Film for Vintage Cameras
July 17, 2011 8:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting a bit more into photography and I'm thinking about picking up some vintage film cameras (still and possibly movie). There is no shortage of inexpensive cameras available on eBay; however, it isn't clear to me what film formats are still available.

35mm is obviously still available in several formulations, though obviously not Kodachrome. I thought that 8mm (or is it Super 8?) motion picture film is still available but I'm having trouble verifying that. Sadly, 110 cartridges appear to be gone. I'm new enough at this to probably not be aware of all the other formats that exist (or used to exist). I guess I'd like to be able to browse eBay or the local vintage shop, see a cool-looking camera, and know if I could actually use it.

Is there perhaps a summary table, somewhere, of remaining resources for people who want to shoot and develop (or get developed) film?
posted by LastOfHisKind to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For movies: Super 8 is cartridges, and is still available. 8mm is reels, and is not available. 16mm is reels and is available.

For stills: 35 is widely available. 120 film is available (big rolls). Sheet film is available in various size, commonly in 2.25 x 3.25, but also larger sizes. Most Polaroid film is discontinued, but you can still buy peel-apart pack film via Fuji, and the Impossible Project produces extremely limited (and expensive) quantities of SX70 style film, and maybe the other integral films?

Nice cameras that are readily available but use unavailable film abound, so be careful. 8mm cameras, Polaroid One Step, Kodak instant, 110 Cartridge, Disc film - all (essentially) unavailable.

Really, as far as I can tell, the best place to see what is available is to go to the B&H website. There are a few things that are available that they don't have (Impossible Project springs to mind) but basically: if it exists, they have it.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:52 AM on July 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This table covers the various still formats; matching them to cameras is trickier, but your best bet beyond 35mm is to look for something that takes 120 film, which accommodates all of the medium-format ranges.
posted by holgate at 8:52 AM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: I found this online by searching 2 1/4 film (aka 120 film). It has a lot of useful information.

120 film is what's used in those old Brownies you see at every single yard sale you've ever been to! I have several old Brownies (and Agfa) cameras that take 120 film, and I love them! You can usually get a Brownie on the supercheap, (like $2 - 5 bucks, no lie, because most people don't really know what it is when they find it up in the attic) and in my experience, they usually work really well! You kind of can't really beat a box with a hole in it and a lens.

120 film measures 2 1/4 inches x 2 1/4 inches, so you get square prints. I generally recommend these to people who are just beginning to play with medium format because it isn't very expensive to have the film developed.
posted by heyho at 8:58 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: More about Brownies, if you're interested.
posted by heyho at 9:01 AM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: 120 film has had a renaissance thanks to the Holga/Lomography movement. Freestyle Photo has lots of choices in 120 and other formats.
posted by tommasz at 9:10 AM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: Seconding freestyle, I get all my film there, they have the widest selection I've seen in one spot. Usually, I'm shooting Provia, Velvia or Adox CMS 20.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:38 AM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: Note that 120 film is widely available (no need for a renaissance, this was the standard pro film for many applications up until 2003 or so, when DSLRs took over). But 620 film, which is the same width and 120 film but has a different spool is totally not available. Many cheaper cameras use 620 film. You can respool 120 film but's a bit precious to me, as 120 cameras tend to be superior and there is no lack of them.

Also note that sheet film, other than 4x5, is getting harder to find. 5x7 and 8x10 are still readily available in somewhat diminished variety (but easy to order what is there). The other sizes are only made by Adox, I believe. Ilford will special order odd sizes once a year but you need to order quite a bit I believe.

Is your intention just to mess around with an old camera or have a good camera to take pictures with? If the latter, I would look for a good 120 camera. A 4x5 camera is not a great camera to learn on. Of course there are plentiful 35mm options, and you can usually have the film developed at your drug store.
posted by sully75 at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another note: when you see "220" film, it's 120 with the backing paper removed (allows you to stick more on a roll). 120 cameras won't generally take 220 film (focal plane is different, requires light-proof back, and a film counter) but there are a number of cameras that will take both. Many cameras used for professional photography (wedding, press, or product) where you go through a LOT of film will have a selector to switch between the two.

My favorite medium-format camera is still my old Mamiya C330. (My C200 and Yashica-mat dueled for second place.) TLRs are stupidly cheap so you can pick and chose until you find one with all the parts still in good working order. Things to look for: working shutter with approximately correct timings, bellows (if used) in good shape, lenses that look glass-clear in light with no hazing or mold marks, foam seals that aren't crumbling.
posted by introp at 7:28 PM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: One other roll-film format still available (though only just - the choice is severely limited) is 127.
posted by misteraitch at 1:49 AM on July 18, 2011

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