Disassemble and Reload a 110 Film Cartridge

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Introduction: Disassemble and Reload a 110 Film Cartridge

Pity the poor Pocket Instamatic photographer.  He/She has seen the film choices dwindle over the years....no more Kodachrome, no more black and white, no more slide film, etc, etc, etc.

Well, some people can't be dragged into the 21st, so lets work around it!

>>>In this instructable, we'll disassemble a 110 film cartridge and reload it with any film you choose to load.

None of this information is particularly ground breaking.  The Luddites of the Subminiture community have been doing this for years.  The purpose of this Instructable is to pull all the info I've found into one spot for easy reference.

Step 1: What Is 110 Film?

Kodak had a hit with their 126 cartridge film introduced in 1963.  Its main "claim to fame" was the ease of loading.  It was just a drop in cartridge unlike all the fiddling that went with loading a regular 35mm camera of the time.  However, since 126 film used 35mm wide film, the cameras could not be be made smaller and more portable.  After all, if you have a camera you could take anywhere, you would use more film....Kodak film!

So the 110 cartridge film was born.  Cute and portable cameras that take advantage of the "new" film format soon filled the camera stores.  As soon as Dick Van Dyke got involved in advertising the new "Pocket Instamatics" thing really took off.

It is difficult to imagine in these digital days just how big the 110 phenomenon really was, but you might look at the camera section of your local thrift shop where these cameras are sold by the ton!




Step 2: Prepare for Reloading

OK, so you have inherited, bought, found or given a 110 film camera and want to use film you can't find in the depressingly slim 110 film marketplace.  Before you can reload, you will need some supplies: 

1.  At least 1, 110 film cartridge.  You can usually find a 1/2 used cartridge in the back of your new acquisition.  If not, you can still buy 110 film on any auction site.  The film may be outdated or obsolete, but that will not matter, you just want the parts.  Some cartridges are easier to get apart so look for the oldest Kodak cartridges you can find as they seem to come apart the easiest.

2.  Razor knife.

3.  16mm film or film you can slit down to 16mm.  Unperforated film work the best, single perf 16mm film is second best and double perf the least favorable (but still useful).  In this demonstration, I'll use 16mm Agfa Copex microfilm for my reloading.  For some more tips on using microfilm, look  here.

4.  Black electrical tape (or black gaffers tape).

For my video, I used a film cartridge that shot and wanted the film.  If this is your case, follow these steps:

a.  Shoot your 24th frame of 110 film and closely watch the back window

b.  Advance the film forward only until you see the first "X" on the backing paper

c.  Open up the camera and remove the film.  You will see the film in the cartridge, but don't worry, your images are safe.

d.  To remove the film, take a toothpick and hook the film/backing paper combo and pull out of the film supply chamber.

e.  Now transfer the film to a changing bag or darkroom.

f.  Grab the film and backing paper and completely pull the film and backing paper out of the take up chamber.

g.  The film will come out easily, but the backing paper is glued to the take up reel.  Just tug sharply to pull the backing paper off.

h.  Process the film yourself or put in a black 35mm container to send to your favorite photo finisher.


Q: Can you take out the 110 film and use it in another camera?

A: Yes and no.  The film will perform fine, however commercial 110 film is preprinted with edge information that will leave strange artifacts on your images.

Step 3: Opening the Top Seam

In this step, you will score and open the top if the cartridge.

1.  Locate the seam on the two bulbous supply and take-up chambers.  It is very difficult to see...even with my macro bellows on my camera it is difficult.

2.  Carefully take the razor knife and try to separate that seam.  I like to seat the blade into the seam and rotate the knife along the chambers.

3.  Cut through the seam on both the supply and take up chambers.

4.  Take a pick and ensure the seam is completely free.

Now move onto the next step:

Step 4: Opening the Side Seam

In this step, we'll cut down the sides of the cartridge.

