120 vs. 220 Film: Main Differences

120 vs 220 Film: Main Differences

120 film is a type of medium format roll film. It is widely used in still photography. It was released by the famous photography brand Kodak in 1901. It had to be a response to the popularity of larger formats offered by competitors [1].

The number “120” refers to the width of the film in millimeters. The film is wound on a spool that allows it to be used in both sheet-fed and roll-film cameras. In Europe, these dimensions are known as the “6 cm format”. Lomography sells rebranded 120 films from other manufacturers under its own name.

220 film is also a type of medium format roll film, but it was introduced later, in 1965. It offers twice the number of exposures as 120 films [2].

The number “220” refers to the width of the film in millimeters. The term “medium format” can refer to either the 220 film size or the corresponding negative size. Negatives using 220 films are 56 mm wide by 54 mm tall. It is a standard ratio for most consumer snapshot cameras is 4 perforations per frame. It results in an aspect ratio of approximately three-to-two.

In terms of cost, 120 films are pricier than 220 films. This happens because the 120 film type has been around for longer and there is more demand for this particular format.

120 Film: Key Facts

120 Film: Key Facts

In terms of quality, 120 films are considered to be better than 220 films. 120 films typically produce larger negatives, which results in a slightly better image quality.

If you’re just starting out with medium format photography, then 120 film might be the best option for you. This is because it’s more affordable and easier to find.

Due to the fact that the film plane is larger on medium format cameras, you have more area to isolate your subject in a relatively thin slice of focus. In such a way you may blur the foreground/background and make the photo appear almost 3D [4].

Medium format is best suited for professional uses, and it’s almost a must-have for anyone who wants to use film in their professional workflow (weddings, portraits, etc.).

However, even if you’re not a professional photographer, the medium format can still be a great way to get into film photography. The initial investment might be higher, but the results are definitely worth it!

120 mm film is still accessible for sale in a range of film stocks. And even despite the fact that it has been discontinued. It may be acquired online and from camera dealers with ease.

120 film is still quite popular today. It happened due to the recent success of the Holga camera with 120 film. 

Still, photographs were most commonly shot on 120 films during this decade, although box cameras and other inexpensive photographic equipment were used as well. As a result of the popularity of 35mm film, 120 films became widespread among professional photographers as a medium for recording images [5].

120 Film: Key Facts

Despite being discontinued, 120 mm film is still available in a range of film stocks. It’s great for professional uses, but it can also be a lot of fun for amateurs! 

The main advantage of 220 film is that it provides twice the number of exposures as 120 film. In other words, you can get twice as many photos out of a single roll!

Another advantage of 220 film is that it’s slightly cheaper than 120 film.

220 Film: Key Facts

The 220 film offers the same width as the 120 film type. However, it offers the double length (144 cm) for this media format.

Also, keep in mind that it has no backing paper behind the film like there was in 120 [6].

Some professional cameras may use both 120 and 220 films. These devices have a 2-position pressure plate adjustment. Look for various switches on your device to change the format, however, it is not always possible. Some modern types of photo cameras will require distinct film backs to handle the various film types in different situations [7].

It was designed for professional photographers. With a 220 roll, they would be able to take double the amount of photographs before having to replace the film, as opposed to a roll of 120 [8].

Otherwise, 220 mm film should be used with “newer” devices – more professional cameras that can shoot in different conditions.

This film stock is more prone to fogged edges if it isn’t laminated. Another disadvantage is that finding a lab that will develop the film may be difficult or expensive.

There was a brief time when 220 film was no longer accessible.

220 Film: Key Facts

Despite its disadvantages, 220 film remains a popular choice for many photographers. Its main advantage is that it provides twice the number of exposures as 120 film, which is great for anyone who takes a lot of pictures or who doesn’t want to waste time reloading their camera.

If you’re looking for a medium format film that will give you great results without breaking the bank, then 220 film is definitely the way to go!

120 and 220 Films: The Camera Compatibility

Both film types may be used on smaller-format cameras with replaceable film backs (including the Mamiya RB67).

On Hasselblad cameras, the 120 and 220 film backs are not interchangeable because the 220 back is slightly larger to allow for double-length film.

While some Holga cameras can be modified to use both types of film, most cannot. The Diana F+ camera can also use both types of film with its special “half-frame” mask.

Major Differences Between 220mm and 120mm Films

So, what are the main differences between these two types of film? Let’s take a closer look:

Size

The first difference between 120 and 220 films is size. 120 film is 60mm wide, while 220 film is 84mm wide. This means that images on 220 films will be slightly larger than those on 120 films.

Size

Number of Exposures

As mentioned before, 120 films offer 12 exposures per roll, while 220 films offer 24. This makes 220 films ideal for situations where you’ll be taking multiple pictures, such as events or weddings.

Cost

Another difference between these two types of film is cost. 120 films typically cost more than 220 films. This is because 120 films are more popular and in demand.

