Bruce Varner Photography

Shooting the Often Overlooked Kodak Instamatic 500

Page 2

--126 Cassette Reloading Methods--

Updated 03/24/18


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126 Cassette Reloading Methods

There are three basic methods used for reloading 126 cartridges.  Make new 126 film.  Simple reload of 35mm film into the 126 cartridge.  Replace old 126 cardridge film with 35mm film and re-attach to the old factory 126 paper backing.

Make new 126 film.  This first method is used by die hards.  This method involves a complex process of slitting 120 film down to 35mm width.  Giving one the correct width film, with no sprocket holes.  Then using a template and correctly sized punch to create individual holes on one edge of the cut down film, at the same intervel as the original film and the backing paper.  Then re-taping this new 126 film onto the original factory backing paper.  One can also cut new backing paper of the exact same size as the original, and recut hole in this new backing paper.  All modifications to the film must be accomplished in the dark.  You then have what is esentially brand new 126 film!  The reloaded cassette can be advanced as designed for the camera, precisely to the next exposure interval.  This method can also be done using no paper backing.  Doing so requires care to be taken to cover the window in the back of the 126 cassette with black tape, and the window on the back door of the camera, to avoid light ruining the film.

Simple reload of 35mm film into the 126 cartridge.  The second method involves simply replacing the factory film and paper with 35mm film of the correct length.  This is the quickest.  The factory instructions for advancing the film cannot be used with this method.  Instead it is required that you wind the film twice instead of once, to advance the film for each shot.  You MUST also remember to hold something over the lens before you make the "in between" crank of the advance lever, because you must release the shutter after each wind of the advance lever.  You must also place black tape over the 126 cassette and camera windows to avoid runing the film.  If you use this method, I suggest that you tape a piece of original backing paper inside the cassette, that covers the area where the replacement film is when exposed.  This provides a slight additional thickness that pushes the film more firmly against the cartridge.  Doing so results in a sharper edge to each image and in my opinion gives you sharper images as the film is on the same plain as originally designed.  There is another method of advancing the film when using the Instamatic 500, that can be used, it is explained in the 3rd method next.

Replace old 126 cardridge film with 35mm film and re-attach to the old factory 126 paper backing.  The third method is what I use, and what will be deminstrating.  I do not get reliable results when reloading film only into the 126 cartridge.  I find that method prone to light leaks.  Remember, even the original factory cassettes used paper backing.  By explaining this third method, you will easily understand similarities of the other two metods.  This method consists of reusing the old paper backing from the original film, taped to the new 35mm film.  This method also requires some modification to the factory method of advancing the film and will be explained.  I tend to use only 12 exposure cassettes, and thereby that same size backing paper.  This number exposure cassette seem to be the most prevelent around here, and using this size makes it much easier to handload the film/paper into the cassette in the dark, and avoid binding.

Be sure to use a marker on the numbered side of the paper backing to mark the points where the actual film begins and ends before removing the factory 126 film from the paper backing.  This is be used later when advancing the film.

I cut the new film to length and then tape the new 35mm film onto the factory paper backing at the same spot where the original film had been attached.  As with the factory film, this prevents the film stop pin from entering a 35mm film hole at the 90 degree point in a wind, instead of continuing on for a complete wind of about 130 degrees.  90 degrees is about the place where the advance lever stops when most people use 35mm film with no backing paper.  Exact procedure to avoid this short stroke will be discussed later.

Image 9

On page 1 we saw a 126 cartridge roll of film with the paper backing attached.  Above is the underside of a paper backing from which the factory film has been untaped and removed.  I have left the old tape in place for three reasons.  First, it is hard to separate it from the paper backing and will likely damage the paper if you do.  Second, I use the tape as a marker, so I know where to attach the new 35mm film.  Third, I mark a line on the back side of the paper (The side you see through the cartridge).  I use a red permanent marker that I can easily see with the film in the camera.  It is also a good idea to mark a line at the spot on the paper where the film ends.  Reason for this are explained on page 3.

Image 10

Here is a canister of new 35mm film that will be installed, instead of the old factory 126 film.  Above the 35mm film is the original 126 cartridge film, having been removed from the paper backing.

