DIY Bantam (828) Film

2011/03/23

if you’re planning on reading this post all the way through, you might want to grab a cup of coffee or something…this’ll be a lengthy post. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

Ready? Alright, then. As I’ve mentioned previously, 828 film, while a different format from 135 film, uses film stock of the same width as the latter (35mm wide). Unlike 135 film, 828 film has only one row of perforations, and the holes are spaced more widely than those on 135 film, but I’ll get to that later on. The frame size for 828 film is 28mm x 40mm, making it slightly taller and wider than a standard 135 frame, which is 24mm x 36mm. Typically, 828 film rolls take 16 such exposures per roll. You’ll need to know this information to make the backing paper for the film.

Also, one other issue before we start: if you’re thinking about using any 828 cameras, it would be a good idea if you can process your own film. Due to the differences in film length and containment, you’ll be using partial 135 rolls, and won’t be able to fit them back inside the 135 canisters once you’re done with shooting. I’m not sure if photo labs can process partial rolls, and delivering the exposed film to them might be a problem, as well. Obviously, this is less of a concern if you’re going to process the film yourself.

So, without further ado, here’s how you can make your own 828 backing paper and load modern 135 film onto the old 828 film spools.

Step 1: Making the Backing Paper

828Film_Step01A

To get started, you’ll need the backing paper from a roll of 120 film, and at least two empty 828 spools – oh, and later on, you’ll need 135 film to load onto the 828 spools, but we’ll get to that in the “loading” section. 120 film is twice as wide as 135 film, so it’s 70mm wide, as well as being longer than a standard 828 roll; you’ll need to cut down the 120 backing paper to fit onto an 828 spool. Ideally, you should use the backing paper from a roll you’ve already shot and processed (once processed, 120 film leaves behind the empty backing paper and spool – hang onto the spool, at least, in case you need an extra take-up spool for a 120 camera); of course, if you want to buy a “sacrificial” 120 roll, well. That’s your business, not mine.

828Film_Step01B

The first thing you’ll need to do is measure off the amount of backing paper you’ll need; I found it helpful to tape down the paper while measuring, to keep it from moving around and throwing off my measurements.

828Film_Step01C

You’ll need to be precise here, so use a ruler that has millimeter measurements – both 135 and 828 film stock was measured in millimeters (35mm wide), and you’ll want to ensure that the film stays consistently protected by the backing paper. This is, of course, the midpoint of the backing paper, but still…precision counts here. You’ll have to mark down this measurement a few times, depending on how long of a straightedge you have; I have a 36″ straightedge left over from my days as an architecture student, so I only had to mark three times. You’ll need at least 33″ of paper (42mm per frame (I’ll explain in a moment) x 16 frames = 672mm; 672mm = 26 1/2″; allowing for two frames of overage at the front and back ends of the paper, this yields 33″); 120 backing paper is roughly 40″ long, so you should have enough to work with, assuming you don’t make any mistakes. As with 120 film, you’ll need at a coupld frames’ worth of additional paper at the front and back ends of the roll, so that you can safely load and unload the film in subdued light – otherwise, you’d fog the first and last frames of the roll when loading and unloading.

828Film_Step01D

Once you’ve marked off the backing paper, you’ll need to cut off the excess. If you’re particularly skilled with scissors, you could use these, but I recommend using a utility blade or Xacto knife and a straightedge – again, precision counts, and I prefer to have a perfectly straight edge to the backing paper once I’m done cutting it. As before, I found it helpful to tape down the paper to a cutting mat while doing this, so that it didn’t slip while I was cutting off the excess. Once you’ve cut off the excess, you’ll need to cut a tab at the front and back ends of the paper, much like that found on 120 film – just check the size of the slot on an 828 spool, and cut the tab accordingly; the tab needs to be about half an inch wide and about a quarter inch long – this is necessary to secure the paper to the film spool. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to having your very own 828 backing paper!

Step 2: Marking the Frame Counting Numbers

Since 828 cameras use a viewing window for frame counting, you’ll need to mark the back of your paper to identify the center of the frame and provide a sequential number for each frame. A standard 828 frame is 40mm wide, and the frame spacing should be 2mm – this is why you needed to allocate 42mm per frame when measuring out the paper in the previous step.

