Image by Nick Schreger


35mm is an ideal option for beginners and amateurs - and also beloved by professionals. It is cheap, easily available and can be used with a variety of cameras, including SLRs, rangefinders, point and shoot cameras. Whether you are into travel photography, street photography, outdoor photography or portraiture, 35mm is the right format to start with.

The film used for 35mm photography is called 135 film a.k.a 35mm. The quality of the film depends on the brand as well as the speed, contrast and colour, and also depends largely on personal preference.

Full Frame

(Most Popular)

The term 135 format usually refers to a 36×24 mm film format, commonly known as 35mm format. Generally, a full frame sensor can provide a broader dynamic range and better low light/high ISO performance yielding a higher quality image than a half frame.

A 50mm lens is considered a “standard” focal length lens, while any lens with shorter than 50mm focal length falls into the wide angle category, and those with a focal length longer than 50mm are considered telephoto.

Examples of 35mm cameras without interchangeable lenses are point-and-shoot and pinhole

Half Frame

The half-frame camera is a camera using a film format at half the usual exposure format. This means you get portrait images instead of landscape when the camera is held in the normal orientation and you get twice as many images per roll i.e. a 24 frame roll will give 48 half frames.

Choosing your Right 35mm Camera

SLR Camera

Generally, people start with 35mm SLR or point and shoot. Most 35mm film cameras are SLRs. A single-lens reflex means that there is one lens to focus and frame, and then capture the shot. A typical and common SLR would be the Canon AE-1. 


Both rangefinders and SLRs are available in automatic as well as manual models. Nearly all modern 35mm cameras have a built-in light meter. This device measures the intensity of the light in a scene and indicates when the two exposures variables the shutter speed and the aperture opening, have been adjusted properly for light and for the film you are using.

Some popular SLR cameras are: Olympus OM-1, Minolta X-700, Nikon FM2, Canon AE-1, Pentax K1000 and Nikon F6

Image by Wilhelm Gunkel
Image by Manki Kim


The simplest, smallest, and usually least expensive 35mm cameras are the rangefinder, often called compacts. Rangefinder cameras offer an advantage over a number of others out there though with their low profile looks. They let a photographer be able to see what's going to move into the frame and they also make zone focusing and getting a subject/scene perfectly in focus very simple. As such, most rangefinders come with fixed lens.

Some popular rangefinder cameras are: Yashica Electro 35 Series, Leica M3, Canon VI-L/VI-T, Nikon S2 and Contax IIa/IIIa

Point and Shoot

Compact Cameras / Point and Shoot camera is basically a basic SLR level camera for passionate non-professional photographers. It has simple functions compared to professional cameras. Most such SLR camera has autofocus feature. Which automatically sets the exposure, aperture and shutter speed. It is usually used for taking snapshots in various functions, events, etc.

Some popular P&S cameras are: Contax T-series, Yashica T5, Olympus Mju series, Canon Autoboy and Pentax Espio Series

Image by Shane Rounce


Choosing your Own Film

Film speed, also known as ISO, is the sensitivity rating of the film. A films speed will determine its sensitivity to light – low ISO number will basically need more light to get the right exposure than a high ISO number, which will need less.


Films classed as a low-speed range from 20 to 200 ISO. You get finer grain with low-speed films. The lower the ISO number, the finer the grain. 


High-speed or fast, films range from 400 to 3200 ISO. These films give you a lot more flexibility on overcast days and in low light situations. Also, they are a good choice if you’re shooting fast-moving subjects. You get more noticeable grain with fast films. 

A good place to start is an ISO of 400 for either black and white or colour. It’s versatile by nature and will allow you to shoot in a range of lighting conditions.

Push and Pull Film

Pushing or pulling film is when you rate your film at a different speed from the one written on the box. Then, you compensate for the difference when you develop it. Pushing will mean giving the film a higher rating and pulling a lower rating. 

Refer here for more information about push and pull film.

Developing your Own Film

If you're just starting with film photography or are interested in it, processing your own film can seem a bit daunting, but it's really not that hard, especially with black and white film. It seems like a lot to purchase at first, but remember that most of the accessories are cheap and the chemicals will last you a while. The process itself is fairly straightforward and can be rather rewarding, as you get to work with your hands and watch the images appear before your eyes.


Once you're done, you can either proceed to making prints or scan the negatives into your computer.

Things you need to get started:

- Developer
- Stop Bath
- Fixer
- Wetting Agent
- Developing Tank
- Changing Bag
- Thermometer
- Storage Bottles
- Film Opener
- Scissors

Refer to the massive development chart for the

developing time of your film rolls here.

Image by Prawira Adam


Image by Hayes Potter


Image by César Abner Martínez Aguilar

Video Guide to

35mm Film Photography