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Microfilm is an analog storage medium using film reels which are exposed and developed into photographic records using a photographic process. It is typically used to store paper documents such as periodicals, legal documents, books and engineering drawings. It is compact in nature, is low cost to produce and store and requires far smaller storage space than paper documents. Therefore, it is considered to be a good archival form.
Viewing microfilm requires microfilm readers, which are simple devices consisting of a light source and magnification. Microfilm can be converted into an electronic format so as to be computer accessible. There are different types of microfilm, such as silver gelatin film, vesicular film and diazo film. Silver gelatin film is used for records which need to be kept permanently or for high-quality images. Vesicular film and diazo film are highly sensitive to high humidity or temperature. Microfilm is considered best for records which are accessed less frequently, but are still necessary to retain.
There are many advantages associated with the use of microfilm. Compared to traditional film, it is much stronger and more reliable. Less breakage is associated with microfilm. It is considered a good standardized image storage medium and is used for long-term storage needs. Cost of maintenance is lower than digital images, and microfilm meets recognized archival standards.Today, digital document storage is generally preferred over microfilm, as the stored contents are more accessible and distributable and are immune to any physical damage.