828Film_Step02A

Start off 84mm from the front end of the paper and mark off a starting line across the paper perpendicular to the direction of the film advance (i.e. across the width of the paper). Measure off 40mm for the first frame and draw a line; draw another line 2mm past this first one to account for the frame spacer. I blacked-in the frame spacing bars for clarity, though if you don’t think you need this, you don’t have to do it. I think the 120 backing papers are resin-impregnated, so you’ll need to use a felt-tip pen or marker to make the lines and numbers; I don’t think a ballpoint pen will work here.

Next, measure off 20mm within each frame to determine the centerline of the frame, and make a pencil mark here. You’ll want to place the frame count number at this location, and at the centerline of the backing paper width, so measure from one edge of the paper to a point 17.5mm away from the edge; this is where you need to put the number. Obviously, you don’t need to put a number if you don’t want to – any mark will do – but it’s helpful to have the numbers, so that you’ll know how many frames you’ve already exposed. Finally, as you notice from the 120 backing paper, it’s also helpful to put a leader mark before the number itself, so you’ll have a heads-up when the number is about to arrive in the viewing window. I used an arrow, but again, any sort of mark will do here.

828Film_Step02B

This is what the backing paper should look like as you’re measuring and making your marks. Make sure you allow the pen marks to dry, so that you don’t smudge any of them.

828Film_Step02C

At the back end of the paper, I put a piece of tape to denote where the film should end. You’ll need this in the next step, as you’ll need to load the film in complete darkness, and as such, you’ll need a tactile indicator where the film should end. I put a similar piece of tape at the front end of the paper to denote where to attach the film – I’ll get to both of these in the next step.

828Film_Step02D

The above photo is a shot of what the tabs at each end of the paper should look like. If you haven’t cut these already, do so now. Congratulations! You now have a completed strip of custom-made 828 backing paper!

828Film_Step02E

To protect the paper, I set aside a leftover 135 container for it. You’ll want to do something similar both so that you don’t lose the paper, and also so that the paper doesn’t get creased, crushed, or some other kind of damaged when you’re not using it. Plastic 135 containers are ideal, since they’re roughly 50mm high – more than enough to safely contain your 35mm-wide backing paper when it’s rolled up.

Step 3: Loading 135 Film Onto An 828 Spool

Of course, all the preceding effort is for naught if you don’t use the paper for something.

828Film_Step03A

For this step, you’ll need the following: your 828 backing paper, an empty 828 spool, 135 film with the leader cut off, a piece of tape at least 30mm long (to secure the 135 film to the backing paper), scissors, and a changing bag (or film loading closet, if you have your own darkroom).

828Film_Step03B

As mentioned previously, I mark the start and end points of the film with a piece of tape on the outside of the backing paper, so that I’ll know where to attach and cut the film when I can’t see what I’m doing. It should go without saying that the rest of these steps will need to be performed in complete darkness – if you didn’t know this already, er…what are you doing trying this in the first place?

828Film_Step03C

First, take your pre-cut piece of tape and attach the cut end of the 135 film to the backing paper. Note that you can perform this step in lighted conditions, as you won’t be exposing the length of film from here to the first frame. Just don’t pull the 135 film too far out of its canister to do this. Also, make sure that you’ve aligned the film to the backing paper so that you can smoothly load the film onto the 828 spool – these spools have near-zero tolerance between the spool flanges and the film/backing paper to ensure that the edges of the film remain light-tight when wound around the spool. You may need to withdraw the 135 film approximately 1 frame length to make sure that your alignment is correct. Again, don’t worry about exposing this length of film; you’re not going to be using it, anyways.

828Film_Step03D

If you started off outside the changing bag, carefully transfer everything into the bag before continuing. The remaining steps here until “sealing” the roll must be performed in complete darkness – no exceptions. From here, withdraw the film from the 135 canister until you reach the tape marker at the end of the backing paper. I usually coil the film and backing paper together to keep them from separating too much; trying to realign the two in the dark can be a little frustrating if they separate.

