What film format is easy for you to load and what is a pain for you to load

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by bobpeters, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. The film formats that are easy for me to load are 120 and emulsion in 35mm, as you just have to attach the end of the film to the take up spool, and it's easy to get it really tight if needed. Next is sheet film holders and the 2x3 grafmatics (I don't have one in 4x5), as even as you can't see your hands, it just feels natural to me for some reason. I do it in a changing bag in the basement.

    The film format that is a pain for me to load is emulsion out 35mm, as I usually don't get the film tight enough on the takeup spool, and it jams and binds. I don't know if there's a technique, so it winds tight on the spool, or what? Most of the time I've loaded my Minolta X370 it jams and binds, as the end of the leader isn't nice and tight on the take up spool, even though I follow the instructions the best that I can. I seem to have some luck with it, by manually turning the takeup spool gear with my thumb.
  2. I think it as much comes down to camera design as much as anything.

    Nothing gets easier than most modern 35mm cameras. On Canons T series cameras and, AFAIK, all EOS cameras you just drop in the film, drag the leader across to the orange mark, and shut the back. The camera takes over from there. AF Nikons work essentially the same except that you usually have to hit the shutter button for it to start the load sequence(I think the F100 may have a custom function to make it do it automatically on closing the back, and if it does there are probably a few others). I've used some other 90s SLRs that works basically the same way. Canon also made a few "quick load" cameras-the Pellix, FT, and FTb offhand-where you pull across to a mark and then close the back and manually advance the film. I've never had that system fail, and I use to use my FTb a fair bit.

    On the other hand, I'd describe screw mount Leicas as fiddly to load. I've gotten a lot better with practice, but you still have to trim the leader. I'm sure it would get easier with practice, but for me(and the amount I use them) I won't load them in the field.

    I don't find the typical 35mm SLR with a slotted take-up spool particularly difficult. I just tuck it in and advance one frame with the back open to make sure it "catches." Of course, I also twiddle the rewind crank to take up slack and make sure I can see it turning. I guess I burned enough film through various cameras that load this way that it's second nature to me. Most of my experience is with Nikons and Canons, but I don't see much difference in the two-that is aside from having to figure out where to put the back on Nikon F.

    With medium, the camera definitely plays a big role. "Modern" TLRs and rangefinders are easy-just hook the leader on the take-up spool and advance to line up the arrows(then advance until it's read). If you're using a Rolleiflex Automat, it gets even easier since you thread the leader between two rollers, give it a crank to make sure it catches, and then just shut the back and crank until it stops. SLRs with removable backs can get a bit more complicated since the film usually follows a "labyrinth" path and you usually have to remove the insert completely from the back to load it. I've been in Hasselblad land lately, and they can be a bit fiddly since you also have to make sure that the leader stays under the retainer tab while you're loading. One of my backs is also from before 1970, which means that I have open a peephole in the back, advance until the "1" appears, and then manually start the film counter(I have a 1930s Rolleicord that works the same way, and I think there are a lot of other cameras that do also). Also, even on the "automatic" Hasselblad backs you have to remember to use the crank on the back to get to frame one and not use the main body crank like works on some other cameras. My Pentax 645 makes things easy since you just pull the insert, manually turn to the arrows, drop in the insert, and hit the shutter button-it advances to the first frame. Unfortunately, it's not totally obvious as I bought it with a half roll of film in it, and the previous owner had loaded it upside down.

    Once I get set up to load 4x5 holders, it goes pretty smoothly unless I run across a holder with bent grooves. I cull them when I find them, but also have enough holders I've never used that I still find them. I find that I spend a lot more time cleaning and prepping 4x5 holders than I do actually loading them.
  3. Loading 35mm cameras depends a LOT on the design of the takeup spool.
    Some are easy to use and others a PiA.

    Loading a Hasselblad 120 back can be tricky. I don't load it often enough to be comfortable with it. The first time I loaded the film backwards, with the paper to the lens, not the film. I think I loaded it like I was loading a TLR . . . oops.
  4. If you're loading 35mm film emulsion out, then you're exposing the film through its base and lucky to get a picture at all!

    Most 35mm take-up spools reverse the curl of the film in order to keep it tight across the sprocket roller. And why are you loading a 35mm camera in the dark anyway?
  5. The Minolta's wrap the film around the takeup spool emulsion out, by feeding it around the lens side of the takeup spool, before hooking it up to the spool.
  6. "The Minolta's wrap the film around the takeup spool emulsion out,"

    - That's normal for many cameras. You feed the tongue into a slot on the take-up reel and wind the camera on a little to make sure the film is being taken up securely. Then close the back and finish winding on to frame 1. There's usually no need to feed the film under the spool to engage it in a slot. The wind-on mechanism automatically carries the film under the spool.

    The only variation is in so-called 'quick' or 'auto' load cameras, where you're supposed to simply place the tongue across the sprockets and close the back before winding on. IME those mechanisms are less reliable than manual loading.

    Still not sure why you're fumbling about in a changing bag in your basement to load the camera.
  7. As others have said, there is no particular format that is hard to load but there are several cameras that can be. Hasselblad, don't get in a hurry. Same for the RB 67. Nikon F2, F3 and F4 are simple enough as are most of the rest of that line but the Nikkormats are truly annoying and if you aren't careful you'll think you shot a whole roll without ever actually exposing it. I've seen a few cameras that actually pull the entire roll out of the cassette and load them back in as you expose the film. Sheet film is easy enough once you learn how. Like anything in photography, practice practice..

