How to Modify 120 Film for a 620 Film Camera

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Recently, my brother-in-law gave me an old camera – a lovely Kodak Six-20 Bull’s Eye. It is, however, a camera that is built for 620 film. As much as I love obscure film, 620 film was discontinued nearly 20 years ago… so what’s a camera lover to do?

My gorgeous new Six-20 Bull’s Eye!

I turned to the internet of course! I found a few places online that sell 620 film, but it was a bit too expensive for my liking…

I found an online tutorial on how to re-spool 120 film onto a 620 spool, but this seemed like an effort-intensive and risky option – you need to have a spare 620 spool in order to do it, and re-spooling requires some pretty careful manoeuvring of the film in the complete dark, all without touching the film. I’m not the most dextrous person, so I wasn’t too keen on that idea…

But the reason you can re-spool 120 film onto a 620 spool is that the actual film is the same, in both length and width! The only difference between 120 film and 620 film is the spools that the film is on – 120 spools are slightly longer, and slightly wider than 620 spools. So instead of re-spooling an entire roll of film, I thought that it might be a lot easier to modify the spool on a 120 roll of film.

You can see the difference in both the length and width of the 620 film spool on the left, and the 120 film spool on the right.

Being a long time Diana F+ user, I have plenty of 120 film chilling in the fridge, so I grabbed a spare roll and got started!

So, what do you need?

  • a roll of unexposed 120 film on a plastic spool
  • a metal file, or coarse sandpaper
  • small, sharp scissors (nail scissors are perfect)
  • newspaper or something similar to protect your work space
  • about half an hour of spare time
Credits: ava_maria

It helps if you have a 620 spool (your old camera might have a blank take-up spool still left in it!), just to give you have something to compare your modified 120 spool with, but it’s not critical.

Start by putting down newspaper (or something similar) to protect your work surface – filing down the plastic creates a lot of really fine plastic dust, and it can get pretty dusty and messy!

This is how my desk looked after I was done – messy! Good thing I put paper down!

Take your roll of 120 film, and starting on the flat end of the spool, just start filing! I prefer using a metal file, because I feel like I have a bit more control about the pressure and direction of my filing, but course sandpaper will work fine too.

Credits: ava_maria

Once this flat end has been thinned out enough, take the nail scissors and trim around the edges of the spool. You can use your file or sandpaper on the edges, but I’m lazy and nail scissors are easier! I believe that some 620 cameras like the Brownie Hawkeye won’t require this step, as they can accommodate wider spools, but most will.

Credits: ava_maria

Then turn the film over, and file and trim the other end of the spool! It only takes me about half an hour to finish modifying a roll of 120 film – but I also take a few short breaks to give my arm a rest!

Once you think the edges have been filed down enough, take the roll to the nearest sink or outside, and blow and brush away any of the plastic dust that is still clinging to the film. Try to get as much of the dust off your roll – you don’t want any dust getting in the way of your photos (or maybe you do – it might create some interesting effects…)

This is obviously before I cleaned my roll up… but at least you can see that the spool lengths are pretty good!

Before you pack everything away, pop the modified film into your camera, and check that it turns freely and smoothly – you really don’t want to get two or three shots into your roll before you realise you haven’t filed the roll down far enough and it’s really too stiff to keep turning at all (…and yes, I speak from experience!).

This is a good example of when I didn’t file my spool down enough – you can see the film on the take up spool (on the right) is crumpling at the top… not good!

You will probably need to have two 620-sized spools for your camera – one with the roll of unexposed film on it, and another empty one to use as your take-up spool. I was lucky enough to have the original 620 take-up spool still in my Kodak Six-20 Bull’s Eye, but if there isn’t a take-up spool still in your camera, there are a few things you can do! You can ask your local photolab if they have any spare 620 spools that you might be able to purchase (or have, if they’re really kind!), eBay usually has some up for auction, or you can keep the spool from a roll of 120 film that you’ve already used, and modify that empty spool!

Time to take your camera and start shooting! Have you come across a camera that uses film you can’t easily source? What did you do?

These photos were all taken with the roll of Fuji Velvia 100 that I used in the above tutorial photos!

written by ava_maria on 2012-05-21 in #gear #tipster #old-cameras #620-format #modify #modification #tutorial #620 #120-film #film

10 Comments

  1. dearjme
    dearjme ·

    Fantastic tipster. I've never heard of 620 film, but this is great!

  2. ava_maria
    ava_maria ·

    Thanks @dearjme! :)

  3. adgvnns
    adgvnns ·

    I did the same with my Gevaert Rex Junior!
    Check my photos, i have an album of this camera using a 120 roll!

  4. jsurpre
    jsurpre ·

    If you can find another 620 spool it is much easier to just re-roll the film in the dark. Nice photos.

  5. shadrack1
    shadrack1 ·

    I have a Brownie Hawkeye and have found that you can use the 120 roll in it as long as you have a 620 spool in the take-up. I just ask the lab to return my spools when they are done and I'm good to go for a next round.

  6. bear_feet
    bear_feet ·

    Thanks for the tips! I am going to pass this along to my 620 camera using sister. :)

  7. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    Yay! I might try this with my Kodak Duaflex IV :) For the past, I've been buying respooled 620 from B&H, but they're kinda pricey.

  8. bmw325e
    bmw325e ·

    I used side cutters instead of scissors and taped some 100 grit and 320 grit sand paper to a flat surface. Started with the 100 grit to remove the bulk of the material then went to the 320 grit to smooth the surface and the edges it took less then ten minutes.

  9. dacosta
    dacosta ·

    Been there, done that and it helps. I have a Kodak Brownie and spare 620 spools can put a dent in the old wallet! Thanks for sharing,

  10. hutschi
    hutschi ·

    Hi, Ava Maria,
    yesterday I bought an old Kodac Box 620. I did not know what "620" means. I tried to insert a 120 film, and it was disrupted by the camera.
    I found that the spools are similar but different. Kodac did not like the idea that other spools are used.
    When I read your article, I decided to try.
    But I used a knife rather than filing - to avoid the fine powder.
    It worked and the film fits.
    Now it is in the camera, and I shot one picture until now, old Orwo NP20, expired for 30 years.

    Thank you very much
    and greetings from Dresden
    Hutschi

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