828Film_Step03E

Once you reach the endpoint marker for the film, grasp the film so that you’ll know where to cut it, then…cut off the film from the 135 canister – hope you remembered to put the scissors into the bag! Be careful not to cut through the backing paper while cutting the film, or you’ll feel pretty silly, won’t you? And you’ll have to make yourself another backing paper – which would suck. Also, be careful not to let the remaining 135 film slip inside the canister, as it’ll be very difficult to withdraw the film from the canister if you let this happen. That would also suck. Since 16 828 frames are just under half of a 36-exposure 135 strip, you’ll be able to use each 135 roll for two excursions with your 828 camera.

828Film_Step04A

Loading the film / backing paper follows the same procedure as loading film onto an empty 120 or 620 spool, but I’ll go over the process, anyways. Unlike 120 spools, 828 spools have a wide and narrow slot to accept the backing paper; you’ll need to first slide the tab through the wide slot, then through the narrow slot. To load the film, you’ll need to back it onto one of your spools, so that the film will properly advance once it’s inside the camera. Thus, you’ll need to slide the rear tab onto your empty spool, and start winding from there. Again, you’ll have to do this in complete darkness, so get used to working by feel, and not by sight.

828Film_Step04B

As you wind the excess backing paper onto the spool, keep feeling along the inside of the paper so that you’ll know when you’ve reached the unsecured end of the film – note that you don’t want to secure both ends of the film; if you secure both ends, but didn’t keep the film and paper tight against each other, you might have attached the two incorrectly, and run the risk of creasing the film or backing paper (or both) as you wind them onto the spool. As such, you’ll need to carefully tuck the exposed edge of the film onto the spool as you’re winding the paper and film. You may want to practice a few times with a sacrificial roll of 135 film to get the hang of it – since I always request that my film not be cut whenever I have it processed by a lab, if I ever have a screwup roll, I can use that for practice, if I need it. Note also that if you’re used to reloading 120 film onto 620 spools (I’ll write about that later), this should be old habit to you by now.

828Film_Step04C

Now that you’ve got the film started winding into the spool, you can starte backing the remaining paper and film onto the spool. I periodically grasp the flanges of the spool and pull the film / backing paper “forwards” off the spool to ensure that I’ve got the two wound as tightly as possible onto the spool. This helps to ensure that the film isn’t spilling off of the spool once I’ve wound everything onto the spool – feel free to use whatever methods you need to ensure that the winding goes smoothly and tightly. Again, you’ll have to do this in complete darkness, so get used to working by feel, and not by sight (I know, this is starting to sound like nagging, but it bears repeating).

828Film_Step04D

Once you get to the start of the roll, you may notice that the film and backing paper are slightly mis-aligned. This doesn’t always happen to me, but sometimes it does. If it does, just carefully peel up the tape and reattach it to the backing paper, then finish winding the rest of the excess paper onto the spool. If you’ve calculated your paper length correctly, it should just barely fit within the flanges of the 828 spool.

828Film_Step05A

If you’re saving this roll for later use, tape the exposed edge of the backing paper down to keep the roll sealed shut until you’re ready to use it. You can hold the roll shut with your fingers as you withdraw it from the changing bag, then tape it outside the bag, if you want. You should store it in a shaded area, though, just in case there are any gaps between the backing paper and the spool flanges. If you’re going to use it immediately, you can just keep the roll sealed with your fingers while you transfer it from the changing bag to your camera. To load the film into the camera, place the loaded spool into the “supply” side of the film chamber, and pull the paper leader across to the empty take-up spool. These two positions shouldn’t be difficult to distinguish from one another: the take-up side is connected to the film advance knob, and a spool placed in this side will turn when you wind the knob; the supply side has no such connections, and should rotate freely when placed inside. Most cameras also have a pressure flange on the supply side to keep the paper and film tightly wound onto the spool, so that they won’t prematurely unwind inside the chamber.

828Film_Step05B

Once you have the paper leader securely winding onto the take-up spool, close up the camera, then look through the viewing window on the back of the camera, and advance the film until you reach the first of your frame counting numbers. Voila! You’re ready to shoot!

