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Resources for Film Photography

by Philip Greenspun, September 2006 (updated April 2007)

Botaniska Tradgarden.  Visby, Gotland.

The best digital cameras, notably the top-of-the-line full-frame Canon digital SLRs and digital backs for medium- and large-format cameras, are generally better quality than film. Why use film then? Film is inherently archival. You don't have to become an expert computer system administrator to make sure that your original image is preserved; you just have to put it in an acid-free folder in a filing cabinet. Film cameras are ridiculously cheap; you can get a complete 4x5" view camera outfit for $500 that will make negatives large enough to support a wall-size enlargement. If you're only going to take a handful of pictures every month, a film camera might be a lot cheaper and easier than a state-of-the-art digital camera plus the computer systems necessary to support it.

photo.net was started in 1993 and consequently we have a full range of articles relating to film photography.

Using a Film Camera That You Already Own

General Camera-Shopping


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Thirty-five millimeter, the most popular film size, was derived from movie film around 1900. The frame size of 24x36mm was standardized by Leica. With advances in chemistry and lens design, 35mm became good enough for magazine photojournalism by the end of the 20th Century, but it was still never that good and the best digital cameras offer considerably higher image quality than 35mm film.


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Medium Format

Medium format cameras use 120 and 220 film ("rollfilm") and produce a negative approximately four times the size of a 35mm negative. A common medium format camera is the Hasselblad, which creates square negatives 6x6cm in size. If you're interested in a film camera that can seriously challenge the best digitals, this is where to start.


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  • Medium Format -  for 645, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 6x12, 6x17 and similar medium format roll film cameras and equipment.

Large Format (View Cameras)

View cameras come in three primary sizes: 4x5", 5x7", and 8x10". The latter is what Edward Weston used for many of his most famous photographs, resulting in negatives nearly the size of a standard sheet of paper and in Weston saying "If it is more than 500 feet from the car, it is not photogenic".


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Alternative Cameras

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