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.
- 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!!