Why is 220 film so Unpopular?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by greg_jones|1, Nov 24, 2009.

  1. I constantly read about how 220 film is disappearing, and it is of course. Fortunately my favorite films are still available in 220. (I am talking color film here.) For the time being, anyway......
    I was pondering why people don't use 220 film so much. I speculate it is shooting style-I must confess to burning up a lot of film when I am shooting. While I do take care to set up my shots, if I have a real great photo I will take two or maybe even three shots of the same thing-a habit learned after a "professional photo lab" (Meisel, for you old timers) destroyed one of my negatives. Film is the cheapest expense on my photo shoots.
    I guess the other issue is just simply expense. Obviously a roll of 220 costs more to buy and more to process. I get that-but if you are out shooting more than one roll of 120 anyway I find the ability to not have to change film so often quite convenient. You don't have to open up the filmback as often, allowing dust or insects or whatever to enter. Not to mention the lost time changing film.
    So I want to advocate using 220 film as often as possible so as to ensure they keep making it!!! Why don't you use 220 film (and yes, I know, if your emulsion is not being made in 220 then that explains that.)
  2. Some good info from 2004...
    I guess I prefer 220 as well, but wish it were cheaper per-frame to process. No economy of scale.
    And all my film was purchased second-hand, and I have more than a lifetime supply...so I'm no help here. ;-)
  3. My main reason is that 220 does not have the paper backing for the whole roll....only the leader and the end. The rest of the roll is just the film. While this shouldn't matter all that much, seeing as 35mm film has no paper backing at all..........it just feels better to me that at least one side of 120 film is protected from the backing plate in the cam.....should it have any minor nicks or even dirt on it. so, for me, it's just an added "warm and fuzzy" feelin.
  4. "While this shouldn't matter all that much, " - It matters for a lot of older classics camera that use a window to let you know what frame you're on. Also, sometimes you don't want to "be stuck" w/24 frames on just one type of film.
  5. Not sure why ? I would rather have 220 film anyday. My MF camera does not have any backs, so I have to change the film with film inserts. It gets a little old if you have to change the film every half hour or so in those conditions.
  6. Yea, 220 makes sense to me too. Many MF systems have removable backs, so switching is film is not a big deal. Also, I find dealing with the 120 paper to be a minor pain in the butt. I think 120's big advantage is that it's universally compatible. If you're going to make only one format, go with the one more cameras can utilize.
  7. 220 is only a dollar more fro E-6 processing than 120 thru Fuji Labs/Walmart sendout. $5.88 for 120 or $6.88 for 220. That, plus not having to reload out in the field so often are why I too like 220 better.
  8. Randall, have you done that with them lately? Last I checked (a year ago), they had stopped doing it here in California. Yes, I asked twice. ;-) But they could still have been wrong.
    I stuck with dwayne's instead, and they are only slightly more expensive ($7.50 and $10). Actually, the C-41 is the same price ($4 per roll), so I guess I was wrong about there not being a price benefit.
    I guess I was thinking about the 0% price benefit to SCAN 120 vs 220....as I just sent my first rolls of 120 E-6 to North Coast to try out their scans. It bummed me out that 220 is exactly 2x as much for scanning. I didn't think it was much of a manual operation, but maybe it is. But then you'd think they'd charge by the frame, making 645 more expensive than 67.

    But thanks for reminding me on the C-41, and let me know if Walmart is still doing 120/220 for you.

  9. Frankly I find 24 frames a lot to shoot.
    I don't have a problem with 220 starting to go. As long as we can get a reasonable choice of 120 film I'm happy.
    Less choice can help to make it profitable enough for the manufacturers to stay in business.
    Now, if there would finally be someone that will bring Agfa APX 100 back in 120 in plenty supply for a reasonable price
    That would be a reason to party!!!!!
  10. I think there are less professionals shooting medium format these days. At least thats what my pro lab tells me.(I called them a while back and asked if I was the only one shooting film, they said no theirs two of you) Back in the day we mainly shot 220 so we would not have to change backs so often in weddings, school photography etc.
    Now medium format seems to be where armatures are coming to get aways from machine gun shooting in the digital world.They are shooting a little less and want results, maybe not needing 24 shots, just 12 will do.
