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Pre autofocus and post autofocus cameras

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by John King, Oct 9, 2020.

  1. John King

    John King In the Stop Bath

    Has anyone ever considered what the thinking was with most pre AF cameras where the film was wound over the sprockets and wound on the take up spook giving it a reverse curl and the emulsion facing outwards. This made loading 35mm spirals sometimes quite difficult, if not at time almost impossible.
    With the advent of AF cameras, the thinking and design changed, where the film was wound on with the emulsion facing inwards and when loaded onto the spiral it was so much easier. What was the reason for the change.

    Back in the 'dark ages' when Leica rangefinders were the top of the tree, Leica sold a developing tank with a seperate flexible plastic apron which they clipped the film to and then wound it onto the central spiral. It had small corrugations on the edge to keep the film and apron apart. They called it a 'Correx tank.

    It was so easy to load these so why did these disappear in favour of the sometimes hard to load spiral reel? Have you ever tried loading a film onto a damp spiral? These were simple to do and were perfect for the job
  2. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I can’t visualise how film could be reverse wound. It needs to come off the spool, run flat across the backing plate then be taken up on the take-off spool. That preserves the curvature. To reverse it you’d need an intermediate roller.
  3. John King

    John King In the Stop Bath

    The film does exactly that,as you said, but after passing over the film gate and sprockets it goes UNDER the take up spool and winds on with the emulsion side out. This is the REVERSE of AF cameras where the emulsion is wound on facing inside. The take up spool is geared to wind on with the film GOING UNDER the take up spool and not over the top.

    It may not be exactly clear and will be clearer if you look at a manual focus camera wind on mechanism
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2020
  4. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    My Manual film load Minoltas are long gone. I don't remember them reversing the film which anyway got wound back into the cassette the “right way” around. Before them I had a Konica FS-1 kit (got stolen). This was I think the first, or one of the first, autoload cameras. You just pulled the film across, closed the back and it wound itself on. After the Minoltas I had a Canon also with autoload but this time with AF. I have shot at least one 120 film wound backwards, never figured out what I did wrong, probably got the spool upside down.
  5. John King

    John King In the Stop Bath

    Believe me it was the same way with Minolta, Nikon, Pentax, Canon, Olympus and any of the other SLR's or rangefinders until the advent of AF. or those with built in motor-drive. The AF method is far more sensible and it allows loading onto a film developing reel far easier because the reverse curl is not there. With AF the take up spool winds left to right and the film goes over the top. With manual the film take up spool turns right to left with the film going underneath thereby creating the reverse curve.

    With 120 if the film is loaded correctly it winds on exactly as a AF camera.
  6. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I’ll believe you. I never had problems loading film from my Minoltas (X-GM, X-700) into a spiral. I don’t understand why AF should have anything to do with the film transport mechanism though. Autoload (built in winder) seems the most likely reason for a difference. Having come to photography with the FS-1 back in 1979 the first thing I did with my Minoltas was buy a winder! I just loved the sound!
  7. John King

    John King In the Stop Bath

    You have totally missed the point I was making. The AF has not altered the film transport it is the method of the film transport and the direction of the film takes when it is being wound on. If you have never had a problem winding film onto a spiral then you must be unique in this world.

    Probably before you started photography I remember reading reams of questions in the AP and other magazines about difficulty in winding the film onto spirals.
    Petrochemist likes this.
  8. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Maybe I missed the point but you keep saying it is a problem with AF cameras. Unless AF stands for something other than Autofocus.

    No I've never had a real problem loading a spiral. Clearly the first couple of times was harder. I mainly shot FP4/HP5 with my Minoltas. I was using my Grandfather's Patterson spiral, white nylon with a couple of ball-bearings. I never had a proper darkroom so I'd shut myself in the cupboard under the stairs, take the end of the cassette off with a bottle-opener, take the film out, by feel cut the leader off, then wind the film on the spiral. Once gripped I'd let the film go so it was hanging down. Then when it was on the spiral I'd cut the spool off. Hope to find the tank, put the top on and come out for air. The worse thing was standing completely in the dark in a small space and trying not to drop the scissors at the beginning as holding film, spiral and scissors is a bit awkward. Seeing as the cupboard under the stairs was usually full, dropping the scissors at the beginning was a problem if they got lost in the clutter, especially if the film also unwound.

