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Film Types, Formats, & Processes

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

A blog post by Darkroom 8 Team



Introduction


When you’re new to film photography, the technical information can be overwhelming at times. However, crucial information such as film types and formats should and must be understood by everyone as it helps you decide how you wish to start your film journey.


By knowing your preference in the types and formats, you can essentially narrow down your choices when purchasing film stocks or cameras rather than learning for the first time as you go. Here are some quick and easy explanations of film types, film formats, and film processing to help you out:



Types of Film


Color negative film - Images captured will appear as negative where colors are inverted. It is the most common type of film available and widely used for general usage. Usually offers a wider exposure latitude which is more user-friendly for newcomers.

Black & white film - Images captured on black & white film will appear as negative as well. There are exceptions such as Agfa Scala which was the only black & white reversal film in the world. Black & white film has average exposure latitude and requires much more accurate exposure metering.


Slide film - Unlike color negative film, the images captured will appear as positive hence it is also known as reversal film. It has vibrant colors, contrast, sharpness, and very fine grain. Slide film was the professional’s go-to-choice in the past especially for National Geographic photographers who mainly used Ektachrome and the now discontinued Kodachrome.


Motion film - As the name suggests, motion film stock was originally designed for filmmakers. It has a remjet layer that is located at the bottom of the layer. Despite being intended to make movies with motion film stock, it is possible to bulk roll motion film and use it for film photography.



Film Formats


35mm/135 - This is the most commonly-used format by the general market thanks to its wide availability and affordability. 35mm is often considered small-format as it produces images that are just 36x24 mm in size.


Medium format - The middle ground between 35mm and large format, hence the name “medium format”. Uses 120 and 220 film that consist of backing paper and plastic spool. Produces sharper images while having significantly less exposures per roll as compared to 35mm. There are various sizes in medium format and each size typically has a different amount of exposures.


6x4.5 - 15/16 exposures

6x6 - 12 exposures

6x7 - 10 exposures

6x8 - 9 exposures

6x9 - 8 exposures

6x12 - 6 exposures


Large format - In large format, a single frame is 4x5 inches or larger. Film this size is generally referred to and used as individual sheets, rather than rolls as in smaller formats. Large format cameras are bulky hence it is typically set up on a tripod due to the weight and delicate shooting process. The least common format because of the heftier price to shoot and purchase equipment.






Film Processing

Basically users can find out the type of film processing of the roll on the film box or cartridge.


C-41 - C41 is a color negative film process. Color negative film requires this process and it’s the most common one out there.

B&W - It has a different developing process using specific chemicals that are different from color films. Black & white film usually consists of one layer of light sensitive emulsion that only reacts to light. Typically the process is hand processed.


ECN-2 - Motion film stocks require ECN-2 process instead of the usual C-41 process. While the processes may be similar, the main difference is that ECN-2 process is able to remove the remjet layer while the C-41 process does not have a step to do so.


E-6 - The number ‘6’ indicates that the development process consists of 6 baths which include developer, stop, and fixer. This process is only used on slide film/reversal film.


Cross Processing - Color slide films can be cross-processed in C-41 chemicals to produce negatives. This process drastically changes the color, contrast, and saturation of the film. Typically cross process is only encouraged if the slide film has been shot and expired for a very long time.



Conclusion


With this information in mind, you can evaluate and decide which one suits you best. Always remember that you can start off with any format or film type as there is no right or wrong way to do so. Traditionally most of the newcomers start off with something small like 35mm but if you wish to do the opposite and dive into large format first then power to you!




2 Comments


E-6 is the 6th iteration of the reversal development process, up to E-3 it was required to expose the film to light after the first developer stage to reverse the image colours. from E-4 on the reversal process was carried out chemically.


E-6 processes are available in both 3 and 6 bath systems. Technically they are 4 and 7 bath as a final stabilisation is required after processing. 6 bath systems are used professionally where each bath can be replenished when required, making it commercially more economical. 3 bath systems incorporate all of the same 6 baths into 3. Most non professional photographers use the 3 bath kits but some do use the 6 bath kits.


3 bath kits are…

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To explain it better, I would suggest to include some photos for example

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