1.  Ensure the top seam is cut through to the seam on the side.

2.  Score down the side with the razor knife.

3.  Once you are through, you should be able to bend the top and bottom pieces apart slightly.

4.  Repeat for the other side.

5.  Once both sides are separated, slowly bend the top and bottom pieces apart.  With luck you will hear a snap and the pieces of the cartridge will fall apart.  If you feel that the plastic of the cartridge is going to break before coming apart, move on to the next step.

Step 5: Opening the Bottom Seam

If you failed to break the cartridge apart in the last step, we'll get it apart here.

1.  Take your razor knife and score the seam along the bottom of the cartridge as best you can.  Since it is a butt joint, it is a little difficult.

2.  Once you have weakened the joint, try bending apart the top and bottom elements.  If you are lucky, it will snap apart.  If not, try again until it comes apart easily.

Step 6: Prepare Your 16mm Film

You can get your film to reload in a variety of ways.  Although the actual width of 110 film is 17mm, 16mm film works just fine.  You can easily find this stuff at internet auction sites or sold fresh as movie film or like I'm using here, microfilm.


1.  Slit to Fit.  You can construct or buy film slitters that will slit 35mm or 120 film into the required 16mm width.  So with this method, you have access to any film made in those formats.  A 36 exposure 35mm roll will give you enough film for 2, 110 cartridges where 1, 120 roll of film will yield enough film for 3, 110 cartridges.  If you slit the 120 at 15mm, you could get 4, 110 cartridges out of a 120 roll, however, you might have problems getting the film into steel reels for development, however if you use the plastic expanding reels, it may not be a problem.

2.  16mm Cine Film. These films come in 100 foot or longer rolls.  Theoretically, you could get 40, 110 cartridges out of one 100 foot roll of cine film.  The main problem is that the film comes with perforations on either one, or both sides of the film.  If the film is single perforated, you can use the perforated side positioned so the sensor does not engage the perforations.  You will have some artifacts from the perforations and maybe even preprinted footage numbers in the image area of the film that you can crop out or leave in for that "sprocket photo" look.  Double perf stock can be used as well, but you have to fire a few "dummy" photos in between to get discrete images (or maybe run everything together for the arthouse look).

3.  Microfilm.  By far my favorite to use as it has no sprocket holes, is cheap and is super fine grained (always a concern when working with submini photography).  On the down side, it is slow and can be very high in contrast unless developed carefully.

Once you have the film of your choice, you need to cut to length.  That is 76cm or 30 inches.  You have to do this in total darkness, so the best way is to have a dummy length of film (or paper strip) the correct length and match the length in the dark and cut your film.  Best to keep track of the emulsion side and base side to be able to load it correctly.

Step 7: Reload!

OK, time to put it all together.  I'd advise you to get a dummy strip of film and do it several times in the light so you can visualize the procedure when you have to do it with your hands in a changing bag or dark room.

1.  Reattach the backing paper.  This task you can do in the light.  Since we yanked the backing paper off the take up reel, now is time to reattach it.  Take a thin piece of tape and go all the way around the take up reel and tape to the backing paper on both the front and back.  Make sure the numbers are facing the back of the cartridge (don't ask).  Also, make sure that the reel is closest to the 24th exposure on the backing paper (again, don't ask).

2.  Take all the pieces of the cartridge and a few small tabs of tape to close the cartridge.  Arrange them so you can remember where they are when the lights are off.

3.  Turn off the lights or close your changing bag.

4.   Take thebacking paper with the reel attached in one hand and retreive the film you have cut in the other.  Put the film with the base side facing the backing paper and start to roll the film and backing paper starting at exposure 24 into a tight tube. Once you reach the end (past exposure 1) you should have the tight tube of film/backing paper in your right hand and the reel attached to the backing paper in the left.

4a.  Alternate method:  Take the reel with the backing paper in one hand and retreive the film you have cut in the other.  Put the film with the base side facing the backing paper and start to roll the film and backing paper onto the reel (starting at exposure 1).  Once the film and backing paper is completely rolled onto the take-up reel, your half way done.  Now you need to reroll the film and backing paper off the take-up reel and into a tight tight tube (it has to be small enough to fit into the supply chamber).   Do this until you are almost at the end of the film/backing paper combo. 

