Two primary types of cameras use 35mm film: SLR (Single Lens Reflex)/DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) and point-and-shoot cameras. For this discussion, we'll focus on the film SLRs, a staple for many photographers in their day-to-day shooting.
Think back to the moment your interest in photography started. Perhaps you began capturing the world with a smartphone, but soon, that spark grew more significant, and you craved the depth and control of a more capable camera.
You scoured the internet, quizzed friends, made wish lists for Santa, or browsed local thrift stores, all searching for the perfect first camera. Chances are — you might have landed on an SLR or DSLR. While there's a distinction between digital and film, we'll let's hone in on traditional film SLRs.
The single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, a transformative innovation in photography, was first developed in 1861. This system uses a mirror and prism setup that allows photographers to view directly through the lens, ensuring that what you see is precisely what you capture. The term "35mm" denotes traditional SLRs' film width — a format size synonymous with most photography types.
The trailblazing SLR using 35mm film was the Kine Exakta, which debuted in Dresden, Germany, in 1936. This camera revolutionized photography, marrying the convenience of 35mm film with the precision of through-the-lens viewing.
Regarding portability, 35mm SLR cameras are known for their compact, lightweight design, making them a favorite for photographers on the move. Their versatility shines with various interchangeable lenses, allowing for creative flexibility. These cameras are more affordable and widely available compared to their medium-format counterparts.
The 35mm film stock variety rivals 120, offering a rich palette of options. Additionally, 35mm film typically allows for up to 36 exposures per roll —contrast this with medium format's 10 to 16 shots, and it's clear why 35mm is a popular choice for many. The trade-off? A smaller film size means less detail and resolution, which is most noticeable when enlarging images.
In manual control, both medium format and 35mm SLRs allow photographers to adjust shutter speed, aperture, lens focus, and exposure.
However, when you step into the world of 35mm point-and-shoot cameras, you'll find that these manual adjustments are limited, catering to ease of use and convenience.