How to Reload a One-Time-Use Camera, and Why

Reloading a one-time-use camera is straight forward, and easy to do.

There are a lot of these disposable cameras out there, but this particular version makes it easy to reload. This camera has a switch on the side that opens the back. This camera was distributed by Ferrania. They all work in pretty much the same way.

These cameras come with the film rolled into a cartridge and as the pictures are taken, they are wound back into a regular 35mm cartridge. I didn’t mention in the video above, but the battery that charges the flash is just a standard AA battery. That battery usually sits in a compartment on the bottom of the camera.

To reload these, you need a darkroom or at least a changing bag. The take-up cartridge in this camera comes apart in two pieces. To load, pull the film out of the 35mm cartridge, rolling it tightly and sandwich in between the pieces of the cartridge. I like to wear lint free gloves to avoid getting fingerprints on the unexposed.

The film cartridges just sits inside the compartment just as any other camera does. Close the back and wind to the first frame and fire the shutter and wind to the next frame and you’re good to go.

When you’re done with the roll, open up the back of the camera and process the film as you normally would. Weather it’s taking it to you’re local lab, mailing it in to a lab like theDarkroom.com, or developing yourself. 

Why would anybody bother doing this?

It’s fun. Sure, we could get the film look with a digital image, but there is something special about the unpredictability using these cheap plastic lenses. 

We live in a world were you can take great photos with your mobile phone and edit them on the same device to simulate the look of analog photos. The key word is, simulate. Shooting on film and scanning the images takes a little work, and could be an expensive hobby, but the experience is rewarding. The people that follow us on Instagram won’t know the difference, nor will they even care. I guess that’s not why we do it.

Below is a gallery of images I shot with my reloaded camera. I loaded a roll of Ilford HP5+. I developed the film in Kodak D76, stock dilution at the film’s box speed of 400. It was a bright day, mostly sunny / partly cloudy, but the sun was never straight overhead. That is a good baseline for this camera. I really like how the film was exposed. Mostly I am really happy with the way the images came out. The images are not sharp and the sharpness falls off rapidly to the corners.

I know where my baseline is, I will probably load it with a roll of 1600 Fujicolor film and take it to photograph a show, hopefully with a place that has good lighting that is.

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