Can't Load 120 film even if my life depended on it!

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by laroygreen, Jul 7, 2013.

  1. laroygreen

    laroygreen Member

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    Hey guys,

    I have a very perplexing issue loading 120 film into the Patterson development reel (and from searching the forum, I can see that I am not the only one with this issue). I have given up trying to do it consistently; after hours of practice, watching videos and reading posts - trying all kinds of home remedies, it still takes me 40 MINUTES sometimes to load one roll, and even after doing that, the roll is usually not properly loaded and can't be scanned properly (and I live in a very hot and humid place, so it is very uncomfortable and you can only get so naked :laugh:)

    I routinely develop 4X5 sheets and I can load my Mod54 in less than a minute (typically 5 minutes if I take my time), so I just don't get why using the Patterson reel is so hard. Now, I've given up completely on getting the Patterson reels to work and I'm not ever interested in using them ever again for anything because it is awful rubbish :D (albeit it works fine for 35 mm, but I don't shoot that very often)

    Anyways (enough venting) I have seen recommendations to use Hewes steel reels, as well as getting the Samigon reels which have a "fool proof" guide for loading - but nothing conclusive and still seems hit and miss. I think the Samigon might work because I believe my main issue is simple getting the film lined up straight when entering the reel (120 film is very floppy). But, is there anything else I can try, like maybe an auto loader or something?

    Shooting film is fun, developing it should be equally fun! I have a backlog of important rolls that I am afraid to develop and it is getting to the point where it isn't making much sense to shoot medium format (which is a shame as I love using my RZ67). Any help please!

    Sorry for spewing words but after trying to load film this morning, I have lost all composure for at least the next 24hrs!
     
  2. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    FWIW, I occasionally had problems if reels were not 101% dry, and particularly in warm conditions when hands were damp or perspiring (and. if you get agitated or flustered, hands get even moister). Light cotton photo gloves are a possibility.
    I see that you've practiced, but, for anyone who hasn't. it's worth trying with a scrap film, both in daylight then in the darkroom.
    (Apologies if that's all obvious).
     
  3. Too old to care

    Too old to care Subscriber

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    My advice is just get some SS reels and practice. I hold the reel and the end of the film with my left hand to start/center it in the reel, holding the film roll in my right. i then move my left hand and fingers to gently curl the film as it starts to wind, drop the film from my right hand to let it hang free, and then use it to gently turn the reel while still guiding and curling it with the left. A bit of practice and you will never go back to plastic reels.

    Wayne
     
  4. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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  5. frank

    frank Member

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    I've got no problem loading 120 film on Patterson plastic reels. They do have to be perfectly dry. You may try scrubbing the ridges with a toothbrush to clean out any accumulated crud. Check to see that the ball bearing moves freely.
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I understand your frustration. Just loaded 2 rolls of 120 on plastic reels, the first went on easy in about 30 seconds, the second apparently had a little something tin one of the grooves and took about 5 minutes.

    With practice I have gotten fairly quick with JOBO reels, took lots of patience and experimentation and motivation to get reasonable at it. I find that C-41 processing is the most fun when I use my CPA2 and plastic reels are an integral part of that system.

    Tried Patterson reels at one point a few years back and struggled, didn't have the JOBO then so went back to steel as you are considering.
     
  7. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    In addition to what has already been said, before loading, take the spiral apart and run a pencil lead round the grooves on both sides. The graphite will aid the loading process.
     
  8. frank

    frank Member

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    Is the problem you're having getting the film aligned and started, or once started, pushing it all the way in?
     
  9. Alex Muir

    Alex Muir Member

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    Hi. I use Paterson reels for 120 and usually manage to load without problems. Two things have been helpful. The first is bending back the leading edge of the film at around a quarter inch from the end. Bend it back against the curl to the point where you make a crease, then fold back. This is a trick I learned from another forum user, and it works very well. The second point is to avoid putting pressure on the side of the reels, ie don't push the flanges together. I actually pul them apart gently when rotating back and forth. These things work for me, but in Scotland I don't usually have to battle heat and humidity! I hope you find a solution. 120 shooting is very enjoyable. Alex
     
  10. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I am going to assume that the OP uses a changing bag, and frankly I don't have any words of encouragment for him. I will advise that switching to SS reels and tank should ease the problem somewhat. I found that film guides are a nuisance to help load reels and with a bit of practice the SS reels all but load themselves. The best thing to do(IMO) is not use a changing bag, and darken out a small room to load film, and then it shouldn't matter if plastic or SS is used.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    To the OP:
    Your problem is quite simple. There is only one "T" in Paterson. If you don't spell their name properly, they misbehave:whistling:.

