By Mike Medlock
Along with regular price rises on colour film, inflation is making even the cheapest black-and-white emulsions creep up slowly in price. It makes more sense now than ever to get your hands on a bulk roll of film and spool it into reloadable cassettes. Depending on the stock and where you find it, this can work out to be a little - or a lot - more economic than buying individual rolls.
Mike’s held on to one of these Kaiser models for several years now, and wanted to share his hot tip with you. Alright - it’s not as interesting to discuss as something super-spicy like a black paint Leica M3 - but he assures us that a bulk loader is an extremely useful bit of kit to hold on to.
“After shooting many film stocks over the years and finding my own preferences, I’ve found that I enjoy Ilford HP5 and XP2 the most. During winter when there’s less light, I don’t take photos as often, so I finish off rolls at a slower rate.
Rather than opening new bottles of chemistry and letting them go bad, I bulk load C41-process XP2 and take it to our friends at Take It Easy to do the developing for me. Once we get into the longer, warmer days I tend to shoot more - so swap out my bulk roll for HP5 and home develop it. This way, there is less likelihood of wasting resources and money on my chemistry going bad.
A bulk roll of HP5 works out to around £6 per roll, as opposed to buying it individually for around £8 per roll - a 25% saving. If you do the same maths for XP2, it actually works out slightly better value too! The savings are decent, and it stops me from over-analysing the cost of each photo.”
As economical as it may be, there are a couple of disadvantages to bulk loading. The upfront cost of the loader, film and reloadable canisters hits the wallet pretty hard. Also, because a 100ft bulk roll of film (30.5m) equates to roughly 18 rolls of 36 exposures.
You really have to commit to a single film stock for a while unless you have a couple of loaders - or a lot of reloadable cassettes. If you’re not careful, there’s an increased risk of scratching the film during loading or unloading when using cassettes many times over. Any debris that works it’s way into the light trapping of the cassettes could leave marks on the film along it’s length.
We frequently have bulk loaders in stock - but these good-quality Kaiser examples are less common. If you’re interesting in getting one for yourself, keep an eye out on the Darkroom and Developing section on our website. At the time of writing, you’ll find them at around £75.