As a collector of classic camera’s made in Dresden, Germany I try to use each of my camera’s at least once. No problem as long as the camera is more or less functional and the film it takes is still available. However, in the early 20th century there was a baffling array of different film sizes.

One of the more successful of these was 116 roll film which was produced from 1899 all the way up to 1984. Finding a usable 116 film to load my 1920 Ernemann Film K box camera proved virtually impossible. Fortunately, there are ways to use 120 film in a camera designed to take 116 film.

The first problem you come across is that the spools of 116 film are both longer and wider than 120 spools. There are adaptors available to lengthen the 120 spool to fit a 116 camera, but my personal solution is to re-spool a 120 film onto an empty 116 spool. Obviously, this solution implies that you have two empty 116 spools as well as a dark room or changing bag at your disposal.

The next problem is the film transport. Since 116 film produces nice semi-panoramic negatives of 6.5 x 11cm the numbering on the backing paper of 120 film does not correspond with longer pictures of a 116 camera. When you develop your own films it is easy to get a backing paper from a previous film. On this backing paper you can then measure and indicate the correct spacing for 11 cm long pictures See above).

Once you have loaded your camera with the re-spooled film you can then check on the separate backing paper exactly how far you should transport your film for each shot. This will allow you take 6 pictures on a standard 120 roll film.

Shooting with the Ernemann Film K is pretty straightforward, no need to worry about focussing or exposure at all. You only have a single aperture and shutter speed available! As a subject for my test film I chose a handful of the characteristic detached church towers found in the north of the Netherlands as these would nicely ‘fit’ the elongated picture size of the 116 film.

After developing the film in Adonal 1 + 25 for 8 minutes at 20º C the negatives were digitized by photographing them on a LED lightpad. The resulting RAW images were then inverted and processed in Lightroom. To achieve the ‘antique’ look I was after which would correspond with the light leaks I did a final retouch using Silver Efex Pro 2.

~ Jaap

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About the author

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Jaap Schelvis

Photographer from the Netherlands who enjoys collecting classic camera's made in Dresden and using these to test them.


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  1. Beautiful imagery from such an old camera. I admire your tenacity for re-spooling the film onto dedicated reels – I gave it shot for one of my old 620 Kodak cameras and it was a disaster. After seeing your images I guess I need to be more patient!

  2. Yaap! This is astonishing. In classical photography you are a member of the true religion!