5.  Now carefully insert the rolled tube of film into the supply chamber and the take-up reel into the cartridge.  Feel to make sure is snug.

6.  Put on the cartridge cover and secure the cover with a few tabs of tape.

7.  Reload complete.

The alternate method in step 4a is particularly useful when using a changing bag as it minimizes the long lengths of film and backing paper to possibly get tangled.  The price you pay is the extra step of unrolling the reel and rolling the film/backingpaper into a tight tube in the dark.


This is the process with a lot of additional info.  Be advised that this Youtube video is over 20 minutes of me blathering on about reloading 110 film.  Use the slider liberally!



Step 8: Tips and Tricks

1.  The Notch.  Some 110 cameras pass the function test to determine if you can use unperforated reloads, but mysteriously fail when you put your reload in.  The reason for this behavior is that your camera has a sensor that tells the camera when film is inserted.  When film is sensed, the camera operates an interlock that tuns on the perforation seeking sensor system.  An easy way to defeat this feature is to cut a small notch out of the film cartridge so the cartridge does not activate the sensor.  If you have just one camera, this is not a problem as you can cut all your reloads the same.  However, the sensor may be at different spots for different cameras.  Once you excavate enough plastic to get the cartridge to work with all of your cameras, you could be weakening the structure of the cartridge enough to cause light leaks when the cartidge is flexed when loading or unloading.

2.  Film speed adjustments.  The film sensing feature of 110 film was rather crude compared to DX coding of 35mm cartridges.  The 110 cartridge was only coded for "low" and "high" speed film.  The problem with this system is that the ISO for low and high were not defined.  This allowed the camera manufacturers to decide that for themselves.  Most cameras interpret the low to be about 100 ISO and High at 400 ISO.  So how do you get the proper exposure when you reload with your own film?  Here are a few methods:

     a.  Lattitude.  Modern films have quite a bit of lattitude--that is ability to handle over and under exposure and still come up with a printable/scannable negative.  In fact some people purposely under expose and over develop film to get a specific "look."  If you are looking for the best lattitude, try Black and White negative film, but if color is your thing Mat Marrash reports that Kodak Porta 400 can be abused and still produce a great exposure.  So the bottom line here is pick a film that is close to 100 or 400 ISO and it should perform well in your reloads.

     b.  Exactitude. Stick to 100 or 400 ISO films.  This method is especially useful for films that have less lattitude like most slide film.

     c.  Compensation.  Some higher end 110 cameras (most notably the Minolta 110 Zoom series) have an ability to adjust the exposure for special photographic situations (like backlighting).  You can use these to adjust the effective ISO of your camera's exposure system.  The Minolta can over or under expose film by 2 stops.  So in theory, you can reload film with ISO's from 25-1600 ISO.

     d.  Deception.  As a quirk of camera construction, most 110 cameras have the light sensor seperate from the taking lens.  That means you can cover the light sensor with a translucent piece of plastic and trick the camera into a longer exposure.   Lets say that you reload with microfilm at 25 ISO in a 100 ISO cartridge.  The camera would naturally underexpose the film by 2 stops.  However, if you put a 2 stop neutral density filter over the camera sensor, the camera would be tricked into exposing the film at correct ISO of 25.

     e.  Film Deception.  If you want to shoot some crazily high ISO in your 110 camera, you can use the opposite trick from letter "d" above.  This time the filter will go over the taking lens.  Say you wanted to shoot some 3200 ISO film in a 400 ISO cartridge.  The camera naturally wants to expose your film at 400 ISO causing a 3 stop overexposure.  To compensate, just put a 3 stop neutral density filter over the taking lens to expose the film correctly.  

