Microfilm vs. Microfiche

In today’s digital age, where technology is perpetually evolving, one probably wouldn’t think that anything invented in the nineteenth century would have any relevance in 2014. However, microforms, which are either films or paper that contain microreproductions of documents, date back to as early as 1836, and are far from anachronistic. Microforms are still widely used for the transmission, storage, reading, and printing of newspapers, photographs, and other documents.

The two types of microform are microfilm, which are rolls, and microfiche, which are sheets. Microfilm and microfiche are both viewable through microfilm machines that magnify the document, usually at about one twenty-fifth of its original size, and can turn the negative image on the film to a positive image.

Microfilm is a long strip of film wound onto a reel, just like film for a camera. The microfilm is then fed into a microfilm reader and the person viewing it can scroll through the images. It provides a low cost way to preserve hundreds of documents on a single spool of film, and if all images are loaded on a single reel at one time, it is generally easy to use.

Microfiche provides the same storage of documents in a different format. Microfiche comes on flat sheets of photographic film, and a single sheet can store numerous images. While slightly more costly to produce than microfilm, microfiche is easier to update and organize grouped documents.

Both microfilm and microfiche are valuable because they are compact and can store information in a much smaller format than paper files, usually reducing storage space requirements by up to 95 percent. It is cheaper to distribute than paper copy, and is virtually impossible to rip or tear. Also, since it is an analog, or an actual image of the original data, it makes it admissible as evidence in court, and only requires a magnifying glass to view it, meaning it never has to become obsolete.

However, microfilm and microfiche need to be stored properly in order to maintain viewing integrity.  Microform needs to be stored in a water safe box at very specific temperature and humidity levels. Handling of the material should be minimal to prevent fingerprints from getting on the film. Quality viewing equipment can get expensive, and will also be useless unless properly preserved.

Additionally, the potential for loss, flooding, fires or theft always exists because documents are in physical, not digital form. While microform has its benefits, digital documentation is still highly advantageous for protected, organized storage.

To learn more about the different Microfilm and Microfiche solutions Biel’s offers click here!