    Rick H.
  8. The cameras I've seen that do this are the Canon Rebel series and the really low 90s Nikons like the N55 and N65.

    These cameras are usually pretty pokey to begin with, and that makes film loading really slow. The argument I've heard for it is that if the back is opened without rewinding, the exposed frames will be back in the canister and thus safe.
  9. I've been playing with mine enough lately that I feel like I can do PRETTY well even if the tab can be a bit annoying. One of mine is the pre-"A" back that requires manually advancing to the first number. That one is a bit of a pain. The "A" series backs cut things down significantly.
  10. I'm wondering about that too. I travel with a changing bag when I'm shooting film, but it's mostly a "just in case" thing. Given my tendency to carry back-ups for my back-ups in 35mm, I've never had something happen that couldn't wait until I got home, although it's small enough that it does give me a bit of peace of mind.

    I can't imagine loading 35mm in one unless out of pure necessity-such as Kodak HIE. I'm always afraid of poking my finger through the shutter :)
  11. I don't have any other completely dark space for sheet film holders.
  12. Sheet film holders are fine-I load them in a changing bag also.

    I'm wondering about 35mm, though.
  13. loading 135 film into a point &shoot camera, would definitely be easiest for me.
    loading 120 film into my Rolleiflex TLR, would not take much time as well once get used to it, relatively speaking.
    Well, thus to say, practice makes perfect.
  14. Roll films can be all over the place in ease of loading.

    The Rolleiflex is king in ease of loading as far as I'm concerned as you just have to thread the leader through the two rollers, hook it in the top, wind enough to make sure it's catching, then close the back and crank until it stops.

    Next in line would be most better TLRs along with a bunch of other straight-path cameras where you hook the film and then wind until the arrows on the backing paper align with the index marks in the camera. From there, you just close the back and crank until it stops.

    SLRs with interchangeable backs can be a different story. All the ones I've encountered use a sort of convoluted film path where you have take the leader from the supply spool, feed it around the pressure plate, and then make another bend to hook it on the take-up spool. It's not unheard of for a first time user of one of these cameras to end up with the film backwards. I just keep it in my head that black side of the backing paper needs to be facing out when passing over the pressure plate. Hasselblads add an additional fiddly step in that they have the "tab" that you have to keep the film under. MOST SLRs require advancing the arrows to the index, although on Hasselblad backs made before 1970 you open a "peephole" to see the frame numbers on the backing paper, advance to 1, and then turn the advance crank backwards to start the film counter.
  15. The makeup spool on most 35 mm cameras winds the film backwards - emulsion side out. If you start it in the wrong direction, it will tend to bind when you wind off the blank frame when starting. This is different from medium format cameras, which roll the film emulsive side inward, and use pairs of thin rollers to keep the film flat where it enters and leaves the back. The only problem with cut film is getting it started properly under the spring guides. I've had so much practice, I can do it in the dark now ;)

    The "trick" to loading 35 mm film is to make sure the leader is engaged in the makeup spool. Wind at least one turn by turning the spool, which is usually free to move and may be knurled for that purpose. Make sure the film is fully engaged with the sprocket. It helps to turn the rewind knob to apply tension to the film across the sprockets and film gate (image area). There's usually a lot of spring-back, and it may help to keep the film flat across the film gate with your finger as you close the back. That was especially true with the Nikon F, which had a removable back which slid up from the bottom to close.
  16. For my money, the problem is not so much with the FILM, as it is with the camera it's loaded in.

    For example, the Pentacon 6 family are terribly sensitive to slack in the film tensioning.

    In general, I am a Contax as opposed to Leica user, since I really find "bottom feeders" a terribly complex way to load a camera:rolleyes:
    mikheilrokva likes this.
  17. No problem with 35mm or 120, 127 is sometimes tricky.
  18. 8x10 is really easy to load. 35mm infrared into a bottom loading Leica in the dark is definitely challenging.
  19. I was out yesterday with the Hasselbad and burned I think 5 total rolls of film. It might have been 6-I know I have four B&Ws in my waiting to be developed/already developed line, and shot one two rolls of transparencies.

    In any case, despite the complaints often levied against the difficulty in loading, I'm feeling pretty competent with it now. I've fallen into using my "12" back for B&W and "A12" for color(I need to change the light trap since it's empty now) and even the 12 back doesn't seem bad. There again, I loaded it four times yesterday, and when time came to reload the A12 it was a pleasant surprise.

    Most MF SLRs follow about the same film path as Hasselblads, but I think that within that general design the RB67 may be the worst. It's not BAD, per se, but more just the size of the insert and the fact that you have to mess with the lever rather than having a handy knob to "line up the arrows."

    I still hold a strong dislike for loading screw mount Leicas and their clones. When I take my IIIc out, I load it at home and I'm done shooting with it for the day when I'm out of film. Even though the Canon 7 is chunky for a rangefinder(it's only a bit smaller than the Canonflex RM) it redeems itself and my nice little collection of Leitz LTM lenses by having a swing-open back.
  20. Loading 120 film in magazine is easy. Loading it in a "traditional" SLR (Kiev 6 for example) is torture.

    35 mm is quite easy to load almost into everything. Except for first edition of FED camera which was a bottom loader, just like Leica it was copied from.

    I also find it relatively tricky to load in Minolta X570 and X700, they have weird sprockets. Surprisingly, the process is easiest on Pentax ME and similar cameras, they have an assembly of rounded rods instead of sprockets, you put the film inside and it automatically gets squeezed, no need to match perforation with sprocket teeth.

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