If you're shooting 120 film, odds are you are a dedicated analog photographer. We know you can't get it around every corner, but we've got you with a great selection from the O.G. brands of Kodak and Fuji to the new kids on the block like Lomography and Film Photography Project. Check our our beginner's master guide to film photography in case you need a refresh.
Learn More About 120 Film
Kodak launched 120 film, a kind of medium format film, at the turn of the twentieth century. It was used by amateurs and professionals alike all over the world at the time. Even with the recent success of the Holga, 120 film is still a very common medium format film.
It was the most popular format for amateur photographers and cameras for beginners, such as box cameras. Because of the success of 35mm, 120 medium format films became a professional format.
Depending on the camera and film masks you use, 120 film normally comes wrapped around a plastic spool and yields 12 or 16 images. While the words "120 film" and "medium format film" are commonly used nowadays, it is important to note that the film is not 120mm.
Today, digital cameras have mostly replaced film cameras, and film photographers are few and far between. However, there is still a small group of creative people who are dedicated to the 120 film format. The retro trend has grown stronger in the last decade as a result of society's increasing digitalization. Analog film photography has resurfaced in popularity. Another factor contributing to the growing popularity of 120 film is the enormous success of Lomography, an Austrian company that sells re-creations of vintage cameras and analog photography equipment.
Let's go over what 120mm film is and how it can be used, then point you (and your camera) in the right direction to get your hands on some.
Why 120 film?
The main reason people shoot 120 film is that it produces a larger negative, which has a few significant benefits.
- Detail. A larger negative means more data captured by the camera and the film. This will also translate to larger files if you choose to scan your negatives: personally, our team has a few 100MB files from high-quality scans. Also because you have a larger picture you can crop the image more aggressively without losing detail versus a 35mm picture at the same ratio - or produce larger prints without compromising detail or resolution
- Grain. Technically you tend to get the same amount of grain per square inch as in other formats - but because the total image data captured is much greater, this grain is less noticeable than in 35mm or similar. In other words, the image: grain ratio is much higher in medium format - with the practical implication that you can use higher ISO films without the image being as visibly affected by grain
Another interesting thing is that the lens's (lens) focal length is not being the same: (and) which is also frustrating because the larger frame's format causes them to be slightly misaligned. Many lenses for 35mm cameras do not work well on medium-format cameras because they have different flange focal lengths or different formats, so don't assume that they would have to. focal length is greater on a 6x4.5 format camera than a standard or APS-C; you will need an 80mm lens to achieve this kind of picture. Also, the medium format camera would benefit for portraits but it is generally less useful for other photographic work, because of its shallower depth of field. Lenses that are focal length will vary when using a 6x6 size film camera, so an 82mm will be approximately right.
Let’s Talk Pics
Need medium format roll recommendations? See a few of our best sellers.
Kodak Professional Portra 160
Kodak Professional Portra 160, you know that it’s a color negative film; meaning, it should have a decent amount of versatility within various lighting conditions. You’ll have lots of detail shine through highlights and even a fair amount from the shadows since it’s not quite in contrast to others on this list. It does spectacular with skin undertones. Those with green undertones are bound to look neutral, while folks with a more red undertone will look more natural.
Best For: Photographers needing a colorful alternative to brighter lighting conditions than the Portra 400 or 800.
Kodak Professional Portra 400
The Kodak Professional Portra 400 has extraordinarily warm tones, very good exposure balance, and while its grain is more noticeable it’s still very pleasant looking and adds an extra taste of texture. The high ISO makes photography ideal for lower light shooting, perfect for reception dinners, moody portraits, and blue hour landscapes.
Best For: This film stock is the best for those looking to create photos with Portra 400’s color profile, but with a higher ISO for low light compatibility.
Kodak Ektar 100
Kodak Professional Ektar 100 is a fantastically vibrant film stock that overdramatized colors and hues to seem larger than life, yet still keeps the integrity of the photo. With colorful blues in the skies and crisp detail due to the stocks’ low ISO — Ektar provides a colorway and contrast line that distinguishes itself from the other stocks.
Best For: Photographers looking for a way to set their images apart with a more unique, vibrant colorway.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The Difference Between 35mm and 120 Film Formats
35mm and 120-sized (or medium-format) film are two separate kinds of cameras with two distinctly different purposes. It is smaller, as a rule, and as a result, and is usually less costly as compared to traditional film; thus, you can bring it with you on trips and shoot high-quality photos, but it has a lower storage capacity. Since the 120 film format was chosen, each roll of the film now contains just 16 or fewer photos instead of the normal 36, and a sheet must be loaded by four spools, fewer photos must be reloaded. Not everybody is willing to spend the time and money necessary to apply the additional 120 films to their camera. However, the additional products may be worthwhile.
How much does medium format film cost?
The price starts at $7.89, but we are committed to going beyond a price tag and offering the best features to carry your photo gear in one place.
If you are intrigued about this beautiful format and need help finding out which would be the best film format or type of film for your needs, reach out to one of our expert Gear Guides to help you choose the best film to find the best film for your photos.