Our Favorite High ISO Film Emulsions That Create Photos You’ll Love

High ISO film emulsions aren’t all that common. In fact, they’re almost as rare as slide film. But when you need to shoot film in very low light, they’re your best bet. With the film renaissance still underway, we’re happy some emulsions are still around for us to use. There’s not much better than loading it into a camera and shooting a party with some analog goodness. So we’re rounding up a few of our favorite high ISO film emulsions. Dive in with us!

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Pro Tips on Using High ISO Film for Analog Fun!

These are some tips around high ISO film and using this guide:

  • First off, know that we only recommend gear we’ve used. In this case, we’ve shot all the photos and did all the reviews. You’ll see that in each section of this round up.
  • Expired film should be given at least one extra stop of light.
  • High ISO film is typically really grainy if you expose it at box speed. The only exception ever was Fujifilm Natura 1600, which is long gone now.
  • Film grain tends to look better than digital noise. Embrace it and you’ll get stunning photos.
  • You can always push a lower ISO film in the darkroom. But you have to do the entire roll and not just a single photo unless you’re printing. Even then, it’s questionable.

Kodak T-Max P3200

Fun Fact

T-Max uses a completely different grain structure that makes the film insanely sharp. Use it with some vintage lenses and see what kind of gorgeous character it delivers. For a high ISO film emulsion, it’s curiously sharp.

In our review, we state:

“Before I go on, you should again know that Kodak TMax P3200 isn’t a 3200 ISO film. That’s right; it’s not. It’s instead designed to be pushed that far. Kodak TMax P3200 is an ISO 800 film, only a stop faster than their TMax 400 film that’s been alive and well for years. Kodak TMax P3200 is instead designed to be a higher resolution and finer grain film when pushed. In comparison to Delta 3200 (which you can see here) Kodak TMax P3200 is far less grainy and in my opinion better looking. It’s not designed to look like Tri-X. Instead, Kodak TMax P3200 has T-grain; a completely different grain structure to the film.”

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Ilford Delta 3200

Fun Fact

Delta 3200 shouldn’t really be shot at ISO 3200. Expose it at 1600 or so and instead push it accordingly. Film often needs more light to really make it shine.

In our review, we state:

“Ilford Delta 3200 tends to be a fairly high contrast film with big grain. Of course, it’s going to have a lot of grain, it’s an ISO 3200 film! But for what it’s worth, it has less grain than the equivalent color negative film–which would be something like Superia 1600 or Natura 1600. The grain however isn’t displeasing at all. Instead, it lends itself well to being printed on matte paper. Further, the film is pretty sharp for an ISO 3200 film. Of course, that also depends on your lenses. Here’s what I’m talking about.”

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CineStill 800T

Fun Fact

CineStill 800T is the only Tungsten film on the market as of this publishing. That means that in daylight and in white light, it’s going to look very blue. Think about the original Blade Runner look when you consider this film. Yes, this is a high ISO film emulsion, but maybe consider exposing it at ISO 400.

In our review, we state:

“CineStill 800T is incredible with skin tones and also very well detailed. The grain is very fine; you can see it at times but you’ll genuinely love the look. When a flash is used or you shoot in overcast lighting, the colors are very true to life. Skin tones are muted and a bit subdued while other colors are very spot on. What helps in this situation are Sigma’s excellent lenses, though for what it’s worth we don’t get any of that magical micro-contrast that we do when they’re attached to digital cameras.”

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The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. 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 that 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. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.