Small cameras work better with faster films

Conventional wisdom with 35mm cameras has always been to recommend slower films, such as ISO 100, for all around use. When the first 400 speed color print films were introduced, photofinishers and minilabs almost ground to a halt when customers brought in rolls of Kodacolor 400 that had been exposed on the beaches during a Hawaiian vacation. The overexposed negatives were nearly "bulletproof," requiring extremely long print times - if they could be printed at all.

Times change, cameras change and films change.

Modern point-and-shoot cameras with zoom lenses may offer adequate lens speed at the wide-angle end, but as they zoom out, they become slow. One new (not-cheap) 35-70mm AF camera becomes f9.8 at the 70mm length. Couple that with a small flash and you get this information in the instruction manual: maximum flash range with ISO 100 film at 70mm is 4.8 feet! I'm not making this up!

Meanwhile, manufacturers have been greatly improving both the granularity and latititude of their higher-speed films. Last year I had my son's wedding photographed using all 35mm 400-speed (premium) color print film. 20"x30" posters look sharp. So do the 8x10s in the album.

When Kodak introduced MAX film, with a nominal ISO of 800, we tested it extensively. Pictures underexposed by two stops were quite printable, though lacking in contrast and shadow detail. Pictures in bright sunlight, manually overexposed by five full f-stops, were also printable. Highlights were slightly blocked, but print times were reasonable.

So sell the 400-speed films to your compact camera customers. You'll make a few cents more, and your customers will get better photos. Continue to recommend 100 and 200 as finer-resolution film to those who can tell the difference for their SLRs.