Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2003/07/18

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Subject: RE: [Leica] Bulk loading (long!)
From: "Saganich, Christopher/Medical Physics" <saganicc@MSKCC.ORG>
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003 15:35:48 -0400


Bulk loading is the only way to save $$ on film besides out dated film.  I've been using a Lloyds loader which I like, never a scratch so far.  I've been using the same 4 plastic cans for about a year now, they need replacement.  I haven't ruined a roll yet, but soon.  The end of the roll being exposed could be a problem.  I like the cost savings.

Chris Saganich
- -----Original Message-----
From: [] 
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2003 2:36 PM
Subject: [Leica] Bulk loading (long!)

Phong asked:

> How does one go about bulk loading ?

You need a light-tight space (film proof, not just paper proof).  I use  
a Harrison tent, because I don't have any other light tight space --  
and because it means that my light tight space is small and portable.

A 100 ft bulk roll is loaded onto a (daylight) bulk loader in total  
darkness.  Once that is done, you then load individual film rolls in  
normal light.  A film cassette spool is taped to the end of the bulk  
film, loaded into the cassette, and placed in the daylight bulk loader.  
  Then you spool up however many frames of film you want on that  
cassette, up to about a max of 40 frames.  Then you take the cassette  
out of the bulk loader, cut off the film and trim the end sticking out  
of the cassette into a tongue.

> What equipment does one need to bulk load ?

The aforementioned light proof space; a bulk loader; spare film  
cassettes; scissors; tape.

There are two main different types of 35mm bulk loaders.  The "Alden"  

...and the Lloyd type: 

The Alden type is more expensive (around $40 new; Lloyd around $30  
new), but has the redeeming feature that it won't scratch or ruin your  
film when you load it.  Get the Alden type.

Some people don't light daylight bulk loaders and say that you should  
bulk load in total darkness.  The reason for this is that the bit of  
film that you (in daylight) tape to the film cassette core is going to  
be damaged by daylight.  They argue that the last frame/frames of any  
roll is going to be damaged by daylight and therefore that you always  
have to reshoot the last frame on any roll -- or risk loosing an award  
winning picture.

In practice, I find that this is not a problem.  First off, I rarely  
shoot award-winning pictures at the end of rolls (actually, I rarely  
shoot award-winning pictures, period).  Secondly, if done right, the  
amount of film which is damaged by daylight during bulk loading will  
never see the film gate -- because the distance between the cassette  
core and the film gate in a camera -- and thus will never be a issue in  
any case.

Finally, if you're totally paranoid about this, it's simply overcome by  
loading a few extra frames on your rolls (say 38-40 frames) but to stop  
shooting when your frame counter shows 36.  That way, you're guaranteed  
that the last frame to see the film gate in the camera has been kept in  
total darkness all the time.

Reloadable 35mm film cassettes also come in two types: metal and  
plastic.  Plastic are supposed to be easier to load and supposedly  
don't suffer from the problem of unexpectantly popping open when you  
least want it (i.e., after you've exposed your film, while you are  
still in daylight).

Use the metal kind: With normal use (i.e., you're not throwing them,  
sitting on them, or doing anything else stupid with them) the metal  
ones do not pop open; with an evening's practice, they are not more  
difficult to load; and they have the wonderful advantage over the  
plastic type that they do not generate static electricity in amounts  
rivalled only by particle accelerators which attract every speck of  
dust within a six kilometer radius onto your film.

Cassettes can be reused.  Figure on using them around 5 times, then  
tossing them out and getting new ones.  The felt light traps  
deteriorate with excessive use (and need to be cleaned when reloading  
in any case) and it's not worth risking it.  They're cheap: A cassette  
costs around 70 cents.  Buy them new... not second hand.

The Leica reloadable cassettes -- as I'm sure that at least one member  
of this list will chime in and say -- have the advantage of not having  
any felt light trap, thus not requiring replacement, and being  
essentially reusable indefinately.  They are also a pain in the arse to  
load, are slightly non-standard size, and require the old-style M  
baseplate to operate correctly in the camera.

Leica reloadable cassettes sell for around $10--$20 a pop.  That's the  
equivallent of 14--28 of the new ones.  Each new one can be used safely  
5 times.  So, you need to shoot 70--140 rolls of film with each  
cassette before you start saving any money with the Leica version.  Go  
with the modern stuff.

For tape, I use the colour-coded, cloth-backed, 1" wide 'gaffer tape'  
used by the movie industry to keep everything from lights, to film  
cannisters, to extras in place, but any good tape that isn't too wide  
and can resist the pull of a motordrive is good (because we all use  
RapidWinders, right...? ;)

The advantage of colour coding is that you can then also stick a piece  
on the outside of the cassette to keep track of what's inside -- unless  
you like to write the name of the film on every single cassette.

> What film is available to bulk load ?

You buy film in 100 ft (30.5 m) rolls.  Ilford FP4+ and HP5+ are about  
$25 for one such roll; Delta 400 is around $40; Kodak Tri-X is about  
$40 (USA film); Neopan 400 around $35; Agfa APX-100 about $25 (all  
prices from B&H).  Figure that a roll is 6 ft of film, which gives you  
on the order of 15-20 rolls of film, depending upon exactly how much  
you spool up in each cassette.  I usually get around 16-18 rolls out of  
a 100 ft reel.

Most B&W 35mm film emulsions, Ilford XP2 Super, colour negative (Agfa  
Portrait-160, Fujicolor, Kodak Portra), colour slide (Agfa, Fuji,  
Kodak).  See: 

> What kind of savings are we talking about?

You get around 18 rolls of film for $25 with HP5+, which works out to  
$1.39/roll.  Compare that to $2.69/roll or $134.50/50 rolls (also  
$2.69/roll) from B&H.

Starting out from scratch, and counting 200 rolls, it works out as the  

	   Bulk loader: $40.00
	Film cassettes: 20 @ $0.70 x 2 (use only 5 times) = $28.00
	HP-5+ film (gives 18 rolls): $25 x 11 = $275.00

	Bulk loading: $343.00 ($1.71/roll)
	  Pre-loaded: $538.00 ($2.69/roll)

	Savings: $195.00

After you're initial 200 rolls, the next 200 will only cost you  
($28+$275) $303, for a roll-cost of $1.51/roll.

I push this further, by buying cheap Eastern European film, or getting  
film which is close-dated or out-dated.  If you wanna get really funky,  
start looking for 400 ft rolls of B&W movie stock, or left-over pieces  
of 400 ft rolls that didn't get used up.  You cannot use a daylight  
loader with a 400 ft rolls, but a normal (film proof) darkroom lets you  
load these by hand.  At the moment, I have around 400/500 ft of film in  
my freezer that cost me a total of $0.

Useful links:

	The Bulk Loading FAQ:

	Voices from the Archives:

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