Everything you Need to Know About 35mm Film

When it comes to motion picture and photography, almost everybody has heard about the 35mm film, especially those who used it before. Technically speaking, the film is 35 mm wide and has several perforations on each edge, at a distance of 4.23 mm each.

A Short History

The 35 mm film was first introduced by Thomas Edison in 1889. Edison worked hand in hand with the Eastman company. After inventing the Kinetoscope in 1893, Edison started to promote the 35mm motion picture projection concept all around the world. This unique system for that age was first presented in Paris in 1895,  when brothers Lumiere projected a 35mm celluloid on a screen. The 35mm format remained the most used gauge for exhibitions and filming many years, until the mid 50’s, when 16mm, 8mm and super 8mm formats started to be used.

After a whole century of hegemony, the 35 mm film is wiped off the screen slowly. More and more people prefer digital over film, because it is cheaper and more reliable. However, some professional photographers are still using this old technology, managing to create amazing pictures and movies. The 35 mm film cameras are certainly among the most popular in the whole world because of the benefits they provide.


The invention of 35 mm film standard was extremely important, because of its two characteristics: compact and portable. This is probably the most important discovery in the photographic history. The 35mm cameras could be taken anywhere with ease, even in war zones. These cameras played a crucial role in the World Wars, because they allowed the allies to capture images on various strategic locations in Germany and Italy. In addition to that, these cameras were affordable, therefore anyone who was passionate about photography could buy one. The design of the camera allowed it to capture one frame at a time, and then to modify them in a darkroom. This is exactly how the first cinema movies were produced. A recent movie that shows us some of the photographic secrets used in the past is called Hugo, released in 2011.

Development and Usage

The first portable still camera that used a 35mm film was invented in 1913 by Oskar Barnack, a famous German engineer. However, due to the World War 1, the first camera was being marketed 12 years later, in 1925. In all this time, the germans made several prototypes in order to invent a lighter and smaller portable camera. The 35mm film is also named 135 format, because the frame size of the camera had a standard of 24×36mm. Leitz was the first company to introduce a film cassette loaded with more than 1.5 meters film. Because of this, filmmakers were now able to record more scenes without having to change the camera or the cartridge.

Synchronizing the sound with the image was a bit difficult in the beginning, especially as there were no methods to store the sound right into the film. This went on for several years, until Kodak hit the headlines with their brand new cameras that created a buzz in the photographic industry. These cameras were able to record both sound and image. Moreover, they were extremely cheap, compared to the older Leitz cameras present on the market at that time.

Digital Vs. 35mm Film

Starting with the early 1980’s, digital cameras started to become more and more sophisticated and increasingly available. The photographer could transfer the photos to a computer in no time at all, or he could simply visualize them on the in-built screen. Even if digital cameras have a strong impact on today’s photographers, the 35 mm film cameras are still preferred over digital cameras in many parts of the world. Famous photographers, such as Terry Richardson or Ryan McGinley, prefer to use the 35mm, because of its unique play of shadow and light. They are keen on capturing photos that are less open to any post-development manipulation, because in the end this is what photography means.

Future of 35mm Film

Today, 35mm and digital cameras continue to co-exist, each of them offering unique benefits and effects. The truth is that Fujifilm will continue to produce 35mm film for at least 10 years, and possibly it might extend this period of time. Even if they stopped the production of Neopan 400, they will keep other formats, because there are photographers who still use the 135 film, along with the standard 35mm film cameras.