Please help, 35mm vs. 120mm content

This is a discussion on Please help, 35mm vs. 120mm content within the Film Photography Equipment forums, part of the FILM PHOTOGRAPHY FORUM category; Can someone clear up the confusion I have between medium format 120mm film and 35mm film? First off, is 35mm regarded as full format? I'm ...


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  1. #1

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    Can someone clear up the confusion I have between medium format 120mm film and 35mm film?

    First off, is 35mm regarded as full format? I'm just a little unclear as to what the actual differences are, other than physical size of the film itself obviously. Is 120mm better quality? does it allow for larger prints with less grain?

    Hope this is somewhat clear, any info helps.
    word.


  • #2
    Hub
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    catsanddogs,

    I'm assuming we are talking only about traditional FILM here.

    120 and the longer 220 rolls of traditional film are intended for use in medium format cameras -- like the Hasselblad that shoots and image that is 6 cm x 6 cm in size. Other medium format cameras offer different frame sizes including the popular 6 cm x 7 cm. (I say popular because 6x7 is proportional to the standard 8"x10" photographic print and is used by Pentax and Mamyia medium format cameras.)

    35mm film is available in 12, 24, and 36 exposure length rolls. (You probably know this already.) However, there have been -- over the years -- two frames sizes that could be put on 35mm film. The one everybody knows is called "full frame" has an actual image that 24mm x 36mm. It has been an industry standard since its introduction by Leica in the early 1900s. The other, and lesser known, format was called half frame 35mm. And it was just that. Half the image size and twice the number of frames per roll of film. Minox and their spy-like cameras used this format.

    To answer to your quality question: Yes, there's a major quality difference between 35mm and medium format image quality, resolution, detail, etc. The larger the film, the greater more image data it contains. Consequently, medium format normally produces images of greater quality. Numerically a Hasselblad negative, for example, contains 3.6 times as much surface area as a 35mm. And, yes, you can expect a 3.6x quality difference. It's the nature and science of the beast.

    -----------------------

    The recent confusion about 35mm format is brought to us via digital photography. Up until recently DSLRs were confined to a smaller sensor (smaller than the size of a traditional 35mm full frame) because of technology and manufacturing cost restrictions. Within the past year, you have seen the announcement of several DSLRs that contain a new sensor that is the same 24mm x 36mm surface area as traditional 35mm film. These new cameras are being called FULL FRAME 35mm DSLRs. Because of the increased data available from these larger sensors the megapixel size and image quality has also increased. But they ain't cheap. Nikon is one example with the introduction of the FX camera sensors. Canon and Sony have also introduced full frame cameras.

    I could go on for pages with the history of film and the quality characteristic of each format, but I think this should give you the background to answer your question.

    Hope this helps,

    Hub
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  • #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by catsanddogs View Post
    First off, is 35mm regarded as full format?
    That is what 35mm format DSLRs are called, but I never heard anyone call it that in the days of film. 4x5+ is large format, and 120/220 is medium format, and 16mm is miniature format, so I always assumed that 35mm was small format.

    Quote Originally Posted by catsanddogs View Post
    I'm just a little unclear as to what the actual differences are, other than physical size of the film itself obviously. Is 120mm better quality? does it allow for larger prints with less grain?
    The physical size is the main difference. It doesn't have to be enlarged as much to get to a specific print size. 35mm Tmax 100 and 120 Tmax 100 is the same film of the same quality, but you have to enlarge the 35mm neg a lot more than the medium format neg. The grain gets enlarged along with everything else. Some 120/220 films do have a textured base that helps with retouching.
    "I donít use an exposure meter. My personal advice is: Spend the money you would put into such an instrument for film. Buy yards of film, miles of it. Buy all the film you can get your hands on. And then experiment with it. That is the only way to be successful in photography. Test, try, experiment, feel your way along. It is the experience, not technique, which counts in camera work first of all. If you get the feel of photography, you can take fifteen pictures while one of your opponents is trying out his exposure meter." -Alfred Eisenstaedt


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