Silverprint Guide to Film Formats

Film comes in different sizes, or “formats”; small, medium and large, which relates not only to the dimensions of the image, but also to the way the film is handled. Below shows a comparison of image size:

For small format, we’re now mainly talking about 35mm film with perforations down both sides,  the same as is used for commercial cine film production. 35mm film is  supplied in light tight cassettes, or you can save a bit of money by getting bulk rolls and loading the cassettes yourself. We sell a range of black and white, colour negative and transparency 35mm film in our shop.

Medium format takes in all the films that come on spools – at one time this covered lots of different film widths, but this is now down to ‘120‘, which is about 7cm wide. So the frame size is always 6cm wide by whatever aspect ratio your camera uses; the ordinary square shooter gives 12 pictures to a roll, 6x9cm will yield 8 pictures, 6x7cm will give you 10 images, and 6×4.5 is a compact format that squeezes 16 pictures out of a roll.

Whatever the size, it will be quite a large negative, capable of taking a good degree of enlargement. We have a good selection of 120 film in black & white, colour negative and transparency, available to buy in our shop.

When we say large format, we’re are talking about single sheets of cut film. While sheets can be as small as 6x9cm, generally it implies sizes of 5×4″ upwards, the price going up with the size. The benefits are a further improvement in tonal smoothness and sharpness of detail. The downside is loss of camera mobility, as you generally need to work with the camera on a solid support; also the speed of works slows down, as viewing the image before exposure is upside down on a ground-glass screen. Another reason why large format film use is constant ,and even expanding, is the massive capacity for fine detail, which even high end digital camera systems cannot compete with.

At the moment our selection of large format film includes:
Ilford Film – Most films available in 5×4 and 8×10, additionally once a year Ilford does a special Ultra Large Film run when you can pre-order FP4 and HP5 in a variety of exotic sizes. We take orders for it around May-June, for the film to be delivered to you in August. 

Kodak Film – All B&W films are available in 5×4. In colour Ektar 100 and Portra 160 are both available in 5×4, with Portra 400 available in both in 5×4″ and 8×10″.

Fuji Film– Colour negative PRO 160NS is available in 5×4, with tranparency film Velvia 100 and Provia 100F in 5×4″ and 8×10″.

Foma Film – Fomapan 100 and Fomapan 200 come in 5×4″, 5×7″ and 8×10″ and is a brilliant economical solution for large format shooters.