Reload Your Old 126 Films with Fresh 35 mm Film


Perhaps you feel tired after searching for 126 film on the Internet and at every flea market, you visit. It is the time to reload your 126 cartridges with the 35 mm film of your choice! Reloading the 126 format cartridge is quite easy. All you need are these materials:

  • One or more old 126 rolls. You can reload the same one as many times as you want.
  • Any 35 mm film.
  • Black gaffer tape.
  • Scissors.
  • A dark room.

To open the 126 cartridge, just hold it with both hands, keeping the film spool (the piece that rotates) on the right side. Twist the cartridge slowly until the left side breaks. Carefully open the cover and the right side will separate too. Now we will take out the spool, unwind the old film, and cut it to release the spool. Remember: if you want to develop the original film that is currently inside the cartridge, this process must be carried out in absolute darkness.

Now it’s time to attach the leader of the new film to the spool by using some gaffer tape. The film must be correctly aligned so it could freely wind around the spool while taking our photos.

From this point, we must go on working in total darkness. It is advisable to prepare all the stuff beforehand, so we can easily find it later. Inside a dark room, we will turn the spool to wind all the new film around it. We have to do it by touch, so you better wash your hands before doing the succeeding steps. Otherwise, you can experiment by stamping a few fingerprints on the film. When all the new 35 mm film is outside and wound around the spool, we will cut the end of the film and discard the 35 mm canister.

Still in the dark room, we will unwind all the film from the spool, making a thin roll of film that should fit in the left part of the 126 cartridge, where it must be loaded to start shooting. Once we have the film on the left side, we can mount the spool again on its original position on the right. At this point, it is advisable to say that the film must be mounted so that the lighter color side of the film faces the camera lens. Otherwise, we’ll get a homemade redscale film (simply refer to the photos of this tutorial). Finally, we can close the 126 cartridge again and use some gaffer tape to keep it closed if necessary.

As the original 126 film had a paper layer on his back (very much like the well-known 120 film), we must use some tape to cover the window on the rear of the cartridge so the light cannot spoil the film. Now is the time to switch on the light and put the 126 cartridge into our favorite camera.

Before we start shooting, there is one more thing to consider: the 126 film had only one hole per photogram. That hole enabled the camera to know when a whole frame had been advanced, and lock the winding mechanism until the next shot. So, as 35 mm films have more than one sprocket hole per photo, we must do a bit of a trick. After shooting a picture and advancing the film, we have to cover the lens with the hand, shot and advance again. For my Agfamatic, two ‘ghost shots’ work nice. A little bit experimentation may be required for other cameras. If we don’t advance those extra shots between pictures, we will get a nice endless panorama of overlapped photos, and that’s a great feature too.

After shooting the entire film, we will see that the advance mechanism does not get locked anymore after every shot. Then we will go back to the dark room to open the cartridge and recover our 35 mm film. We will unwind and untape it from the spool. We should transport it carefully to the lab, so no light harms it. It is also advisable to inform to the lab staff that the film is ‘naked’.

One last thing: 126 cartridges used to be 12 or 24 exposures, so it is better to reload with 24 exposures film rather than 36. I hope you find this tip useful. Here is a gallery with the results. LOMO ON!!

Credits: vgzalez

Craving for film? Hop over to our online shop or one of our worldwide gallery stores to stock up!

written by vgzalez on 2011-03-12 #gear #tutorials #diy #tutorial #square #instamatic #tipster #do-it-yourself #35-mm #agfamatic #reload #126 #top-tipster-techniques

Lomography Color Negative 400 (35mm)

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  1. maxwellmaxen
    maxwellmaxen ·

    great tipster! but i have one more simple idea:
    wind the film back into the 35mm film canister. like you do it with redscale films.. tape it to the little rest, where you cut it, and just wind it in. then you have a very "standart" film and no problems to get it develpped :)

  2. blue-dog
    blue-dog ·

    Really great tip..I have a nice 126 camera i need to get busy with

  3. icuresick
    icuresick ·


  4. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

    Nice! I guess I'll have to buy one of those 126 cameras I've been avoiding on eBay.

  5. gnarlyleech
    gnarlyleech ·

    lol. same here gvelasco. I steer clear of those. but I am looking them up as of now.

  6. stouf
    stouf ·

    Suuuuuper !

  7. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    Great and usefull tip! if I can add some hint. If your 126 camera can arm the shutter and fire also when is empty a useful thing to do in the camera is to cut off the metal tooth that engages the film. Besides being useless with the normal 35 film may damage the film in many cases. and another suggestion: why not hang the film around a spool reel before fixing it to the receiver? I opened a 35mm film and I took the spool and I've cut the spool by the right size to make it fit inside the 126 cartridge. This is useful because many cameras still load the shutter when the film is over, so it is easy to see when we got the last shot because the film can not advance anymore.

