I was just talking with a friend who wasn't sure of the differences in size between 120 roll film and 35mm. It occured to me that fewer and fewer people seem to know just what a negative or a slide is any more. Today in the digital age people seem to not know what film even is.
So, I thought I'd put a comparison of the basic formats up here. Most people still know 35mm film (you can still find it at the supermarket), but good old box brownie 120 film seems to be forgotten. To rectify that here is an image below with a strip of 35mm and 120 side by side on the glass of my flat bed scanner.
the 120 film is much wider, allowing the camera to 'record' a bigger image on it. These images are from a 6x9 camera (meaning its supposed to be 6cm X 9cm in size). Actually they're from my nearly antique Voigtlander Bessa camera. If you click on the image, you'll notice that there are frame numbers along the bottom of the 120 film too. These are actually printed on the film at manufacture, and are only guides for using other formats (like the much smaller 6 x 4.5cm)
I like 6x9 the most because as you can see you get a much bigger film area than 35mm recorded onto the film.
This essentially means that you don't need to 'enlarge' or (magnify) the image as much when making a print.
This means that if you're making a typical small print of 10x13 cm the negative of the 6x9 camera really only needs to be made a little bigger, while the 24x36mm image needs to be nearly 4 times wider.
Now, if your lens is less than perfect this will mean your pictures will be less than clear.
Remember all those blury awful 35mm pictures from the 70's? Its interesting that the pictures taken back in the 50's (or even in the 1900's) are often sharper. Well its all down to the size of the negative. So, you see size maters!
Certainly newer cameras are improving, and the latest in multi thousand dollar camera and lens will make very sharp pictures indeed. Even better yet, digital SLR cameras make the best possible use out of that good lens and allow very good prints. But after you've spend thousands of dollars its still only just as good as an old 1950's 6x9 camera.
Click on this image to see a bigger version, its been sized down for the web, to just 1600 x 1012. However the original size is 5799 x 3667 and that's 21.26 MPixels.
Look around the image, but keep in mind, this is from a less than $200 camera :-) See if you can do better with a more expensive one ;-)