Adventures in Bulk-Loading

Shooting film costs money. There is no denying it. With film one can easily estimate the cost of shooting a single frame of color film. For example: a roll of Portra 400 currently costs $7.99 on B& Developing and scanning by the Find lab is $10/roll, and shipping the roll to them would cost around $4 if shipped in a small padded envelope. In total it would cost approximately $22 to buy,shoot and develop a single roll of Portra 400. If shooting this through a 6×7 camera such as the Pentax 67 or the RB/RZ67, each roll would yield 10 exposures. The cost per exposure? $2.20.

Although this is just an approximation, it illustrates the costs of shooting film. Of the many practices one can implement to their workflow to alleviate the cost of shooting film, shooting black and white is my all-time favorite. Black and white not only offers a timeless aesthetic, it also costs very little to shoot if one undertakes the developing of the film. To further cut these costs, one can opt to go REALLY hands-on and bulk-load the film.

Bulk-loading involves the use of re-loadable canisters and a bulk-loader. The bulk-loader holds a 100ft roll of film and feeds it into a re-loadable canister. Loading the bulk roll of film into the bulk loader is done once (in complete darkness or a dark bag), but after that individual canisters can be loaded in subdued daylight.

I’m almost done with my second 100ft roll of Kentmere 400 ($39.95 on B&H at the time of this writing). I haven’t been keeping track of how many 36-exposure rolls I’ve managed to get, but I know I’m getting between 15-20 rolls, saving me about $1 compared to buying the same film in the regular canisters.

Although I’ve enjoyed shooting Kentmere 400 for the last 6 months or so, I will be “splurging” an buying a bulk roll of Ilford HP5 next.




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