Difficulty loading 120 film onto plastic reels (and being a bit of a baby about it)
Here is the story - I just recently started film photography after years of being unsatisfied with digital and not seeing any "convenience" advantages (given the time/annoyances associated with monitoring, matching color profiles, junking around in PS, etc.). Happy I went back to film (which I only had the most brief experience with in HS). I am shooting a Mamiya RZ67II with a 110mm. I am working through a community photo center here in San Francisco that offers classes, tutoring, etc.
My biggest problem to date (and by far my most frustrating) is trying to load 120 film onto a plastic Paterson-type reel. Every other roll seems to go ok (at best), but certain rolls will just not go on. I realize I am complaining here, but I guess I am hoping that some of you will say that everyone went through this and it is just a matter of practice. I watch other people do it (meaning go in and out of the darkroom) and it seems to take mere seconds, which is incredibly frustrating. Again, it's not that I don't want to work hard - I do - but I also want to be assured that this is a function of practice and that I *can* get better at this.
I've also made the mistake of messing around with different film/developer combinations, which I now understand is a bad idea. So my thought is as follows:
1) Stick with one system (the Mamiya) and one lens (the 110) so that I learn how that lens "sees" before I do anything more on that front - convenient because it is the only camera/lens that I own at the moment.
2) Stick with one film (I was thinking FP4+) and one developer (I was thinking DD-X).
3) Start developing at home so that I take complete ownership of the process. On this front, I was thinking about trying to purchase one of the Samigon reels, as they would *appear* to have a reputation for being slightly easier to load.
I am also reading AA's "The Negative", which I am finding helpful, although a little bit off point for this thread.
In the end, again, I recognize that I just wanted to vent a little bit and the wife, while lovely, just not particularly care or understand why I take it this seriously...any and all pep talks (including tough love, if necessary) is appreciated.
1. Make sure the ball bearings and grooves are absolutely clean.
2. I have not used Peterson plastic reels, however some reels load more easily if the corners of the 120 film are clipped slightly.
3. I prefer Hewes steel reels [tank] and Jobo reels [processor] for 35mm and 120 film.
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Matthew, you pick a camera and lens combo that will blow you mind how good it is. I know the RB/RZ's are heavy but there is something about mine that just works great for me.
As far as loading the reels I would suggest taking an old roll of film and practice loading it in the light do it a few times so you can see what is happening. Then do it with you eyes closed. you will get the hang of it and it will seem so easy. The Patterson reels have the large "entry" ramps that make those reel particularly easy to use.
FP4 is a great film and you will find lots of FP4 fans here. I have no experience with DD-X, but for easy of use and economy Kodak HC-110 is so easy and there are development times for any kind of film you can think of. I use it at 1+50 dil and then pour it out. It will stay good forever and is really easy to use.
Hope this helps.
Good advice already given if you are stuck with Paterson reels but if you decide to get your own tank and reel for home use then you might want to have a look at the Durst 120 tank. It is a plastic tank with a plastic reel but you get a 120 loader with it which clips onto the outside of the reel. You feed the film into the centre of the reel through the loader and then simply push the end under the sprung centre. Once under the centre spring you wind the film on by the small handle that is part of the outside circle of the reel.
Ideal if you lack a place of total darkness for loading and have to use a sweat producing changing bag as if doesn't require "dry hands" unlike reels requiring the hand-feeding of film
It really doesn't matter what type reel you use. But some people have better success with one type rather than the other. Since you have tried plastic without success try a stainless steel reel and tank. The key is to practice. Take an old 120 film and practice loading in the light.
DDX seems to have poorer keeping properties than other developers. So unless you are developing a lot of film I would suggest something else. Kodak HC-110 is a concentrate that lasts practically forever and produces great results. Perfect for the occasional user. Check the following site, http://www.covingtoninnovations.com/hc110/
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I also found Patterson reels to be very frustrating. Hewes reels are much more user friendly.
For 120, the Samigon/AP/Arista Premium reels with the wider input flanges work much better for me than the Paterson reels.
If you want to stick with Paterson, a lot of people find it useful to cut a piece of semi rigid material like a plasticized playing card to the right width for inserting into the guides, and then use that card as a ramp to start the film in. Once the front edge of the film gets past the bearings, out comes the card, and the rest is much easier.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
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Hewes make steel reels with 1" cores to fit the Paterson system. Not cheap, but far more user-friendly than the plastic auto-load reels.
Try the other type of plastic reel, made by a Spanish company, called AP in Europe. They are much easier and fit the tanks. Cheaper too.
Some have success with a pencil and the graphite acting as a lubricant but I would try a different reel first, either the AP or stainless steel. If you stick with Paterson, you can also pull the reel apart slightly as you load the dry reels with dry hands and film, it is indeed partly technique. I always clip the corners going on first. However, I think Paterson reels are often a combination of poor design and manufacturing quality and two bad halfs make a very bad reel. I can't think of any other camera gear that brings so much grief to so many people but is still used by many without problems (and is now in its fourth iteration) as the Paterson reel.
The AP/Paterson knock-off reels with large plastic tongues to guide the film do make loading easier, but they are the worst pieces of darkroom crap I have ever used. Those large plastic flanges build up static electricity like no other and leave nasty fish hook shaped marks on your negatives if you try to load your film quickly (which you surely will once you get the hang of it). I have since eschewed them altogether and exclusively use original Paterson reels with the small flanges, or my Jobo duo-set reels.
The Paterson is easy once you get a feel for it. Practice in the light.