3.  The obligatory Altoids Tin.  It wouldn't be an instructable without an Altoids tin!  Because we disassembled the 110 cartridge, it has less structural stability than a factory sealed cartridge.  To keep the film from getting knocked around and possibly exposed to the light, I carry mine in an Altoids tin.  It is relatively crush proof and somewhat protects from dust and rain.  Two 110 cartridges fit in the standard Altoids box just fine. 72 exposures (2 in the can and 1 in the camera) is a good number for most reasonable outings.

Enjoy your 110 camera goodness!

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    35 Comments

    0
    Bob Janes
    Bob Janes

    Question 1 day ago on Step 8

    On use of double-perf film: In 110 camera the film wind tends to stop when a perforation is sensed - if I put some tape over the little prong that senses the sprocket it should treat double perf film like unperforated?

    0
    jemglen
    jemglen

    3 years ago

    Great tutorial -- thank you! Following your instructions I've had good success reloading 110 carts for my Pentax 110 Auto but I can't get my Minolta 110 SLR MkII to accept reloads (the conventional-looking Minolta 110 SLR). I've tried trimming the shell at the point where I thought there might be a feeler but to no avail. I notice you have one in your pics, any tips for using this camera with reloads?

    0
    Nano_Burger
    Nano_Burger

    Reply 3 years ago

    You are not going to have much luck with the Mark II. Unlike the mark I (the sandwich camera), it will only fire with the sprocket hole. I've had luck with loading cine film with sprocket holes, but you have to fire off two or three frames between shots (with the lens covered) so the frames won't overlap. Luckily, you can still get fresh 110 film from several companies if you want to go that route. I really like the Mark II. I feel it is as good or better than the Pentax Auto 110. The zoom means you don't have to change lenses like the Pentax. Because it is beefier, I like the feel better than the Pentax as well.

    0
    jemglen
    jemglen

    Reply 3 years ago

    Many thanks for your swift response NB. I agree entirely: the Pentax is a delightful and beautifully-constructed novelty capable of excellent results whereas the Minolta MkII is an ergonomic marvel, a real photographer's camera that feels great in the hand. I also have the Mark I and the Minolta Autopak 470 (yes, I like 110!). As for 110 frame size, I also shoot and reload Minox carts compared with which, the 110 neg is *huge*! Thanks again for your response and your great Instructable.

    0
    martinpauljones
    martinpauljones

    Reply 8 months ago

    Hi Jemglen, a further update on the joys of tricking a Minolta 110 Mk2 SLR into shooting reloaded cassettes. The wiley Mk2 was playing up, even with the cunningly modded cassette. After further experimentation, I'm getting good results with Kodak XX 16mm (7222) in a standard (unmodded) cassete. It's single perfed and the perfs need to be at the bottom of the frame so that they engage with the pin. The perfs on 16mm film are too close together for 110 so, as NB says above, you need to dry fire between shots to get the spacing right. After some mishaps with this I went back to using the numbered backing paper - often you only need to shoot one blank between shots, but sometimes two. Using the numbers on the backing paper allows you to keep some track of how far you have advanced. My next step is to start to black out some of the numbers on the backing paper (there are four x 1111, four x 2222 etc) to get my spacing a little more accurate, but it works well overall. Kodak XX is a nice film to shoot (ISO 250 in daylight, but works well pushed to 400) and 30 metres is about £50 in the UK. No remjet layer, so easy to develop - I use Caffenol CL stand to keep the grain down. I've attached some images taken on the snowy West Pennine Moors last weekend - Minolta 110 SLR Mk2, Kodak XX EI400 with an orange filter 'cos I wanted hard contrast :-)

    Fenceposts.jpgGrey tree.jpgGrey snow man and dog.jpg
    0
    martinpauljones
    martinpauljones

    Reply 11 months ago

    Hi jemglen, I have a Minolto 110 SLR Mk2 and the cartridge detector (which you need to trick) is in in the bottom LHS of the donor spool (on the right) compartment. I just used a needle file to generate a 3mm indent so that the detector is not pressed. Lining the inside of the spool with black insulation tape helps reduce the risk of a light leak, but with the Mark 2 you are probably best filling the cassette and putting it straight into the camera in darkness. It's easier with the Minolta 110 SLR Mk1 ;-)

    0
    jemglen
    jemglen

    Reply 11 months ago

    Many thanks, Martin, I will give that a try :)

    0
    martinpauljones
    martinpauljones

    Reply 11 months ago

    You're very welcome - I made a paper template by tracing around the RHS of a cartridge and put it in the film compartment so that I could see where I needed to make the indent. Initially I tried light proofing the indent, but couldn't see a way of doing it without seriously compromising capacity - I usually cut down 24 exposure 35mm films and put the whole thing in (no backing paper) = 48 x 110 exposures.