    I agree with Darkroom317. The extra wide flanges mean that the reels he recommends work well for me, while the Paterson reels give me fits.

    Those Arista Premium reels are available under a number of names. In my case, they came branded as "AP". It may be that the Samigon reels you are referring to are the same as the Arista Premium/AP reels.

    In addition to relying on the wider flanges, I involve the tape that attaches the film to the backing paper in my loading procedure.

    I first unroll the entire roll, topping when I encounter the tape.

    I then carefully peel the tape from the backing paper, leaving it attached to the film.

    I then fold the tape over the end of the film, leaving a film edge that is rendered more stiff - that is the edge I feed first into the reel.

    I start the film into the reel by first inserting it into the reel until it reaches the bearings. I then pull that edge an inch or so past the bearings.

    I then advance the film fully into the reel using the ratcheting procedure. Alex Muir is right - it is important to avoid pushing the sides of the reel together, as they must be parallel to each other.

    And Rick A is correct - there is no way I could load these reels in a changing bag. If necessary, night is your friend. Film on loaded reels in a tank will happily wait for one or more days before you develop it.

    As for SS reels, I can load them, but can't use the clips. So the film doesn't stay put when I use my homemade rotary processing.
     
  12. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Loading plastic reels usually boils down to two issues - sticky slots or ball bearings, and not being able to get the film aligned while getting it into at least the first 2/3 of a rotation of the reel.

    These days I use Jobo reels, so there are no ball bearings, but the balls must move freely on Paterson reels. Running some cloth and possibly graphite along the slot can help, and definitely do not put wetting agent on the reel - dump the film out into a jug for that.

    The reverse crimp on the end of 120 film helps me load, too. I was told that by someone I used to know, who was told about it by someone else, probably all the way back to George Eastman :cool:. Make sure you get the film aligned evenly at the start. It ought to push onto the reel for at least half a turn. I also leave the film on the spool and just coil up the backing paper as I go.

    I still have the odd film that seems to be particularly malevolent, but I usually win in the end!
     
  13. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Ditto There is an inexpensive device made of sheet SS that cups the film to make insertion on the reel very easy.
     
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  15. Ghostman

    Ghostman Subscriber

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    I usually use the Arista reels and the wide landing strips are nice to work with in the dark. I am also in the habit of loading two rolls onto one reel, taping the end of the first to the beginning of the second. This is certainly less nerve-wracking than using the Paterson reels. I recently bought 3 new Paterson reels and have found them surprisingly well behaved and have even managed to double load a roll without any problems.

    I quickly developed a 'style'. Instead of trying to lead both edges of the film into both flanges simultaneously, I keep the one side still and crank the other away, as if were winding on. Then I load one edge into the flange and then I wind the other side back, slowly feeding the second edge of the film in. Then i pull it through and begin winding on. I know it's hard to explain, but it works for me, even when taping two rolls together.
     
  16. Noble

    Noble Member

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    Fold the taped end back against the curl

    This is HUGE!!! I read it on this forum. This place is great for practical advice once you get past all the philisophical debates.

    Unroll the entire roll of film and separate it from the backing paper. Fold the tape over the end of the roll. Now this is important. Bend the taped end of the roll back on itself near the end. Basically take the curve out of it. Now load that end first. With a dry reel that solved my loading problems. It can still be a bit finicky to get started but it doesn't hang a third or half way through for me anymore. I no longer dent my film and cause those semi circles and I don't use the SS reels I own. Try it and let us know how it works for you.
     
  17. drkhalsa

    drkhalsa Member

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    I think I learned this here on the forum: take scissors and nip the corners of the leading edge. The film then feeds into the Paterson reel much more easily. You can't make too large of a nip or you may cut into your negative frame.

    This helped me tremendously to get the film on the reel.
     
  18. laroygreen

    laroygreen Member

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    @frank: Sometimes I struggle just to get it in (dear lord :redface:) but after getting it in, It seems to get snagged half way or run off the track.

