Discovering the Different Formats of Film: A Guide for Beginners
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Discovering the Different Formats of Film: A Guide for Beginners

Film photography is an art form that offers a unique aesthetic that digital photography can't replicate. One of the key aspects of film photography is the wide variety of film types available, each offering a different tone and quality to your image. From colour to black and white, and slide film, the options are increasing as more film stocks become available.

In this blog post, we will explore the different types of film available, including the various colour, black and white and slide films, as well as the different sizes and form factors that they come in.

We will also discuss the unique properties of each film type, and how they can be used to create different looks and moods in your photographs. Whether you're a professional photographer or just starting out, this guide will help you understand the different types of film available and how to use them to create beautiful, timeless images.

 

Film Types

Black & white film

Black & white film is the most traditional type of film and it produces photographs that are entirely monochromatic. This type of film provides a classic and timeless look to the images. It allows you to focus on the tonal range, contrast and texture of the scene, making it ideal for capturing the essence of a place or a subject.

Color negative film

Color negative film is a more modern type of film that produces photographs with a full range of colours. The negative itself shows an image with inverted colours, that must be adjusted when scanning. Negative film provides more flexibility in terms of print and post-processing, making it suitable for a variety of photographic applications.

Slide film

Also known as transparency film, slide film produces positive images that can be viewed as slides on a projector. It's a high-quality film that produces vibrant and accurate colours, but it has a limited range, and it is less forgiving than negative film when it comes to exposure and colour balance. This film gives you a more accurate representation of the scene, but it requires more careful metering and exposure.

 

 

Film Formats

As well as different types, film can also com in different form factors each offering a different negative size per photo. The camera you use determines the form factor of film you need to use, and therefore the type of image you will make. Understanding the difference is important when attempting to replicate a specific look in your own images.

135 (35mm)

This is the most popular and widely used film format, it's easy to find and process. It's suitable for a variety of photography, from portraits to landscapes. 35mm film comes in plastic and metal cartridges containing usually 24 or 36 exposures per roll. This makes it more convenient to load and handle when outside the camera. The final image negative is 36x24mm, with the film measuring 35mm hence the common name.

120 (medium format)

This film format is less common in the consumer market, but widely used by professionals and enthusiasts. It can be more difficult to handle than 35mm as the film is wrapped around a plastic or wooden spool, rather than encased in a light-proof cartridge. Medium format film offers a larger negative size, providing more detail and resolution. Unlike 135, medium format cameras offer a range of negative sizes, including 6x6, 6x4.5, 6×7, 6×8, & 6x9cm. The type of camera you have will dictate which negative size you can produce.

4x5 inch (large format)

This is the largest common format, used often for studio, landscape and architectural photography. It provides the highest resolution and detail, but it requires a larger camera, tripod and more experience to handle it. Large format film comes in individual sheets that must be loaded into single-shot film holders in complete darkness. 

 

 

In conclusion, there are many types and formats of film available for photographers to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and advantages. Whether you're a professional photographer or a hobbyist, exploring the different options can help you find the perfect film for your needs and style. From 35mm to medium format, black and white to colour, and everything in between, the world of film photography is full of possibilities. So, don't be afraid to experiment and try new things, you never know what you might discover. Happy shooting!

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