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How To Load 35mm Film in an SLR

Ella Palmer |

How To Load 35mm Film Into An SLR - Film Camera Store

Loading 35mm film is one of the first things to learn when taking up film photography. It's important to understand how the camera works and how easy it is to start shooting film today!

What is an SLR and why do you need one

SLR stands for 'single-lens reflex camera'. SLRs often have a mirror or prism that allows you to look through the lens and see exactly what is in front of you. You may have heard of a DSLR which are our modern-day digital cameras. The 'D' stands for digital. SLRs are a great option if you like to accessorise and customise your camera as they have the option for interchangeable lenses to suit your need. SLRs are primarily different from DSLRs because they translate images onto film, not into memory cards.

How to Load Film in an SLR
Pentax M 1.7 50mm

You've got yourself an  SLR, now what...

Most SLRs on our website are easy to use and have self-explanatory settings and dials. If you do need some help with understanding how these settings contribute and change your image at the end of the day check out our blog about taking the best photographs on film. This will help you to understand your camera and some general photography terms.

Most beginners start with a fully manual SLR, these are distinguished by their boxy, vintage metal bodies and metal lenses.

Some SLRs have digital sensors and light meters built in to aid you in getting a perfectly exposed image. These can include models such as the Canon T70, and Minolta Dynax 500sito name a few. These cameras usually can be distinguished by their plastic bodies and automatic lenses which are often made with plastic as their primary material. They also have LCD screens and often include buttons rather than metal dials. These automatic cameras can be a great option if you are just coming from a fully automatic point-and-shoot and want something with a bigger sensor. These cameras make it easy to come from digital straight to film. However, don't be daunted by the beautiful vintage SLRs, they come with much more excitement and give you the proper feel of accomplishment once you've got the hang of the settings.

How To Load 35mm Film in an SLR - Film Camera Store


 How do I make sure I'm not making any mistakes?

As far as loading film in an SLR it's often pretty similar to most 35mm film cameras. Of course, you have to look out for the steps that can go wrong. To prevent them, Film Camera Store has come up with an acronym that will help you. SSLS.

- Spindle, check the spindle has locked your film in place.

- Sprocket, check the cameras sprockets are in the film holes to catch the film.

- Lever, make sure the lever can wind the film around the take-up spool.

- Shutter, press the shutter a couple of times whilst winding the film. This will make sure the film takes.


Let's load some film!

First, grab your SLR and your favourite film! We have a blog coming up shortly all about the wonders of film and how to choose your next film.

How To Load 35mm Film Into An SLR - Film Camera Store


  1. Open the back of your camera. Most Vintage SLRs have a spindle to pull up which opens the back door. You might hear a click!
  2. Pop your film out of its canister and turn it upside down so the top is facing down. 
  3. Insert the film and push down the spindle to lock the film in place.
  4. Pull a small amount of film out of the canister. don't worry, there is around 10cm of film that is wasted for this exact reason.
  5. Pull the film until it is lined up with the take-up spool. Some SLRs differ here. Praktica's have a metal cage around the take-up spool. This is to ensure the film doesn't slip out of the spool. It works like most other spools which have a slit that you can put the film into to secure it. Just make sure the film is sat in the sprockets. Some Automatic SLRs will wind the film for you and it will have a plate with arrows next to the spool, there should also be a small red arrow or a line to where you should put the film, if done automatically you can skip to step 7 and start shooting. 
  6. Pull the lever on the top and wind the film as you are doing this, locate the shutter button and be ready to press it when the lever has done a full rotation.
  7. Press the shutter and start winding again. Eventually, the film will catch and you will be able to close the back.
  8. If the film is not catching,  pull the film back out and with one finger on the bottom of the canister press firmly while you wind the film back a notch until roughly an inch is pocking out. You will need to start the process again.
  9. If the spool is catching the film, close up the back and keep winding and shooting until the number dial reaches 1. This will mark your first photo.

Happy Photographing!