    That is what I am seeing......maybe I'm wrong, my ex wife used to tell me I was a lot..... but thats another story....I don't think you guys want to hear.
  11. I agree with the assessment, that 220 will often require a separate back for certain cameras, and also 24 (32 @ 645) can be a lot to shoot unless you're really clicking a lot in a short amount of time.
    Thus 120 is a good standard, if the manufacturer has to choose.
    Also, I find rolls of 220 end up with a generous bend in the middle, from the lab, "due to length" and the "facilities" they have.
    My guess is they hang it at the halfway point, somewhere? Scanning that inevitable kinked frame isn't fun.
  12. It is not as easily available. If Kodak, or any other manufacturer wants 220 to be more popular, the solution is easy. Just run this ad:" Dear photographers (we call you dears even though we despise and distrust you [relax, the situation is mutual]). We guarantee that 220 film will be available thru the year 2200." If Kodak were to do something that simple, they could retain the 220 business. But Kodak does not want the 220 business. They are stupid and short sighted people, concerned merely with their year end bonuses, who will let their products slide into obscurity and disuse if we let them do so.
  13. I really like 220 in the Hasselblad. Problem is there are so few labs to work with it and it's expensive all around. So for now I'm jst doing the black and white thing on 120 and digi.
  14. 220 film was never "popular" even in the heyday of film, 120 always outsold it. And 120 always had a wider variety of available emulsions.
    The longer 220 rolls were designed mainly for pro use. In fact they weren't even available until (1965), sixty four years after 120's (1901) introduction. So in terms of cameras out there, there are many more 120 cameras.
    In the last decade it seems like the number of film shooters declined by 99%. And the former 220 using pros were the first to go digital. This leaves 220 as truly a dinosaur without a mate.
  15. If there were good options in B&W 220 I would use it almost exclusively. I shoot with a pentax 67 and get only10 shots per roll. PIA
  16. I use 220 Portra 160 VC for weddings, but for black & white I stick with 120 because in 220 there is only 320 TXP, which is a good film, but there are situations where other black & white films serve me better. Also, it is a PITA to load 220 on SS reels unless you have a perfect reel. Never could get 220 on a plastic Paterson reel, though, even though the Freestyle catalog description says you can.
    In medium format, the 220 user fits in the middle of the 120 user who needs only a small number of photos and the 70mm back user who much shoot large numbers of photos without reloading. So many photographers today that take large assignments (like school portraits, etc) have moved to digital.
  17. Well, I am used to shooting 35mm but haven't tried my new MF gear...I am use to 36 exp per roll so I think I might like 220. At least there is a 220 Ektachrome left!
  18. Greg, you raise a very good question.
    I shoot 95% MF, 4% 35mm and 1% digital.
    95% of my MF is in 220 because it requires less film changing (recognising all the hazards of that, previously mentioned) and processing is cheaper than 2 X 120. Sure, one pays for each proof/ print with negative film but the actual film developing is less.
    Weddings are a classic example of the upside of 220 and I find landscapes can also "burn" through a lot of film. Having a dedicated 220 back, allows me to use another back if I wish to change emulsion, or require a film not available in 220. e.g. Kodak's new Ektar 100 and my freezer of Tech.Pan.
    When you come from a 35mm background, getting 32 exposures on a roll of 220 virtually requires no "adjustment" in one's thinking and for a photographic journey/expedition, etc. one just packs the same number of rolls as one did for 35.
    Let's hope we can keep 220 film alive for a long time!
  19. "While this shouldn't matter all that much, " - It matters for a lot of older classics camera that use a window to let you know what frame you're on.​
    It also matters to us strange people who make their own panoramic cameras. My current 6x12 version only gets 6 shots per roll. I would love to use 220 but I also need to find the numbers in the window. Now 220 with continuous backing paper would be good!
  20. I guess the 220 problems are not with the users. The problems to my experience are more with the photo labs. Only pro labs can process professionally E-6 or C-41 or B&W 220 roll films . Of course with an higher price.
    Unfortunately, there are only 3 companies left, who can convert 220 roll films. Fuji, Kodak and Lucky/China!
    I agree, let's hope that I can feed my Contax 645 AF for a long time with 220 films!
