Film base & potential 35mm camera damage

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Ian Grant, Jul 28, 2009.

  1. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    With a growing number of alternative 35mm films now being marketed on Polyester film base just how safe are they for conventional still camera use.

    On last years Ilford factory tour the Chairman, Howard Hopwood made it clear that under no circumstances would the company supply 35mm camera film on a Polyester base again. He pointed out that prior to his joining the company Ilford had been making & selling special 72ex 35mm film on a thin polyester base, while he didn't say the full extent of the problem the films was withdrawn, some cameras were damaged.

    He also pointed out that no major manufacturer used polyester film base for 35mm film.

    Acetate film will tear if there's a film transport problem, usually at the sprocket holes, but Polyester is too strong and damage can occur to the transport/wind mechanism, potentially worse with a high speed motor drive.

    Are the manufacturers selling us film on Polyester base irresposnsible ?

    Ian
     
  2. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    It's a valid debate, but I'm not sure to what degree it's a pratical problem. For a manually operated camera, you have to force the mechanism seriously hard to tear the sprocket holes on acetate films. Hopefully, most people would stop and try to figure out what's wrong. For a motor driven camera, the motor stops at the end of the roll when it senses the resistance, this is part of its normal operation. I'm guessing most motor drives would do the same with a jam.
     
  3. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    I'm obviously biased, since I don't own any cams with automated load/advance mechanisms, or motor drives, I guess I'm just glad they are still producing film, period.
     
  4. Alex Bishop-Thorpe

    Alex Bishop-Thorpe Member

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    Raise your hand if you've ever had a camera damaged by polyester film, I guess. It's not something I've encountered personally, but I'm interested to see under what exact circumstances it could happen. The only problem I've found with polyester based film is that you cant rip it when you're fussing about in the dark and cant find the damn scissors.
     
  5. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I have only seen motion picture cameras severly damaged by polyester film support. Generally, the motor jams in a regular camera due to the slow speed and low torque. This still will damage a small camera though, but I've never seen nor heard of it.

    Imagine what a jam will do to a coating machine moving at high speed! Now that I have heard of.

    PE
     
  6. Prest_400

    Prest_400 Member

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    That sounds like some serious problem for the manufacturer; Big time and economic losses. I don't think it's easy to repair those huge machines.

    A negative characteristic of polyester I've heard of, is that light can pass through the film, and it exposes some of the first exposures. Acetate doesn't.
    Something like this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/medienfrech/2295667811/
     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    One reason we've not heard about damage to 35mm cameras recently is there were virtually no polyester based conventional 35mm films available, since Ilford withdrew the 72ex film.

    For commercial film making taking stock is acetate based, print film is usually Polyestr based. That goes for most manufacturers even Orwo/Filmotec.

    Problems are likely to occur with older cameras where transport mechanisms are worn, and also less well made camera's, but they will happen and it may well be that the photographers don't appreciate that the film base contributed to the problem.

    Ian
     
  8. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    This is due to the lack of an attenuating material in the film support. Kodak and others use dyes or carbon suspended in the support matrix to attenuate light and prevent piping lengthwise.

    PE
     
  9. Alessandro Serrao

    Alessandro Serrao Member

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    Another reason to avoid Rollei films (the polyester base)...
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The company does need to address the issue.

    Ian
     
  11. John Shriver

    John Shriver Member

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    Kodak 2475 Recording was on Estar-AH brand polyester base. Curly as hell, but I never broke a camera with the stuff. With 20 rolls in the freezer, I'm not scared by it.
     
  12. aluk

    aluk Member

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    Tech Pan and EIR were both coated on polyester bases, if I recall. Perhaps someone who has used a lot of either could shed some light on the matter?
     
  13. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    One problem with polyester that noone speaks of, is static charge buildup. In cool dry weather sliding polyester across another surface can and usually does create and discharge a sizable dose of static electricity. Imagine the results inside of your camera from that.
    Rick
     
  14. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    All Kodak polyester films have hefty doses of antistats or conducting materials to prevent this.

