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10-15-2017, 09:21 AM   #1
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Bulk film loader - what to look out for?

I saw a couple of bulk film loaders in a local antique store. Didn't see how much they were going for but I figure I'd go back and take a closer look anyway. What sorts of things should I look out for that would prevent me from owning a piece of junk? I have zero experience with bulk film loading.

10-15-2017, 09:50 AM   #2
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There are only a few designs I have ever seen, and they are all pretty simple mechanical devices. There really isn't much to go wrong. If you want you can test it using a "scrap" roll of film. Just feed the whole roll out of the cassette, then cut the film so there is a "tail" coming out of the cassette. Save both the film and the cassette. When you get there, you can load the film into the loader, tape the end to the tail on the cassette, and wind it in just like you would from a bulk roll. Of course the test roll will be ruined by this point, but at least you will be able to get some sense of if it feels right. You could also use a LED flashlight to check for cracks in the plastic.

One thing to consider is that you don't actually -need- a bulk loader. All you really need is a room that is pitch black, a pair of scissors, some tape (I like masking), and empty snap together cassettes. I only used a bulk loader a few times, as I quickly became annoyed with losing the last frame of each roll to the pre-exposure at the end of a roll, which comes from the way loaders work. Sure, I can't accurately predict how many frames are on a roll, but that isn't nearly as annoying as loosing a shot that was an hour ago.
10-15-2017, 09:53 AM - 1 Like   #3
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The three biggest flaw to check are:

1. Cracks anywhere (with might let light in or suggest that the plastic is brittle and likely to break during use)

2. Damaged or eroding felt or foam light seals (lets light in and can transfer fibers or particles to the film that ruin pictures)

3. Missing pieces although that might be hard to assess if you don't know what a whole one looks like.

You might revisit the shop, write down any brand name and model name information for each loader and then see if Googling find you positive or negative comments.

Good luck!
10-15-2017, 11:04 AM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
The three biggest flaw to check are:

1. Cracks anywhere (with might let light in or suggest that the plastic is brittle and likely to break during use)

2. Damaged or eroding felt or foam light seals (lets light in and can transfer fibers or particles to the film that ruin pictures)

3. Missing pieces although that might be hard to assess if you don't know what a whole one looks like.

You might revisit the shop, write down any brand name and model name information for each loader and then see if Googling find you positive or negative comments.

Good luck!
In addition to the flaws list, features to consider:
  • Type of light trap...felt can be a source of scratches
  • Frame counter?
  • Materials? Quality of materials can be variable, even for the same design
  • Most bulk loaders fall into one of these designs:
    • Lloyd-type -- felt light trap, no frame counter


    • Watson-type -- open film path, frame counter...care must be taken to make sure light trap is shut when not actually winding film. The older Bakelite Watson brand are hard to find, but higher quality that later plastic versions. Alden 74 is a variation with a remaining film indicator.


    • Bobinquick-type -- open film path, frame counter, remaining film on roll indicator...this is the fancy option


All three types are available as both clones and brand-name, though I don't believe that any Watson-type are currently available new. I learned with a Lloyd and currently own two Watson 66C with which I am very happy. I have never used the Bobinquick.


Steve


Last edited by stevebrot; 10-15-2017 at 11:10 AM.
10-15-2017, 01:20 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by murrelet Quote
I saw a couple of bulk film loaders in a local antique store. Didn't see how much they were going for but I figure I'd go back and take a closer look anyway. What sorts of things should I look out for that would prevent me from owning a piece of junk? I have zero experience with bulk film loading.
Excellent posts by Stevebrot and Photoptimist. The Watson or Alden is the most 'advanced' bulk loader, but you'll want to make sure you understand the mechanics of how to open and close the light trap.

I love the Lloyd for its simplicity and ease of use. The most common problem with used ones is that the hinged lid is suppose to have a plastic hole on the side where the handle goes thru. This is designed to prevent the user from accidentally opening the door (thus exposing the film to light) while rolling film. In used Lloyd loaders, it is not uncommon that the previous owner broke the plastic hole by forcing the door open without removing the handle first. Without that hole on the hinged door, you can accidentally or prematurely open the door while the film is still being loaded and thus fog or ruin the film.

Summary: Make sure if it is a Lloyd bulk loader, that the hole is intact on the hinged door. If not, it will still work, but you should use tape when you're rolling film to ensure the door doesn't open and leak light.

Also note for the Lloyd that you must make sure the flat side of the spool faces the handle side and that the smaller hole in the cassette faces the handle side.
10-15-2017, 04:21 PM   #6
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The biggest risk of bulk loading is grit getting into the light traps on the bulk loader and the film cassette and causing scratches on the film. As I recall (it's been 40 years ago for me) the Watson uses a felt-free light trap. I used both the Lloyd and the Watson back then. I quit doing bulk loading because of occasional scratches on my films caused by grit in the film slits in the reusable cassettes.

Last edited by cpk; 10-16-2017 at 10:27 AM. Reason: small wording corrections
10-16-2017, 09:04 AM   #7
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Thanks for all the tips. I'll keep these in mind when I revisit the shop. The two I saw were the Watson type.
12-03-2017, 12:14 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Nick (of Nick Exposed) has a video on how to bulk load film using the Lloyd bulk loader:


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