35mm film and how much we are required to waste

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by David Lyga, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    We all know that because of the need for movie film to withstand the rigors of constant, steady movement along a projector's sprockets (without tearing!) that this film had to have large sprocket holes in order to be ‘born’. That factor took up a lot of real estate and that waste is part of the legacy that movie film has left for the ‘identical’ still film. But do we know what the quantified result is? Absolutely shocking! We are required to waste about half of this expensive film just because of that ‘necessity’.

    Counting the leader, a 36 exposure roll of film is about 63 inches in length. With avoirdupois translated into metric, that 63 inches becomes 1600 millimeters per roll. (i.e. 63 inches x 25.4mm per inch). This 1600mm length times the 35mm width becomes 56,000 square millimeters of film per roll, total. Now, we take 36 pictures on the roll and each frame is 24mm x 36mm, yielding 864 square millimeters per frame or 31,104mm (I.e. 864 x 36 frames) used for actual image recording. 31,104 divided by 56,000 is only about 55.5% of the total film area that is actually used! We waste almost half.

    Again, even worse: Counting the leader, a 24 exposure roll of film is about 45 inches in length. With avoirdupois translated into metric, that 45 inches becomes 1143 millimeters per roll. (i.e. 45 inches x 25.4mm per inch). This 1143mm length times the 35mm width becomes 40,005 square millimeters of film per roll, total. Now, we take 24 pictures on the roll and each frame is 24mm x 36mm, yielding 864 square millimeters per frame or 20,736mm (I.e. 864 x 24 frames) used for actual image recording. 20,736 divided by 40,005 is only about 52% of the total film area that is actually used! Again we waste almost half.

    What more is there to say about the most popular film size ever created? 120 film does not waste nearly as much and sheet film wastes virtually none. And, remember, my calculations assume that all frames are usable. – David Lyga
     
  2. Peltigera

    Peltigera Member

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    120 film does not waste so much film but it does waste a great deal of paper.
     
  3. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Well said, Peltigera! But the same could be said about the multitude of frames on 35mm. - David Lyga
     
  4. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    And think of the leaders on 35mm too!
     
  5. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Wait you mentioned that..
     
  6. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    This is like complaining because your T-Bone steak is 48% bone...:smile:
     
  7. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Yes, rich815, 'I said that' but it is important enough to repeat.

    In fact, I consider rolls to film to be 'bulk loads' and load film into the camera in the dark. I put about two inches of tape onto the film advance spool and, in the dark, I tape the bottom of the film so that it extends just onto the sprockets. That way I do not waste more than about one frame per load (of course, I use 100 foot rolls and do bulk loading; for standard cassettes you would have to cut off the leader first). In this way I get to use a roll of film for three or four sessions and develop the film after each session. I despise waste in all areas of life (even if the money wasted is not mine). It is simply intrinsic with me.

    eddie: I am a vegetarian so 'T-bones' matter not to me! Besides, for those who are not, the bone and its marrow can make soup, or be used to feed your dog. - David Lyga
     
  8. EASmithV

    EASmithV Member

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    They made something that solved this issue, wasn't it called 828 film? It never really caught on.
     
  9. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Yes, Bantam never caught on. There is something positive about a product being everywhere as was 35mm film, as well as the noble extent of the precision built into the '35mm genre'. - David Lyga
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2013
  10. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    Casual observation on my part at the moment - pending an exact measurement with my next roll that I process, but wasting almost half seems quite excessive. I know the full auto advance bodies use a minimum leader amount, but I have only managed to get a 39 frames from a 36 exposure roll when I load with only one advance with my manual bodies.

    I see counting the sprocket hole area too as part of the total film area.
     
  11. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    The 39 frame target is certainly frugal and takes pains to achieve, but even so, you would waste about 40% of the roll. Les, unfortunately, my figures do not lie. That is why I brought up the topic. It's worse than it seems. - David Lyga
     
  12. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Don't you think we waste more with the poor frames we expose? How many "frame-worthy" shots do we get per roll? I'm happy with 2-3 real winners per 36 exposures. Shouldn't we concentrate on that sort of waste, not the unused portions of the film?
     
  13. Les Sarile

    Les Sarile Member

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    With good working cameras, poor exposure is not likely. How about banal images that shouldn't have even been taken to begin with . . . :whistling:

    How about those with manual cameras who don't notice the rewind is not turning with each advance!
     
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  15. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    That's what I meant, Les. Not poor exposures. Poor images.
     
  16. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    I see your point David but it's too late now to do anything about it.
     
  17. blockend

    blockend Member

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    Film is full of gelatin - animal bi-product!
     
  18. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Basically the answer to this waste issue was type APS film.
     
  19. BardParker

    BardParker Member

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    If I remember correctly, Olan Mills portrait studios throughout the United States had special cameras that used proprietary 35mm film in long rolls without the sprocket holes. One of their photographers told me that it almost gave a medium format negative, area- wise. This was when we were having a family portrait done circa 2001.

    Kent
     
  20. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Sprocket holes are part of the charm and history of 35mm film photography. Many photographers print images that include these, including me on some alternative processes.
     
  21. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Going off topic: I dislike those patch codes on rebates of today.
     
  22. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I never thought of it in those terms -- waste. I consider it a 'cost of doing business".
     
  23. 250swb

    250swb Member

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    I was brought up in the journalist tradition that film was cheap, not necessarily because it was cheap, but because the alternative was worse, when you start to become obsessive about the amount of film used your whole output becomes compromised.

    Penny pinching film nowadays should mean you just go straight to digital, and not let fiscal matters affect your photography. But I wouldn't expect a better or worse hit rate with either. If I shoot three films I am happy as a pig in muck if I get three images I can happily stand by for the rest of my life. With digital I may shoot more, but my hit rate is just as refined, I mistrust my judgement if I find more more than just a few images that seem acceptable from three hundred exposures. So film is never wasted, even if nothing is worthy of reproduction on a roll, it means you learned something, you learned a lesson in failing, and that is often more important than a lesson in winning.

    Steve
     
  24. PentaxBronica

    PentaxBronica Member

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    The problem is that quite often what comes out of the developing tank is nothing like as brilliant as what you saw in the viewfinder. I've had shots which ticked all the "rules" off but were best described as "meh" when developed.

    As for wastage, this annoys me with later bodies. My Super A insists on winding and shooting three times at the start of a roll before it will meter properly or allow you to select a shutter speed, meanwhile with a KX I can shoot frame 0 onwards and get at least one more exposure. The AF bodies are even worse for winding through film leaders before they'll let you shoot.
     
  25. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    The backing paper on 120 film I salvage and use as notepaper in my messenger bag when I'm on commuting trips. In the lab, this same backing paper is described as a "significant waste product in volume". The other waste is the plastic spools: I've seen a mountain of them in the corner of the E6 lab. There does not seem to be a recycling method for them (?).
     
  26. David Brown

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    ... :sleeping: