Frame numbers on back of film

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bripriuk

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I shoot with 120 folders, and for some unknown and insane reason Ilford have printed the frame numbers on the backing paper for Delta 100 in pale grey, which makes it extremely difficult to see the through the red windows on the back of the camera. This means I don't use Delta film.
Could someone tell me if today's FP4 and HP5 have the same pale numbers on the backing paper, or do they have the usual black ones?
Delta3.jpg
 

Donald Qualls

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This was done to minimize the effect of "wrapper offset" where the ink for those numbers contact fogs the emulsion. The less ink, the less it can interact.

If you otherwise like Delta film, you might consider getting a camera with a mechanical frame counter, then you won't need to be able to see the numbers through a red window. Some of them are expensive (Fuji) but some aren't (a Konica Pearl III or Mamiya Six folder can be had for around $200 -- and both have excellent lenses, too).
 

pentaxuser

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bripriuk, Donald has summed up the reason very well but what has just struck me now as a relevant question is: Do we have any comparison of different films that show if there is any meaningful difference in the clarity of the numbers?

If there has been such a comparison done on Photrio I can't recall seeing it

pentaxuser
 

BrianShaw

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… at least they are still there!

I’m always looking for images of backing paper numbers so I don’t get surprised while winding to 1. Ports is clear but there’s one film I used in the past that I always missed 1 because the warning markings were not easy to interpret, or the 1 was oriented “the wrong way”. Unfortunately I can’t recall so probably doomed to the same fate at some point in the future.
 

MattKing

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Could someone tell me if today's FP4 and HP5 have the same pale numbers on the backing paper, or do they have the usual black ones?

Somewhere deep in the archives is a thread started by Simon Galley when he was a director of Harman Technology Ltd. (who make Ilford branded B&W products) that discussed their then new backing paper.
To sum things up, because of the expense they incurred when buying the backing paper, as well as the really high minimum order quantities, they had been forced to go to a single version of backing paper for all their films, differentiated only by the labels at the end. You will note that there is nothing printed there which tells you which film is associated with that backing paper.
I believe that it may have been in that thread that Simon confirmed that it costs Harman more money to buy the backing paper for a roll of 120 film than it does to actually make the film it goes with.
 

IMoL

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Current FP4 and HP5 look similar. Yes, they're not the clearest, but I have got used to looking for the ever increasing size of the dot rings now so that I rarely miss a frame, at least in good light. In poor light, I need my reading glasses. This is on a Zeiss Nettar 518/16, which is currently my only red window camera.
 

Donald Qualls

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Pale. I had a roll of HP5 in my Mamiya Six Folder, and could barely see the exploding circles and numbers. I went past a couple... 🙄

They're harder than usual to see in my Mamiya Six folder due to the combination of yellow, rather than red window, and being much deeper behind the window due to the moving film place focusing and its pressure plate insert.
 

Andrew O'Neill

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They're harder than usual to see in my Mamiya Six folder due to the combination of yellow, rather than red window, and being much deeper behind the window due to the moving film place focusing and its pressure plate insert.

The yellow window was a first for me! I accidently left the little cover over the yellow window open for most of the exposures. Thankfully, no light leaks... so at least that is a good sign. I wonder if they could get their supplier to print the numbers in a faint blue, so that the yellow or red windows would make them stand out more? More expense, I know... 🙄
 

Donald Qualls

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I wonder if they could get their supplier to print the numbers in a faint blue, so that the yellow or red windows would make them stand out more? More expense, I know... 🙄

As I understand it, that would only be a realistic option for the next bulk purchase (which might be one or more years out), and would require sampling and testing the new ink against wrapper offset. I'm inclined to say if what they're using now works and avoids showing on the negatives, we can all carry a penlight or similar to read the numbers.
 

Andrew O'Neill

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As I understand it, that would only be a realistic option for the next bulk purchase (which might be one or more years out), and would require sampling and testing the new ink against wrapper offset. I'm inclined to say if what they're using now works and avoids showing on the negatives, we can all carry a penlight or similar to read the numbers.

A penlight is a good idea. I was using the sun for that first roll with no ill effects!
 

BrianShaw

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I use the sun with no (noticeable) ill effects. Don’t have enough hands to also hold a penlight.
 