    0
    jemglen
    jemglen

    Reply 11 months ago

    Do you have any pics of your adapted cartridge? And you're able to use cut-down film without sprocket holes? Nano-Burger thinks the camera will only fire with sprocketed film (see below).

    0
    martinpauljones
    martinpauljones

    Reply 11 months ago

    Hi jemglen - yes, I use cut-down film from 24 exp 35mm without sprocket holes. Nano_Burger is kinda right, but there is a subtle twist that we can exploit. The reason why I can do this is that the camera doesn't think that there is a cartridge installed. Try advancing and firing your camera empty - you'll find that the shutter will cycle as normal without any sprocket holes. The mechanism that looks for the sprocket holes is only activated when the camera thinks that there is a cartridge present. Now, awkwardly, the cartridge present detector on the Minolta 110 SLR Mk2 is tucked away in the RHS (donor) spool bay - rather than the more usual position against the lower cross piece between the spools (as in the Mk1). The first thing I did was make a template of the RHS of a cartridge (by tracing around one) - see first image below. This template was then inserted into the RHS spool bay on the camera and marked to show where it overlapped the cartridge detector lever. If you look carefully you can see that a notch has been cut out at about 10 o'clock - see second image. The template was then used to mark a small indent into the bottom and the side of the spool of about 3mm. This area was then removed with a small, round, file - although careful use of a sharp craft knife would be fine. To make it easier to see, I've marked the extent of the material cut away with yellow insulation tape on an intact cartridge - just to make it easier to see. Remember that the cartridge is upside down in the last two images. The size of the indent required is sufficient to penetrate into the spool cavity unless you are very lucky. Go gently and keep trying your (empty) cartridge as you gently pare away the plastic. Once you've taken enough the camera will cycle the shutter and advance without problems. I've just lined the inside of the spool cavity with a piece of black insulation tape. As I've said previously, I now don't trust the light security of the cartridge, so I could go to great lengths to "fix" this. In practise, I don't bother - I cut a 24 exp film down to 16mm, roll it and place it in the cartridge, secure the cartridge with a piece of black insulation tape at each end and then put it in my camera in a completely dark room. It's remarkably straightforward if you run through it a couple of times in light first. If you don't use backing paper you can get the whole length of a 24 exp 35mm in, which equates to about 48 frames. As added light security, I also cover the clear plastic window to the cartridge with black insulation tape. When you advance your film it will not stop automatically (no perfs) so you just have to remember to advance one swipe at a time. Lomography cartridges are relatively easy to open just by flexing and using a fingernail - no fighting with razor blades. I can't take any credit for the above, there's some good people out there sharing their ideas. See the following for more info:-

    http://www.subclub.org/darkroom/roll110.htm

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8A10tJ5_iQ

    110 cartridge on template.jpg110 template.jpg110 cartridge angled view from below.jpg110 cartridge from below.jpg
    0
    jemglen
    jemglen

    Reply 11 months ago

    Wow Martin, thank you so much for your detailed, insightful and entertaining response. I am hugely enthused to have another go with the Minolta MkII having previously resigned myself to considering it suitable only for commercial offerings (and therefore expired colour film -- I've yet to try Lomography). I particularly like the idea of using cut-down film sans backing paper. Thank you again.

