top of page

Medium Format vs 35mm: Everything You Need to Know About Film Photography

Have you ever wondered what makes medium format film photography so special and different from 35mm? If so, you are not alone. Many photographers, both beginners and experts, are fascinated by the unique qualities and challenges of medium format photography. In this guide, I will answer all your questions and help you decide which format is best for you and your style.

Still got questions?

Frequently Asked Questons on 35mm vs. Medium Format Photography

What is the difference between 35mm and medium format film photography?

The main difference is the size of the film and the resulting image quality. 35mm cameras use 35mm - or 135 - film. Medium format cameras use 120 or 220 (commonly misnamed 120mm or 220mm film!).


A 35mm film photograph is about 24 x 36 mm, while a medium format photograph is about 56 x 42/56/66/76/86 mm, depending on the camera format (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9). A larger film size means more detail, less grain, and better resolution. Medium format film also has a wider field of view and a shallower depth of field than 35mm film when using lenses with similar focal lengths.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of medium format vs 35mm film photography?

35mm photography is generally cheaper, faster, and more convenient than medium format photography. You can shoot more frames per roll, find more film choices, and use smaller and lighter cameras. However, 35mm film has lower image quality, more visible grain, and less dynamic range than medium format film. Medium format film is generally more expensive, slower, and less convenient than 35mm film. You can shoot fewer frames per roll, find fewer film choices, and need to use larger and heavier cameras. However, medium format film photography has higher image quality, less visible grain, and more dynamic range than 35mm film photography

How do I choose a medium format camera and film?

There are many types of medium format cameras and films available, each with their own characteristics and features. 

Some of the factors to consider when choosing a medium format camera are: the camera format (such as 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, etc.), the lens system (such as fixed or interchangeable), the focusing system (such as rangefinder or SLR), the metering system (such as built-in or external), the loading system (such as manual or automatic), and the price and availability. 

When choosing a medium format film, think about the following considerations: the film speed (such as ISO 100, 200, 400, etc.), the film type (such as colour negative, colour slide, or black and white), the film brand (such as Kodak, Fuji, Ilford, etc.), the film size (such as 120/120mm or 220/220mm), and the price and availability.

How do I process and scan medium format film?

Processing and scanning medium format film is similar to processing and scanning 35mm film, but with some differences. You will need a larger tank and reel for developing medium format film, or you can use a lab that offers medium format services. You will also need a scanner that can handle medium format negatives or slides, or you can use a lab that offers scanning services. Alternatively, you can use a digital camera to digitize your medium format images by taking photos of them on a light table.

How do I store and preserve medium format film?

Storing and preserving medium format film is important to maintain its quality and longevity. You should store your unexposed and exposed rolls of medium format film in a cool, dry, dark place away from heat, humidity, light, dust, and chemicals. You should also label your rolls with the date, film type, speed, and exposure information. After processing your medium format film, you should store your negatives or slides in archival sleeves or boxes that protect them from scratches, dust, moisture, mold, and fading.

How do I print medium format film? 

Printing medium format film is a rewarding way to enjoy your images in a tangible form. You can print your medium format negatives or slides using an enlarger in a darkroom or using a printer in a digital workflow. You will need to choose a suitable paper type (such as glossy or matte), size (such as 8x10 or 11x14), contrast (such as low or high), and tone (such as warm or cool) for your prints. You will also need to adjust your exposure time, aperture, focus, cropping, dodging, burning, filters, and other settings to achieve your desired results.

Stay in the Know

Get the latest news, articles and updates on medium format and 35mm photography - in your email inbox every Friday!

Please check your email to confirm your subscription!

bottom of page