35mm vs. 120 – Which format is best for you?

In the world of film photography 35mm and 120 medium format are the too most common formats. As a traditional dip & dunk lab specializing in developing, scanning, and printing film, we aim to guide you through the strengths and weaknesses of each format. Understanding these differences can help you make an informed decision based on your photography style and budget. We have also provided a video at the end of this blog that Caleb Knueven made on this topic which goes into even more detail!

Number of frames

  • 35mm: With its smaller frame size, 35mm film offers more exposures per roll, ranging from 24 to 36 frames. This makes it a great choice for those who prefer shooting more images without changing rolls frequently.
  • TDR Film Developing
    • 120 Medium Format: Medium format film, on the other hand, provides fewer exposures, usually ranging from 8 to 16 frames per roll. This limitation encourages a more thoughtful and deliberate approach to each shot. Below at the number of frames you get with various 120 format.
      • 6×4.5 – 15-16 frames depending ion the camera.
      • 6×6 – 12 frames
      • 6×7 – 10 frames
      • 6×8 – 9 frames
      • 6×9 – 8 frames
    35mm v 120 Medium Format Film Comparison

    Depth of Field

    • 35mm: Due to its smaller negative size, 35mm film generally exhibits a broader depth of field. This can be advantageous for capturing a broader range of subjects in focus, especially in street or documentary photography as you don’t need to stop down in aperture as much to accomplish a wider depth of field.
    • 120 Medium Format: The larger negative size of medium format film contributes to a shallower depth of field, offering a more pronounced background blur. This characteristic is often sought after by portrait for creating a distinct visual separation between the subject and the background.

    Grain and Sharpness

    • 35mm: Film grain is more noticeable in 35mm due to the smaller negative size(24mm x 36mm). While this might be considered a drawback for some, it can add a unique aesthetic to the images. Sharpness may be perceived as slightly lower compared to medium format.
    • 120 Medium Format: Larger negatives result in finer grain and higher perceived sharpness. Medium format film is favored by photographers who prioritize image detail and clarity, especially in commercial and studio work.

    Convenience and Portability

    • 35mm: Compact and widely available, 35mm film cameras are convenient for everyday use and spontaneous shooting. The smaller size makes them portable and easy to carry, making them ideal for travel and street photography.
    • 120 Medium Format: Medium format cameras are bulkier and less discreet. They may not be as practical for on-the-go shooting but excel in controlled environments where image quality and creative control are paramount.

    Choosing The Right Format

    • Photography Style: Consider your preferred genres. If you love street or documentary photography and value portability, 35mm might be the go-to choice. For portrait, landscape, and studio work, where image quality and depth of field control are crucial, medium format could be the better fit.
    • Budget: 35mm film and cameras are generally more affordable and widely available. Medium format equipment tends to be pricier, both in terms of cameras and film, but the investment can be justified for those prioritizing image quality.

    35mm vs. 120 side by side comparison

    In Conclusion

    At The Darkroom, we understand the unique characteristics of both 35mm and 120 medium format film. Our services, including traditional dip & dunk development, precise scanning options, and easy online ordering, cater to photographers with diverse preferences. Whether you choose the convenience of 35mm or the artistic possibilities of medium format, we are here to bring your film visions to life with uncompromising quality and expertise. Explore our three scan sizes to find the perfect balance between convenience and the highest resolution for your images.

    12 replies on “35mm vs. 120 – Which format is best for you?”

    In the world of film photography, 35mm and medium format 120 are the two most common formats. I do my essay for me here https://studyfy.com/ . As a traditional film developing, scanning and printing lab, we aim to help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each. Understanding these differences will help you make an informed choice based on your photography style and budget. At the end of this blog, we’ve also added a video by Caleb Kneuven on this topic that goes into these aspects in more detail.

    I have a collection of semi-professional photographs captured on 35mm black and white high-speed film during the years 1979 and 1980. They have been stored in refrigeration for the most part, totaling a couple dozen rolls. Unfortunately, I lack any additional documentation regarding their contents. Is there a way to have them developed, with the option to review the negatives before proceeding with any printing? Additionally, could you provide pricing details for various print sizes once I’ve made my selections? Some or all of these images may become part of a comprehensive collection, potentially featured on my blog or displayed elsewhere. I appreciate your assistance with this matter.

    I shoot 35mm black and white for street. I shoot color and Black and White medium format and 4×5 large format for architecture, landscape and still photography. My 35mm slope setup is Nikon F2, F3, F5 and S2. My medium format is Bronica SQ, Mamiya C330 and a Rolleiflex 2.8D. I use a Toyo 4×5 large format as well.

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    slope game

    geometry dash lite is primary goal is to make your way through a number of levels that are peppered with platforms, spikes, and other obstacles. The cube will move on its own if users do not tap the screen to help it overcome obstacles. Accuracy and timeliness are crucial.

    I just sold my mamiya 7ii. Here is my reasoning…

    Medium format has so much detail and depth that it actually can look digital at times. I figured that I could just use my digital camera and edit it to look like MF film. The results are actually wild.

    I find that 35mm gives off a more film like vibe personally. I used the funds from the sale of the Mamiya to get a Leica M7. Way more lens options, I prefer the look, and the cost is much less.

    Medium format film is awesome but again I just felt like I could achieve the same / very similar results from digital with much less hassle.

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