It’s Hip to be Square

We talked about a lot last time, didn’t we? Slide film, black and white film, color film, film speeds, whew! Don’t worry, there will be no exam or pop quiz. You would most definitely drop this blog and I would cry and have to resort to begging you back.


Last time we specifically discussed 35mm film. Well, I discussed. You took notes or fell asleep in the back of the class. Typical.
Anyway, it’s the most common type of film and chances are if you don’t know much about film you definitely recognize that one.

This time, I’ll finish up the tutorial on film (yay!) with 120 film. Don’t worry, it’ll be super short since we covered so much last time.

Whoa, slow down. 120 film? What does that mean?

Lets start with a picture. Those usually help the confused and bewildered (most of the time, thats me)

Eegads! What in the hell is that?? It’s like two rolls of film merged together into one giant mutant film!

Welcome to medium format film, also known as 120 film. Its big, beautiful, and I love it. The 120 film is bigger than 35mm, as you can see. So that means the negative is larger and has more detail. Also, its easier to enlarge to a poster size, for example, because it wont get as out of focus or blurry. The film above in the wrapper is Kodak TMax 400 speed (remember what speeds mean?) and the film standing up is Kodak Ektar 100 speed.

The TMax is black and white film, and the Ektar is color film. Kodak Ektachome, not pictured, is 120 slide film. Unfortunately Kodak has announced it will discontinue its line of all slide film, including Kodak Ektachrome and Kodak Elite Chrome. But I believe Fuji still makes slide 120 film.

Well thats great, you say. But where can I use it? I’ve never seen a camera that I can use that film in. Have no fear! I would never show you film you couldn’t use! (Polaroid, Kodachrome, I can’t go on. It’s too painful…)

There are actually many cameras, but my and Valerie’s favorite is the HOLGA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s really written as Holga, but I just get excited about it. The camera looks like this:

Meet the Holga. It’s big, black, and beautiful. And take amazing photos.

I know, I know. You  want to know more. And you will. But I’m saving that for the next entry, which will be on cameras. For now, just know that the Holga is a plastic camera that is pretty simple, uses 120 film and has always produced amazing results for me.

Some other cameras that use 120 film are Mamiya, Hasselblad, Diana, and Bronica.

Laundromat on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Take with Kodak TMax 120 film using a Holga camera

This is a photograph taken using 120 film. It produces a square negative, unlike 35mm film.

I like the squareness of it. It’s always hip to be square, in my opinion. It’s a nice contrast to the usual rectangular format that we are all too familiar with. 120 film and Holgas together are a nice combination because they can produced unexpected results, like this:

Church in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Photo taken by Valerie Justice using Kodak Ektar 120 film with a Holga.

The red at the top of the photo are “light leaks” from the Holga. Thats more from the camera than from the film. But it looks cooler on 120 film than 35mm.

Okay. I think that will do it for today on film. See? I told you it would be short. And you were worried.

So there is not much different between 35mm and 120 film, it’s really just a matter of personal preference. I enjoy both but it is nice to have options. Sometimes you get tired of using the same film all the time. On the other side of that, sometimes there are too many options and I’ll just end up shooting 120 film for 6 months.

Now, when you see a square image on this blog or on our Flickr account, you no longer have to wonder “What the hell is that?” You’ll know.  PLUS you can impress all your friends with your film knowledge. Brought to you by the professionals 🙂



About kodakkerouacs

Kodak Kerouacs is mostly about photography and travel, though notsomuch travel photography. KodakKerouacs is about living free and loud then telling everybody else about how awesome it is to be free and really, really loud. Written by two girls who love coffee, film, and the open road. View all posts by kodakkerouacs

2 responses to “It’s Hip to be Square

  • Jim

    So, okay, I just can’t get on board the lomo/lo-fi train. I’ve tried, I failed, I give up.

    But I looooooooove to shoot medium format. I recently put a roll of Neopan 100 Acros through an old Ansco box camera, and a roll of Ektachrome E100G through a Kodak folding camera. The Ektachrome was respooled onto 620 spools, that infernal discontinued format that Kodak created just to enhance revenue.

    Of course, you get rectangular photos (6×9) from these cameras. But I too have square-photo hankerings. I spent my childhood shooting square photos on 126 and 127 film. So I bought some 127 film and just (just) finished putting it through a Brownie Starmatic II. The 127 was bulk Portra 160 that some kind soul cut to size and spooled onto a 127 spool, using old Verichrome Pan backing paper. I paid a pretty penny for it but it felt so good to shoot again the first film format I ever used.

  • Angie Z.

    The Holga seems to be the camera equivalent to the old Volvos that I used to dream of driving — boxy, not flashy, dull-finished. It’s a beauty alright. And I love the church photo Valerie took with it!

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