Why is 35mm Film So Popular?


Film photography has been around for over a century, and despite the rise of digital cameras, many photographers still prefer the analog medium.

35mm film is one of the most popular types of film used by photographers today. In this article, we are going to try as much as possible to answer the big question “Why is 35mm film so popular?”

What is 35mm Film?

35mm film is a photographic film format that has been around since the early 1900s.

The film comes in a roll, which is loaded into a camera to take pictures. The images are then captured onto the film, which is then developed in a darkroom to produce physical prints.

The History of 35mm Film

The invention of 35mm film can be traced back to the early 1900s, when Oskar Barnack, an engineer at the German camera manufacturer Leitz, developed the Leica camera. The Leica was the first film camera to use 35mm film, which at the time was primarily used for motion pictures. The smaller format allowed for more compact cameras and made photography more accessible to the general public.

One of the advantages of 35mm film over larger formats is its portability. The smaller size of the film allowed photographers to carry more film with them and to shoot in a wider variety of situations. Additionally, 35mm film was cheaper and easier to produce than larger formats.

The film industry quickly adopted 35mm film as a standard format, and it remained the dominant format for motion pictures until the advent of digital cinema.

The Characteristics of 35mm Film

There are several characteristics that make 35mm film a popular choice among photographers.

One of the most notable is its grain structure. 35mm film has a distinctive grain pattern that gives images a unique texture and character. The amount and size of the grain can be manipulated through the choice of film and development techniques, allowing photographers to achieve a wide variety of looks.

In addition to its grain structure, 35mm film also has a wide dynamic range, meaning it can capture detail in both bright highlights and dark shadows. This makes it ideal for capturing scenes with high contrast, such as sunsets or cityscapes.

Finally, 35mm film is known for its color reproduction. Film has a different color response than digital sensors, which gives it a unique look that many photographers find appealing. Film also has a wide range of color options, from natural to highly saturated.

The Rise of Digital Photography

The advent of digital photography in the late 1990s brought about a significant change in the photography industry.

Digital cameras allowed photographers to take an almost unlimited number of shots, review them immediately, and edit them easily on a computer. As a result, digital photography became the norm, and the popularity of film photography waned.

The Advantages of Shooting with 35mm Film

Despite the rise of digital cameras, many photographers continue to shoot with 35mm film. Here are some of the advantages of using film:

Aesthetic appeal

One of the main reasons photographers choose to shoot with film is the unique look it provides. The grain structure, dynamic range, and color reproduction of film give images a distinct character that cannot be replicated with digital technology.


Although the initial investment in a film camera and lenses can be expensive, shooting with film can be cost-effective in the long run. Once a camera and lenses are acquired, the cost of film is relatively low, and images can be archived without the need for expensive hard drives or cloud storage.

Skill development and craftsmanship

Shooting with film requires a level of skill and craftsmanship that can be rewarding for photographers. Understanding exposure, metering, and development techniques can be a satisfying learning experience.


Film photography provides a tangible, physical record of an image. Photographs can be printed, mounted, and displayed in a way that digital images cannot. This can be especially appealing for photographers who value the physical aspect of the art form.

The Downsides of Shooting with 35mm Film

Although there are many advantages to shooting with 35mm film, there are also some downsides to consider:

Expense and time commitment

Shooting with film can be more expensive and time-consuming than shooting digitally. The cost of film, processing, and equipment can add up over time, and the process of developing and scanning images can be time-consuming.

Limited flexibility

Unlike digital photography, film is not as flexible in terms of ISO and white balance adjustments. Photographers must choose the right film for the lighting conditions, and adjustments must be made during development rather than in post-processing.

Limited capacity

A roll of 35mm film typically holds 24 or 36 exposures, which means photographers must be more selective about what they shoot. This can be both a challenge and an opportunity for photographers to think more critically about their images.


35mm film continues to be a popular medium for photographers, despite the rise of digital technology. Its unique characteristics, aesthetic appeal, and tangibility make it a preferred choice for many photographers.

However, shooting with film does come with some downsides, including expense and limited flexibility. Ultimately, the choice between film and digital comes down to personal preference and artistic vision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is shooting with film more difficult than shooting digitally?

Shooting with film requires a different set of skills and techniques than shooting digitally, but it is not necessarily more difficult.

Why do some photographers prefer the look of film over digital?

Film has a unique grain structure, dynamic range, and color reproduction that cannot be replicated with digital technology.

Is it more expensive to shoot with film than with digital?

The initial investment in a film camera and lenses can be expensive, but once the equipment is acquired, the cost of film is relatively low.

Can film photography still compete with digital photography?

Film and digital photography each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately it comes down to personal preference and artistic vision.

Why do some photographers value the tangibility of film photography?

Film photography provides a physical, tangible record of an image that can be printed, mounted, and displayed in a way that digital images cannot.

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