Lomography Guide to Film: Introduction to Film Formats


First time to take photos with film and itching to find out more? The analogue world has many surprises and interesting photographic experiences in store for you, so we've put together a little guide which aims to arm you with everything you need to know when it comes to available film formats.

The photography world has actually seen so many film formats for both still photos and motion picture throughout history, so this guide only covers those that we can still find and work with at present.

Photo by Ronironic on Flickr

135 or 35 mm Cassette Film

The most common of all film formats today, 135 film was introduced by Kodak in 1934 and became commonly known as 35 mm film. The film, 35 mm (or 1.4 inches) wide and has perforations called sprocket holes, varies in length, number of exposures, formats, and sensitivity or ISO.

  • Length: The standard full-length roll yields 36 exposures, but there are also 24-exposure and 12-exposure rolls.
  • Film Type: The most common film types are color negative, slide or reversal, and monochrome or black and white, but it’s not surprising to find rare and exotic emulsions such as infrared films.
  • Film Sensitivity: The most common film speeds are 100 ISO, 200 ISO, 400 ISO, and 800 ISO; films with sensitivity as low as 25 ISO and 50 ISO, or as high as 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO are rather rare.
Credits: clownshoes

120 Roll Film

Another film introduced by Kodak, the 120 film format was made by Kodak for their Brownie No. 2 in 1901. Also called medium format, this film is 60 mm wide and wound around an open plastic spool and wrapped in backing paper. The protective backing is printed with frame markings for the standard image formats allowed by this film.

  • Length: A roll of 120 film is typically 30 inches (76 cm) and typically yields either 16 images (6 × 4.5 format) or 12 images (6 × 6 square format). Some cameras also take 8 exposures through 6 × 9 format, and 6 exposures through 6 × 12 panoramic format.
  • Film Type: Like 135 films, 120 films usually come in color negative, slide or reversal, and monochrome or black and white types.
  • Film Sensitivity: 100 ISO, 400 ISO, and 800 ISO are also the typical film speeds that 120 films come in, although it’s still possible for you to come across uncommon speeds like 160 ISO, 50 ISO, and 64 ISO.
  • Similar formats: 220 film comes in the same width as 120 film, but twice as long and yields twice the number of exposures; 600 film is also essentially the same film but comes with a thinner spool.

110 Cartridge

The cartridge-based 110 film was introduced by Kodak in 1972 for its Pocket Instamatic cameras. A smaller version of Kodak’s 126 format, the film strip is 16 mm in width and is housed in a plastic cartridge which also registers each shot as the film is advanced. 110 films were discontinued in 2009, but Lomography re-introduced the format in 2012 with the Orca Black and 100 ISO film.

  • Exposures: Each cartridge yields 24 exposures
  • Film Type: While 110 films were usually color negatives, Lomography has also made black and white and slide types available for the format.
  • Film Sensitivity: 110 films usually came in either 100 ISO or 400 ISO, but Lomography’s Peacock slide film comes in 200 ISO.
Credits: kashmir87

Instant Film

Invented by Agfa but first introduced by Polaroid, instant films contain all the chemicals needed for developing and fixing a photo after exposure. Instant cameras trigger the developing process after each photo. Today, there are two kinds of instant films you can find in the market: integral and peel-apart.

  • Integral film or positive instant, which automatically develops and fixes the photo; Fuji’s Instax Mini and Wide films are examples of this type.
  • “Peel-apart” film, which produces a print through diffusion transfer which spreads a reagent between the exposed negative and the positive sheet that receives it; examples are Polaroid’s Type 100 series and Fujifilm’s FP-100C.
  • Film Sensitivity: Fuji Instax films typically come 800 ISO, but Fuji’s FP-100C and FB-3000B have 100 ISO and 3000 ISO respectively.
  • Film Type: Color and Black-and-White instant films are available
Nexia, Fuji’s APS Film. Photos via camerarepairer, camerahacker, and sundgren

Advanced Photo System (APS)

Introduced in 1996 and discontinued in 2012, several companies produced APS films under different brand names: Advantix by Kodak, Nexia by Fujifilm, Futura by Agfa, and Centuria by Konica. Similar to 135 films, APS film is slightly smaller at 24 mm in width and is also housed in a plastic cartridge. This format came in 40, 25, and 15 exposures.

This format’s distinction is its ability to record information aside from the photo, such as print aspect ratio, date and time that the photo was taken, caption, exposure data (such as aperture and shutter speed setting). However, unlike 135 film, the developed APS film is kept in the cartridge.

All information for this article were sourced from 135 film, 120 film, 110 film, Instant film and Advanced Photo System on Wikipedia.

written by plasticpopsicle on 2013-09-26 in #gear #tipster #lomography #lomography-guide-to-film #film-formats #film-photography #introduction #guide


  1. minchi
    minchi ·

    Also Lomography Tiger is 200 iso

  2. segata
    segata ·

    Second that, Ive got 2 tiger cartridges in my flim box, theres 3 other formats that while uncommon do still exist, 116, 127 and 16mm, the first two are like 120 almost in appearence but different in size respectively, 116 is a bit wider and can be wrtitten on through a window on the camera back, 127 is the around the size of 35mm and I have only so far seen one place still selling it, most common camera you will find that uses it is the little Brownie 127 that looks like a bakealite soap box, 16mm is a bit of a niche one and is more commonly found in the subminiture and cine camera communities.
    There is of course large format too but its use doesnt really apply to the Lomographic culture as it takes alot of prep so you cant just shoot without thinking or from the hip as the cameras are huge,
    Nice article :)

  3. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    >.< Ha my photo looks great there!

  4. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    I devoutly wish Lomography made 127 film in 100, 200, and 400 ISO. I have a working Sawyer Mark IV TLR. Also, I think They should resurrect #115 roll film, 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inch format X 8 shots, and make a big stamped tin box camera with several apertures and shutter speeds like the old "Corona Camara" from Mexico in the 1930's. It had a F/6.3-45 focusing triplet lens, 1/100 to 1/5, B, and T shutter speeds, horizontal and vertical "look down" viewfinders, tripod sockets, closing red window, etc, and looked like a big crackle painted lunchbox, including a handle. My grandmother had one. There you would have a large format camera befitting Lomographic Culture, also a benefit to fine arts, if the the lens is good. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!!!

  5. mrs_hamburg
    mrs_hamburg ·

    I totally agree with Herbert-4. 127er film HAS to come back. I recently bought a Rollei Babyflex in excellent condition at a flea market and would love to use it. It seems to be a "waste" not to use a perfect camera just because one can't get the film Format. Thankfully, my Rollei came with a Batch of 127er films but they all expired in the mid-70's... So, please Lomography, my only wish for Christmas: 127er film!

  6. spluff
    spluff ·

    I concur, Lomography are missing a trick not producing 127 film and a camera for it - you can shrink the size of the camera and get a large negative at the same time - just think, it could be gorgeous!

  7. wideangle
    wideangle ·

    220 film has one big difference compared to 120. 220 has a paper backing at the beginning and ending of the roll, but there is no paper backing for most of the roll. It can't be used with any cameras that had the red window on the back, unless you completely cover the red window and know how many turns to wind the film for each exposure. With out the paper backing the focus point of the film is changed; cameras designed for 120 and 220 have an adjustment to compensate.

    A common newbie mistake is calling 120 film "120 mm film". The width of 120 is much less than 120 mm.

  8. kangiha
    kangiha ·

    Totally agree about the 127 format. Love my 127 cameras. I roll 35 onto them and get shots through to the sprockets.

  9. jakemasa
    jakemasa ·

    120 is by far my favorite but it's too expensive to use often

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