Friday, July 5, 2013

Loading 35 mm Film into a 126 Cartridge

A friend picked up a Kodak Instamatic 404 for me, a while ago.  It uses 126 film cartridges, which are 35 mm (-ish) film inside a sealed, easy-to-load cartridge.  Off I went to eBay, and found a used roll for ten dollars including shipping.

Fused spots.  Click for full size.
Pulling the cartridge apart is the hardest bit.  I found a great post on how to do it.  You'll need to twist, tease, and pry it apart.  The two halves of my Kodacolor II cartridge were glued/fused at four points inside, two on each side.  Pictured at right, the arrows are pointing to those spots, which may help you do it yourself.

With the cartridge eviscerated, I taped the start of some 35 mm film to the take-up spool and got to work in the changing bag.  I pulled out an arm's length of film, cut it, and rolled it up loose.  I wrangled the take-up spool into the big side, and held the loose roll in the small side, then snapped the cartridge back together.

Ready for the changing bag!
I'm assuming the Instamatic is reasonably light-tight once it's closed.  So rather than try to tape-up the edges of the cartridge -- so I could load a camera in daylight -- I just added the camera to my changing bag, dropped in the cartridge, and closed the camera's door.

As detailed in a fantastically technical post, there are some interesting differences between the teeth on 35 mm film and the "notches" on actual 126 film.  In short, the camera will think it has advanced a whole frame, before it's actually done it.  So, for each picture I took, I advanced the film, then held my hand over the lens and took a blank shot, so I could advance a second time.

The resulting photos are pretty gnarly.  For one thing, I was using 400 speed film in a 100 speed camera.  For another, the tape I put over the frame-count window on the cartridge was obviously not opaque enough.  Armed with these data, I think the next roll is going to be better.