Bulk film question

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by georgejonesie, Jul 30, 2020.

  1. Before i try to start using bulk film I feel i should ask some questions,

    Is there a best place/most affordable place to go for color or black and white film in the 35mm format?

    IS there a standardized expiration/production date code system for the bulk spools of film?

    What are the best setups in terms of affordability of actual reloading systems.
  2. For Kodak and Ilford products, you'll find about the same prices if you go to B&H, Adorama, Freestyle, or any of the other big dealers. Shop around and sometimes one will run a sale, but for the most part it's just pick your favorite vendor and go with them.

    Watch Kodak prices in particular closely, as I've seen them run Tri-X prices, for example, up high enough that 100ft rolls worked out to being within a few cents a roll of pre-packaged assuming no waste and not paying for catridges(the latter isn't a bad assumption, the former is), and actually probably more expensive if you do factor waste. As a quick rule of thumb, 100ft "technically" can give 20 36ex rolls, but counting for waste, etc it's usually 18 or 19-use that in your calculations. More recently, Kodak has brought Tri-X down some(it was about ~$100 the last I checked, which works out to a dollar or so less than pre-rolled from the same suppliers). Ilford is reliably less expensive for bulk rolls than Kodak, with most at around $80 for 100ft.

    Freestyle does have their house brand Arista, which is not a bad film, and depending on speed it's a bit over $50 for 100ft. At the same time, I'd never suggest buying 100ft roll of an unknown film as that commits you to a lot of film. I made that mistake on my first roll when the vendor subbed TMAX 100 for Plus-X without asking me-they gave me a discount, but I still have that roll because I've never really warmed to TMAX 100(and I'm sorry I didn't get the roll of Plus-X then, as it's my all time favorite B&W film). The Arista products are inexpensive across the board, and I'd suggest picking up a few rolls to try before committing to bulk if you want to use it. Arista, in my experience, is a tame, predictable, and easy to shoot film, but it lacks the sharpness of TMAX/Delta, the "bite" of Tri-X or HP5+, and the tonality of Plus-X/FP4+. It's to me a good but not particularly notable film.

    The expiration date should be printed on the outer box of the bulk roll, much in the same way it would be for a smaller roll. It's also usually printed on the inner light tight film can. If you separate those, you're on your own to figure it out. When you transfer one out of its can to a bulk loader, I HIGHLY recommend-if the loader doesn't have a spot to do this-using a piece of tape or a label to mark the emulsion type, date loaded, and expiration date(the date loaded isn't as relevant as the other two values). My local shop usually gives me any bulk loader that comes in with film in it since he says I'm the only one who routinely buys from him anymore with the both the know-how and motivation to clip test an unknown bulk roll and figure out what it is-even then I can just identify emulsion and use my best judgement on base fog to see if it's worth using(and even then it's my camera/lens testing film-not for serious use). Long story short-keep track of it!

    For handling-the usual easy way is to use a daylight loading set-up. Watsons are most popular in the US, although they're not the only game around. There are a couple still in production(albeit not the Watson style I'm familiar with) but they are also pricey. Hang around used camera stops and they'll probably be happy to give you a couple :) . You can also probably find them on Ebay.

    As I said, I'm most familiar with the Watson, but they all work somewhat similarly. In the dark, you transfer the complete spool out of its light tight can and onto the spindle of the loader. Thread the film through the light traps in the loader, then seal it all up properly. Watsons have a big flip-up door on top where you can grab the end of the roll in the light, attach it to the spool of your film can, and then close it all up. The film gets fed over a toothed wheel that has a counter on it-along in there you'll also want to reset the counter to zero(it turns). Once that's all set up, close the door on top, and rotate the side of the loader to open the light trap. This will lock the door on top also so that you can't accidentally open/have it fall open. You turn the crank on the side, and for each frame of film that gets spun on you'll hear/feel a sharp "click". You can track your progress. Don't go over 40 frames as you can scratch the film inside the case. Once you've done that, close the light trap, and you can open up and cut the film off. Then, trim a leader.

    One big disadvantage of a daylight loader is that you need to stop shooting before you get to the last couple of frames on the roll, as they will be fogged. I've actually used my daylight loaders in the dark to avoid this.

