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....

    3 replies

    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?

    1 reply

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


    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.

    Haven't baught any film yet - buying the loader today. I'll be running Fomapan Action 400 iso in it. It's very close to the feel I got using Agfa APX 400. Nice grain and quite silver heavy. Old School! I shoot in very poor lighting conditions on a regular basis, so I need the forgiving qualities of this film. I also overdevelop by a half stop, using Fomadon Excel ("X-Tol" in powder form) diluted 1:1. 11 1/2 minutes in 20¤C. Gives nice grain and the right punch. And I scan the film.

    Fomapan 400
    Tri-X 400
    HP5+ 400
    Fp4+ 125
    T-Max (all)
    Fomapan 200/100
    Fuji Neopan (Very unforgiving)
    All Delta films. Cannot for the life of me get them to work!
    Agfa APX. Very much. I've got a block of APX 400 120 in the freezer. It's been there for 5 years. Saving it for a very special occation!

    I tried attatching a full size jpeg straight from the scanner. It's a shot that would have been impossible if it weren't for the forgiveness of Fomapan 400. Might have worked on Tri-X, but I wouldn't be shooting this stuff on anything else, I think. It's a very thin negative, but there is something even in the darkest areas.

    Anyway... it was resized by instructables, so you can check it out here instead:

    Very nice step-by-step! I actually got a hit off google when searching for info on the pro legacy Lloid loader, to see if it would be a good match for me, and this closes the deal! Thanx!

    i will just had that you should tape the end of the film to the spool much firmly. I had films detaching from the spool in my camera and it was a nightmare, it will never happen again :) I use a much longer and larger piece of tape and get all around the spool to get the film end on both sides :)

    1 reply

    Good point, I usually use more tape and get it around to both sides like you say, for some reason when I was taking pictures I just stuck a small bit on there.

    Thanks for this! I just got the same loader delivered today from a purchase on eBay. I have about a dozen different 35mm cameras (SLR to point-n-shoot to pinhole) and I quickly figured out that bulk loading was the way to go. I haven't been able to find instructions for the Lloyd's, so this was a HUGE help to me.

    1 reply

    Yeah, I just bought another 100 ft roll of film from Freestyle the other day to start bulk loading. Their Arista Premium is Kodak film BTW and a great value at $30 for a 100 ft roll. As mentioned by someone else make sure your loader is clean and free of dust before loading the roll.

    I might point out that the style of bulk film loader (A Lloyd Loader) you show needs to be kept very clean. The fuzzy stuff in the film gate can get micro bits of dust that will scratch your film. After trashing several rolls of film with one of these type loaders, I switched to the other variety (The Watson Type...also not without their foibles). In addition, Lloyd loaders can have another problem, with static discharge, if you crank 'em too fast (and depending on the weather). You don't find out this has happened until you develop the film and discover all these little "lightning bolt" type marks where the static discharge exposed the film. (I've had this happen as well).

    3 replies

    Good to know, I well definitely make sure it is clean the next time I load it. For the static problem would you think wearing an anti-static band well help, I have one if so?

    I dunno about the static band. Since the internal workings of the loader aren't metal, would the static discharge through it? I lived in Alaska when I had mine, and the dry air during the winter might have had something to do with it. Watson loaders do have an advantage, but you have to remember to open/close the film gate between rolls. Forget to open it, and you will scratch the film way worse than a dirty Lloyd loader. Forget to close it, and you fog your film. ...and, just as a little tidbit of info. When you do scratch film, there is a way to minimize the effect when printing. This only works on the base side of the film, not the emulsion side. Anyway, take your finger and rub a bit of the skin oil from the side of your nose, then rub it onto the base side of the film. It will ill in any scratches. I know, sounds crazy, but it works. Of course there are a couple of drawbacks. You need to carefully clean the "nose grease" off afterwards, since it is a dust magnet. Printing with a cold light head also cuts down on dust/scratches (and supposedly minimizes something called the "Callier effect" as well. )


    I have used behind the ear oil before :D