  8. chris-carnage
    chris-carnage ·

    i have an old agfa iso-pak c camera my grandfather brought from germany and I cant WAIT to try this. i'm gonna be buying a pack of 126 from frugal photographer (unless someone has a better site)

  9. kylewis
    kylewis ·


  10. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    Hey, @maxwellmaxen and @superlighter!! Thanks a lot for your ideas!! They very much improve the tip. And thanks to everyone for liking and commenting! :) LOMO ON! Víctor.

  11. kvboyle
    kvboyle ·

    Excellent - I have a Kodak Instamatic 500 at my Mum's house in England...maybr this summer I'll rescue it! Great article, thanks so much.

  12. weedos
    weedos ·

    Great tip and excellent timing as I just inherited a Kodak X15F (and a roll of film that expired in 1982). I can't wait to try this.

  13. jaguarwomon
    jaguarwomon ·

    It's always fun to figure out a way to shoot with those quirky old cameras.

  14. adelekirby
    adelekirby ·

    I wonder if icould do the same with a 110 film, which looks like the same sort of thing but smaller. I always wondered if i could remove a 110 film from the cartridge and use it in my tiny hit camera, then if i can put it back in the cartridge afterwards i can send it off to be printed :)

  15. amybreaksloose
    amybreaksloose ·

    I got an kodak instamatic 104 for my birthday and i'm looking for a 126 cartridge, but i have trouble finding it! if anyone has a spare used or unused cartridge, can you let me know?!

  16. adam_g2000
    adam_g2000 ·

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

  17. dianalerias
    dianalerias ·

    love it. thanks so much for sharing!

  18. ema_vanni
    ema_vanni ·

    Man, that's just AWESOME!!
    That's the way to get sproket holes photography to a whole new level!!
    ...THANX! ;-)

  19. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @ema_vanni Love you enjoyed it :)

  20. farelos
    farelos ·

    I want a 126 cartridge... I can't find...

  21. 6pm
    6pm ·

    why does the picture doesn't get the lower sprocket holes??? I mean that way I don't classify it as a true sprocket hole photo...

  22. brunomcp
    brunomcp ·

    I Recently acquired two 126 cartridges and I intend to do this, but some parts details me, like the ghost shots, and the metal tooth getting stuck.
    By the way, is it possible that my cartridges still work or am I going to waste money at the lab?
    I would like to use the original film before stuffing in the 35mm.

  23. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @brunomcp I'd definitely give a try to your 126 films, no doubt. Even if they are too expired, you will get interesting shots. Just don't use them to take pictures of a friend's wedding :) And of course, tell the lab to give the chasis back to you without breaking it, or take the film out by yourself. About the ghost shots, it's actually quite easy: the 126 advance mechanism depends on the sprocket holes on the film. It's intended to "find" just one hole per photogram. After reloading with conventional 35 mm film, there are more holes per picture, so the advance mechanism stops before a whole frame has been advanced. This is why you have to shot and advance two or three times after taking every picture; otherwise, you'll get your photos overlapped. I hope this explanation was helpful to you!

  24. brunomcp
    brunomcp ·

    So if I just take one ghost shot, or none, I get a panoramic like image across the whole film, right?
    That might be nice… Could I scan that with a regular scanner, after developing?

  25. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @brunomcp Of course you can with any film scanner :)

  26. brunomcp
    brunomcp ·

    What's the difference between a film scanner and… a scanner?

  27. vgzalez
    vgzalez ·

    @brunomcp a filmscanner has a backlight on the cover. you will get nothing if you try to scan film with a scanner without backlight.

  28. brunomcp
    brunomcp ·

    OOOoooooh, now I get it :P
    Thank you! :)

  29. brunomcp
    brunomcp ·

    Out of curiosity, do people around here prefer that method for uploading photos or scanning the printed photo?

  30. mbhuyko
    mbhuyko ·

    amazing, i have agfamatic 300 sensor...

  31. bunnandbird
    bunnandbird ·

    I might just have to order an empty cartridge on ebay ...I don't think the charity shop I got my 126 camera at would have any... unless of course anyone knows a different site that has actual film?

  32. krisko1210
    krisko1210 ·

    had wonderful experience with instamatik kamera and 126 cartriges - original and reloaded. wrote an article about it but it is not online yet :] but uploaded some albums already!

  33. niasarinastiti
    niasarinastiti ·

    thanks for the nice tipster! :-) i hope i can find an empty 126 cartridge...

  34. niasarinastiti
    niasarinastiti ·

    thanks for the nice tipster! :-) i hope i can find an empty 126 cartridge...

  35. devildi
    devildi ·

    heyyyy great idea .. i ll have to try it :-))

  36. cherryleesayshi
    cherryleesayshi ·

    i really cant open my 126cartridge:( prob im not doing it right.can i please get some extra help in that first part?