    I've loaded film plenty of times without a loader-in the dark I roll it onto the spool then cut it. It's not the easiest thing to do, but it's how I grab a roll when I don't necessarily want to put one in a bulk loader(or don't have one available). I'm actually sitting here now staring at a couple of fresh, in date cans of 100ft each 70mm type 2 perf that I haven't opened and don't have a bulk loader for(those ARE expensive) will likely end up hand rolling those into cartridges. I haven't since I don't have any way to develop them once shot!
    NHSN likes this.
  3. The Alden loaders are the best I've used. Design similar to the Watson but seem to be a bit more solid. The Lloyd's and similar are simple because there is no door to the film chamber but instead a felt light trap. If dust particles lodge in the felt it can scratch you film as you load it. If properly cared for a bulk loader will last a long time. I have an old Burke & James loader (probably made by Watson) that my father bought in the early 1960's. Still works as it should.
    As far as films go browse some of the posts that members have made over the years. A couple of members are getting exceptionally good results from the Arista films by using special developers. Trying a few rolls of a film before buying a bulk roll is sound advice. In addition to determining if you like the images you can fine tune the developing.
    BTW, Kentmere films (made by Harmon of UK) are priced between the Ilford films and Arista films. Several of us here have some work done on the Kentmere film.
  4. I forgot about Kentmere.

    What's the consensus on these? Do folks think the 100 is rebranded FP4+, or its own emulsion?
  5. For many films, the savings aren't huge, and yes for a while bulk Tri-X cost
    more than the equivalent in 36 exposure rolls. I think that has been fixed now.

    It does have the advantage that you can select the length that you want.

    Otherwise, like the rest of home darkroom work, it adds to what makes film fun.

    When I first used bulk film, when I was about 10 and didn't have a loader, my
    father suggested putting the camera and film into a changing bag, winding off
    the appropriate number of shots, taping to the spool and rewinding. That worked
    for me for many years.

    I now have a few Watson loaders bought at Goodwill, or maybe given to me.
    I always use them in a changing bag, so I can go to the end of the roll.

    In college, I taped one end to the darkroon door, measured to a tape mark
    lower on the door, then wound into the cartridge.
  6. List of photographic films - Wikipedia

    lots of stuff is rebranded according to this. And it finally shows true proof what i always felt about lomography.com film being repackaged kodak film.

    have used a few of the black and white films, havent found one that jumped at me. TriX had the classic heavy grain of newspaper print, indifferent to me. But the ilford c-41 stuff came out great for. But ive had enough issues with finding good labs to develop film for me that the results i have gotten have been miserable in quality. And no good way to determine if results were me or the labs.

    Right now im trying to learn from the ground with a few rolls of arista edu. one i need to develop that had some lovelies on it, and one im still shooting on.

    Does the choice in RELOADABLE film cartridge make a big impact on the bulk loader you use?

    How does the currently made bobbinquick from Arista compare to the old stuff by watson or alden on ebay
  7. I never messed with color (and am unlikely to change that!) If we talk really going: A while back it seemed to make sense to hit the factory outlets of Foma or Forte or at least shop for their films in their Czech fatherland.
    If you are budget shopping any resale from people giving up film might be cheaper than going for fresh stock through retail. In doubt: There should be price search engines working for your local online market?
    Biggest issue with online purchases tends to be shipping, so figure out if you could team up with others to bulk order.
    • Reusable cartridges (old Ilford style) gifted from a lab.
    • Scissors($1?),
    • x < 2" of sticky tape (don't cheap out too much on that!)
    • Darkness = free?
    • A crude gauge - free
    • Swiss army knife (you might own anyhow) to crank the film on the spool but other tools might work too.
    There is no real need to own a bulkloader.

    Cartridges: Just buy something? - I mean sure, Leica brass ones must be cool, for some reason, but you most likely have to refurbish those with new velvet too, now after 90 years of use...

    Clarifying: I processed my bulk loaded stuff myself.
    Finding a film stock you like (even or especially in 35mm!) and learning to process it is the most important step before you should ponder bulk loading at all.
  8. Be very very wary about sending self-loaded film to a lab for processing, they may not accept it, or, worse, not return your cartridge.

    It's kind of assumed that bulk loaded also means self processed.
    bgelfand and Jochen like this.
  9. Good advice here.

    I used bulk film for years (decades) until I stopped using film. Three reasons - the cost was lower, I could load lengths of film that were more appropriate to my way of working (I stored negatives in sleeves that would hold 30 frames, so a 36 exposure role was a problem), and I always tested my film to determine an optimized film speed, and doing that with bulk film meant that the test results would apply to the entire bulk roll.

    I repeatedly reused commercial film cartridges - specifically, Ilford cartridges because the ends just snapped on. I carefully cleaned the felt light trap between uses, and then reused each cartridge until it was so old that I could no longer close the end. I know that's not supposed to be a good idea, but my experience was that cleaning the felt between uses prevented problems with scratched film. Cleaning isn't difficult - just pass something along the felt to dislodge any dust or grit that may be there.

    Bulk film normally comes with frames premarked, but those rarely line up with the actual frames after the film has been loaded. So one additional chore that you have when using bulk film is that you must number the negatives for reference. I used either a Rapidograph technical film and India ink, or a Staedler pigment pen for that purpose.

