Photographers choosing to shoot with hand-held cameras using film have two main, film formats to choose. The 35mm film format is the more popular film format in the world. It is a very flexible format in which to work. It was first introduced by Kodak in 1934. It can be found in just about any camera shop, or even convenience store, almost anywhere in the world.
There are many varieties of 35mm film as well. It is available in both color and black and white formats. Each type of film has slightly different visual characteristics, and many photographers have a favorite type of film that they prefer for the color representation or degree of clarity it provides. It is also available in different “ISO” levels, which defines the varying degree that the film is sensitive to light.
Another advantage to 35mm film is that is very small and portable. This means that the cameras that take 35mm film are smaller as well. This is probably the main reason that the format rose to such popularity, it allowed for the widespread use of small, portable, lightweight cameras that were easy to hold and for traveling. Black and white 35mm film can be processed quite easily by hand, or sent to a lab for processing. The film negative can then be scanned, or manually printed using an enlarger. Color negative film must be processed by a lab, lab and can then be printed, using an enlarger, or scanned.
120 film is a less popular format than 35mm, but it is technically a “superior” film to use. The increase size of the film negative allows for much more resolution and detail.
120 film is harder to find, and you probably won’t find it at the corner store. The cameras that use 120 film are usually quite a bit larger than their 35mm cousins, and the more professional models can be heavy and even a little unwieldy.
120 film also became more popular in the sub-genre of toy cameras. These are cheap cameras that are technically poor, but photographers use the low-fidelity look to gain a certain aesthetic effect.
Another important consideration for the film market is sustainability. With the drastic increase in digital photography, film has been put the way side with manufacturers focusing nearly all of their attention on digital cameras. Some film formats might not be around forever!
Don’t forget The Darkroom can develop any type of film.