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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.