Donald Qualls

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Don’t have enough hands to also hold a penlight.

That can be an issue. I've used direct sun on my Mamiya Six, too (and on most of my other red window cameras as well). The only camera I've had issued with was my 1927 Voigtlander Rollfilmkamer (which also leaked exposure light past the ends of the frame onto the film between the frame gate and rolls). It's 6x9, so it's in a corner of the door. A strip of black velvet ribbon (along with one between film and body on either end of the frame) solved that.
 

takilmaboxer

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I like Foma 100 and it has very dark, readable numbers on the back. With Ilford and Kodak I use bright light but haven't risked direct sun.
 

pentaxuser

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I like Foma 100 and it has very dark, readable numbers on the back. With Ilford and Kodak I use bright light but haven't risked direct sun.

Thanks, takilmaboxer. So we have at least one make of film that has very dark numbers that are readable. What we now need to know is whether Foma 120 is any more susceptible to the transfer of backing paper number to the negatives than say Ilford , Fuji or Kodak

Can I ask what has been your experience with this problem of number transfer and if there has been no problem, over what sort of number in terms of Foma 120 has your use of Foma 120 been?

pentaxuser
 

takilmaboxer

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The transfer of numbers to the the film is, thankfully, not a problem that I have experienced. I bought Kodak in bulk before, and then after, their transfer problems. I have had problems with QC with Foma but not in the last two years. Their backing paper seems to be pretty thick and paper-y, as opposed to the Kodak paper, which seems to be quite slick, with a plastic-y feel. I use the Foma 100 because it uses older technology that feels appropriate to the '50s cameras I put it into. I pre soak the film, develop in D23, water stop, non-hardening fixers, hypo clear, and 10 minute wash.
That being said, I have experimented with trying to see through the backing papers of all my films, and I cannot see the sun through any of them. So I would not hesitate to use bright light to see the numbers. If you love those modern films, well, you do what you need to do. I have lost exposures with Tri-X because my aging eyes can't read the numbers.
 

250swb

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It's definitely a frustrating problem if you are using Ilford film which I mostly do. I have a couple of cameras that I have to take off the tripod and slide open the viewing window facing the sun just to wind the film on, and even then sometimes miss. If the weather is dull and the sun isn't helping I'm left juggling the camera and shining my iPhone torch, but it still requires utmost concentration and avoidance of reflections which is an absurd state of affairs. I have a wide angle camera and it should get six frames on a roll, but if I miss winding one frame I'll actually lose two photographs because the last frame will be cropped. Ilford, are you listening!

I have a book of Lee Filters acetate samples and I'm wondering if I could get away with a milder red filter in the camera back, the viewing window and door are covered by a Velcro flap as well so stray light is zero.
 

pentaxuser

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Their backing paper seems to be pretty thick and paper-y, as opposed to the Kodak paper, which seems to be quite slick, with a plastic-y feel.

Thanks. Your above quote seems to fly in the face of the consensus that all backing paper now comes from one source and that paler numbers are the only solution

If Foma is still arriving in what seems to be thick and paper-y format then it would suggest that unless Foma is still using old backing paper stock then different backing paper is to be found and on this backing paper darker numbers can be printed

pentaxuser
 

BrianShaw

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Thanks. Your above quote seems to fly in the face of the consensus that all backing paper now comes from one source and that paler numbers are the only solution

If Foma is still arriving in what seems to be thick and paper-y format then it would suggest that unless Foma is still using old backing paper stock then different backing paper is to be found and on this backing paper darker numbers can be printed

pentaxuser

It does seem to fly, doesn't it. Every time this discrepancy is mentioned, nobody can verify it and nobody seems to know who the single source is. It's not realistic that this is a classified top trade secret, especially considering the amount of detail on backing paper that is publically available via Kodak patents. An odd curiosity of our hobby/business. :smile:

I've not had good experience with the thick backing paper - lots of light leak on the film edges where it may not seal well with the spool. If that backing paper disappeared and the thin backing paper became the only backing paper, I would not be disappointed. What I don't understand is that the Kodak patent (drawing from memory) includes tapered edges yet a Kodak publication on "The Making of Kodak Roll Film" shows it being slit from a wide roll. I wonder if they skive the edges thinner after slitting or not.
 