    0
    martinpauljones
    martinpauljones

    Reply 11 months ago

    Ha, you're welcome - I too am a Minolta fan. I tend to shoot B&W and Lomography Orca 100 ISO shoots very nicely at box speed (see motorbike shot) but also responds well to being pushed to 400 ISO (car roofbars shot). I did that with a Pentax 110 Auto (Orca cartridge with the tab chopped so registered as 400 ISO then pushed in dev), so imagine what you can do with a Minolta Mk2. Orca 100 is a super film, but being able to chop down 35mm B&W gives you so much more choice (I'm shooting Ilford HP5+ 400 at box speed at the moment) and there's nothing to stop you shooting Ilford Delta 3200 at ISO 1600 (probably its native speed anyway). Another wheeze that I'm trying at the moment (in my Minolta Mk1) is running C41 colour film (Agfa ISO 200) and then developing it in Cafenol which (apparently, haven't got that far yet) results in a cool B&W image - interesting. Have fun with experimenting :-)

    Beast 2.jpgRon.jpg
    0
    xkaes
    xkaes

    1 year ago

    One MAJOR thing to point out is that the VAST majority of 110 cameras need perforated film to cock the shutter. Unlike the Pentax 110, the Canon ED20, the FIRST Minolta 110 SLR, and other high-end 110 cameras, most will not work with unperforated film. And with single perf film, the perforations have to be on the correct edge. And with single or double perf, the camera will advance, cock and stop AT EACH PERFORATION. So with most 110 cameras and perforated film, you need to advance the film three times (and fire the shutter while covering the lens -- to advance to the next clear space on the film.
    You give a great presentation here, but for most 110 cameras, this approach will not work. Check out the SUBCLUB at www.subclub.org. Go to the DARKROOM and check out ROLL YOUR OWN. There are some simple tests to run to see if your camera uses perforations or not. If your camera NEEDS 110 perforations -- and most do -- THIS APPROACH WILL NOT WORK!!!

    0
    sersayin
    sersayin

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi! I was wondering if there is any way you could send me the dimensions of a 110 cartridge? I'm trying to create a model that I could just 3d print and load up using this guide

    0
    xkaes
    xkaes

    Reply 1 year ago

    In order to make a 3D model of a 110 cassette you would need the dimensions of each as the parts of the cassette. In other words, with the cassette taken apart. My advise would be to buy a couple of 110 cassettes on EBAY -- these are easy to get and cheap -- and the take one apart using this INSTRUCTABLE. It's a good idea to get at least a couple of cassettes since it is easy to mess up while taking them apart -- especially the first time!
    And if you are REALLY interested in 3D printing, you could make copies of other plastic submini cassettes, like Minolta, Ricoh and Mamiya 16mm, and make plenty of money. These sell on EBAY for around $20-25 each!!!

    0
    rblee
    rblee

    9 years ago on Introduction

    The only snag with this is that 110 film gives rather disappointing results compared to even a cheap digital camera (<4Mp).

    I have one of those Pentax auto110 kits as featured in your video (I used to do a lot of motorcycle touring so small was good) which is as high quality as  you're going to get in 110, but the small negative size means it's pretty grainy compared to anything but a web or disc camera (yuk!).

    Nice Instructable, but...

    0
    xkaes
    xkaes

    Reply 1 year ago

    There are THOUSANDS of photographers that use THOUSANDS of cameras that have formats even smaller than 110 cameras -- AND THEY ALL USE FILM. I should know. I run the SUBCLUB which has been serving the subminiature film community on the WEB for over 25 years. They seem perfectly happy with what they do. And for some reason they don't feel a need to degrade other photographers that use larger formats -- or even digital gear.

    0
    Nano_Burger
    Nano_Burger

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Snag? This Instructable isn't for you. Please move on.... Nothing to see here.....

    0
    Lokisgodhi
    Lokisgodhi

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I appreciate the work you've gone through doing all this. But why?

    Cartridge film's time has come and gone. It seems to me the one with the most potential was the Advanced Photo System of 1996. Now it's gone too. Should have come out a decade earlier.

    You do interesting instructables but this is kind of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    Put your creativity towards something with a greater impact.