    PE
     
  15. cmo

    cmo Member

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    If you use an old-fashioned mechanic camera film transport will never be as precise as with a modern analog EOS. I can see from the gaps between the frames whether I shot a film with my EOS 1v or with my Leica M6. I don't know which is more dangerous: a camera that has some mechanical clearance or a precision monster that forces the film into the right position. So far, I never had an issue with film transport in an EOS 3 and a 1v.
    I use 35mm films since 31 years, and I used thousands of rolls. It happened eight times that a film was stuck. It happened twice in a Contarex, once in a Voigtländer Vitessa, once in a Nikon FM, two times in my motorized Nikon F3 in the 80s. It happened twice in my Leica M6 which is no fun when you have to remove the remainings of good photos out of the film chamber. If I imagine that the film inside the camera is as indesctructable as Polyester a knife or pair of scissors belongs into every camera bag.

    Now, how much money would I have lost during those years if I had used Polyester film?

    Nobody can answer that question.

    I can only say: Polyester film is not for me.

    There are still so many good films available, why should I risk my cameras for some special films that do not even offer huge advantages over good films on a normal base?

    Where are the advantages of Polyester films?
    - They last 500 years - I don't.
    - They don't tear - but when was the last time I ripped a film outside a camera? I can't remember because it never happened. But I might ruin my cameras.
    - They don't tear - but you need a pair of scissors in the darkroom to remove the spool.
    - The base is clear - but it works as a light conductor and might fog frames inside the cartridge.

    One guy has shown the results of polyester film as a light conductor fogging the first SIX frames:

    http://medienfrech.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/rollei-digibase-cn200-pro/

    (Sorry, it's in german language, the fogged frames are in the middle of the page.)
     
  16. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser Advertiser

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    I think the biggest problem with 72 exposure Ilford Autowind film was that the company had been selling it specifically FOR motor drive cameras, aiming at people who intended to blaze away until brought up short. There must have been quite an issue, as after an extensive advertising campaign the product vanished almost overnight.

    (This left them with with an amazing quantity of 72x stainless steel tanks and reels which were still being knocked out cheap by various dealers 15 years later) :D
     
  17. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    One of the show off tricks in movie film cutting rooms was to snap the film with one hand: easy in 16mm, virtuoso in 35mm. I tried with polyester (usually used for release prints and the heavy handling they receive) and couldn't tear it with 2 hands, teeth, or even--without major effort--a splicer cutter.

    I'd hesitate to load a roll of 35mm polyester film, but of course 120 and sheets are fine.

    Ross
     
  18. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    With the polyester base, how the heck do they expect us to rip the sprocket holes in order to get that extra shot? :D
     
  19. Film Enthusiast

    Film Enthusiast Member

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    Hello Ian,

    From my own experience and the experience of other professional photographers: They are extremely safe. We've never had any problem. Not with Kodak Technical Pan (ESTAR base = Polyester), nor Agfa or Fotokemika/Efke, Maco, Rollei, Adox films.
    Used in different older and in modern motor cameras with 8 fps.
    The modern PET films are safe, because they are designed for use in motorised cameras. Most of surveillence and aerial cameras have powerful motor winding,as well as modern 35mm still cameras.
    And the modern (last 25 years) cameras with built in motors have sensors. If there are any slight problems (resistance) they stop the motor to prevent damage.

    Do a search here on apug or on photo.net.Try to find someone reporting that his camera was damaged by polyester film. I doubt you will find anyone. I have never heard that this has happened.

    They don't tell you the whole story: I've used this film, some colleagues as well. The problem with this film was not the polyester base. It was that the base was simply too thin. The modern PET films are much thicker, similar dimension compared to triazetate.
    Ilford made the base so thin to get the long 72 exp. roll into the cartridge.
    The problem was keeping the film flat in the camera. It had too much room to curl slightly in the film channel. Because it was too thin and not stable enough.That caused sometimes some transportation problems. The motor then stopped. But the transportation mechanism was not damaged.
    If they had used a thin triazetate base for 72 exp., it had caused the same problems.Probably much more, because the thin triazetate base were torn,not stable enough at that "thickness".

