colored lens filters with your black and white film. You’ll get lots of cool, fun results.

Kodak Tri-X 400: The Iconic Black and White Film

In our review, we state:

What I’ve typically done is rated the film to ISO 400 then just went about my day shooting without any problems. However, there are situations where you may want to rate it higher like at ISO 1600, ISO 800 or pull it down to somewhere like ISO 100. Again, due to the sheer versatility of this film I cannot complain about it. As I’m writing this I’m genuinely trying to find a reason to dislike it, but its reliability is just so excellent.

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Ilford HP5: The Alternative Look

In our review, we state:

“I think photographers can create great images with the film, but if you’re going to shoot with Ilford HP5 then be sure you’re more in the creating mood than the capturing mood. It’s a nice film that I think will work really well in the studio.”

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Fujifilm Acros 100 II: Reborn

In our review, we state:

“Finally, here is Acros 100 II. Personally, this is my favorite emulsion. Look at this! Look at how it renders the light on Kevin’s face. Admire how sharp it is. But also, can we please appreciate how it renders the shadows in the background? Plus, carefully look at how much inkier the blacks are here. Acros 100 II is ideal for general photography. Fujifilm said that it even could be used for Astrophotography in their marketing!”

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