120 film

120 film

120 is a film format for still photography introduced by Kodak for their "Brownie No. 2" in 1901. It was originally intended for amateur photography but was later superseded in this role by 135 film. 120 film and its close relative, 220 film, survive to this day as the only medium format films that are readily available to both professionals and amateur enthusiasts.

The 120 format is typical of roll film. The spool was originally made of wood with metal flanges, later all metal, and finally plastic. Frame number markings for the three standard image formats are printed on the backing paper. The film is 72 cm (28.3 inches) long.

The specifications for 120 and 220 film are defined in the ISO 732 standard. Earlier editions of ISO 732 also provided international standards for the now-obsolete 127 and 620 film formats.

Frame sizes

120 film allows several frame sizes.

Due to better control of frame spacing, modern 6×4.5 format cameras can fit 16 exposures onto a roll of "120"

The 6×9 frame has the same aspect ratio as the standard 36×24 mm frame of 135 film. The 6×7 frame enlarges almost exactly to 8×10 inch paper, for which reason its proponents call it "ideal format". 6×4.5 is the smallest and least expensive roll-film frame size; equipment to take photos in this size is also the lightest.

The wide 6×12, 6×17, and 6×24 cm frames are produced by special-purpose panoramic cameras. Because of the need to cover such a wide piece of film, most of these cameras use lenses intended for large format cameras.

Cameras using 120 film will often combine the numbers of the frame size in the name e.g. Pentax 67 (6×7), Fuji 617 (6×17), and many "645"s (6×4.5).

Other similar 6 cm roll films

The 105 format was introduced by Kodak in 1898 for their first folding camera and was the original 6×9 cm format roll film. The 117 format was introduced by Kodak in 1900 for their first Brownie camera, the No.1 Brownie, 6×6 cm format. These formats used the same width film as 120 film, but with slightly different spools. The 105 spool has a much wider flange, similar to the 116 spool. The 117 spool is slightly narrower than the 120.

The 620 format was introduced by Kodak in 1931 as an intended alternative to 120. Although mostly used by Kodak cameras, it became very popular. The 620 format is essentially the same film on a thinner and narrower all-metal spool (the 120 spool core was made of wood at that time) :
* 120 2.466" width, 0.990" flange, 0.468" core
* 620 2.468" width, 0.905" flange, 0.280" coreHence the 620 is sometime referred as "small hole" 6×6 or 6×9 as opposed to 120 "large hole". The 620 format was discontinued by Kodak in 1995, but it is possible to rewind 120 film onto a 620 spool in the darkroom for use in 620 cameras. According to Kodak, the narrower metal spool allowed building smaller cameras. Nonetheless the 120 format cast-metal bodied Voigtländer Perkeo remains smaller than any 620 format camera.

The 220 format was introduced in 1965 and is the same width as 120 film, but with double length (144 cm) film and thus twice the number of possible exposures per roll. Unlike 120 film, there is no backing paper behind the film itself, just a leader and a trailer. This results in a longer film on the same spool, but there are no printed frame numbers. Moreover, it cannot be used in unmodified old cameras that have a red window as frame indicator. Also, since the film alone is thinner than a film with a backing paper, a special pressure plate may be required to achieve optimal focus if the film is registered against its back side. Some cameras capable of using both 120 and 220 film will have a two position adjustment of the pressure plate while others will require different film backs (e.g Mamiya C220, Mamiya C330, Pentax 645, Kowa Six).

See also

* 616 film


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