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pentaxuser

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It does seem to fly, doesn't it. Every time this discrepancy is mentioned, nobody can verify it and nobody seems to know who the single source is. It's not realistic that this is a classified top trade secret, especially considering the amount of detail on backing paper that is publically available via Kodak patents. An odd curiosity of our hobby/business. :smile:

I agree but there does seem to be tendency to accept lack of knowledge on some matters, inability to get the the source or trade secrets on the part of "filmic" matters and film companies as being at least "understandable" in a way that I suspect would not be the case if it were to be on matters that were not related to "film matters"

I will stop now before being tempted to break into the famous Doris Day number "Que sera, sera" 😁

pentaxuser
 

BrianShaw

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I will stop now before being tempted to break into the famous Doris Day number "Que sera, sera" 😁
Go right ahead! That, and the Serenity Prayer, has been my morning affirmations for years. There are some things that just are what they are.
 

Sharktooth

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I've not had good experience with the thick backing paper - lots of light leak on the film edges where it may not seal well with the spool. If that backing paper disappeared and the thin backing paper became the only backing paper, I would not be disappointed. What I don't understand is that the Kodak patent (drawing from memory) includes tapered edges yet a Kodak publication on "The Making of Kodak Roll Film" shows it being slit from a wide roll. I wonder if they skive the edges thinner after slitting or not.

I was listening to one of the Camerosity podcasts recently, where Robert Shanebrook described how the Kodak backing paper changed during his time there. He delves into the skiving of the paper edges. It was quite interesting.

Here is the link to the Camerosity podcast. https://mikeeckman.com/2022/09/episode-33-shooting-expired-film-and-home-developing/
The section about the backing paper starts a little after an hour and 5 minutes in.
 

pentaxuser

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Go right ahead! That, and the Serenity Prayer, has been my morning affirmations for years. There are some things that just are what they are.

Well OK, if you insist.

"When I was just a little boy
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome? Will I be rich?
Here's what she said to me
Qué será, será
Whatever will be, will be
No you will not be rich
If you shoot Fuji"

Last time I heard it sung, it was by an Aberdeen deep sea trawlerman in a cafe after he had landed his catch in the Summer of 1959 so I hope I have got the words right 😎

pentaxuser
 

Sharktooth

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This is coincidentally timely. I was doing some testing on some new-to-me cameras over the last few days, and ran into the backing paper issues in a big way.
I was using old film, since I just wanted to test for light leaks and other mechanical/optical issues. I had an old roll of Pan F Plus from the 90's (I think), that I used in a Yashica Mat, and some old 35mm bulk rolled Pan F from the mid 80's for two old 35mm cameras.
I processed all the film together in one tank, since it was all Pan F.

After the film dried, I held the negatives up to the light for a cursory inspection. The 120 roll of Pan F Plus showed severe mottling that got progressively worse through the roll. The rebate area had lots of easily visible spots near the end of the roll. The 35mm film all turned out nicely with no obvious problems, so there wasn't a developing issue.

I've had problems with old 120 film with the backing paper causing damage to the negatives, but never anything near this bad. I scanned them anyway, since this roll was for camera testing rather than film testing. I was really surprised when I scanned two shots near the middle of the roll. I could clearly see that the dots and numbers from the backing paper had transferred to the negatives. I still had the backing paper and the original packaging sleeve for that roll, so I took some pictures of it.

Old-and-New-Ilford-backing-paper.jpg
Pan-F-Plus-Packaging.jpg
Backing-paper-numbers-on-negative.jpg
Backing-paper-numbers-on-negative-2.jpg



I've never seen numbering and dots from the backing paper being transferred to the negatives, but here's the proof. In the first shot you can also see the comparison of the old Pan F Plus backing paper compared to some newer Ilford backing paper. The old stuff is going to be easier to see under the red window in a camera, but it obviously isn't good for long term storage with the film.

This particular roll of Pan F Plus was not ever refrigerated or frozen, as far as I'm aware, so it was a throw-away item anyway. I guess the lesson learned from this is that the film itself will last a long time (as in 35mm), but the backing paper will limit the useful life of 120.
 
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