A Guide to Different Film Formats & Types

A Guide to Different Film Types & Formats

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A Guide to Different Film Formats & Types

Guide to Film Formats & Types - 135 film
Guide to Film Formats & Types - 135 film

Introduction to Film formats & types

There are a multitude of different film photography cameras out there, and they use a multitude of formats. That’s why it’s important to identify what option suits your needs the most and where you can get the most value. All of these are interesting in their own right, so it’s all a matter of understanding what each one of them does and where you are getting the best value for your money.

Guide to Film Formats & Types - 135 film

35mm film

The smallest type of film format is 35mm. This one offers a size of 24 x 36 mm, which is standard. You will find this housed in a canister, since the idea is to prevent light exposure. You pull it out of the canister to load it into the camera and take the shots. One interesting thing here is that the film sides are perforated, so you are able to rewind and wind the film as you see fit. It’s crucial to note that the frame advances every 8 perforations, so you can ensure that you don’t have a frame exposed more than one time. The term 135 was introduced by Kodak in 1934 as a designation for 35 mm film specifically for still photography, perforated with Kodak Standard perforations

You will find that the 35mm film rolls have 24, 27 or 36 exposures in general. Needless to say, thanks to its size and portability, a lot of people choose the 35mm film. It can work great with general photography, but also half frame cameras. With that in mind, you also have a wide emulsion range to choose from. This 35mm film is great for beginners in particular, since it makes it easier to get accustomed to shooting with film.

Most of the 35mm cameras are not that expensive either. There are some expensive models, true, but more often than not you will be fine with these models because they convey a tremendous return on investment and the benefit is among some of the best. We recommend 35mm film if you want something simple, light and convenient, and once you give it a shot, you will find that it does deliver the benefits and value you want for the money.

You don’t have to go with a model that’s overly complicated. As we mentioned already, simplicity is key, and that’s what you want to pursue. It takes a little bit of time to do this right, but in the end the benefits are among some of the best. 

Guide to Film Formats & Types - 135 film
Guide to Film Formats & Types - 135 film
shot @800 Leica Noctilux 50/1.0 E58
Kodak Vision 3 250D

Medium format film (120)

The Medium Format film is also known as the 120 film. This one is 6 cm in width and you can find cameras shooting variations of it, which is something to keep in mind. You have 6 x 17, but also 6×9, 6×7, as well as 6×6 and 6×4.5 The important thing to note here is that the frame size increases. If you were wondering how many images you are getting per medium format film, this varies based on the format that you are using. For the most part, a Medium Format with 6 x 4.5 gives you 16 frames a roll, 6×6 gives 12, 6×7 10 frames, and so on. Basically, the larger the width, the less amount of images you will get. 

Another thing to note about Medium Format film is the fact that you get more image area when compared to 35 mm film. That’s why a lot of people go for Medium Format in the first place. With that being said, you also have less grain and more detail. The Medium Format is in between the 35 mm and the large format. With that in mind, the Medium Format cameras are still very portable, which is great for most users.

There are some great Medium Format film like the Kodak Portra 400, the Ilford HP5 400 Plus. Both of them are actually quite popular and they deliver an amazing user experience without having you worry about any of the issues that might arise. It actually works better than expected, and the quality is very good.

Guide to Film Formats & Types - 120 medium format film
Guide to Film Formats & Types - 120 medium format film

Large format

Large Format film is the oldest film format that you can find out there. Many refer to it as sheet film. Generally you can find the 8×10 and 4×5 sizes, but you can also buy larger sizes too, although those are rare to find. These numbers are referring to the frame size shown in inches. With that in mind, you will need to browse the cameras on the market and you will notice that they are the ones that can determine the overall film size you need to use right now.

The most common large format for the time being is 4×5, since it’s obviously the smaller one. With that in mind, you do need to realise that shooting in a larger format also means you are working at a slow pace. The cost of the film is higher, so you have to pay attention and ensure that every shot you are taking does count. 

Then there’s also the fact that focusing and setting up a large format camera is an involved process that requires plenty of effort and time. Of course, you want to use a Large Format camera because it gives you more value and detail. You even get a higher amount of control of the image, and the shift and tilt functions make it easy for you to boost your focus and ensure you enhance the overall quality the way you always wanted. 


Which type of film format should you get? It usually comes down to the amount of detail that you want and portability. Needless to say, a larger camera is less portable, but it gives more detail. Small cameras like the 35 mm are really portable, but they won’t capture latitudes that greatly. Medium film tends to be the best of both worlds, yet you can go with any of the three options. A very good idea is to test it all out, see what works and ensure that you obtain the right amount of value. If you take your time to test every type of film before you decide, this will help you narrow down what solution works! 

Don’t forget to ask the shop keeper which type of film can fit your camera. These films are not interchangeable!

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