    For printing I had ripped out the staircase lining, exposing the stairs, so I could get more depth and put a shelf in that I could sit at. There was room for one chair if sat on before the door was closed. My grandfather's Gnome enlarger fitted on the shelf. The max print size was 10x8, limited by the enlarger head hitting a stair tread. I could get A4 three dishes on the shelf, 2 behind and one beside the enlarger so the whole working space was about A2 horizontally. A print timer would fit if jammed on end between the enlarger column and the wall. The box of paper went on my knees or on the floor. It got pretty smelly as there was no ventilation. Production was slow as washing the print in the kitchen sink was the main breathing opportunity. I like lightroom now. Much easier.
    spinno likes this.
  9. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    I still have at least three pre AF cameras - Agfa Silette, Canonette with its lovely QL system,and an AE1 with a horrid fiddely loading system.-
    But I do not recognise your problem with reverse curl, perhaps it was specific to one model.
  10. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Just had a look at a number of pre af cameras and none of them reverse wind the film.

    However I never had any problems loading film on to a spiral, as I always used stainless steel spirals that wound the film on from the centre, and so could never become stuck for any reason.
    I still have stailess tanks and spirals for 35mm 12 and 127.
  11. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Correx tanks were made by Eastman Kodak I still have a day light loading one with the original instructions. ( though the rubber parts of the correx are perished)
    It allows you to wind the the film onto the Correx apron in the dark box, and then you transfer the film and correx into the stainless tank
    The correx apron acts as the spiral keeping the film apart, so that the developer can reach the surface.
    It is all a bit scary.....
  12. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    There was post the other month (don’t ask me how many months) in which it was said that stainless spirals were awful to use. I have a stainless tank and spiral belonging to my Grandfather, it is sized for single roll of 120. Goodness knows how old it is.
  13. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Back in the day. Professionals used stainless steel spirals, but most amateurs used Plastic ones.
    If you had to load spirals in batches of more than twenty a day, you would have no doubt which were better in every way.
    I have actually forgotten how many spirals you could fit in the cage of a three gallon tank but it was a lot.
    When you learn how, loading a stainless spiral is a matter of five or six seconds, at times I seemed knee deep in backing paper.
    All with never a problem, and never a jam (nothing to Jam), It is even easier with 35mm. 126 film fitted the 35mm spiral.

    They came on the market in the UK about the late 50's and were universally taken up by professionals soon after that date. However I think they were available from America long before that. As cages for them were available from kodak, to fit their 3 gallon Rubber tanks. I never used a plastic tank after about 1954.

    You could buy them either in packs of a dozen, or as individual spirals, and individual small stainless tanks. though I never saw them larger than triples.
    They were pretty much indestructible … I wonder where they have all gone?
  14. John King

    John King In the Stop Bath

    There were a series of plastic centre loading tanks made under the name of Durst which had central loading spirals, also in plastic. However I no longer use the plastic tanks instead the plastic spiral fit the SS ones very snugly. That is one tank that never leaks nor is it difficult to load but only for B&W.

    Unfortunately, because I use more colour film than B&W now, I have to use a JOBO processor for consistency and their developing tanks use conventional spirals, similar to, but different proportions to Patterson.
    They do not like film exposed in my Minolta XE1 or XM and can take me several times longer to load than film I have used in my F100 or F6. The way I see it is if the film has the reverse curl becuse it is curved in the opposite direction to the spirals in the reel it does not run smoothly in the grooves and/will can snag after about 75% of the film is wound on. You do have to be patient and eventually you get there
  15. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    That is interesting I never knew that there was a plastic centre loading spiral. can not really see the need for one.
    Surely if you're having difficulty loading a spiral one way , why not load it the other way out. If you are worried about finger prints, use lab cotton gloves. I used to use metal spirals for processing Neg colour film but to be honest it was far better to just send them in quantity to a pro lab as there were never less than half a dozen rolls needing doing.

    I knew people who managed to process Transparency film in metal tanks, though I would have thought the re-exposure rather than chemical reversal, needed in some processes, would have been more difficult.

    Processing colour is going to become a real problem as suppliers of the necessary chemicals drop out of the market. Labs tend to use gells and low volume chemicals these days to comply with health and safety and the disposal of chemicals. The continuing availability of the necessary colour kits is in real doubt. which is a shame but inevitable. Some Raw chemicals are also becoming virtually unobtainable.

