Guide To Negative Film & Camera Formats

Guide To Negative Film & Camera Formats

Film is a light-sensitive material that records images when exposed to light. The first film stocks were invented in the 1890s and used in still camera photography. In the early 1900s, film stock was developed for motion pictures and it has been continually improved and refined ever since.

There are many different types of film negatives and each type has its own distinct characteristics. Knowing what kind of negatives you have helps you understand how they can be used, developed, or preserved, depending on your specific aims.

35mm Film

In 1889, Thomas Edison was experimenting with motion pictures and needed long rolls of film, 35 millimeters wide, with holes perforated on the edges so the footage could be driven by sprocket wheels. He contacted George Eastman and Kodak initially produced the film on a limited basis. Soon, 35mm film became the standard format for motion pictures.

A few years later, small still cameras were manufactured to use this format. In 1934, cartridges were introduced for daylight loading and given the designation of 135. This innovation caused 35mm to become the most popular format of all time and still popular today.

116 & 616 Film

The 116 format dates back to 1899 and was used in early Kodak box and folding cameras. The negatives were big—at 2.5 x 4.5 inches, six frames on a roll. In 1932, Kodak introduced 616 film. This has a slightly slimmer spool to fit more compact cameras. Both films were discontinued in 1984.

127 Film

46mm wide, this format was smaller than 120 film. It was introduced in 1912 along with the “Vest Pocket Kodak “ folding camera, smaller than most 35mm cameras of today. Depending on the camera, the image would be a square or rectangular negative.

127 film gained in popularity through the 1940’s and 1950’s with the introduction of inexpensive Brownie cameras and continued in wide use until the introduction of the 126 cartridge cameras in the 1960’s. Kodak stopped producing 127 film in 1995.

828 Film

Introduced in 1935, this was unperforated 35mm film, wound on a spool with a paper backing. It was used with Kodak’s Bantam and Pony series, marketed as inexpensive snapshot cameras.

120 Roll Film

120 film was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1901 for the inexpensive Brownie Box cameras. Initially marketed to consumers for snapshots, it later became the preferred format for professionals. At 2 ¼ inches wide, the negatives are larger than 35mm, delivering higher resolution and sharpness.  

620 Roll Film

This is essentially 120 film on a smaller spool for smaller consumer cameras. Introduced by Kodak in 1932 and discontinued in 1995.

120 Professional Film

120 film--also known as medium format--is still a popular format for professionals. After World War 2, high-quality film stocks were produced strictly for pro photographers, widely used for portraits, wedding, and commercial photography.

126 or Instamatic Film

In 1963 Kodak introduced Instamatic cameras that used a plastic cartridge for easy drop-in film loading. The cameras were typically “point and shoot” and simple to use. The image measured 26mm square. The film was available for prints and slides, both color and black & white. The 126 format became popular and brought color photography to the mass consumer market.

110 or Pocket Instamatic Film

Introduced in 1972, 110 is a cartridge loading film, similar to 126, but only 16mm wide. The format became immediately popular since the cameras were small; hence the name Pocket Instamatic. Cartridges were loaded for 24 exposures with various film types including color negative, black & white, and slide films.   Due to the small film area, enlargements from 110 negatives are grainy and not very sharp.

APS - Advantix Film

The Advanced Photo System (or APS) was introduced in 1996 as a modern replacement for the 110 format. The format was targeted to the broad consumer market for “point and shoot” cameras. The film is housed in a cartridge and the camera handles the loading and rewinding automatically. Once the film was processed, the negatives were reloaded into the cartridge for safe storage. The film width is 24 millimeters and was available in 40, 25, and 15 exposures.

Kodak Disc Film

Kodak introduced the disc film format in 1982; a flat circle of film with 15 exposures arranged around the edge. With an extremely small image area, enlargements are not sharp and tend to be grainy. Disc film went out of production by 1999.    

Is That Old Camera Worth Anything?

Customers often ask if their old Kodak camera has any serious value. Consider that Eastman Kodak followed the razor/razor blade business model; millions of cameras were sold near cost--or below cost--so Kodak could sell more rolls of film. The big profits were made in manufacturing film and photo processing. By the 1920s, Kodak founder George Eastman became the sixth wealthiest man in America--not bad for a guy who quit school at the age of 14.

What about that old Brownie camera in your attic? Odds are, it's only worth a few dollars. So put it on a bookshelf and show it off; it's a little bit of history and a conversation piece.

Can My Photo Negatives Be Preserved?

The digital age has made it possible to convert your aging negatives into digital files that will stand the test of time. For years, Nostalgic Media has been preserving aging family film and photo memories. We make it easy to convert your negatives to digital files that will last for generations. By doing so, you will ensure your family's legacy lives on and your priceless negatives are no longer susceptible to irreversible physical damage. It has never been easier to future-proof all your aging photographs and films!