    @Rick A: Yes I have a changing bag, but because of the heat and humidity, I don't think I can handle being in a room (I have a small space under the stairs, but I have to keep the door open to let air in and I'm not in a position to modify the space in any real way). Would a changing tent work?

    @Matt King: They are lucky I chose not to really express myself :D. As for the bending back tape, I tried it once, and all the film in that batch had dissolved tape over it. Not sure why, it might have been because the film I tried it on was old so maybe the tape was close to decaying already.

    Consensus seems to be (other than trying to fix the infernal things) the SS reels. They look harder to me, but I don't mind giving it a shot (takes about 2 weeks for items to get to me though, so I rather be reasonably sure before ordering). I saw a video on Youtube of someone loading a Hewes and it did look slick and easy.
     
  19. laroygreen

    laroygreen Member

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    @drkhalsa: I tried this, and it does help, but my biggest issue is the inconsistency of the thing, which makes it hard to plan my day when I know I have film to load. So, while all these tricks do work, they don't seem to work all the time and the reels themselves are just idiotic :D
     
  20. drkhalsa

    drkhalsa Member

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    I hear you. I have been quite frustrated myself and have plenty of unprocessed 120 film to practice with so anything learned here from your thread will be put into use.
     
  21. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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  22. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Trying to load film in a changing bag is difficult at best, add high temps and humidity and it becomes an exercise in futility. The mere presence of your hands inside the bag causes the temp to increase as well as the humidity. The "fix" is to not use the bag, and either change to a tent or open darkened room. Covering the door and any window to a small bathroom is one common fix, thats how its done at my house.
     
  23. Noble

    Noble Member

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    So did bending the taped end work for you as far as loading? My professionally developed film comes back with the tape still on it. Try some new film. By the way I do all this on the couch in a dark bag watching TV on days with 90% outside humidity.

    Your instincts are partially correct. They may not be harder but they have their own set of difficulties. Sometimes people do better with one versus the other but with enough practice people seem to use both. There is no silver bullet. The thing about SS reels is if you use a film with a sturdy base like TMAX 100 and you get it started correctly it pretty much loads itself. The problem I had was getting it started straight and denting thinner base emulsions like Fuji Acros. You have to bend the film in two axis to load it. I consistently ended up with semicircle dents all over my Acros. Wasn't a problem with TMAX.
     
  24. laroygreen

    laroygreen Member

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    I see some very very expensive (Jobo of course!) loaders on eBay. Is that something I should consider and that might work for me? They look a little fragile, but I have no experience with them.

    I recently converted my living room into a fold out studio (easy to pack away everything) and I do portraits, so what I wanted was that on days I had a portrait shoot, I can set my chemicals to get up to temperature in the morning (takes about 1hr in my temperature bath if the water is room temperature), and while my model waits (usually a friend) I would load and process the film. This shouldn't take more than 30 minutes really - and I hit that time easily with 4x5, but as it is right now, it typically takes me 2 or more hours to process a few roles of 120 :sad:

    I mentioned this because it just isn't fun for me to sit around loading film and anything I can do to ease that discomfort (cheaper is obviously better) is worth it for me. I've been able to solve all my analog related workflow problems, but I just can't seem to fix this one and if I can't find a working solution, I am going to only shoot 4x5 going forward.

    In any case, if the auto loader is not recommended, then I will buy some Hewes SS reels and tank and give that a try (this video made it look dead easy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwiESmJiP4Q)
     
  25. laroygreen

    laroygreen Member

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    Oh, I said the same thing about 4X5 until I found the MOD54 and it changed everything for me, so I am really hoping something is out there that can do the same for 120, and I know being a magic bullet chaser is a bad thing, but photography is a stress release for me, and right now loading 120 is giving me a high blood pressure :smile:
     
  26. peter k.

    peter k. Subscriber

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    I don't use Paterson, but I do load in a large changing bag.
    But it has a box in it!!!
    I got a box at Staples, that is flat when purchased, and you 'put it together' and is suppose to be used for storing office stuff in.
    Cut out the bottom, ah.. about two to three inches from the four bottom corners.. with that facing the zippers. The open end towards the sleeves.
    What works nice, is the MF paper, ect, can be gotten out of the way, into that zone between what was the box bottom, and now is the back, and the zippers of the changing bag. Gets it out of the way.
    Hopes this helps with the changing bag, if it is fact, part of the problem.