View Full Version : 4x5 Sheet Film, Loading and Unloading

Doug Dolde
20-Sep-2005, 22:49
I confess I have never bought sheet 4x5 film or any film holders. So far it's been totally Fuji QL's for me.

The deal is, I just acquired 400 sheets (8 boxes) of Kodak E100S in a package deal, but I don't own any film holders or changing tent. It's expired 10/04 but frozen since new. I am sure it's still OK but...there is the loading the holders thing that I am clueless on.

I can Ebay the film or buy some holders and try it. Frankly I have little confidence that it will work out. Then there's the removing the film from the holders...keeping the light out of it...seems like a real PITA compared to QL.

Or am I just paranoid?

20-Sep-2005, 23:18
Greetings Doug,

If I may be so bold... buy some holders and give it a try. :) In comparison to using Quickloads, you're right... there's NO doubt that the process of loading and unloading the holders IS a giant pain in the butt. But, on the other hand, it's not as big a deal as it may appear to be either.

There ARE some advantages to doing this... you ALREADY have the film. The film will be just fine... I have mine frozen in the freezer and haven't had any problems in the past. Just make sure to give it time to "acclimatize" to the environment or you may/can have condensation problems.

To get use to the process of loading/unloading film... I'd advise taking a sheet of wasted film and practicing in the light of day. Then, do it in the dark. It won't take very long to get use to the loading/unloading process. I promise! :)

I use an empty (or relatively empty) closet at night to load and unload my film... haven't ever had any problems with dust. That said, you do have to keep the holders meticulously clean.

I believe there's a set of instructions available here on Photo.net that demonstrates "how to do it." I can't locate it at the moment but, if I do... I'll post it. Hopefully, someone else can post it before I do. :)

Good luck.


Eric Leppanen
20-Sep-2005, 23:23

This should get you started: www.butzi.net/articles/filmload.htm (http://www.butzi.net/articles/filmload.htm)

20-Sep-2005, 23:35
Thanks Eric... :)


John Cook
21-Sep-2005, 04:00
I never thought of loading holders as difficult. But here are a few little tidbits to ease the way:

1. Work with clean holders in an area with still air. Fans and forced air heating move dust. Even a relatively dirty place may be okay if you refrain from stirring things up. Refrain from working around w/w carpeting as much as possible. Having a wife with allergies can be a blessing in photography.

2. Purchase film in 25-sheet boxes for a while, save and label the empty boxes. The most difficult part of unloading film is keeping it all straight. There is more bookkeeping than photography.

3. Don't get nervous. Sweaty hands will leave permanent fingerprints on your negatives.

4. Don't let glamorous women who consume globs of hand creme near the film either, for the same reason. Farmers and construction workers with dry rough hands are best.

5. Get used to picking up the film by grasping the notches in the fingers of your right hand. Always do it the same way and your film will always be oriented properly, without having to think about it. Habits are wonderful things in the dark.

6. Don't trim your fingernails too short. Trying to grab hold of a sheet of film with no nails is like toothlessly gumming your baked beans.

Donald Hutton
21-Sep-2005, 06:13
Personally, I find unloading regular holders far easier and faster than Quickloads - a little care with storing your holders and cleaning them carefully once in a while goes a long way to ensuring the dust gremlins are kept away.

4X5 is a real breeze and you really should have no issues whatsoever (OTOH 12x20s are a little more challenging and at a good few $$ per sheet, you really don't want to mess them up...) - they're small enough to get you fingers around comfortably. I always place my thumb and forefinger of the non film holding hand on the openings of the two rails as I slide the film in - lightly but just enough so that I can feel that the film has actually slid under both rails.

21-Sep-2005, 06:20
eBay it.

Neal Wydra
21-Sep-2005, 06:58
Dear Doug,

It's sort of like what I tell my sister about driving. If so many others can do it, you can too.<g>

For me, www.cameta.com has been a good source for holders.

matthew blais
21-Sep-2005, 08:38
Now that I have a year under my belt at 4x5, I found it a bit intimidating at first but now can go in and load ten holders in about ten minutes.
I also find the act of loading and unloading starts the excitement factor.. I know I'm going to be heading out to search for the great American (or other country) photograph.

It's all part of the process and each has it's own reward or gratification factor.
For me anyway...

Bruce Watson
21-Sep-2005, 08:45

John Kasaian
21-Sep-2005, 09:31

Its not hard at all.---don't fear the dark!

FWIW I stack my empty holders with the dark slide partially pulled wih the "unexposed" side of the handle showing, freeing the loading flaps and postion the box of unexposed film(I leave the stack of film film in it's protective plastic envelope) so I can easily pull out the film with the notch oriented to my liking---upper left or lower right---load the holder, lock each dark slide after you slide them in place and stack the loaded holders to one side.

Don't touch the emulsion side starting very edge of the borders at least, its better to handle by the edges if you can---you can also touch the non emulsion side with no ill effects.

Practice with a scrap negative with your eyes closed until you get a little confidence. When the sheet film is seated there is usually a "feeling" that let you know everything is 'right on.' If you can't close the flap and slide the dark slide home easily, something s wrong--better try again.

As John Cook wrote, keep everything clean! I like to vacume my film holders with a shop vac before every loading session.

Emrehan Zeybekoglu
21-Sep-2005, 13:41

It's a breeze.. Give it a try..

Janko Belaj
21-Sep-2005, 18:27
Doug, you have probably already saved a lot on that 400 sheets purchase, buy few new holders. There is no such good thing as new holder. About loading - I was afraid a lot when I loaded for 1st time (just few years ago), but today... that is sooooo easy. Except one small bug jumped on my film, I never had any problem like scratch or dust. On new holders, those I acquired used were PITA... not while loading, but later after I have got slides from my lab (scratch here, scratch there, scratch everywhere...)