What is the difference between color negative and slide / positive film?

Color negative and slide film both produce color images, however the difference is in how the image is made.

On color negative film the lightest areas appear darkest and the darkest areas appear lightest. The color negative film is then reversed during scanning to produce the final image.

Slide film (also referred to as “color positive“, “transparency“ or “reversal“ film) produces a positive image straight onto the film. The light and dark areas appear as they do in reality. When mounted on card stock, these images are the slides that you’d put in a slide projector, or the slides that your grandparents have in boxes in the attic.

A color negative film strip and a positive b&w film strip

Color negative film is much more common than slide film and available in a wide range of ISO Speeds. It handles a little over and under exposure very well and is therefore much more forgiving for those of us who are relaxed in our approach to “correct” metering.

Photos by toscan taken with Lomography Color Negative 800 film and by unenthused taken with Kodak Portra 800 film

Slide film tends to have a low ISO and produces results with fine grain and vivid colors. However when it comes to exposure latitude slide film is not so flexible so it’s important to nail the exposure. Slide film is also often used for cross processing.

Photos by istvanpinter and yohane taken with Kodak Ektachrome 100 film

Both types of film have their qualities and drawbacks, so choosing which to use is usually down to personal preference.

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    The three main types of film format are 35 mm, medium format and large format. More unusual formats also exist such as 110 and 127.

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  • What is 126 film?

    What is 126 film?

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    What is APS film?

    Advanced Photo System or APS film was introduced in 1996 as a “high-tech” or modern alternative to the 126 and 110 film formats. It was 24 mm wide and it introduced many innovations, like the ability to choose exposure lengths and print sizes. Production of new APS film was ceased in 2011.

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