Types Of Camera Films and Formats: A Complete Guide

Types Of Camera Films and Formats: A Complete Guide

Film photography is making a comeback. Despite the ubiquity of digital cameras, there's something about shooting on film that you just can't replicate. And while some may think it's all just a matter of nostalgia, that's not entirely true; film still has its own unique look and feel that digital can't touch.

If you're new to film photography or want to expand your knowledge, this guide is for you! We'll discuss the different types of camera films and formats available today. So let's get started!

Choosing Film Type And Format

Photographic film is a flexible, transparent strip of cellulose coated with a light-sensitive emulsion used to create photographs or motion pictures. Before ordering film left, right, and center, you must know which type or format you’ll need. Then, open your browser; you’ll be ready to order after answering these few questions. 

  • What camera are you using? 
  • What shooting style do you prefer?
  • Do you want to print your photos or view them on a screen?
  • How much money do you want to spend?

There are two main types of camera film: color and black and white. Within those categories, there are multiple formats to choose from. So let's take a closer look at each one. 

35mm color film

Color Film

Color film is the most popular type of film for general photography. It's easy to use and can be processed at any standard photo lab. Plus, it comes in various styles to suit your needs.

The three most common types of color film are negative, slide, and instant. Negative film is by far the most popular; it can be printed or viewed on a screen once scanned, and it's easy to find. Slide film produces high-quality images but is more expensive and less versatile than negative film.

Negative Film

Negative film is the most popular type of color film. It's because it's easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and can be printed or viewed on a screen. Plus, negative film comes in various speeds (ASA/ISO), so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. High ISO values mean the film is more sensitive to light.

Slide Film

Slide film is less popular than negative film but can produce higher-quality images. Slide film is more expensive and less versatile than negative film, but it's still a good option for those who want the best image quality. Getting your exposure spot on is critical when shooting slide film.

Black and White Film

Black and white film is less popular than color film, but it still has its unique look and feel. You can process B&W film at most standard photo labs, but it's more expensive than color film.

Negative black and white films are the most popular; they can be printed or viewed on a screen, and they are easy to find. Slide black and white film produce high-quality images, but it's more expensive and less versatile than negative film. They are also quite rare on the market these days.

Choosing the correct type of camera film is an important decision. There are various factors to consider, including cost, quality, versatility, and availability. But ultimately, the best way to choose is by trying.

Strands of camera film

Common Film Formats and Sizes

Now that you know the different frame types, it's time to choose a format. The most common film formats are 35mm, 120, and 4x5.

35mm Film

35mm film is the most popular format for general photography. This is because it's small and lightweight, making it easy to carry around. As a result, 35mm film is the format most often processed at Reformed Film Lab.

110 Film:

A small cartridge film format. Lomography still produces this type of film. We do not develop or scan this film. We recommend Boutique Film Lab in Tennessee for processing this format. 

120 Film (Medium Format)

120 film is larger than 35mm film, but it's still relatively small and lightweight. As a result, 120 film produces higher-quality images than 35mm film.

Common 120 format cameras shoot in 6x4.5 format, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, and larger. Many professional photographers choose this format for a different depth of field experience and finer grain on their digital scans. Reformed Film Lab often processes this format.

Large Format Film (4x5, 8x10, or larger)

This film is for large format cameras that shoot sheet film. The film is individually loaded and shot one image at a time.

8x10 film is the largest of the three standard formats. It's bulky and difficult to carry around, but it produces the highest-quality images. Unfortunately, 8x10 film is the most expensive and least versatile of the formats.

Large format film is expensive and can be difficult to find, but it produces high-quality images and is often used by those looking for the highest image quality. If you want this format processed, head on to Northeast Photographic.

Instant Film (Polaroid & Fuji Instax)

Polaroid and Fuji Instax are the two most popular types of instant film. Polaroid film is more expensive but produces that classic instant film look. Fuji Instax is less costly and depending on the camera you are using, produces better contrast and more accurate color than Polaroid film.

Instant film is a fun and unique way to take photos. It’s perfect for parties, events, or anytime you want to capture a moment in time.

Film camera with various film types.

Processing Designations

C-41 (color film): The most widely used color negative film developing procedure. Color film has many layers of light-sensitive emulsion, each sensitive to a different wavelength. 

We process and scan (invert) this film, after which we send the digital files to customers. We can also print this format. 

B/W: Black and white film are processed differently from the color film. The value (or density) of light is the only thing that affects the black and white film, not the color. We process and scan B&W film, after which we send the digital images to the client and can print it out. 

E-6 (Slide Film): The chemical process used to develop slide film. E-6 film has many layers of light-sensitive emulsion. Next, the film is processed and scanned (not inverted as it’s a positive film. You can see the image directly on the film itself once processed). Finally, digital scans are emailed and sent to customers, and you can make prints.

Cross processing: Processing utilizing a chemical process different than the one intended for the film. To enhance contrast and generate random color changes, E6 film in C-41 chemistry is commonly processed using this method.

Kodak Gold film on window sill.

Your One-Stop Film Shop

So, there you have it—a comprehensive guide to the different types of camera films and formats. If you’re looking for a lab to develop your film correctly, Reformed Film Lab has got you covered. We offer high-quality processing and scanning services, so your photos will look great whether you decide to print them or upload them online. So, what kind of film will you try shooting next?


  • Mike Sturgeon

    Great article, I’ve been shooting film for over 50 years and I was interested to know about your cross processing. I used to do that back in the day but I didn’t think that a pro lab would offer that and I’m wondering about the results.


  • Mike Sturgeon

    Great article, I’ve been shooting film for over 50 years and I was interested to know about your cross processing. I used to do that back in the day but I didn’t think that a pro lab would offer that and I’m wondering about the results.


  • Steve

    I am not new to film photography, having started a life of photography in the seventies when film was the only medium there was. I use digital and film and enjoy both and appreciated their differences. I have no problem creating a high quality negative but often find the scans don’t do the negative justice. Quality varies from lab to lab and doing it yourself can be very expensive if you want the best and learning to produce the best takes time. When you find a lab that does very good scans stick with them.

  • Hector del Valle

    I own the following film cameras, Canon ftb, Canon Ae-1, Canon A-1 and Yashica 124G 2 1/4 medium format camera. I love using film. But since the fall of Kodak, not many vendors sells them. The fault of digital is way to expensive, and the lenses can cost more than the camera itself. It’s unfair and unjust to force us film photographer’s to such an medium like this. I looked at my gear and the cost to maintain my uniqueness of my gear. I’m in a state of uneveness because of this.

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