Negative Film Format Sizes and Camera Sensor Sizes

Negative film format is the size or shape of the camera sensor, film negative or film positive. The bigger the format the more pixels are required. The main basic film formats are sub-miniature, APS, standard, medium and large format. Film is a photographic material that consists of a celluloid base covered with a photographic emulsion. It is used to make negatives or transparencies and can be contained in a roll, cassette, or cartridge. Larger film usually comes in sheets.

  • The standard 35mm filmstrip contains 4 36mm x 24mm frames. The frame number is printed on the top and/or bottom of the frame. 135 format is exactly 35mm wide. This format was introduced in 1934 and quickly became the most popular format. See the table below which compares most negative film sizes.
  • 120 medium format contains a range of frame sizes; 6×4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x8cm, and 6x9cm. The most common being the 6x6cm size shown at the left. This actually has a frame size of 56mm x 56mm. The frame number is printed at the top or bottom and this format is 60mm wide. This format was introduced in 1901 and comes on a roll. Also related are 220 and 620 format. The difference is that these formats allow for more exposures per roll.
  • 4″ x 5″ large format is sheet film. You would think this format would be 4×5 inches in size, but it’s not. The sheet size is usually about 100mm x 125mm and the frame size is roughly 95mm x 120mm. We discontinued 4×5 inch scanning service 7/11.

(Photographiqa, 2016)


  • 126 Negative Film: The viewable area is usually about 26.5mm x 26.5mm. Now due to the aperture of the scanner (36.8mm x 25.1mm) about 1.45mm will be cropped from the top and bottom of these slides. Move your mouse over the picture to see the area that will get cropped out.
  • 127 Negative Film: The viewable area is about 40mm x 40mm. Unfortunately, a significant portion cannot be scanned due to the aperture of the scanner. Move your mouse over the picture to see the area that will get cropped out. (Pearson Imaging, 2012)




  • 35mm require greater enlargement. (More grain visible)
  • 120mm require less enlargement. (Less grain visible)



There are a few basic definitions that are crucial in differentiating between your materials. When these terms are referred to this is what we mean.

  • Transparency is an un-mounted positive photographic image on film. A transparency can be colour or black & white.
  • A slide is a single transparency frame that has been placed in a slide mount. In other words, a slide is a mounted transparency. There are different types of slides but the most common is a 35mm slide.
  • A negative is the inverse of a positive image. Blacks appear white and whites appear black if you view a negative on a light box. Negative film comes in all formats and can be colour or black and white.
  • Matted is one frame that has been taped/attached to a piece of board. Any frame can be matted but medium format transparencies are most common. Matts usually fold over like a book and contain a window for viewing the image.
  • Dots per inch. Refers to print resolution, or how many dots a printer can produce in one inch. 300dpi is standard photo quality. Higher DPI = better quality, lower DPI = lower quality.
  • Samples per inch. A scanner reproduces images by taking “samples” across an image, and so a scanner will take 4000 samples in a 4000spi scan. SPI is basically the technical term for the resolution the scanner uses when you are in the process of scanning or taking samples.
  • Pixels per inch. This is how we measure how many pixels are displayed in a digital image, the result of the scan. A 4000spi scan results in a 4000ppi digital image. Both Adobe and Nikon measure digital images as PPI and we do too.                              (Pearson Imaging, 2012).

Larger or full frame sensors obtain better detail and image resolution resulting in less grain being evident. Larger sensors can help you capture better quality images. A bigger camera sensor is that of size; not only will the sensor take up more room in your device but it will also need a bigger lens to cast an image over it.

Larger sensors can also be better for isolating a subject in focus while having the rest of the image blurred. Cameras with smaller sensors struggle to do this because they need to be moved further away from a subject, or use a wider angle lens, to take the same photo.


Why is camera image sensor size important?

The size of sensor that a camera has ultimately determines how much light it uses to create an image. In very simple terms, image sensors (the digital equivalent of the film your father might have used in his camera) consist of millions of light-sensitive spots called photosites which are used to record information about what is seen through the lens. Therefore, it stands to reason that a bigger sensor can gain more information than a smaller one and produce better images. Larger sensors also allow manufacturers to increase the resolution of their cameras – meaning they’re able to produce more detailed images – without sacrificing too much in terms of other image quality attributes. For example, a Full Frame camera with 36 megapixels would have very similar sized pixels to an APS-C camera with 16 megapixels. (Gizmag, 2013)


Medium Format Cameras:

6cm by 4.5cm cameras: Pentax and Mamiya


6cm by 6cm cameras: Hasselblad


6cm by 7cm cameras: Mamiya and Pentax


8cm by 6cm cameras:



9cm by 6cm cameras: Mamiya and Fuji



17cm by 6cm cameras: Fuji Panoramic



Large Format Cameras:

4″ by 5″ cameras


6″ by 7″ cameras




8″ by 10″ cameras



Recommended Cameras:


Seagul 6×6


Yashica 124G 6×6


Rollieflex 6×6



Hasselblad 6×6


Mamiya RZ 6×6



[1] GIZMAG. (2013) Camera Sensor Size: Why does it matter and exactly how big are they. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 03 February 2016]

[2] KODAK, (2016). Negative Sizes. [Online] Available from:                                                                        [Accessed: 06 May 2016]

[3] PEARSON IMAGING, (2012). About Film Formats: Slides, Negatives and transparencies. [Online] Available from:                                 [Accessed: 03 February 2016]

[4] PHOTOGRAPHIQA. (2016) Photographic Film Size Comparison Chart. [Online] Available from:                                                                                                                   [Accessed: 03 February 2016]

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