  21. I have frozen stocks of my favourite discontinued general-purpose C41 film, Konica Centuria 400, in both 120 and 220. I use both types, for different scenarios. I pull out the 220 when I am planning to shoot 35mm-style with my Mamiya 645 (30 exposures), or when I want to avoid constant reloading with my Mamiya Universal 6x9 (16 exposures). I use 120 films of various emulsions when I want to finish a roll in a reasonable amount of time - e.g. a night of deep-sky astrophotography might use 5 frames, the next available night might be months away, and I don't want to just burn up the remainder of the film on pointless shots. Better to have 3 or 10 frames to finish off the roll, than 11 or 25!
    I am more likely to use 220 with the 6x9 camera, for two reasons: there are no extra backs or inserts to carry around (just switch the pressure plate); and one shoots 8 frames on 120 pretty quickly in most situations.
    One thing that bugs me though is how different processors treat 220. One lab told me that it has to cut 220 in half (generally slicing through an image) in order to process it! Another charged the same for 220 as 120 (yay!) but ended up with crud on the film either way (boo!). My current lab has great quality but charges double for 220. When I queried this, citing that the labour & materials cost of setup-process-sleeve-return is hardly any greater than 120, they just said that "this is the industry norm". C'est la vie.
  22. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Why it is less popular
    • Because not all cameras have been designed to use it and the default supply when new was 120
    • Because not all emulsions have been available in 220
    • Because many retailers don't carry 220, or have carried a very restricted selection. Even some of the larger online suppliers here in the UK carry little 220
    • Because there's been no financial incentive to use it. Total cost per frame is about the same as 120, and in the days when 120 film is/was promoted 120 film was available at a lower cost per frame than 220.
    • Because some people are affected by or are concerned about the lack of backing paper , the increased possibility of light leaks if not handled properly and the need to load /unload with more care.
    • Because production nowadays is in batches which results in some retailers going out of stock between runs and being unable to buy replacement rolls.
    • Because 220 was always more popular amongst high film volume pro users, who have noe changed to digital and their cameras are usually bought by people who use less film and are less prone need the convenience benefits of 220
    Many of these arguments are self -perpetuating. So 220 isn't so popular, which leads to it becoming less available and sometimes more expensive, which leads to it becoming less popular, and so on. Its a difficult spiral to reverse, and whilst I like and use 220 myself , I'm keener to see film manufacturers make a clear profit on rollfilm to secure its long term future. This might mean accepting that proliferation of brands and roll lengths might not be such a great idea.
  23. I only have one MF body and switching between film types is easier with 120. I would find 220 film convenient in some situations but can't find it locally.
  24. In 220 I use Tri-X and Fuji Velvia, and in medium format overall its 40:40:20 % 120/220/70mm, with a variety of magazines for Hasselbald and Linhof.
    In 120 it's everything and anything. In 70mm there is Fp4 and Rollei IR400, both of which area available new, in addition to the odd deal on eBay for out-of-date Kodak films.
    As for the variety of frustrations in using/processing 220, mine too are spoken for in the previous posts above. I want my 120 and 220 E6 films in a roll, UNCUT. Unless I pay big bucks (+25% tax) at a "pro lab" in Oslo, most other labs in Norway send there E6 to Germany, to some central cooking pot, staffed it seems by illiterate slave workers. Hence my being keen to do it myself, with a Jobo outfit. B&W no problem. No one else gets their hands on my B&W. A lab in the UK will be handling all my colour 70mm, and some other 120/220 film too. Always when in London I pick up a bundle of 120/220 from Silverprint , who also stock FP4 70mm.
    Things could be worse.
    There are advantages for both 120, and so I select the most appropriate for the task.
    But remember, and you've read it here before: "Use it or lose it."
  25. My camera operation pattern lines up better with 120. I prefer to select film by observed conditions. The 120 will give me about 15 frames from the 645; it's easier to manage in increments of about a dozen. If I had to think in increments of about two dozen, then I'd probably end up either using an emulsion I didn't want for the situation, or get stuck with a roll stalled in the camera.
  26. 220 in my Pentax 6x7, hands down. 120 is just too much of a PITA.
  27. If I had two Pentax 67/67ii bodies, I would use 220 more often. Right now I often find the shots that I want to take require a different film than what I have in the body.
