View Full Version : How does pack film work?

08-23-2008, 08:05 PM
I've just acquired a Kodak Recomar 18---the 6.5x9 version of the Nagel Kodaks---and to my surprise, it came with a film pack that has tabs 2 through 16 still present. (It's Tri-X; the tabs say "Kodak Tri-X Pan Professional" in green, in an arch over the number---not sure if this helps to date it.)

I have the impression that this means those 15 sheets are unexposed, right? If so, um, how do I actually *do* it? Just pull the darkslide and expose like a normal sheet, then pull the tab? And if so, what exactly happens when I pull the tab?

Also, should I expect that sheet 1 is still in there somewhere, exposed but waiting to be developed?

Thanks for any assistance. I'm keeping my expectations in check, but I figure I might as well give it a try.


Photo Engineer
08-23-2008, 08:11 PM
Well Nick, if the dark slide is pulled from the pack, the pack is probably totally fogged. If it is in the holder, that holder should have a dark slide which can be pulled. IIRC, some packs went directly into 4x5 cameras with no holder just like a 4x5 sheet holder, and other fit into a container first with a dark slide.

Basiclly, they work like a Polaroid pack except that the film does not come out. It is stored behind the unexposed film and so if 2 - 16 are there, then 1 should be in the back waiting for development.

The film is not 4x5, it is a tad larger than 4x5 and will not fit 4x5 hangers in tanks. It is therefore hard to process. I had special hangers and tanks for the oversize film. Also, it is on 5 mil support, not 7 mil and therefore often buckles during processing or loading onto the hangers.

The film sheets are held in place by small glue on paper strips and if the paper is not removed before processing, watch out! It forms little balls of paper in the processing solutions that can mess up your film if not removed before drying.

I shot a lot of stuff using those. Very handy.


David A. Goldfarb
08-23-2008, 08:13 PM
It works as you describe. Pack film is thin, like 120 rollfilm. When you pull the tab, the next sheet from the back of the stack is pulled around a post at the opposite end of the pack from the tab to the top of the stack.

Sheet 1 is probably there, but it was possible to disassemble the pack in the dark and remove exposed sheets, so don't be surprised, if it's not there. This was known as "robbing the pack."

Process the film in trays, unless you have pack film hangers or a Nikor stainless steel tank with the adjustable reel (in which case you should probably sacrifice a sheet to adjust the reel). The sheets aren't the same size as 6x9 or 6.5x9 sheets, and they're thin, so they don't work so well in daylight tank racks, like the one for the Yankee tank.

Photo Engineer
08-23-2008, 08:22 PM
David, I did most by hand but some with the Yankee tank with the long "hatpins" that held the film in at all 4 corners. This worked fine and the extra edges hung out with no problem IIRC.


David A. Goldfarb
08-23-2008, 08:40 PM
I tried some using the rack from a Yankee tank in a larger deep tank once, but didn't know about or have the "hatpins" and ended up fishing sheets out of the tank in the dark. Fortunately, I was only testing a few sheets to see if it worked, and it was ancient film, so the development time wasn't too critical. I was glad to get anything. After that I switched to trays.

08-23-2008, 11:03 PM
So, to use pack film (which, of course is obsolete), you pull the paper tab after exposure, and it pulls the exposed sheet back around to the back of the pack. I think the paper pull-tab then comes off.

David A. Goldfarb
08-23-2008, 11:31 PM
Phototone has it right, and I've got it backward. The tab pulls the exposed sheet to the back of the pack, because if you rob the pack, you take the exposed sheets from the back. I'd said that it pulled a fresh sheet to the front of the pack, which is wrong.

I've only tried filmpacks a few times, just to see what it was like to use them, and when I did it, I pulled the paper tabs off, but some people say they left them hanging onto the pack. One of the things I didn't like about using filmpacks was accumulating these tabs in my pockets as I was shooting.

The other thing I didn't care for with filmpacks was what PE mentioned--the paper sticking to the film and floating off in the developer.

08-24-2008, 06:39 PM
Well Nick,

Nathan. Thanks though. :-)

IIRC, some packs went directly into 4x5 cameras with no holder just like a 4x5 sheet holder, and other fit into a container first with a dark slide.

I didn't know about the containerless ones. This one is in a Kodak-branded holder, which I would assume came with the camera---darkslide in place, tabs in pretty good shape, so I'm going to guess the film has a chance of being OK. (Do you know offhand when Tri-X was last made in film packs?)

The film is not 4x5, it is a tad larger than 4x5

"than 2x3", I'm guessing you meant---it's a 6.5x9 camera. I'm tray processing, so precise sizes aren't a big issue. I took one picture as a smoke test this morning and now understand more or less what must be happening in the pack---it's an ingenious little design.

The film sheets are held in place by small glue on paper strips and if the paper is not removed before processing, watch out!

Eek, thanks for the warning. Do they take any special measures to remove, or can I just peel them off in the dark?

Incidentally, this camera is absolutely adorable. I gather Dr Nagel was a bit of a pain to work with, but dear lord, could that man make an elegant camera.


08-25-2008, 02:51 AM
If you want the instructions on how the pack works and how to "rob" the pack - send me a PM and I'll get a pdf of the instructions to you. I just processed half a dozen sheets from a 2x3 pack expired in 1968 - some fog but salvageable prints. The last film pack I used from the same date batch had no fog at all. Being able to rob the pack lets you expose and develop the first sheet and check the fog level of the film. I tray develop up to 6 sheets at a time rather than trying to load the thin film into the Nikor adjustable tank.


08-25-2008, 03:18 AM
Gord - I'm sending you a PM too. I've got a few unused packs in the fridge, although some of them are older than I am!

Photo Engineer
08-25-2008, 10:18 AM

Sorry about the name.

I have never used the smaller size, only the "4x5" and I restricted my answer to what I know about that format, so size and pack design may have been limited to the larger product. The packs for the Kodak holder were made in a variety of sheet film sizes, but I have no idea when they were discontinued. My last use of them was in about 1962, but that has nothing to do with the actual date in which packs were stopped being produced.

Sorry I was not clear. All other answers above and my generic comments still apply such as buckling and the paper/glue adhering to the film during processing.


08-25-2008, 01:23 PM
I'm pretty sure the 6.5x9cm is the same as the 9x12cm and the 4x5" - and the 10x15cm too. Just the format differs. At least empty packs (which tend to be included with the packfilm holder the previous owner's grandfather never got around to removing from the camera you just bought) are exactly the same except for size.

John Shriver
01-07-2009, 09:38 PM
The Nikor sheet film tank is a nice way to process film from film packs. Use the instructions to set it up correctly. Most daylight tanks for 4x5 just won't work with film pack film.