  37. sandergroen
    sandergroen ·

    @cherryleesayshi: The cassette consists of two parts; the top with the label and the bottom that holds the film. The two parts are glued (or melted) together. If you examine the cassette closely, you will see where they are connected. Pry it open on the left (smaller) side with a small knife or something, it will come apart and you can separate the top and bottom part. Everything needs to be done in the dark of course if there's exposed film inside, and do it carefully, so you don't break the thinner plastic parts around the film frame.

  38. cherryleesayshi
    cherryleesayshi ·

    @sandergroen thanks a looot:) ill try it again! fingers crossed x

  39. istionojr
    istionojr ·

    very helpful tipster. ;)

  40. southocoaster7
    southocoaster7 ·

    Thank you So much will dust off our old 126's & get snapping again with them Cheers

  41. rmfs-ruegen
    rmfs-ruegen ·

    Hallo, bei einer 126-Kassette habe ich mit einem Klebestreifen die Öffnung durch die der Stift (Zahn) den Originalfilm stoppt zugeklebt, dann im Dunkeln den Kleinbildfilm wie den 126-Film zusammen mit dem Papierstreifen sehr eng gerollt, an der Spule befestigt und in die Kassette gelegt. Mit zwei Klebestreifen wurde danach die Kassette zusammengeklebt. Bei meiner Agfamatic 300 kann der Film wie bei einer Rollfilmkamera von einer Zahl zur nächsten weitertransportiert werden. Der Verschluß dieser Kamera löst aus, obwohl der Stift nicht mehr einrasten kann. So wurden bisher 2 Filme mit Erfolg belichtet. Auf dem Papierstreifen habe ich nur die Zahlen im Abstand von etwa 38 mm sichtbar gelassen, so daß ein Bildabstand wie bei einer "normalen" Kleinbildkamera entsteht. Die anderen Zahlen wurden mit einem schwarzen Stift übermalt. Allerdings fehlen nun die Nummern 5, 12 und 18. Nach dem Belichten kommt der Film wieder in die Kleinbildpatrone und kann in jedem Fotolabor zum Entwickeln abgegeben werden. Wem das mit dem Papierstreifen zu umständlich ist, kann, nachdem er die Öffnung für den Stift und das Sichtfenster zugeklebt hat, auch nur den Kleinbildfilm in die Kassette tun. Der Transporthebel der Kamera muß zum Filmtransport dann immer bis zum Anschlag bewegt werden. Allerdings erhält man dann weniger Bilder auf einem Film. Zu beachten ist noch, daß die Negativgröße nur 24x28mm statt 28x28mm ist. Es hat aber den Vorteil, daß der Film mit jedem Kleinbildscanner bearbeitet werden kann. Ich habe bei meiner Kamera mit einem kleinen schwarzen Klebestreifen das Sucherbild oben abgedeckt, so daß es etwa dem zu fotografierenden Bildausschnitt entspricht.
    Achtung! Bei meinen Kodak Instamatic Kameras (233 und 104) kann ich die wie oben beschirieben präparierten Kassetten nicht benutzen. Der Stift muß immer einrasten, bevor der Verschluß betätigt werden kann. Bei den Instamatic Kameras kann man allerdings mit gedrücktem Auslöser den Film so weit transportieren, wie man will. rmfs-ruegen

  42. rmfs-ruegen
    rmfs-ruegen ·

    Hallo Daniel Truta, bei der Kodak Instamatic 104 muss der Auslöser beim Filmtransport gedrückt gehalten werden. So kann der Stift (Zahn) nicht einrasten. Zwei mal so den Filmtransporthebel bewegen. Beim 3. Bewegen des Transporthebels wird der Auslöser nicht betätigt. Dann rastet der Stift ein. Ähnlich funktioniert es auch bei der Kodak Instamatic 233 und der Carena 126 sport. rmfs-ruegen

  43. crismiranda
    crismiranda ·

    The problem for me is finding an empty 127mm cartridge :(

  44. kuurmaa
    kuurmaa ·

    cople of options on ebay -

  45. ikondave
    ikondave ·

    Very well written article!

  46. taraujo1
    taraujo1 ·

    Do you happen to have the size of cartridge because I was thinking that creating a 3D printed version of this would be great but there is not much information online

  47. systemdevice
    systemdevice ·

    I just reloaded an 126 cartridge with 35mm film for a Kodak Instamatic 100. A note about this:
    This Instamatic model (and others from the 100 series, as I heard) doesn't allow you to cock the shutter without having film inside. When reloaded with 35mm film and simply trying to advance and release shutter, the advance lever gets stuck midway and the shutter remains uncocked.
    So this is the trick I found on the web: "hold shutter button down, wind twice, release shutter". It works. I didn't expose the film yet, but I guess (and I hope) this method works and you'll get properly exposed frames. Cheers!

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