  28. "Only pro labs can process professionally E-6 or C-41 or B&W 220 roll films . " -- Wolf, what are you talking about? 220 E-6, C-41 and B&W is the same film as 120, just longer. All you need to process it is a 220 reel that holds the extra length. Anybody who can process 120 can certainly process 220. As for the popularity of 220, I think 220 was pretty much the standard for wedding photographers for the simple reason noted above of not running out of film while the bride is coming down the aisle or having to change magazines as often. And since wedding photographers are generally also portrait photographers, it got shot a lot for portrait sessions just to avoid the cost of stocking two sizes of film. But now that the wedding/portrait world has gone mostly digital, demand for 220 has fallen off. I would think a landscape photographer shooting MF would more likely go for 120 because landscapes -- unlike weddings -- are a slow, methodical way of working with all the time in the world to change film between rolls.
  29. Zeiss.de has published a paper showing that 220 film yields higher resolution. My non-scientific comparisons (using 120 vs 220 film backs on my Linhof) suggest it might be true. If I remember correctly, their tests indicate that 220 film is more uniformly flat in the film plane without the paper backing and suffers less from curling problems than 120 film. I like to use 220 as it allows bracketing exposures without too much film changing. I only use my 120 back if I know I need a minimal number of shots on that particular film.
  30. That thing again... ;-)
    It is my sworn duty to point out whenever the Zeiss thingy is mentioned that it was part of a marketing campaign, pushing the then new vacuum back for the Contax 645.
    Vacuum backs do not work when there is paper between it and the film.
    So lo and behold! We should use film without backing paper!
    So read the 'paper' (it was just a short item in their Camera Lens News). But always remember that it not necessarily is 'pure science', and that there definitely is an ulterior motive.
    I don't like 220 film, because 24 shots per subject is a bit much. 12 shots per subject is too much already.
    But i do like 220 film when i'm out and about, gathering pictures instead of creating ones. On holidays and other trips, only having to carry half the amount of rolls is a definite plus.
  31. "Anybody who can process 120 can certainly process 220"
    In theory Craig, yes it should be the case. But I do have to agree with Wolf on this one.
    I'm very close to going the do-it-myself route, with a Jobo outfit. If "pro" labs weren't so expensive, or the others took greater care, I would certainly use much more E6/C41 roll film, 220 and 120.
    Such is life.
    (When I start using E6 4x5, then the Jobo system will become an essential, and the stress around roll-film colour processing will just float away.)
  32. 220 film flatness: here's the link:
  33. Why is 220 film so Unpopular?​

    I don't think that "Unpopular" is the correct term. I do aerial photography and 220 is wildly popular in my little world, but I think that David Henderson got it right: It's less available, which reduces the demand, which makes it even less available. Vicious circle!
  34. "Anybody who can process 120 can certainly process 220"
    In theory Craig, yes it should be the case. But I do have to agree with Wolf on this one.​
    Interesting, Kevin. Why, may I ask? (Because otherwise I'd have to say Craig's assertion is correct).
    I occasionally shoot 220 TX-P (one of the only emulsions I can find in 220 in the UK) and more usually 120 TX. I rate them both at the same speed of 320. I process them at the same time, on identical size reels, in the same developing tank. It's an identical process. The only visible difference is at the drying stage, where the 220 film hangs a little lower due to its length.
    So what am I missing?
  35. I have a hard time finishing one 120 roll in my P67 in a one-day outing. I often end up with a frame or two I shoot on anything the next day just so I can develop the roll. 220 would give me too many frames to shoot before I can finish it.
  36. Craig, a while ago, I've contact in my hometown a pro lab and asked them, whether they can process 220 films professionally. Answer was: "Yes we can, but you have to accept loosing one picture frame"!
    Sorry, I don't call this professional processing!
  37. Craig, a while ago, I've contact in my hometown a pro lab and asked them, whether they can process 220 films professionally. Answer was: "Yes we can, but you have to accept loosing one picture frame"!
    Sorry, I don't call this professional processing!​
    I think that's fair - provided they tell you in advance which one... ;-)
  38. Hi Neil, "So what am I missing?"
    Answer: Nothing. You are doing it yourself, are accustomed to it, and you know what you are doing.
