Why Is It Called 35Mm Rangefinder – Everything You Need to Know

People often ask, why is it called 35mm rangefinder?

Let’s find out!

Why Is It Called 35MM Rangefinder?

The term “35mm rangefinder” is used to describe a type of camera that uses an optical viewfinder (OVF) and has a focal length equivalent to the 35mm format. The 35mm format, also known as full-frame or APS-C, is one of the most popular formats for digital cameras today.

35mm vs. 120mm

A format is the size and/or type of negative used for making photographs. The two most common formats are 35mm and medium format.

Here’s a good example of the difference between 35mm and 120 film formats.

35mm negatives are 24mm x 36mm.

For most cameras, 120 refers to the size of the sensor in millimeters. It’s measured by multiplying the diagonal length of the sensor by 0.3937. So for example, if the sensor has a diagonal measurement of 5 inches, then its actual physical size would be 3.937 inches wide.

You can see that the 120 film format is considerably larger than 35 millimeters.

Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages, so when choosing a film camera, it’s important to think about which one fits your needs best.

If you refer to 120mm film as “120” instead of “120 millimeters,” people online will likely get angry at you for doing so. However, there is no significance behind the number “120.” It was just a way Kodak identified their film back when they first started making them.

An Overview of 35mm

If you’re just starting out with analog photography, the 35-millimeter film is a good place to start.

Advantages of Shooting 35mm

Number of Shots: 35mm has more shots per roll than digital cameras. With 24 or 36 exposures, most standard 35mm cameras shoot.

Lightweight: 35 millimeter (1/4 inch) cameras are lightweight and easy to use as everyday carry cameras.

It’s cheaper overall to shoot 35mm than digital. This makes shooting 35mm easier for beginners because they don’t need to spend as much time and effort perfecting their craft.

Availability: There are more film choices in the marketplace for 35mm. Newer and experimental movies will often be released first in 35mm, which has many consumer film stocks, including Kodak Gold Fujifilm Superia, that aren’t available anywhere else.

Disadvantages of 35mm

When comparing 35 millimeters (35 m) versus medium format digital cameras, one of the biggest disadvantages of 35 m is its lower resolution. Here’s a shot from a 35 m camera next to a comparable shot taken with a Mamiya 645 Pro TLR II using Fuji Provia 100F paper:

Quality: Many 35mm cameras are designed for consumers rather than professionals. As a result, their quality tends to be geared toward the consumer market.

There are several popular 35mm cameras available including:

Pentax K1000 Minolta x-700 And you can see our top 35mm film camera reviews here.

An Overview of 120mm 

The Canon EF-S 24–105mm f/4L IS USM is a great lens for shooting macro photography, but it’s not the only option available to you. There are many other lenses that can be used in place of this one, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Advantages of Shooting 120mm

With large format “3D pop:” since the camera plane is much bigger than on smaller formats, you have more space to isolate your subjects in a relatively thin slice, blurring the foreground/background and giving the images an almost 3D effect.

For most people, a medium format is a must if they’re going to incorporate film into their professional photography business.

Medium format cameras were originally built for professionals, so their glass, construction, and metering quality are excellent. They’re also modular in design, which allows you more options for customizing your camera.

Understand medium format vs 35mm lenses and equivalent focal lengths for 120 medium format cameras.

Disadvantages of 120mm

Weight: It’s heavy, but not too heavy. My Pentax 667 camera backpack weighs almost 11 pounds fully loaded with a camera + three lenses, which can be painful after a while…I can feel the discs in the back of my neck compress when I carry them for long periods of time.

Quality: More frames per roll. You’ll usually end up with between 16-32 images per roll of film, which means you have to make each one count.

This can be both a blessing and a curse because you’re forced to think through every shot before taking it. But if you’re shooting for an assignment, you may not have time to agonize over every frame.

Cost: Shooting film and developing images can cost anywhere from $0 to $5 per photo depending on the camera used.


There isn’t one perfect format for every type of shooter or shooter style.

We hope that this article was helpful. If you have any queries feel free to reach out in the comments section below.


  • John Moses

    John is the Editor in Chief here at The Outdoor Stores. His area of expertise ensures that there is no one better to suggest which rifles are most suitable for your hunting experience. He is also available for you to contact him personally to discuss the types of animals you want to hunt and the terrain you will be hunting on. Feel free to read his posts for expert opinion on Rifles, Scopes, Rangefinders, Bonoculars and Monoculars.

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