Vintage Tuesday: How to Convert 127 Cameras

127 cameraHow to Convert 127 cameras to work with 35 film

There are a few ways to convert a 127 camera to take 35mm film. The easiest is if you own a 127 camera that is wide enough to allow for the 35mm cartridge to sit inside of it or if you don’t have a camera that is able to do that (like me) you will have to respool 35mm film onto a 127 roll.

127 filmWhat you will need:

  1. 1 or 2 spools of 127 film
  2. Tape (black electrical works best)
  3. Ruler, scissors, and white pencil crayon
  4. Paper backing of 120 film (optional)
    *when you buy a 127 camera make sure to ask if spools come with it, otherwise you can find people selling 127 spools separately. In most vintage cameras I always get at least 1 spool

Version 1: 35mm roll as is

If the cameras width allows for the 35mm cartridge to fit with back closed, you will have to prop the cartridge in the camera using any kind of padding and then taping the 35mm film to a 127 spool on the other end. Then taking the black electrical tape cover the red film counter on the back of the camera; you should have at least two pieces either inside or outside (or both). You will not have a film counter with this method but you can either count the cranks of the dial by testing the first advance with the back of the camera open and count how many times you have to advance it for exposed film to clear. It usually be around 1.5 to 2 cranks for most 127 cameras.
*good video of it is: here

Version 2: Respool 35mm roll onto 127 spool

There are two ways to re-spool 35mm film onto a 127 spool, with backing paper or without. I’d advised only respooling with backing paper as you can store rolls of film between use and you can use the counter on the back of the camera if you’d like. Respooling without any backing paper is pretty straight forward but the whole process from re-spooling to loading the film in and out of the camera will have to be done in the dark which adds a lot of time and effort as well you will need to develop the film at home.
The instructions below will detail how to re-spool a roll of 35mm onto a 127 spool.

  1. Take the backing from a roll of 120 film
    *I develop my own 120 film so I just keep the backing but you can ask your local store to keep ours or see if they can keep one for  you if you don’t shoot 120 film
  2. The height of 120 spool is much taller then a 127 so you will need to trim down the height. I measured the 127 spool height to be 4.6cm. Next you want to roll out the backing paper and measure 4.6cm on its height, mark  and keep doing so every few inches until you reach the end.
    *you can free style this but being exact means less chance of light leaks or exposing the film127 film
  3. Take the scissors and cut along the guide you’ve created.
  4. Now you should have backing paper that will fit your 127 spool. Next you will want to do a test roll of the baking paper to make sure all the paper is the correct height.
  5. Next you will want to see how much of the backing paper you need to eliminate from the end of the roll to allow for the spool to fit in the camera. When I did mine I found the backing paper was enough to cover a 24 exposure roll of 35 film with leftover. However the spool was far too chubby to fit the camera. So I removed from mine 16.5 inches from the length of the backing paper; that leaves about 8 inches of film needing to be trimmed as well (this measurement is not have extra backing paper after the roll finishes) . As the 24 exposure roll is too long for re-spooling, it means you will have to cut the excess. To get around wasting film I advised using a 36 exposure film so you can save the film for the next re-spooling or if you have extra 127 spools you can respool two different spools with 1 roll of 36 exposures at the same time.
    *I did my measurements using a roll of 24 exposure 35mm film that I had already exposure and taping to the backing paper and test rolling.
  6. On either end of the backing paper make sure the tabs for the 120 film as still present, you may want to cut your own tabs to make sure the backing paper will fit into the 127 spool hole.
  7. Optional: This step is if you want to create your own markers to indicate when you’ve advanced to the next exposure. You will want to give the end of the backing paper extra room as this end will be the start of the roll and you will need to load the film onto the empty spool. A good place to start your first mark would be 12cm from the end. The width of the camera exposure frame on all 127 cameras should be 4cm so from this first mark on you will mark every 4cm using a white pencil crayon. Make sure to draw the line all the way up, as the counter will be in different places on different cameras.  I personally like double exposures and like the mystery so I haven’t done this to my backing paper.
  8. Now that you have the backing paper the correct height and width, tape the film onto the backing paper, making sure to place in the middle. You can tape the film at the very end or slightly inwards so the end of the roll when the film has been through the camera there is extra backing paper so the film is more protected)127 film
  9. Now you will need to go into a dark room (or use a changing bag) and re-spool the 35 film onto the 127 roll.
    *make sure that you checking every few turns that the film is still in the center, try not to touch the film as much as possible. If the film is not center you will have crooked photos.
    *make sure it is as tight as possible, if you notice it loosening up don’t feel afraid to unroll a bit and redo. As well you can practice with just the backing paper a few times before.
    TIP: If you are having trouble you can even just do it loosely first so you know were you want the film to end, cut the film and then uncurl and start from the beginning.
  10. When you near the end of backing paper, you will want to cut the film. (if you are doing 36 exposure film and want to still use the remaining film make sure you leave a tab of film outside the canister. Secure the end of the film with tape trying as best as you can to make sure its center
    *its good to make sure you have two pieces of tape pre cut and have the scissors and tape laid out in front of you before you turn off the lights off.
  11. Then continue to roll just the backing paper, you should have enough left over backing paper to do 2 complete circles around the spool, this helps with any possible light leaks, and even with tight rolling its possible the spool may not cover the end of the roll well.
  12. Secure end of backing paper with tape to the roll.
    127 film
  13. You are now able to turn the lights as the roll is finished. The roll can be stored for future use or you can put it in the 127 camera right away.
    *if the roll is not very tight or you want to prevent light leaks, I advised to put directly into the camera.
  14. Optional: If you are not using the counter and wish to prevent any possible light leaks you can take the further step of using electrial tape to cover the red expsure counter.127 film127 film

TIP: Keep the backing paper, you should be able to reuse several times, just make sure not to tear or use tape that will tear it.

There is another method to cut down 120 film and then re-spool, I will link you to the best tutorial I was able to find for that: here. Hope this was helpful, if you have any questions please leave a comment below. I hope you found this helpful, sorry there is not many pictures it is a pretty straight forward process. I am so excited to take photos with my two new 127 film cameras!

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Posted by Citizen Erased in Film, How To's, Vintage Cameras, Vintage Tuesday

3 Responses to Vintage Tuesday: How to Convert 127 Cameras

  1. // metamike //

    Thank you Kathryn, I just received a Komaflex and I need to make it usable.

    ;)

    • Citizen Erased

      Komaflex are beautiful! I don’t have one in my collection yet. I found the process of converting film really easy to do and the photos turned out great on both cameras I’ve used 35 film on. Hope you are just as successful. If you end up putting your photos online, send me a link :)

  2. Jeff Bradford

    Thank you for your very concise article. The internet could use more folks like you.

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