Bulk Film Loading

A few weeks ago, I asked my eight year old granddaughter if she had a list of things she wanted for Christmas. I like to get lists, because working off a list provides some assurance that I am getting something that is wanted by the recipient.

She hadn’t compiled a list yet, but a few days later I discovered that she had spent considerable time on the task. The result was an extremely well-detailed, two page .pdf (Acrobat) document complete with graphic illustrations. Everyone who received it was quite amused because it was an exacting document and reflected her personality in that she rarely does anything halfway. It also made a great deal of sense for a couple reasons; there were items ranging in price from $1 to $400, she has nearly a dozen grandparents and great grandparents (due to multiple marriages), and we coordinated via telephone and email to make sure that we didn’t duplicate items. I found her list inspiring because it was so detailed and it took a lot of the guesswork out of the process. She even included information about where to get certain items when there was only a single place to buy them.

After seeing her list, I decided to produce my own. I sometimes ask my wife Lisa for specific things, but it often puts her under pressure because she doesn’t know where to get them and I’m not always specific about what the exact item is. This time I wanted three things;  120 film for my Yashica Mat 124, 35mm bulk loading supplies, and a Nikon FG/50mm lens combo. I figured that the price tag for all of the items was a bit steep, but that she could “farm out” the film and loader items to the children and spread out the cost. I included exact descriptions of everything, the prices, links to the online vendors, and alternative sources (in case a vendor was out of stock). I received everything from Lisa, because she didn’t farm anything out. She’s like that…

P1110709 WP

I wanted the film and bulk loading supplies because my film refrigerator was getting dangerously close to empty. I don’t like that. It makes me a bit nervous. It puts me in the same frame of mind as a guitarist who suddenly finds himself without replacement strings for his instruments. I also thought that bulk loading would allow me to make more photographs within my budget, because after the initial investment in a loader and reusable film cassettes, the cost of film is nearly half that of buying factory-loaded film. 

I never bulk loaded film before, which is why I needed the loader. Mine is the Lloyd’s LegacyPro Daylight loader shown above, along with the other supplies needed for the process; a 100′ (30.5 meter) bulk roll of Kentmere 100, a black and white film which I’ve been shooting for about a year, Arista 35mm metal reloadable cartridges, tape, and scissors. My film changing bag is not shown.

Loading the 100′ reel of film into the bulk loader was easier than I expected, possibly because I’m quite used to loading film onto developing reels, which is more difficult. 

I expected to fumble a bit with the film cartridges at the beginning, until I got used to it. I did fumble. I destroyed the first cartridge by bending the thin metal due to my heavy handed approach. I loaded the second cartridge, then found out that I hadn’t actually put any film into it (something seemed wrong, so I opened it to check). I loaded the third one, then the cap on the cartridge fell off when I pulled it away from the loader.

On the 4th attempt, I successfully loaded a dozen frames into the cartridge. To test it, I loaded the film into my new (to me) Nikon FG, shot the roll, then developed it. It turned out fine. Whoopie! I figured that I did alright because I only lost a cartridge and single 36-frame length of film in order to get used to the process. The instructions that came with the loader appeared to be a bit obtuse when I first read them, but after I went through the process successfully, I realized that they were quite adequate.

There is nothing particularly difficult about bulk loading, though you may have to destroy a cassette and a bit of film to get used to the process the first time you do it. My loader, film cassettes, and 100′ roll of film came from Freestyle Photographic Supplies, but is available at many other photographic vendors. B&H carries 13 types of black and white film in 100″ bulk rolls at the time this was written, but again bulk film rolls are available at many photographic vendors.