One other thing you should be aware of here is that since the frame size for an 828 exposure is 28mm high, parts of your exposures will overlap with the perforations on the 135 strips – this is an unavoidable consequence of using modern 135 film in these cameras, instead of the 828 film that was specifically designed for them. Also, if you’re having a lab scan your negatives (really, though, why would you? Don’t you have your own scanner?), they may not scan the full frame, either; most scanner software that automates the process of multi-frame scanning is designed to handle standard 135 frames, and may cut off parts of your frames. Scanning your own film will solve this problem, though you’ll have to scan each frame individually, rather than as part of a batch, as most scanners can do with standard 135 frames. It’s a little more time-consuming this way, but OTOH, you can take full advantage of the wider format, if you do this.

As for why anyone would want to do this? Well, as I mentioned before…mostly because I can, though the full answer is a little more involved than that. I had collected a number of these old cameras because all of the early ones (from the mid-30s on) were Art Deco designs, and I really liked them. I didn’t much think about using any of them until a fellow photographer mentioned trying out one of them and having some trouble with the viewing windows fogging their film. Upon doing some research, I found that it was indeed possible to use 135 film in these cameras, but with suitable protection – i.e., with a properly formatted backing paper. Of course, I also found out that nobody makes this sort of paper anymore, so the only way to obtain it would be to make my own. Upon further reflection, I figured it couldn’t be much harder than anything I had done in architecture school – hell, if I can turn a bunch of cardboard, plywood, plastic, wood strips, and Elmer’s glue into a sixteenth-scale model of a 50,000 square foot building, this should be a piece of cake!

I should also note that some shops do still sell 828 film, though it isn’t “real” 828 film – they’re basically doing the same thing I just illustrated above, and selling it to consumers. You could avail yourself of this convenience, but you’ll have to pay through the nose for it: B&H, for example, sells Kodak Portra 160NC pre-loaded onto 828 spools with backing paper for 12.00 USD; a 36-exposure roll of the same film in 135 format costs 5.50 USD. I don’t know what they charge for processing, though I suspect it would be similar to the cost for processing a 135 roll – in which case, you’ll be effectively paying double for the 828 roll, since the latter only has 16 exposures, while the former has 36. If you go this route, you’re also limited to whatever film the shop chooses to load onto their spools; if you make your own, you can shoot whatever film you choose, particularly if you’re shooting black and white (there is still quite a variety of black and white film available). Not sure about slide film, though there are E-6 home-processing kits available, too…one of these days, I may give that a try, but for now, I’m sticking with black & white. Is it worth your time to go through all this effort? Well, only you can answer that question; I can only provide you with the information you’ll need to get started, if you so choose.

Anyways, I hope y’all found this useful…or, at the very least, amusing. If nothing else, it should serve as ample evidence that I have way too much time on my hands…and that I have absolutely no life whatsoever! Feel free to contact me here if you have any questions about the process outlined above…I know there are a lot of steps involved, and I know I’m not always the best writer.

Enjoy.

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5 Responses to “DIY Bantam (828) Film”


  1. […] now that I’ve finally written about making backing paper and loading 135 film onto 828 spools, I can get back to showing off what […]


  2. […] Location: Chicago, Illinois; Chicago Loop Camera: Kodak Bantam f/6.3 Lens: Kodak Anastigmat 53mm f/6.3 Film: Kodak TMax 100 (135 respooled onto 828) […]


  3. […] Chicago Loop Camera: Kodak Bantam f/6.3 Lens: Kodak Anastigmat 53mm f/6.3 Film: Kodak TMax 100 (135 respooled onto […]


  4. […] Chicago Loop Camera: Kodak Bantam f/6.3 Lens: Kodak Anastigmat 53mm f/6.3 Film: Kodak TMax 100 (135 respooled onto […]


  5. […] Park Camera: Kodak Bantam f/6.3 Lens: Kodak Anastigmat 53mm f/6.3 Film: Kodak TMax 100 (135 respooled onto […]


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