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  • Writer's pictureAndy Brown

I Made a BAD Mistake! (Mis-)Loading Expired Kodak T-Max Film into my Dad's Agfa Silette

We've all done it haven't we? Confidently and expertly carried out an act that we've done often in the sure expectation of a good outcome. In my case, I've probably loaded 100's of rolls of 35mm film into numerous cameras, including the notoriously difficult Leica, with little or no problem. Only in my case, this was in front of the Camera!, recording myself for another YouTube Vlog. Still, mistakes are usually the best learning experience and others may be able to benefit from my mishap.

So what happened? Well, in loading film onto a take-up spool, you usually hook the leader (a narrow piece of film at the beginning of the film) into a slot in the take-up spool, then start advancing the film. Now in my defence, the modern (post 1970's anyway) cameras I had used recently all loaded so the film wound round the BACK of the spool, resulting in the film emulsion facing OUT. NOT on the Agfa which, as it turns out takes the film up in the conventional way. I didn't realise this at the time and I was busy trying to look professional in front of the camera. so, I threaded the elder into the slot on the take-up spool and manually rotated it to where I thought it would facilitate correct wind-on. WRONG, because the spool was rotating the opposite way when I went to wind the film on. At this point, the leader must have slipped out of the slot in the spool and was dangling into the gap between the two small sprockets that advance the film when you use the lever on top of the camera. See picture below.

Agfa 35mm film camera with open back showing film transport mechanism.
Agfa Silette - Back Open

So what happened next? Well, the camera took a few pictures and it seemed a bit crunchy, but as an old camera, I thought this might be par for the course. In fact, this was the advance sprockets bravely trying to push more film into the small gap between them and the take-up spool. Eventually the pressure on the soft film caused the sprocket holes to rupture and the film to jam. End of story, right? Well maybe not...

So that's the end of this Blog on a cliffhanger. Is the Agfa Broken? Can the film be recovered? Is my name Dirk? All will be revealed in the next Blog & Vlog released in simulcast on YouTube, on this Blog and on Facebook. That date is Sunday 8th February 18:00 GMT. Miss it at your peril...

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