Nowadays in the market, there are so many different films you can choose. However, based on the final processed image of films, there are only 3 different film types, namely:

  1. Color Negative
  2. Color Reversal
  3. Black & White Negative

Color Negative

This is the most common type of film we can buy nowadays. Normally the name will have a suffix “color” at the end, such as Fujicolor, Kodacolor, etc. As the name Color Negative suggests, it will produce a negative image after processing and on top of this, processed color negative film will have an orange color base called Color Mask(Orange Mask). As a result, the images on a color negative film will look quite weird to human eyes.

35mm Color Negative Film

The original design of color negative is to make photo print. Therefore, the processed negative images on the film are designed for photographic paper to “see”, not for human eyes and that is why it looks weird in our eyes. In order to compensate the defects (unwanted absorption/color imbalance) occurred when the images are exposing to the photo papers, the orange color mask is designed to eliminate this defects.

The negative film will go through another optical and chemical process – photo printing/enlarging. The images on the film will be shined by a light source then through a lens (or via contact printing) on to a piece of photographic paper (just liked another piece of film). The exposed photo paper will go through a chemical process and then it will become a photo print.

Color negative film normally goes through a process call C-41 to convert the exposed film into the processed negative images.

Nowadays, color negative film can also be scanned into a digital image and be used in digital media.

Color Reversal Film

Contrary to the name “Reversal”, the processed images on this type of film is NOT reversed, in fact the images are natural to human eyes by being a completely positive images. You can also easily distinguish a reversal film out of the box as the product name usually has a suffix “chrome” such as Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Fujichrome, etc. The word chrome is derived from Latin meaning the color center/origin of color.

35mm Color Reversal Film

Color reversal film is designed to be view directly by human eye or projected onto a screen for direct view. Therefore, there is no color mask as on the color negative film. Also, it can be scanned into digital image file to be published in digital media.

Color reversal film usually goes through a chemical process called E-6 to convert the exposed film from the camera into the final images. Many photographers also send the reversal film to be processed in C-41, same as color negative film, to achieve a special artistic look. This method is commonly called Cross Processing.

Black & White Negative Film

At the beginning of photography in the 19th century, all films were black and white. Many people had said that black and white film would be obsolete when color film was invented in the 20th century. However, this has been proven not the case. In fact, the sales volume of black and white film remain very stable during the past few decades even during this digital photography age.

35mm Black & White Negative Film

The design of Black & White Negative Film is agian for making black & white print so Black & White Negative Film also produces a negative image after processing, same as Color Negative Film. So the images on a Black & White Negative film also looks abnormal when viewing through human eyes.

Black & White Negative Film does not have a standardised photo process, opposite to Color Negative and Color Reversal films. The choices of different chemicals for processing make Black & White Negative Film an interesting medium for artistic purpose. Apart from the artistic representation of converting a real colorful world into black & white images, the choice of different processing chemicals and technique to create different imaging effects also make Black & White Negative Film an artistic medium still favourable by many fine art photographers today.

There are special reversal processes which can make Black & White Negative Film to develop a positive image same as Color Reversal Film.

Same as the previous two counterparts, Black & White Negative Film can also be scanned into digital images and to be used in digital media.

So this pretty summarised different film types available in the market and I will talk more about the choice of different film type for different occasions later.

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percy fung · September 7, 2020 at 10:10 am

Hope you could include the intermediate film type into the motion picture list, could be an important part of film work..

    H M Lai · September 7, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Thanks Percy, I will do it!

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