Image 11
The normal leader on the 35mm film is cut off, leaving a square end to tape against the paper backing.  More of the new film has been pulled from the canister for deminstration purposes.  I try to pull as little of the film as possible during an actual reload, as we are still in the light.....

Image 12

A piece of tape, I use painters masking tape, is applied to the end of the film.  Notice the sticky side is up here because the film will be taped to the paper backing with the emulsion side up (The other side).

Image 13
The newly cut end of the 35mm film sticking out of the canister is taped onto the paper backing, emulsion side up, at the same spot where the original had started.  Be sure that you tape the full width of the film and paper backing.  Failure to do can result in the edge of the file catching in the cartridge.  Also trim any excess tape, do not roll the tape over the paper edge!  After this point, everything must be done in a film changing bag, or in complete darkness.  Also wash your hands and dry them fully before going dark.  You do not want skin oil or dirt on the film.

Image 14

I would practice this at least a couple of times in the light with sacrficial film.  Using the actual film, you MUST be in total darkness.  As seen here I am holding one end of the original 126 cartridge film over the start of the new film.  Also note that there are no slots in the old 126 cartridge film at either end, because this is the portion of factory film rolled onto the takeup spool before getting to the point of the first exposure.

Image 15
In the dark bag or dark room, pull out new film from the 35mm canister as you unroll the length of original 126 cartridge film.  Now at the end of the length of old film, use sissors to cut the new 35mm film to the same length as the old film.  18" to 19".  Even though it does not show it here, you MUST cut your new film to a length shorter than the overall length of the backing paper.  To protect the film from light, as with the oridinal film, there should be 6" or so of paper backing, longer than the film on both ends.

Image 16

After you have cut the new 35mm film to length, this is what you will feel inside the bag, or in the dark!  Not to worry.

Image 17
Find the take up spool.  The original backing paper is still taped to this spool, and the new 35mm film is taped to the backing paper.  Carefully begin rolling the paper, and when you come to it, the film taped to the paper, onto the takeup spool.  Care must be taken when rolling the paper backing and new film onto the spool.  You do not want to do a sloppy job of this.  It would cause the paper backing, and possibly the film to not lay flat on the spool.  Doing so dramaticlly reduces the life span of the backing paper and cause difficulty in winding the film once inside the camera.  With careful handling you can expect the paper backing to last for many reloads.

Image 18

One of the methods I use in the dark to ensure the paper/film rolls up evenly, is to hold the paper/film with a thumb and forfinger with one hand while turning the spool with the other.  Keeping the roll taunt.

Image 19
Once the film has been rolled onto the take up spool, it now must be rolled off again.  Make into a tight roll so it will fit into the empty feed chamber of the 126 cassette.  Be sure to remember that you will start this with only the other end of the paper backing, as the film is always cut shorter than the backing paper.  So, be sure to notice after an initial small amount of rolling, that you must slip the film into the roll to wind up both, together.  I stop after every few revolutions to retighten the roll, so that when you are done, you do NOT have a roll of paper/film that is too big to fit into the space available.

Image 20

Here is the paper film combo rolled tight, and ready to place into the 126 cassette.

Image 21
Placing the roll and spool into the bottom of the 126 cassette.  Do NOT load into the cassette if the roll fits tight at all.  This will cause problems with in camera winding of the film!  If it feel snug, start over again and re-roll the film into a smaller size.  It may also be that you were sloppy in rolling, and the film/paper combonation is not even on both sides.  That causes the roll to be wider than allowed to easily be fed from the roll onto the take-up spool.  Again causing problems.

Image 22

Hold in place and reattach the upper half of the 126 cassette.  Ensure that the two pieces of the cassette are fully in place before exposing to the light.  I even hold pressure on the two halfs, in the light until I have placed tape on either end to ensure that the cassette does not come open during use.

Image 23
You now have a cassette ready for use.  It even has the backing paper which allows  you to see approximately where on the roll of film you are at the moment, plus see the rad mark/line on the paper as it passes the window.....  Try winding ever so slightly, the take up spool to ensure that there is little resistance.  If much resistance is felt, go back into the dark bag and re-wind into a smaller, tighter, more even roll to ensure smooth advance.

Image 24

I always test fit the cartridge into the camera right away to ensure that it does not hang on the tape.


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Copyright: Bruce Varner 1972-2021