Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hacking a 120 Film Roll Down to 620 Size

I picked up a Brownie Hawkeye camera a couple weeks ago.  I thought it took 120 format film, but it actually takes 620 format film.  620 film is the original "printer cartridge extortion" scheme.  It's exactly the same film as 120 format, but the end caps of the spool are slightly thinner, and they're of a slightly smaller diameter than 120.  The barely-bigger 120 spools won't fit in a 620 camera; you have to buy Kodak 620 Film.  Bastards.

If you're lucky, which I was, the camera had an empty 620 spool in it.  You can put this on the receiving side, to let the camera reel the exposed film onto.  So the challenge is just to get a roll of fresh 120 film to fit onto the unexposed side.
My workshop classmate Nalini brought me a stack of info on this.  (Thanks!)  Some people modify new 120 rolls that have fresh film on them.  Other people hack empty 120 spools to look like 620, then use a changing bag to pull the film off a 120 roll, and then roll it back onto their hacked 620 roll.  I haven't tried any method yet, so I don't know.  But here's what I've learned about modifying a 120 spindle to fit like a 620 spindle.

You have a few choices for reducing the diameter of the 120 roll's spindle ends.

  • I tried shaving the ends down to a narrower diameter with a Dremel.  This was really ugly.
  • Clipping the ends down with large nail clippers worked pretty well.  I recommend it.
  • But my favorite was using a pair of electricians' scissors to trim down the diameter.  Clean and easy!
And then you've got options for thinning down the spindle ends, too.

  • Some folks recommend thinning it down with a metal file.  I'll bet that works nicely.
  • I tried using the Dremel with a sanding disc, and it was a little sloppy.  (But worked.)
  • Better was to use the cylindrical sander attachment for the Dremel.  Nice and tidy!

So now I've got an empty 120 spindle that fits in a camera that takes 620 film.  I'll try pulling 120 film off another spindle and feeding it back onto my make-believe 620 spindle.  Then I'll try taking a loaded 120 roll and trimming off the ends with the unexposed film still on.  And after that, well, you can actually still buy 620 rolls, it's just a specialty item.

I'll report back with details about what worked and what didn't.

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