Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
In the only shop left in Hobart where I can buy Ilford film the prices are steep. I’d pay AUD$10.50 for a 24 frame roll of Ilford Delta 100 and my selection choice would be between Pan F 50, Delta 100, FP4 124 and HP5 400. I could probably buy Tri-X 400 at a Kodak store in the city centre but it would be as expensive. So, instead of paying through clenched teeth, I bulk load my film.
If you haven’t been introduced to this way of purchasing film there is nothing mystical or esoteric about it. You only need a bulk loader and a 100 foot roll of film with a few canisters to pre-load that film into. And you’ll need a darkroom bag to fill the bulk loader – or a pitch black room. The savings can be substantial.
I now have four bulk loaders kept in a refrigerator – two were sub-$10 purchases from online groups and I found another two locally (for free). Each is loaded with one of the following films – Ilford Pan F 50, Delta 100 and FP4 125 and the last one has a fresh roll of Kodak Tri-X 400.
A roll of film can cost as low as $30 (sourced online) or as high as $100 (sourced locally). My suppliers of choice at the moment are B&H because they’re fast, competitive and have a good range for selection. A recent order cost just under $190 (including the $38 shipping fee) and it took from Thursday night to Tuesday morning to travel all the way from the United States to my suburban doorstep in Tasmania. That’s a globalisation WOW.
For that money I got 100 feet of Delta 100, 100 feet of Tri-X 400, a five pack of 120 rolls of Tri-X 400 and four plastic reloadable film canisters. That’s not bad considering I’ll fill close to 30 rolls of 24 frames for between $55 and $70 plus shipping. Let’s call it less than $3 per roll of film compared to $10.50.
Or think of it this way – that’s 25-30 rolls for the price I’d have paid for 5-7 rolls in a local shop.
OK so in certain parts of the World film can be so cheap that bulk loading isn’t really worth bothering with anymore. And that’s why we can find the bulk loaders all over eBay for next to nothing. But here in the antipodes bulk loading 135 film can still add up to the saving of a small fortune.
And, of course, it means you can think about 35mm film stocks intended for movies. Or out of date rolls on eBay.
If you’re not confident just go onto YouTube and look at some short videos on how to bulk load film so you know what to do inside your darkroom bag. That’s all there is to it. Once bulk loaded, you can fill those convenient reloadable film canisters in front of the television.