    This is about labs upon whom most of us are dependent for colour processing.
    Citing Wolf's example of the lab who uses a handling method that sacrifices one frame, this is a very good example of the kind compromise many 220 users have to live with. If that lab can't get off it's a... and do it properly, I too say that they are not professional in their attitude for a start.
    My favourite lab in Oslo was one of the absolute "Best in Test" lab chains around Scandinavia. They managed to do the best job ever with all of my Reala, at a very good price. Their systems were fine-tuned and maintained to perfection. Life as a film user was good. Clearly they had to "restructure" as the image junkies went over to digital for their holiday snaps. One day when I picked up another bundle of Reala process&print jobs, my blood stopped flowing, with horror, as the images I was looking at were ... crap (can I say that here?) They were digital prints from scans of the film. Saddened as though a loved one had just gone away forever, I kept using colour film, but began to build up a pile of unprocessed rolls, 35mm and roll-film, hoping that I would find someone who still printed analogue (what I call the real thing).
    However. One of the most established pro labs in Oslo handed over a roll of E6 with Chemical streaks down the entire length, so I gave it back to be washed again. Costing me one whole day of traveling and waiting, I never went back. But there is another now, and I've yet to try them. Although when I add the processing to the cost of getting into town'n'back, the Jobo is looking more and more like the way to go.
    When in London there are more options.
    However, back to the 120 therefore 220 thing, I just get the feeling that some are almost indignant at being given something out of the ordinary, I mean the 'semi-pro', 'pseudo pro', 'wanna-be pro' labs, who think they know it all, but freak out at the extra length of film, and can't cope. For what other reason does the film get kinks, finger prints or be badly cut when sleeved, or cut all when I have expressly asked for it to be returned in a complete roll. (Deep sigh )
    I will gladly use good pro labs, always, providing I am deriving an income directly from a project. Usually I am not.
    (This thread needs an image or two ... )
    Recent Velvia 50 (220) with 500C and 50mm Distagon C
  39. Kevin, I sympathise. Thanks for your explanation - I think my confusion was due to my not picking up on the context. When I read 'in theory anyone can do it' I assumed we were talking about people, not about labs. Everything you observe about the demise of good labs is true, and is one of the reasons why I now do my own processing.
  40. With regards to the issue of "Pro labs"; surely, as users of Medium Format cameras, we chose this road for quality images.
    I have always assumed that if we are not doing the processing ourselves, then we are using professional labs. Why would one invest a lot of money in high end equipment to gain quality images, only to hand over the film to a run-of-the- mill photo finishing store?
    I have not heard before, the suggestion that 220 would be cut in half when processing!
  41. The label "Pro" is not the begin all end all of photofinishing.
    What we need are labs that consistently produce good work.
    And consumer minilabs certainly can do that. While "Pro"-label labs certainly can produce sloppy work too. I have seen it both.
  42. Most minilabs cannot process 220 roll films, because the special extra tools to process 220 film are very expensive, and the incoming orders on 220 films are unfortunately minor. And it would be an C-41 process only.
  43. Having a chuckle at an image in my mind ....
    Is this us?
  44. ( The fate of the 70mm fraternity is even more gruesome ... )
  45. Q.G. I couldn't agree more.
    Anymore than "Pro" photographer is the "be all end all" of quality pictures.
    To me a "Pro" lab is one that listens to the customer's requirements, produces individualised work (where necessary) and CONSISTENTLY produces first class results.
    In fact, due to a recent move, I had to find a new lab. There was a branch of my "pro" lab but it meant sending the work away. (no dip and dunk facilities). I visited a "new"lab and got a feel for what they could do. On my second use, they inadvertently printed an enlargement from the wrong negative. Due to this error, they reprinted it and hand delivered it to me some 20 miles away!(via the manager) No delivery charge and no charge for the print either. First class print; first class service. That is a "Pro" lab.
  46. First class indeed Collin. Thanks for that one. (The manager's 20 mile drive is the sort of thing I used to do when I had my picture framing business in Melbourne.)
    But yes, consistency is of the essence. With equipment, materials and processing all in good order, the only variable should be the photographer's performance, and that's up to us. We need everything else to be dependable .

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