Film Changing Bag - Ease of Use?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by mark_farrell, Apr 21, 2010.

  1. After a long hiatus from film, I'm starting to shoot 120 again and doing my own B&W processing. The darkroom is long gone and finding a dark space to load reels is relegated to late nights in the cellar. I've been looking at changing bags, but they appear awkward to use as the fabric would seem to collapse on what you're trying to do.
    Looking for some comments on using a film bag for loading reels and ease of use.
  2. Sometimes the bags are a bit awkward and collapse. They make changing Tents as well that you may feel more comfortable with.
  3. I worried about the same thing when I started using a changing bag, in practice I found it to not to be a real issue. At one point I had vague plans to build some sort of internal structure out of something like PVC to give it some shape, but decided it wasn't worth the trouble.
  4. The biggest problem I found with them is the condensation build up which occurs very rapidly (with my sweaty hands!), once the film is damp it is nigh on impossible to get on the reel.
    However I was using a cheap bag which was coated with a plasticy covering, I believe better quality bags are made from heavy duty cotton which is breathable.
  5. Sweaty hands make it very difficult to handle film, especially when loading a tank reel. Plan to use a pair of cotton or synthetic photo-finishing gloves.
    A regular bag is OK if you only have two or three rolls of film to load at a time. A tent bag is essential for loading LF film holders - you need more space and you need to keep film away from the sides, where it can pick up dust. A tent makes it a lot more pleasant to use in hot weather too.
    It's generally cheaper (and more effective) to buy something like that than to build one. That's what's left of my engineering experience.
  6. Some bags are not IR opaque, so if you use IR film, try to check if the one you want is opaque to IR light first. Mine is a pretty cheap one with 2 zippers and a place to put your arms in. Don't forget to take off your watch if it has luminescent hands or numerals. Expect some awkwardness at first, but you'll get the hang of it. I was constantly forgetting to put the sissors or the can opener in the bag when moving the film. I put it on my ottoman and do my work watching TV so I can take as long as I want and I don't feel I'm under pressure to work quickly. In the field, it's a little awkward to work, so I typically sit in the car while I'm working so I'm comfortable. (You need a changing bag in the field if you're using IR film because you have to load the camera in total darkness -- and unload it too).
  7. I used to use changing bags to load 100' rolls of 70mm film onto long-roll cameras. The first few times were a little unsettling and the bag did droop into the open film magazine. Soon enough I learned a little bent wrist was enough to keep the bag more or less out of the way.
    There is another option. The Photoflex Film Changing Room (Mfr # AC-CROO1) is designed to maintain a cube shape and will not get in your way. "Street' price should be around $70.00.[​IMG]
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  8. Mark,
    It may depend on the fabric the bag is made from. Currently I'm using an excellent Paterson bag with material that is thick enough so that you can push it from inside and it won't readily collapse. I don't find using a bag at all--my biggest challenge is loading 35mm, which I find more difficult than 120.
  9. Scott,
    I actually had a 27"x30" Paterson bag already in a shopping cart and thought I'd ask here about bags before actually clicking the purchase button. I think from what you've said, I'm going to give it a try.
    Thanks all.........
  10. The Harrison changing tents are excellent, but they aren't cheap.
  11. I don't have much problem using the changing bag but I think if you can get a dark box used from ebay or craigslist it would be very nice. Many minilabs are getting out of the film business and selling these boxes real cheap.
  12. The modern cheap oriental ones, made of nylon, are hot and sweaty. A classic rubberized cotton Burke & James "Rexo" is a lot nicer to use.
    Also, size matters. The smallest ones are too small to use.
  13. Second the Photoflex changing room although a Jobo tank that holds 3 4x5 reels is a tight fit. :D
  14. As already mentioned, your sweat making the air inside the bag extremely humid, and thereby making the film sticky relative to the reels, is the biggest problem--but it's hardly insurmountable. I just put the bag so I can sit comfortably at a table in an air-conditioned space. Unless you really screw up and take a long time to load the reels, it's fine. I do the same thing to load LF film holders.
    As to the bag collapsing, I just stand my bigger Paterson tank in the middle, which in effect makes the bag a tent. A tent would of course be great, but the bag was cheap. If I were still doing much film, I'd buy a tent.
  15. The heavy cotton ones are fine to use - I use for both 120 and 135. I find the biggest issue the fiddle of 135 (opening the cassette, small film, triming the end etc). The bag is the least issue and very easy to use with 120. Just make sure you get a big enough bag (they come in different sizes) for your needs. A decent heavy cotton bag should be available for about £25GBP (about $38 I think). Look on fleabay for "Changing bags" or any decent photographic supplyer.

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