    My experience was limited to bulk loading black and white film (T-Max). I did purchase one bulk roll of E-6 film back in the day, but concluded that the advantages of bulk loading didn't apply to color film, at least in the way that I worked.
  10. Ben Hutcherson said
    Although Kentmere 100 and Ilford FP4+ are both made by companies owned by Harmon Technology, they are different films.
  11. Processing of bulk loaded color could sometimes be a problem if the lab was reluctant to accept film in plain or relabeled cartridges. Looking at a Freestyle ad from a 1973 Popular Photography you could buy Ektachrome in 100' rolls for just under 30 USD. Anscochrome maybe around 20. You could even get past dated Kodachrome II in bulk (27.5 rolls). Fresh black & white for about one fourth the price.
  12. I have a few loaders kicking around here with some Ektachrome in them(received already loaded) and I have chanced a few rolls. My local lab has an official policy that they do not process bulk loaded films, but an official policy that if you've proven yourself to them to know what you're doing, they will do it. The lab manager has told me that I'm one of about a half dozen people on her mental list that she will accept it from, but has also told me I'm cut off from ever bringing it again if I ever mislabel or tell her wrong. It's mostly a moot point since no one makes bulk color film anymore, all the color I have around is E-6(and I won't be replacing it if I ever run out), I'd rather keep buying fresh E-6 anyway to get consistent results and also support the continued manufacture of it, and I process all of my own B&W.
  13. Taking into account the cost of reloadable cassettes, a bulk loader, and the slight saving in film cost, plus the time and perhaps wastage involved to acquire the skills to use the above equipment: Is it worth it?

    The time when you could pick up a short end of Cine FP4 for a few £/$ is long gone. As is the fairly heavy discount on bulk rolls of film.
  14. I haven't found any vendor that has b/w short ends for sale. I think there might be a few that offer color stock, but the minimum you have to buy from the ones I found is 200'. With less b/w film used in motion pictures these days and the small amount of money generated from selling off short ends to a vendor who will repackage them into lengths that fit bulk loaders, it's no surprise that short ends have gone south. The last place I bought Eastman 5222 short ends from was Film Emporium and that was around 2005 or so. They also sold Plus-X and some Ilford stock as well.
  15. I think most bulk-loaders only hold 100' maximum, and I wouldn't fancy the task of re-spooling 100' of film onto a cut-down toilet roll middle in the dark.
  16. Yes. Like much of darkroom work, doing it yourself is part of the fun. If it isn't at least a little bit fun,
    might as well not do it.

    Mention of Freestyle and 1973, that was about when I bought 100 foot rolls of Panatomic-X (ASA 40) from them.
    All developed in Diafine, and exposed at something like EI 250, as recommended by Diafine.
  17. And how were those two-and-a-half stop underexposed pictures?

    I seem to remember that Panatomic-X was only 32 ASA. Not 40?
  18. I think the Freestyle Pan X was aero stock and had a slightly higher ASA. However, in the early 60's the boxed Panatomic-X was ASA 40 for a while.
    This roll expired in 1964. I shot it at box speed and got great images with no visible fog.
  19. It wasn't ordinary Panatomic-X. I don't know where they got it, though.
    It also had a much lighter anithalation backing. It looked close to white, such
    that you might almost see through it. And said ASA 40 on the can.

    That was when I believe in the magic of Diafine. If the box said it, I would believe it.
    (I was young then, and believed more things than now.)

    Many people discuss using Tri-X at 1200 or 1600 (different boxes had different EI),
    not so many Panatomic-X. I don't remember having much trouble with it.

    Maybe the ancestor to this one: 59635_4_PDF-Datenblatt.pdf
  20. Back in about 1977, I visited my dad in Australia and was determined to get a LOT of pictures out of it. I bought bulk rolled slides as I recall and got 19 rolls out of the bulk roll. When I got back, I DID have trouble getting processors to process it, but ultimately they did. This is because the wrong kind of color can mess up their machine and cost them time and money.

    I have bulk rolled a lot more Tri-X and Tech Pan. Usually I used it up before the it would probably expired, but not these days. I still have some Tri-X which is way way out of time. But as a non professional, I tend not to notice slight problems so it's been fine for me. That said, keeping it in the fridge is best (or even the freezer, though I am reluctant to do that with a bulk loader). It's a good way to really reduce your costs. But if you use a specialist film like Tech Pan, make sure you buy up all the specialist developer you need to process it because years later it could be unavailable. I still have some of that too and so far they still come out when I can tear myself away from my M10 and digital. Powdered chemicals seem to last forever, but liquid ones are more an issue (and Tech pan's are liquid). We'll see.

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