Film Sizes

Film is available in a number of different sizes:

Most people have experience using 35mm film in 35mm cameras. It's use is very wide spread, 35mm film is the film we all know and love. In recent years, 35mm film has reached very high qualities, making it not only very affordable and easy to work with, but also capable of producing very nice results.

Medium Format
What differentiates 35mm and other film formats is the size of the film. A medium format photographic negative is much bigger than a 35mm negative. Medium format film comes in two standard sizes, 120 and 220. In both of these, the actual film is the same width. The difference is due to the length of the film, or in other words, the number of exposures. 220 film is twice the size of 120 film, providing twice the number of exposures per roll. Otherwise, the are the same.

Large Format
Large format is the next step up, with film that is even bigger. Some common sizes for large format film are 4x5 and 8x10. These negatives are very large. All large format film is not the same size, basically any film bigger than medium format is considered large format. So, even within the large format category there is a wide range of negative sizes.

Anyone who has dealt with professional photographers has likely heard of these film formats larger than 35mm. But, most people don't have much of an understanding about what advantages medium format or large format photographic negatives provide. Basically, bigger negatives produce better prints, they exhibit:

  • Less film grain
  • Clearer images
  • Better color

So, while it might seem like larger negatives are always better, that isn't necessarily the case. While larger film formats provide better results, they are also more expensive. The film film processing is more expensive as is the the equipment for this larger film. In the end, it is the intended use of your photographs that should influence your decision about the proper film size. Generally speaking, while large format film provides clearer images, if you simply desire a 4x5 snapshot, using large format is overkill. For most of us, who likely won't enlarge our images bigger than an 8x10 print, 35mm film provides plenty of information to produce an 8x10 photograph.

Additionally, there are other films formats out there:

Polaroid Film
This is instant film that combines photographic prints and film into one medium. Polaroid film serves not only as film, but also as the finished print. Polaroid film comes in a number of different sizes for different models of Polaroid cameras.

APS Film
APS film comes in a cartridge. This film can be only be used by APS cameras. APS film allows you as a photographer to designate the aspect ratio of your finished prints when you take the picture.

More photographic film information