    Because of the very thin base, loading it on the Kinderman or Nikkor 72 exp. reel was like trying to wind up wet toilet paper :sad:
    Not only was the base too thin - the emulsion was different to normal HP and it was difficult to get decent negs from it.

    All in all, in this case Ilford did not a good job with this film. But it had nothing to do with the polyester base.

    That is wrong. Agfa-Gevaert is making it,and they are producing much more BW film p.a. than Ilford. And Fotokemika / Efke (in consequence Adox CHS,too) has recently changed the film base from triazetate to polyester. The latest batches are already coated on PET.
    And Adox CMS is coated on PET, too. Never had a problem with this film (at least concerning the base).

    No, the modern high speed motor drives stop winding immediately if too much resistance occurs. No danger of damaging.

    No, they are not. Not Kodak, not Agfa-Gevaert, not Fotokemika, not Adox, not Rollei-Film, not Fuji.

    Regards, Michael
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Michael, you're full of crap. Thanks for the co-ordinated Rollei/Maco response.

    I rather suspect that you and a few other new members posting recently on threads regarding Rollei/Maco products are all affiliated to the company in some way. I have informed the Moderators.

    Yes it's true certain cameras such as surveillance, traffic and microfilm cameras are designed to be used with Polyester based films, but they are heavily over engineered compared to conventional 35mm film cameras.

    But all you've written doesn't make Polyester film base safe for conventional camera use.

    Ian
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2009
  21. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    My experience has been that the motor wind cameras I have owned and used have a clutch to prevent damage at the end of the roll. None of my motor drive or motor wind cameras has ever ripped the film.

    HOWEVER, the issue of film damage to the camera may be more related to manual advance cameras. The only times I have ripped the film have been with manual advance cameras when I come to the end of the roll and, because of the mechanical advantage of the winding mechanism, I can't tell I have reached the end.
     
  22. cmacd123

    cmacd123 Subscriber

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    I would agree that I have not seen either a Canon EOS or a Pentax MX with winder, not to mention several point and shoots damage any regular film at the end of the roll. so I would imagine that hey would have no trouble with Polyester.

    In another life I used to use microfilm, which was coated on a 2 mil poly base. Even with the thin base we could not break the film with our hands without using some karate moves (one fellow could do it by wrapping it around both hands and making them fly apart, breaking the film when he reached the end of the three foot sample)

    Movie Negative is Normally on acetate, which is easier to splice and thus edit. Most of the intermediate and print stocks are poly.

    Agfa in Belgium basicaly only produces Poly stock, I have heard that EFKE was using blank film base from Filmotec in Wolfen Germany, and they may have dropped making acetate base. Any film from those sources will be on Poly base.

    Poly WILL light pipe. I collect 16mm films and you can tell a print on Poly as it is brightly lit when held up to the light, while an acetate print barely shows any light through it. That is on clear film. Kodak puts an antistatic coating on their Motion Picture print stock
    http://motion.kodak.com/US/en/motion/Products/Distribution_And_Exhibition/Print_Films/2383.htm

    My old splicer for acetate film can sometimes not manage to cut poly film.

    I expct taht in the future we will all have to use use sharp scissors in the darkroom.
     
  23. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    With respect, even with the mechanical advantage of a film advance lever, one would have to be rather over-enthusiastic not to get the feedback of increased resistance at the end of a roll. I will hold up my hands and say that the only times (very few) that I've ever stripped a sprocket hole or two have been in trying to eke that 37th or 38th exposure out of a film (and I've given up trying that for the last twenty years as it's not worth the hassle!)

    Steve
     
  24. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The post I was replying to has now been removed from the thread, so apologies if my reply above seems out of context.

    Sean has made a comment in the Feedback section.

    Ian