Roll film

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Packaged roll films from various manufacturers
Roll films compared to 35mm cartridges

As roll film refers to photographic film , which is open assembled onto a spool. The name arose in contrast to the sheet film .


Originally paper was used as the flexible layer carrier , later the highly flammable nitrocellulose ( John Wesley Hyatt , 1868) and from around 1908 the flame-retardant acetate cellulose ( security film ). The film is wound from a supply spool onto an empty spool. The exposed film is given for development together with the storage spool. When inserting an unexposed roll film into the roll film magazine, the last supply spool is used as an empty spool. The coils were originally made of wood and metal, later made of plastic.

In contrast to motion picture film (not to be confused with cinema film ) and 35 mm film ( 35 mm film ), roll film is not perforated.

Since around 1998, a barcode system introduced by Fujifilm has been available based on the DX coding of 35mm and APS films for roll films in formats 120 and 220 (see below) . The film format and length (120 full length / 120 half length / 220), sensitivity and type (monochromatic / negative / positive / other) are encoded in a barcode on the sticker that connects the photosensitive film with the carrier paper. This barcode can be read and evaluated by some newer medium format cameras.

Film types


Roll film 120, empty and full spool
Classic wooden reel 120
120 roll film with lateral incidence of light after incorrect roll-up in the camera. The protective paper had slipped. You can see images of the markers on the protective paper. The picture itself is spoiled.

The known roll film is the type 120, which in the majority of medium format cameras and in roll film magazines for large-format cameras is used. Until the 1950s, it was also used in the simplest cameras at the time, the box cameras .

The film is 61.5 mm wide and is glued to a continuous paper carrier at the beginning. It is exposed in different formats in the different cameras. The best known are 4.5 cm × 6 cm (which had a surprising renaissance in the 1990s), 6 cm × 6 cm and 6 cm × 9 cm, with 16, 12 or 8 frames fitting on one film. For these formats, rows of numbers are printed on the back of the paper carrier, which are used for counting with simple cameras: In the back of the camera there is a red window, which can often be closed, under which the row of numbers for the relevant format is located. To transport the film, the transport wheel is turned until the next number of frames appears.

Cameras for 6 cm × 7 cm and 6 cm × 8 cm are also widespread, panorama cameras even expose formats of 6 cm × 12 cm or 6 cm × 17 cm.

The dimensions mentioned are always rounded values, the exact formats for 6 cm × 6 cm are only 56 mm × 56 mm, for 4.5 cm × 6 cm only 42 mm × 56 mm, for 6 cm × 7 cm depending on the manufacturer 56 mm × 68 mm or 56 mm × 72 mm (the so-called ideal format ) and for 6 cm × 9 cm only 56 mm × 83 mm.


Type 220 is wound on the same spool as type 120, but does not have a continuous paper backing, only paper strips are glued on at the beginning and end. This means that it can be twice as long, so it has 24 recordings for the format 6 cm × 6 cm, for example. It can only be used in suitable cameras; simple models with a counter window naturally fail from the start. In some cameras, the film pressure plate can be adjusted to the lower thickness due to the lack of backing paper by rotating or changing it, for example FUJI GW 690 and similar. There are different backs for most system cameras, such as Hasselblad , Rollei , Linhof or Mamiya . Type 220 is not very common and is not available for all emulsions.


Roll film type 127 with empty spool

Roll film 127 is less common, it is a 4.6 cm wide roll film that was introduced by Kodak in 1912 and was primarily intended for simple cameras, including box cameras , but also for two- lens reflex cameras such as the Baby Rolleiflex (see Rollei ) Was used. It had its heyday in the 1930s, with the increasing spread of 35mm film, sales fell continuously. Similar to type 120, it has a continuous paper carrier and 12 recordings for the 4 cm × 4 cm format (exactly 1½ ″ × 1½ ″ or 38.1 mm × 38.1 mm), the 3 cm × 4 cm formats are also common and 4 cm x 6.5 cm. For the formats 4 cm × 4 cm and 4 cm × 6.5 cm, numbers are printed on the paper for counting. For the 3 cm × 4 cm format, which was introduced later, the numbers are missing; instead, corresponding cameras have two viewing windows in which the 8 markings for the 4 cm × 6.5 cm format are alternately set, so that 16 steps result.

