To those who do not know (e.g. some young photographers that have not yet discovered film).
Once upon a time, when photographs were made by capturing photons of light, using an emulsion of silver salts painted onto a film of plastic, there were three bears …. I mean three categories of film size.
The smallest bear – film size, was called miniature. This included 35mm film, which would capture light on an area of film the same size as the latest and very expensive professional “full frame” DSLR sensors. Yes, in the Old Days, we called that miniature. That should crush a few phallic egos. 35mm still exists and is still manufactured by several companies. It is still very available.
The Mummy sized bear / film, we called medium format. This included 120 roll film, that when for example, exposed in 6cm by 6cm squares, captures light on an area that is four or five times the size of that professional DSLR sensor. 120 film was introduced to the World in 1903. Over 110 years later, there are still several manufacturers. It is still very available.
Then there was a Daddy sized bear / film, we call Large Format. This is so large that it is shot on plastic sheets rather than on film that can be wound. Guess what? Still easily available.
This article concerns that Mummy Bear (Medium Format) film – 120. This is a roll film. It comes on a plastic spindle. Donkey years ago, the spindle was cork or wood and metal. Kodak invented it as an amateur film. Indeed, up until the early 1960s, it was pretty much the amateur film. The actual film is a shade over 6 cm wide, and usually around 76 cm long. It is taped at one end to a longer slightly wider strip of paper, and they are rolled together onto the spindle. The backing paper seals the film from light while on the spindle. It also has a series of numbers printed on the back – which can be read by various cameras through a red window – depending on the mask (size of exposure). The number of exposures that you get off a 120 roll film depends on that masking of the camera, most commonly between 8 and 15 exposures per film. A common choice is a 6cm by 6cm square, that gives 12 exposures.
The top image shows a 120 roll of Ilford HP5+ being loaded into a folding camera, that fits in a large pocket. It gives me 12 squares per film. There is a magic to this stuff. Loading it connects you with a great tradition.