Liking a “Twelver” Over a 36-Exposure Roll

I like rolls of 12. For photography, a dozen frames is a manageable number these days when I’m shooting film. Because I tend to have film loaded in multiple cameras. (As William Eggleston says, “I take the camera I feel like using on any given day.”)

Just today I processed a roll of 36-exposure Tri-X that must’ve been loaded at least 4 years ago in a Leica M2, and was surprised to see some of the photos that were on it.

Which is always a treat.

But it just goes to show that 36 frames can take even someone like me, a prolific film shooter, a while to finish.

They used to make 35mm film in rolls of 12, 24 and 36, and I really only ever used 36-exposure rolls as that was what we had at the newspaper where I worked and we were allowed to use a bit of film for personal use. Twelves were available if I bought them, so I never used them.

In fact, if I had an assignment and the roll was on 8 or 10, and a deadline beckoned, the rest was wasted. Time was of the essence in that situation. Nobody was concerned about conserving film when the news was ripe.

Nowadays, a TLR like a Rolleiflex with a 12-exposure roll of 120 film is perfect for me. I can get it shot in a relatively short time. I just did that while out on a photo walk with a friend in Denver. (He calls it a walkabout, and he’s in the first photograph.) The next three photos are people or things I encountered.

Then today I processed that roll of film I finished in the Leica, and these are the photos. The first two are from years ago, from a place I used to live. The second two are from today.

All in all, I tend to shoot more “snapshots” with the Leica and 35mm format, and more “photographs” with the Rolleiflex TLR. That’s just the way I work. (See more of my work at

I recently bought a 100′ spool of Arista EDU 400 35mm film which is a fine black and white stock figuring that’s one way to roll short rolls. I could make up some twelves or fifteen-ers. There’s a little more waste with the leaders on a short roll, but it may be worth it to be able to finish the roll sooner.

Whatever works is a good idea. Lately, I’ve been taking the Rolleiflex out more than the Leica, and when I see the results of that big negatives, it wins me over every time. Leica may be great and stealth, but it’s no match for that beautiful negative out of the Rollei with its magnificent Tessar or Xenotar lens!

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2 thoughts on “Liking a “Twelver” Over a 36-Exposure Roll

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  1. I like 24-exp rolls in 35mm. 36-exp rolls feel like they never end! I’ve tried 12-exp rolls in 35mm, but they end too soon. Funny, I never have that experience shooting my TLRs, which by nature are 12 exposures per roll of 120. That feels just right somehow.


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