How I load a Barnack camera

Published on 29 June 2013

It’s easier than one might think

Today, I decided to shoot my Leica II(D), which originally saw the light of day in 1931 as a Leica I(C). As I began loading the camera I thought I might make a little video to show how I do it.

Everyone has their own way — and from reading online it seems some photographers have fairly  strong opinions about the ‘proper’ way to do it and the many wrong ways one shouldn’t — but what I show on the clip is what works best for me on my camera; as they say, YMMV.

There is an HD version on Vimeo. I know there are other online videos also showing this, but they 1) don’t show how I do it, 2) are often of pretty poor quality, and 3) are increeeeedibly long. As I hope this clip shows, it is supremely simple to load film in Barnacks, so I hope more people discover these wonderful cameras. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

But before watching the video, please have a look at these...



  • The card is one of those slightly stiff cards one gets at parking houses. One can use business cards as well, but the benefit of the parking house (and similar) cards is that they are fairly resistant to wear and tear due to the plasticky surface. Save them and have a bunch around, at home, in the wallet, camera bag, hat, car. At least in my camera a thicker card, like a credit card, won’t fit.
  • It is sometimes recommended to trim the film’s leader by cutting away a part of the film to lengthen the leader, for instance by using the ABLON template or simply cutting the leader by hand. I don’t do this and have never had loading troubles as a result (I should say, though, that I do cut the leader on bulk loaded rolls, but just to get a leader of similar length and width as that of shop-bought rolls).
  • Make sure the card goes all the way down. On my camera, there’s an edge close to the bottom (or actually the top of the camera) which the card has to pass – one can feel it clearly as the card is inserted – so it may help to push the card down at a slight angle.
  • Ensure that you’ve pushed the film roll and the take-up spool all the way in. You might have to twist the roll’s spool a bit and push on it. Likewise, the take-up spool may need to be twisted-pushed to go all the way in.
  • Having wound the film, I fire the shutter once (with lens cap on) and then tighten the rewind knob carefully to take up any slack in the film roll. Incidentally, this is the way the Leica Manual (Morgan & Lester, 12th ed., 1951) describes it. Earlier editions of this book recommended to wind the film twice, “to pass the film which was exposed to the light while loading”, and then a third time before beginning to use the camera). In my view, this wastes too much film. If I’m going to use the camera right away I’ll wind the film once more (and observe the rewind knob turning in the opposite direction of the arrow). Otherwise I leave that until later to prevent a frame going off in the camera bag. Btw, a benefit of firing off a frame with the lens cap on is that it helps when scanning the film (with Vuescan at least) because one has a plenty of unexposed film to “Lock exposure” and “Lock film base color”) [update 21 Feb 2017: Nowadays I skip this step in the scanning workflow].