Loading 35mm film in a 126 cartidge

Flex the cartridge a few times to crack the seams.

To get the thing started flex in one direction...

To get the thing started flex in one direction…

... and then the other.

… and then the other.

Most of the edges come apart pretty easily but there are some “welds”. The top (label right side up) is the hardest part. The back (label side) overlaps the inside by about 5mm and there is a glue weld inside the overlap. You might get lucky, you might have to use a knife or razor blade, or, like my first one, you might mangle it. It’s still usable, I just have to use more tape to seal it.

Most of the cartridges I have are marked where the glue has melted the seams together.

Most of the cartridges I have are marked where the glue has melted the seams together.

The bottom has less overlap but it's glued inside as well.

The bottom has less overlap but it’s glued inside as well.

The take-up spool side is edge glued and came apart pretty cleanly.

The take-up spool side is edge glued and came apart pretty cleanly (note the cat hair from my curious assistant).

The supply side has a very small overlap and mostly came apart.  The crooked part is where I tried to get a razor blade in the seam.

The supply side has a very small overlap and mostly came apart. The crooked part is where I tried to get a razor blade in the seam.

The old film will be really curly. I saved it for testing frame spacing and used a piece of the paper as fixed film backing.

The image area is well defined.  The film will be a little too far from the lens unless...

The image area is well defined. The film will be a little too far from the lens unless…

Most of the articles I’ve read skip this part. You can go without but the focus will be a little off. A lot of Instamatics had pretty soft focus from cheap plastic lenses. It depends — do you want to embrace the Lomo-style effects or try to take a “good” photograph?

... you use some backing paper.  This is vintage 126 paper but you can cut down 120 backing paper or use anything black that's the right thickness.

… you use some backing paper. This is vintage 126 paper but you can cut down 120 backing paper or use anything black that’s the right thickness.

After smoothing the tape and giving the cartridge a good dusting, it’s time to get things ready to go into the dark. I use a changing bag but anywhere you can work in total darkness is fine.

The small spool is from a roll of dog poo bags.

The small spool is from a roll of dog poo bags.

I haven’t seen other articles where the supply side was put onto a spool. It made it a lot easier for me to get it rolled properly.

Tape the film count window on the cartridge and the camera.

Tape the film count window on the cartridge and the camera.

    My dark bag checklist:

  1. camera
  2. cartridge front and back
  3. spools
  4. 35mm film in the cartridge
  5. scissors
  6. four precut pieces of studio tape attached in order to a small ruler

Go slow, turn off your phone, and give the cat some snacks. You want to be able to do this by feel without distraction.

    The in-the-dark sequence from my written notes:

  1. cut the 35mm leader
  2. tape film to supply spool
  3. wind film and cut from 35mm cart.
  4. tape film to take-up spool
  5. assemble and close 126 cartridge
  6. tape take-up side of 126 cart.
  7. tape supply side of 126 cart.
  8. put the film in the camera and close the back

I decided to cut the 35mm leader in the bag so I could pull enough to make it easy to tape to the supply spool without exposing a couple of frames. The tape pieces were pre-measured for taping to the spools and holding the ends of the cartridge together. I felt for the short spool pieces and went left to right along the ruler so I got the right piece for each step. Because the cartridge was somewhat mangled, I decided to tape the camera back light-tight instead. The top and bottom edges of the cartridge would be a pretty precise tape job in the dark bag.

After pulling the camera out of the bag, I used more studio tape on the seams of the camera back.

I’ll do another, shorter, post about actually using this kludge in the camera.