How to Use a 35mm Film Bulk Loader





Introduction: How to Use a 35mm Film Bulk Loader

How to bulk load your own 35mm film and save.

Step 1: Stuff

Here is a list of the things you well need:

- Film Bulk Loader, here I am using a vintage Daylight unit, or you could get a new one from places like FreeStyle Photo who stocks all the various items required as well as many good independent photo shops.
- Film canisters, these have to be a special type intended for reloading.
- Film, the film comes in large 100ft. rolls designed to fit into the bulk loaders.
- Masking tape.
- Scissors.
- Film cans are also useful for storing rolls of undeveloped film.

As mentioned you can get all of these things from a good local photography shop, in the Portland Oregon area Pro Photo Supply comes to mind, or online outlets like Free Style photography out of California, their address is:, look under bulk loading supplies and film. You can also find things like the bulk loader and film canisters at garage sales, antique shops or on craigslist or ebay.

Step 2: Loading the Loader.

The first thing you well have to do it to load your loader, this should be done in TOTAL DARKNESS. First read the manual that came with your bulk loader, if you don't have one you can look on the internet and you well surely find one, and determine exactly how you are supposed to load the roll of film into your loader.

-In the case of the DayLight loader that I use you simply unscrew the large red nut on top and lift the top off.
-Then in TOTAL DARKNESS you can open the can that the film came in and place the spool onto the axle inside and feed the the end out the slit in the case.
-Then you simply replace the top and the large red nut and turn the light back on.

Step 3: Opening the Canister and Attaching the End of the Film.

The first step to actually loading the film is to attach the film to the spool in the canister, this is why the special canisters are needed, normal ones can not be re-closed once they have been opened.

- Begin by opening a film canister, either gently pull the top cap off, the end with the spool protruding, or if it does not want to come off easily gently whack the top of the canister down onto a table, this well cause the spool to push the end cap off. Do not use a can opener as this well ruin the end cap.

- Open the door to where the film comes out and the film canister well go and pull the film out about an inch of so if it is not already and square off the end with your scissors.

- Attach a piece of masking tape to the end of the film.

- Attach the spool to the end of the film with the tape, in my case with the top of the spool pointing to the bottom of the loader, read the directions for you loader to determine the correct way of orientating the spool.

- Slide the case of the canister over the film spool and end of the film and re-attach the other end cap making sure that it is securely fastened.

- Place the canister in the winding chamber and close the door.

Step 4: Winding

Once the film is attached to the spool and the canister is in the loader, you can now wind the film into the canister. In my case you simply insert the crank handle so that it is all the way in and turn it clockwise however many times are needed to load the number of frames you want on the roll, on mine there is a chart, yours might actually have a counter to keep track, again check with the literature that came with your loader to determine what the correct procedure is for your loader.

Step 5: Removing the Loaded Canister

After you have wound you film onto the spool you can now remove the canister and cut it from the roll of film in the loader.

For the Daylight loader you simply pull the crank back out and open the door exposing the canister. Once the door is open pull the film and canister out together a couple of inched and cut the film off at an angle leaving about an inch or so sticking out of the canister and the loader. Now since my canisters are old and the end caps are not as secure as they once were, I like to take pieces of tape and wrap them around the canister so that the end caps are more secure, also the tape is nice for writing what type of film is in the canister and other useful information.

Now you can either load the canister into your favorite camera or put them into film cans for storage. The reason we cut the end of the film at an angle was so that the film could be inserted into the slot in the film advance reel in the camera as shown, you might have to experiment in how you cut the end so that it best fits the take up reel on you camera.



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    Where do you buy the bulk film reel? Are they still made?

    I'm glad to see film is still alive. I have a darkroom set up and bulk loaders that I haven't used and want to start up again with B/W. I have a tip you may have heard. Before the one hour photo shops all became extinct I would get the empty film cartridges they would throw away. there is a tail end of the factory film sticking out to use to splice the bulk film to with scotch tape. Then just load and wind it up. Also I don't have a scale for amount of exposure winding, but use a rule of thumb of one exposure for revolution. I love my old range finders and Canon A1 and there is nothing like a hand print over a digital image (my opinion).

    Whoa! Flashbacks! "I love the smell of D76 in the morning -- I smells like DARKROOM!"

    I still have my Watson bulk loader stashed in my garage, along with years and pages of Plus-X and Tri-X.

    I cannot tell you the last time I saw metal 35mm canisters too, but they are almost as old as your Canon TLb. I recently gave away my first SLR -- a Minolta SR-1 (fully manual - lightmeter required) to a teenager I spotted shooting 35mm a year ago.

    I keep around my 26 year-old Canon A-1 SLR (the 1st camera to have a genuine LED readout of shutter speed and f-stop in the viewfinder)

    BTW, I'm in PDX; I suspect you are also. And so the rain begins....


    I have a supply of METAL reloadable cannisters, excellent condition, along with a couple of Lloyd's bulk loaders and changing bags that I can part with if anyone is interested. Let me know !

    Do you still have? How much?


    I actually live in Salem but I go to school at PSU so I hop on the street car and ride down to pro photo and powells. The TLb was actually my Dads, he gave it to me when I took photography in high school I also have an FTb that I recently picked up but I still need to tinker with the light meter some to get it working.

    About how many exposures can you get out of a 100' roll?

    With most 100' rolls, you can get about 18 rolls of 36 exposures if you count your "cranks" accurately when rolling the film.

    Oh! And I'm sharing this on facebook! :)


    Works for me :D Glad it helped you, I just saw that Freestyle was selling their Floyd reproductions about 2 weeks ago. What film are you going to load in it, I have the Arista pro in mine right now which is supposed to be Kodak but when that runs out I want to get some of their reboxed Fuji, although I have another loader so I might just get some iso 400 for it.