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Film Camera Terminology | How to Understand Photographers

Sometimes it seems like photographers are talking in another language. Here is a list of terminology that you might hear being thrown around - and what it means.

120 film: see medium format.

35mm film: this is the most common type of film. 35mm refers to the width of the roll. 

Aperture: the size of the hole in your lens allowing light into the camera.

ASA: sometimes referred to as ISO. This is how light sensitive your roll of film is and therefore the setting your camera should be set to.

Automatic settings: settings that are set for you by the camera. 

Bokeh: the orbs of light in your photograph that are out of focus and typically in the background. 

C41: a type of developing process using certain chemicals. 

Depth of field: the zone within a photo where objects appear sharp. If you have a shallow depth of field, not a lot appears in focus. 

Developing: the process in which film is developed so that the negatives appear on the roll of film. 

Fixed focus: a camera that does not require being focused. 

Focal length: the distance between the lens and your roll of film when the photograph is in focus. It determines how close your subject will appear to you.

Focus: the part of the image that you want to be sharp and visible. 

ISO: sometimes referred to as ASA. This is how light sensitive your roll of film is and therefore the setting your camera should be set to.

Manual settings: settings that need to be done by the photographer on the camera. 

Medium format: a type of film that is larger than 35mm film and is sometimes referred to as 120. 

Negative: the image that appears on a roll of film when it has been developed.

Point and shoot: a camera that is really simple to use and usually involves simply pointing it at your subject and taking the photo. 

Prime: a lens that does not change focal length and does not have a zoom.

Rangefinder: a type of camera that has a focusing system that shows two images in which one is moved to line up with the other. 

Scanning: the process in which negatives are made digital by scanning them with a photo scanner.

Shutter speed: the speed at which your shutter opens to allow light into the camera. 

SLR: single-lens reflex. This is a type of camera that uses a mirror and prism system to allow you to see what you are taking photos of. Examples of SLRs include the Canon AE-1 Program, Pentax K1000, etc.

Winding mechanism: the mechanism that moves your film through the camera.

Zoom: lenses or cameras that can increase their focal length by zooming in.