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Photographic film

Photographic film is a sheet of plastic (polyester or celluloid) coated with an emulsion containing a light-sensitive chemical such as silver nitrate. Other modern light-sensitive layers consist of silver halide salts with variable crystal size that determine the sensitivity of the film. When the emulsion is subjected to controlled exposure to light (or other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays), it forms a latent image. Chemical processes can then be applied to the film to create a visible image; This process is called film developing.

Depending on the type of film being exposed, the image produced is either positive polarity (direct view) or negative polarity (must be printed to positive polarity for proper viewing). Positive film produces slides or transparencies, which can be viewed directly, scanned, or projected. Many professional photographers favour slide film, which is scanned before being published in magazines or brochures. Slides can be inspected for sharpness using a high-powered magnifying glass, known as a Lupe, and do not need to be printed to see the actual image produced.

Film speed describes a films sensitivity to light. Fast films are very receptive to light, slow films are not. Films are commonly given ISO (International Standards Organisation) rating on the following scale:

ISO 25, ISO 50, ISO 100, IS0 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200

ISO 25 film is very "slow", so requires much more time to produce a well-exposed image than ISO 800 film. ISO 800, 1600 and 3200 film is thus better suited to dim weather conditions, and action shots. The benefit of slow film is that it usually has finer grain than fast film. Professional photographers usually seek fine grain, and therefore require a tripod to expose an image on slow film and keep the camera still for the duration of the shot.

Instant (Polaroid) photography uses a special type of camera and film that automates and integrates developing and printing, without the need of further equipment or chemicals. This process is carried out photo-by-photo, as opposed to the regular system, where the exposure of a whole film is finished before developing.

Black-and-white photographic film uses one layer of silver, whereas colour film uses a three-layer dye-based structure.

Because photographic film was ubiquitous in the production of motion pictures, or movies, these are also known as films.

The first transparent photographic film was made by Eastman Kodak in 1885. Roll film, allowing several images without opening the camera, was introduced by Kodak in 1895. See also film formats. Prior to this, glass photographic plates were required, which were far more expensive and cumbersome, albeit also of better quality.

Companies that manufacture photographic film:

See also: Timeline of photography technology