Camera production ended in the 1960s (the Rolleiflex, for example, in 1968), so that ultimately only Kodak offered films. The slide film Ektachrome was discontinued in the autumn of 1984 due to a lack of demand, which was most recently almost exclusively in Germany, a color negative film was still available for some time. Black and white films such as the Efke R100 and the Rollei Retro 80 S (produced by Agfa-Gevaert in Belgium) are currently still available; the last available color film, the slide film Macochrome, was discontinued in 2005. With a self-made cutting device, it can be made from a Type 120 yourself, albeit with some effort. A big advantage of the Baby-Rolleiflex and its relatives is that the 4 cm × 4 cm format can be demonstrated with a 35 mm projector. Because of the 1.7 times larger area compared to the small picture, it was also referred to as the “super slide format” (superslide).


The roll film 620 corresponds in width and length to the film 120, but was wound on smaller spools and is therefore not directly compatible with the 120, but can be rewound on an empty 120 spool. Alternatively, 120 format film spools can be processed on the edge by removing the bead.

620 format film is no longer produced.

616 & 820

Type 616 and 820 roll films are no longer available. However, these are not the only roll films that are no longer available. The book Kodak Cameras - THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS by Brian Coe ( ISBN 0-906447-44-5 ) lists how many types of roll film have been produced by Kodak during the century. As usual with Kodak, many types have been replaced and later taken off the market for commercial reasons.

Brian Coe pointed out which type of roll film was used when and for which image format. It can be determined that there were image formats for which more than one type could be used. The type difference is nowhere described, but consists in the dimensions of the roll film spool. Today it is difficult to assign an empty, unmarked spool exactly to the type of roll film if the appropriate camera is not available. The compilation of the Kodak cameras in the book mentioned makes it easier to identify an empty reel. In addition to some information about each camera, the roll film type (film size) is also given for roll film cameras.

German names

The type numbers introduced by Kodak were only used in Germany from around 1960, before that there were separate names:


  • corresponding to type 116
  • 6 images in the format 6.5 × 11


  • corresponding to type 129
  • 6 pictures in the format 5 × 7.5


  • according to type 127
  • 8 images in 4 × 6.5 format
  • 16 images in 3 × 4 format
  • 12 pictures in 4 × 4 format


  • from 1932
  • corresponding to type 120
  • 8 6 × 9 images
  • 16 images in 4.5 × 6 format
  • 16 images in 4 × 4 format
  • 12 images in 6 × 6 format


  • until 1932
  • corresponding to type 120, but shorter
  • 6 6 × 9 images
  • 12 images in 4.5 × 6 format
  • 9 6 × 6 images


  • from 1932, so-called short coil
  • corresponding to type 120, but shorter
  • 4 images in 6 × 9 format
  • 8 pictures in the format 4.5 × 6
  • 6 images in 6 × 6 format

PB 20

  • corresponding to type 620
  • like type 120, but with a different coil

History and Development

Beier Precisa roll film camera from 1952

Contrary to popular belief, roll film is neither an invention of George Eastman himself nor of employees of the Eastman Company (→ Kodak No. 1 ). An improved celluloid film was also patented for Hannibal Goodwin in 1887 . George Eastman ignored the existing patents and was a defendant in a lawsuit until 1898, after which he was sentenced to pay Goodwin damages. However, Eastman's aggressive approach enabled his company to develop a dominant market position by the end of the 19th century . For example, in 1905 Agfa stopped trying to develop a competitive roll film and did not resume production until 1915.


It is undisputed that, on the one hand, roll film made photography much easier, but on the other hand, it made it more difficult to develop the negative individually with its special quality potential.

Until then, one worked exclusively with a plate camera , the possibilities of which were limited and whose handling required a lot of skill. Photographs had to be edited individually and snapshots were only possible to a limited extent. It was difficult to take pictures in unfavorable locations. This changed with roll film. With a film magazine it could be attached to any plate camera. You could photograph several subjects one after the other and the operation was simplified. The cassette could be exchanged without having to edit the images immediately. Photography has become a widespread hobby for amateur photography .

Compared to 35mm film, the advantage was increasingly that medium-format slides could be viewed well without a magnifying glass. For this reason, editorial offices have long preferred this format and thus the roll film. Further advantages are that the film grain appears less strongly and the lower sensitivity to soiling and scratching, because the same positive size does not have to be enlarged as much as with 35mm film.

See also

For roll film projectors and recorded roll films, see u. A. Dux-Kino , Filmosto and Pouva Magica .

Web links


  1. Matthias Paul, administrator in the Minolta forum information on barcodes on roll films
  2. For various "6 cm × 6 cm" cameras there were also "4 cm × 4 cm" inserts that made it possible to accommodate 16 square images on one film. Parts of the film remained unexposed at both edges. These cameras included, for example, the CertoPhot, but also two-lens Rolleiflex models. There were also cameras such as B. the AGFA Isoly, which were intended exclusively for 16 recordings in the format 4 cm × 4 cm on 120 roll film.