Film for photography is essentially a celluloid base covered with a photographic emulsion and is used to create negatives or transparencies to be stored in a cartridge, roll, or cassette.
Negatives are the inverse of positive images, wherein blacks appear white and whites appear black. Negative film can be in color or black and white.
Though film has become popular again in photography, modern versions of film cameras have been updated with upgraded features. Still, many people have old film negatives stores from cameras of the past.
Old Film Negatives
Negative film formats, especially old negative film formats, vary depending on the size of the negatives and the type of camera from which they came. People commonly choose to scan film negatives to digital to preserve and store them in a safer, more convenient way.
If you’re not sure which old negative format you have, read on. You can identify what type of film negatives you have by examining the size and appearance of your negatives.
In general, the film for 35mm photographic cameras (the most common) comes in long and narrow strips of chemical-coated plastic. Film for larger cameras could be as large as a full sheet of paper, so it’s not too difficult to differentiate between some of the more common film negative sizes.
Introduced in 1901, 120 medium format contains a range of frame sizes: 6×4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x8cm, and 6x9cm. The most common of these sizes is the 6x6cm size, which has a frame size of 56mm x 56mm. This format is 60mm wide, and the frame number can be found printed at either the top or the bottom.
220 and 620 formats are similar to 120, but they allow for more exposures per roll, as 220 film is double the length of 120 film. 620 film is also the same as 120 film, but the core of the spool and the end flanges are smaller.
Introduced in 1912, 127 film is 46mm wide, between the 35mm and 120 “medium format.” The viewable area of 127 negative film is about 40mm x 40mm.
This film format is still in production as a niche format, though Kodak stopped producing it in 1995.
135 Standard 35mm Film
Introduced in 1934, the standard 35mm filmstrip contains four, 24mm x 36mm frames. 35mm film format is the most commonly used format for film photography. When the film gets developed, it comes as a long strip of small negative images, often cut into sections for easier handling.
126 “Instamatic” Film
Introduced in 1963, the 126 film cartridge film is 35mm wide, and the image size is 28 x 28mm. The viewable area of 126 negative film is about 26.5mm x 26.5mm.
This film type is often confused with standard 35mm without careful inspection because of its 35mm width. The frame number for this format is printed at the bottom of the frame.
Introduced in 1972, 110 film is a cartridge-based film format that is 16mm wide. It was created as a miniature version of the early 126 film format. Each frame is 13mm x 17mm. When you look at this type of film, you’ll note that the film as continuous backing paper.
Introduced in 1982, disc film was aimed at the consumer market as a still-photography format that has since been discontinued.
The film comes as a flat disc housed within a plastic cartridge. Each disc holds fifteen 10mm x 8mm exposures, which are arranged around the outside of the disc.
Disc film allowed for cameras to be thinner and more compact than other cameras.
The image on the negative is only 10mm x 8mm, which leads to poor definition and grainy images not suitable for printing.
APS (short for Advanced Photo System) films are popular formats to find from the 1990s in the ‘point and shoot’ style cameras. Most APS film negatives are in color, as the slide (transparency) and black and white film became discontinued shortly after it was introduced in the APS format.
APS films are 24mm wide, compact, and cartridge-based. They allow for three image formats, which include panoramic. Professional and advanced amateur photographers did not use APS formats much because of the small film area (about 50% of 35mm film) that does not produce large, detailed photo prints.
APS film cartridges each contain a stamped six-digit identification number, and prints from each specific cartridge will usually have that number printed on the back with the date and time information from the image. When negatives are returned to the user, they are in the original cartridge, so people usually do not actually see the negatives.
Whatever format of old film negatives you have, you can visit a professional media conversion company like Current Pixel to receive help not only identifying your negative film format but also scanning your old negatives to digital files, DVDs, or CDs to keep them safe for years to come.
By scanning your old film negatives, you can enjoy an easier way to view your old photos while storing them in such a way that will allow future generations to view them.
Call or visit Current Pixel today to find out how you can scan your old film negatives to digital, or learn more about the company’s photo and negative scanning services.
I have negatives that are 2 and 3/8″ wide (square). What type of film is this?
Hi Richard – This would be the 120 film format. It is part of a group of negative film formats referred to as medium format film. We digitize this film type routinely, and are clients are very happy with our results. Let us know if we can help you out.
Hi, I have some negatives that measure 3.25×2.25.,
What film would tis be
Hi Bob – We sent a detailed message to your email address.
Hello I have 75 discs of films from around 1988. Can you develop them for me. How much do you charge per disc. I have been looking for some time for someone to develop them for me. Is there a machine you show the discs through?
Hi Margaret – We have sent you a email to answer your questions.
I have a mixture of old black and white negatives and instamatic negatives. Can you digitize them on to a CD? They are of various quality and I would print them myself. How do I package them to send to you and do I get an estimate of the cost afte you receive them? Thank you
Hi Kris – We’ve sent a detailed reply to you via email.
Hi, I have a couple of unusual mid-century sizes. One is 64cm x 42cm / 2 1/2″ x 1 5/8″ (approx). Another is 80mm x 56mm / 3 1/4″ x 2 1/4″. Lastly, a 110mm x 67mm / 4 1/4″ x 2 5/8″. All B&W. Trying to sort out the best system for negative scanning (actually, negative shooting). Thanks.
Sorry, first one is mm, not cm. That would be a big neg. 🙂
Hi Glenn – We sent you a detailed email regarding this.
4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inch negatives, from about the 1950s
Hi Dede – We emailed you a detailed response.
Hello there, I have just become the owner of a very large box of black and white negatives from I believe the early 50s. The owner was a professional photographer and these are all older residents of the small town and county that I live in. I would like to try to start finding families to get them back to them. I have already scanned hundreds of printed images and found a bunch just from them.
These negatives measure right at a 5X7 size. slightly shy of those measurements. I would like to be able to digitize them, but not sure what format they are or what system to try and use.
Hi Todd – We sent you a detailed email addressing your comments.
What film size produces negatives containing 2 pictures to a strip, each picture measuring approximately 2.5″ wide and 1 7/8″ tall?
Hi Jason – This is most likely a 120/medium format negative. Contact us if you’d like to get them digitized to view on your modern devices, make photo prints, etc.