Availability

120 films are more widely available than 220 films. This is due to the fact that they have been around for longer and are more popular. You should be able to find them at most major camera stores.

220 films, on the other hand, can be harder to find. But you can probably order them online if you can’t find them in the store.

That’s pretty much the main difference between these two types of film: 220 film has double the number of exposures as 120 film. Other than that, they’re both essentially the same thing.

The advantages of medium format include the fact that it is more high-tech, easier to use, and delivers higher technical quality than 35mm film.

Some facts about common and popular media formats – 120 or 220 formats [9]:

  • 120 film is 60mm wide and typically provides 12 or 20 exposures per roll;
  • 220 film is twice as long as 120 film (220mm vs. 120mm) and provides 24 or 36 exposures per roll;
  • Both types of film may be used on smaller-format cameras with replaceable film backs. All medium format cameras launched in the late 1980s through the early 1990s should be able to use 220;

Availability

It might take some time to locate and collect 120 and 220 backs in excellent shape. Many were utilized by expert photographers, who have subjected them to considerable strain. Backs for 220 are more difficult to find than those for 120. Even less common is the Polaroid Film Back, which can be used with both types of film.

Many cameras can take both 120 and 220 films, as well as the Mamiya and Pentax 67 [10].

If you need more exposure, then 220 film is the way to go. But if cost is a factor, then 120 films may be the better option. Whichever you choose, just make sure that you are getting the results that you want.

Whichever type of film you choose, make sure you get familiar with the loading and unloading process before you head out on your next shoot.

If you use film like a professional, read the following articles:

FAQ

Can I use 120 films in a 220 back?

Using 120 in a 220 back would cause a greater drag on the film during winding, putting tremendous strain on the components. The film, however, will be in the same location (unless excessive pressure deforms the paper) [11].

Does 220 films still exist?

Yes, 220 films are still being manufactured. However, they are not as popular as they once were and may be difficult to find in some stores.

Now that you know the main difference between 120 and 220 films, it’s time to decide which one is right for you. If you’re looking for high-quality images and don’t mind paying a bit more for them, then 120 films are probably the way to go.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for convenience and want to be able to take more pictures without having to reload your film as often, then 220 films might be a better option. Whichever type of film you choose, make sure you get.

What is the difference between film sizes?

Many of the negative factors listed above exist in both types, but they apply more strongly to one than the other. When it comes to capturing light and shadows, there are distinct technical differences between them that influence the resulting image.

The difference in size between the formats has a significant impact on the finished picture.

There is more grain visible in smaller formats. Large format film delivers greater detail and less grain, but your options are somewhat limited.

How do you shoot a 220 film?

With a 220 film, you need to be very careful when loading and unloading the film.

The process is a bit more complicated than with 120 films, and if you’re not careful, you could easily damage the film. Make sure you follow the instructions that come with your camera carefully and don’t try to force the film into place.

If you’re looking for high-quality images, then 120 films are probably the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re looking for convenience and want to be able to take more pictures without having to reload your film as often, then 220 films might be a better option. Whichever type of film you choose, make sure you get familiar with the loading and unloading process before you head out on your next shoot.

How many shots are in a 120-film roll?

A roll of 120 films contains 10-15 photos, depending on the subject you’re photographing. With the 645 sizes, you have 15 shots per roll. With 6 x 6, you have 12, and with 67, you only have 10 [12].

What size is a 120 film negative?

The first roll of 120 films on which color was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1901 for the Brownie Box cameras. Initially marketed to consumers for photographs, it later became the preferred format among professionals. The negatives are larger than 35mm at 2 3/4 inches wide and provide increased resolution and sharpness [13].

Will a 120 film fit in a 35mm camera?

35mm film can still be used with your camera set to 120 films, but because it winds slightly more between frames to accommodate for the missing backing paper, your exposures will be farther apart and you’ll get fewer per roll [14].

Useful Video: Shooting 120 Film in a 220 Back || Super Film Support

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/120_film
  2. https://thedarkroom.com/film-formats/220-film
  3. https://shootitwithfilm.com/35mm-vs-120-choosing-a-film-format
  4. https://shootitwithfilm.com/35mm-vs-120-choosing-a-film-format
  5. https://cinemapeoples.com/120mm-vs-220mm
  6. https://thedarkroom.com/film-formats/220-film
  7. https://cinemapeoples.com/120mm-vs-220mm/
  8. https://www.outsidetheshot.com/120-vs-220-film
  9. https://cinemapeoples.com/120mm-vs-220mm
  10. https://camerahuzz.com/differences-120mm-vs-220mm-film-compare-review/
  11. https://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?7887-Using-120-Film-in-220-back
  12. https://shootitwithfilm.com/guide-to-medium-format-film-photography
  13. https://nostalgicmedia.com/pages/old-film-and-camera-formats
  14. https://pursty.com/can-you-use-35mm-film-in-a-120-camera