    There are far fewer supply problems and far more alternatives for black and white.
  16. John King

    John King In the Stop Bath

    I think there should have been a comma between plastic and centre on the top line so that is should have read plastic, centre. For that I apologise.

    Loading the reverse curl film into a centre loading spiral is not as difficult as you may think, because you don't have to overcome the friction generated between the spiral channels and the film surface. Clip the end of the leader so you have the start of the full width of the film, Insert the leader of the film into the centre holding clip, shut off the room light and simply wind the film into the grooves - exactly the same way as you would do in stainless centre loading spiral. Obviously you have never loaded either.

    As for gels being used in labs, I think you have been miss informed. With the automatic replenishment required for the minilab or larger processing machines this requires a liquid to be added after a certain time which is sensed by the machine. I buy my chemicals from a company called AG photographic or Morco Photographic who both supply the trade from their extensive catalogues. There is no mention of chemicals in 'Gel' form being offered for sale to either the public or trade.

    Tetenal are apparently on the verge of marketing C41 chemicals in dry tablet form. If they can do they should be able to do that for RA4. I feel that your prediction of the demise of colour chemicals being available is rather premature and an opinion voiced by yourself is rather lacking in substance. if they are finding the disposal of diluted LIQUID based chemicals to be difficult to do, then what is the advantage of using a gel which will have to be mixed with water to work in the same way anyway. (I am thinking 'vivid imagination' here.) When I print RA4 that does go down the drain and the quantity of chemical involved is miniscule and almost certainly within the boundaries of what is acceptable. When I have to change the contents of my NOVA processor - perhaps once a year and that is taken to the recycling centre to be disposed of.

    Kodak chemicals which I use by preference are sometimes difficult to get, but this is down to the increased demand by customers causing shortages, production is being increased to cover this. The demise of the colour process is not yet on the horizon.
  17. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    I tried to find a pre-AF film camera but without success. I have no specific memory of the film being wound on the take-up spool emulsion side out but I'll check when I find a suitable camera. I use Patterson tanks and never had a problem loading a spiral until a few years back, some ten years after the last time I had done it. The second film wasn't a problem either.
  18. John King

    John King In the Stop Bath

    People obviously had little experience of using cameras before they did everything for them but please accept that they were like that. I am old(ish) but not senile
  19. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    All this talk of loading spirals! You haven't lived until you've processed 35mm film in a deep tank. At the lab where I worked the tanks were sized for 120 film so the occassional 35 had to be clipped to 2 carriers with a weight in the middle. It was great fun getting the weight on without dropping the film, having made sure you hadn't twisted the film and that the emulsion faced out, all done in the dark!

    That's just one reason why digital is the only way for me!
  20. PentaxManiac

    PentaxManiac Well-Known Member

    I've had a look at a selection of cameras, new, old and very old. My conclusion is that it's not a case of autofocus or pre-autofocus, so much as autoload or pre-autoload. But even then, there are exceptions.

    Let's start where things are simplest: a very traditional manual focus, manual wind film camera like a Pentax MX. Looking at it from behind, with the back open, fire the shutter and wind on. You're pushing the wind-on lever from left to right, the bar in the camera with sprockets at the top and the bottom is moving from left to right , but the take-up spool is moving in the opposite direction. You may not have film to waste but I have a couple of dead rolls I use for testing film transport on Ebay purchases. I put a roll of colour print film in the MX and repeated the above process: I don't know about slide film or black and white off the top of my head but on colour print film the emulsion side is noticeably brighter in colour, and sure enough as the film is wound on the brighter emulsion side is on the outer side of the roll.

    Autoload cameras can be autofocus, or manual focus like most of the Canon T series or the Pentax P30 series. Likewise the winding, once the film is loaded and shooting has begun, can be automatic or still require use of a wind-on lever. But the take-up spool is no longer a spindle into which the film is threaded: it's a roller, and is moving in the same direction as the wind-on lever, or in the direction the wind-on lever would move if there was one. Were you to look at the film winding on in such a camera, the emulsion side would be inside the roll rather than on the outside.

    Someone mentioned the Canon QL system: I checked on a Canonet rangefinder and this system also results in the emulsion side being on the inside of the roll.
    Terrywoodenpic likes this.

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