35mm Bulk Film Loader
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
Bulk Film Loader
After buying a 35mm film bulk loader (Computrol film loader as pictured) what seems like a long time ago now I finally started using it. I bought the film bulk loader online as a bundle together with some 35mm Kodak Plus-X 125 black and white film. I spooled the Plus-X onto used 35mm cassettes by taping the new film to the film stub end of the original film in the film cassette. I develop my own black and white film so where possible I manually rewind the film in the cameras. Most of my 35mm film cameras can do this; Leica M’s, Voigtlander Bessa R3A, Nikon FM, Nikon F4, Olympus PEN-F but the Hasselblad XPan doesn’t. I rewind the film to leave the film leader protruding so when I removed the film for developing I don’t have to break open the cassette (and then discard). I then use the bulk film loader to spool the desired number of film frames onto a used film cassette ready to use.
I can spool for example the usual 24exp or 36exp rolls but also perhaps just 10 frames if want to test out a new-to-me old camera. I always count 3-4 frames extra to what I need as some film will be lost (being exposed to light) at each end of the film when loading/removing from the bulk film loader. Some cameras like my Leica M3 and Leica M2 will accept slightly more frames such as 39 frames but automated film cameras like the 35mm Hasselblad XPan just gives an error messages and locks up if the film is too long. My Leica M6 has the known problem of jamming up after around 25 exposures (for me) so I now just spool myself 25exp rolls for the M6 and 39exp rolls for my M2/M3s. The bulk film loader has a counter on the side so you can keep track of how many frames is on each roll you spool.
Reusable 35mm Film Cassettes
A second option is to buy reusable plastic film cassettes where the end unscrews to load/ unload the film. I have recently bought some of these as shown below. To load film onto reusable film casssettes simply tape the end of the bulk film to the cassette central spindle. Once secure slip the cassette outer over the film protruding from the cassette inner so the film fits into the groove of the cassette (to look like a normal roll of 35mm film) then screw on the film cassette end cap to make the film cassette light tight. Film can then be wound onto the film cassette with the 35mm bulk film loader and you are ready to go.
* (There are plenty of YouTube instruction videos on how to use a bulk film loader and how to load film onto a 35mm reusable film cassette if you need visuals).
Advantages of Bulk Loading
The obvious answer of course is cost (in addition to my Leica M6 issue mentioned above!). Buying bulk film works out much cheaper per roll. The exact saving varies by film manufacturer and also by what length of bulk film you purchase. The more film you buy the cheaper it is. Many manufacturers sell bulk film in 100ft or 30.5m lengths such as Ilford film and prices in the UK are around £65-£70 (example price rather than average/norm). Foma make a 30.5m / 100ft Bulk Fomapan 100 roll for under £40 which is one of the cheapest options I have seen when buying new. The 100ft/ 30.5m length of film roll to my knowledge is manufactured for a target audience of still photo photographers. Kodak however also manufacture 400ft and 1000ft bulk film rolls (example lengths) of motion picture film for cinema and TV such as Kodak Vision3 500T which is the film CineStill modify before rebranding it as CineStill 800T (Please see my followup Kodak Vision3 blog post to come for more details).
Kodak Vision3 vs Kodak Portra – Cost
Buying 400ft of film offers excellent value for money if you think you will use that much film. A 100ft bulk film roll is said to equate to about 18 rolls of 36 exposure film and so a 400ft film roll will give 72 rolls of 36 exp film. Quite a lot of film but if you were previous buying for example 35mm Kodak Portra 160 /400 film at say £6 a roll you can now buy Kodak Vision3 bulk film for less than £1 a roll! A crazy cheap price for professional colour film. (AGFA Vista 200 Plus colour film can be bought in the UK for £1 a roll but I would argue that Kodak film gives ‘better’ results)(better being grain structure/latitude/skin tones – for my taste*).
Blog post to follow to show results I obtained using ECN-2 Kodak Vision3 500T film and Kodak Vision3 200T in my Leica M cameras and Hasselblad XPan. I bought a bulk roll of each! If you want to see previous example photos using the Kodak Eastman Double-X black and white film see the link below.