How to Refill an Ilford Disposable Camera

By Marco Manuzzi

So… you’ve just finished to shoot all around the city (or wherever you’d like) with your brand new BW disposable camera, what’s next? Chances are that you’ll bring the whole camera to your Lab (or send it) and wait for the result as you always do when you have a roll to develop. That’s fine, after all they call it disposable camera for a reason, but with today’s film price and given the fact that most of them will just reach the landfill maybe we should try to use them a bit more than one single time.
So last night I decided to try to find a way to reload an empty camera I’ve had laying around, and guess what? I was successful.

Swiss Army knife screwdriver open

Tools

No special tools required, you just need a small pointy object like a toothpick and a screwdriver or even a small coin. If you have a Swiss Army knife (even the most simple one) you’ll have everything needed.

Process

Open the camera

First thing first, you need to open up the disposable camera.

With the help of the screwdriver or even just with you fingernail focus on the 2 latches places on left and right side of your camera, pry a little bit and you should be able to separate front and back part of the camera…

Disposable camera slightly open

…and you should end it like here below, with the old film cartridge ready to be developed.

Swiss Army knife screwdriver open

Now you need the separate the parts a bit: first of all you need to remove the cartridge cover found on the bottom right part, then the film spool found on the left side.

Prepare the camera

This step is fairly easy, you just need to rotate the shutter counter wheel up until it shows 39 or 27 based on the film you are planning to load. In case you wonder I was bit surprised too to learn that these cameras are capable of 39 shots.

Prepare the new film

Now it’s time to grab a fresh new roll for your camera.

As you may already know these disposable cameras have just a single set up of an f/9.5 30mm lens and a shutter speed of 1/100 sec and are alway loaded with a 400 ISO rated film (XP2 or HP5), therefore it’s better to load it up at with a similar speed film or at least push it on your next development.

Personally I’ve achieved good results with Kentmere Pan 400 and Lomo 800 Color Negative films (Interestingly, Lomo 800 seems very likely to be the same film used by Kodak in their FunSaver disposable camera, the markings on the film edge are the same).

First of all, grab the black plastic spool…

… then check the film leader on your brand new film, you may need to trim it a bit but most of the time is not necessary.

Now grab the leader and pass it inside of the spool, you should be able to lock the sprocket holes to at least on the plastic teeth found inside the spool slot. From now on keep a little bit of tension on the film leader in order to keep it inside the spool slot.

Load the film

Now the “fun part”

Place the cartridge…

… and the spool. Double check that the spool is correctly placed as shown here:

Now grab the toothpick and place it just behind the shutter button. You’ll see a small lever that normally locks the take-up finger wheel from rotating clockwise. With the toothpick places like here below the wheel is free to spin in both direction.

Now place back the bottom cover and the back cover taking care of not removing the toothpick. it can actually be reinserted even with the back cover on but it is a little harder.

Now you should be ready to wind up your fresh new roll. Grab the screwdriver and use it to rotate the spool counterclockwise, you should hear a clicking noise coming from the inside of the camera. Don’t worry, it’s just the frame counter wheel part which is rotating backwards.

Keep rotating the spool until it becomes stiff, now you’ve reached the end of the roll, your camera is ready.

Hope this brief tutorial could be helpful, I know there are similar reusable cameras made by Lomography, Ilford, Agfa to name some, but since these disposable camera still exists I shout it could be interesting to find a way to reuse them.

Happy photos,

Ciao

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About The Author

By Marco Manuzzi
A Electronic Engineering Consultant with a strong passion for both analog and digital photography, completely autonomous in both process.
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Comments

Rhys on How to Refill an Ilford Disposable Camera

Comment posted: 05/01/2024

My late dad bought a BMW 525d, almost 20 yrs ago. It came with a 'breakdown' pack, including CO2 fire extinguisher and disposable camera. The car is long sold, but I still have the fire ex and the camera, the latter has never enthused me. Now you've given me another idea - to extract the cassette and use it in my Nikon F2 ! For some reason, I'd expected that these disposables just used film on a spool, but without any formal cassette.
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Eric Norris on How to Refill an Ilford Disposable Camera

Comment posted: 07/12/2023

Lomography's "Simple Use Reloadable" camera, which comes with a roll of their Lady Grey black and white installed, is designed to be reloadable. They have instructions online. I'm still shooting the first roll of film through mine, but the process of loading more film looks pretty simple.
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Wim van Heugten on How to Refill an Ilford Disposable Camera

Comment posted: 05/12/2023

Great! Disposable becomes re-usable. I guess the 39 frames come from the fact that you spool the film in the dark (door closed), giving you 3 extra frames on the start (now finish) part of the film.
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CS Muncy on How to Refill an Ilford Disposable Camera

Comment posted: 05/12/2023

Hey there! I'm a prior lab tech, and just wanted to throw something in: When it comes to cameras with flashes, you want to be really careful. The capacitor can retain a charge for quite a while, and touching the contacts can hurt quite a bit. If you have a heart or other health condition, it could even be dangerous. It's just something you want to be aware of.
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Marco Manuzzi replied:

Comment posted: 05/12/2023

Hi, thanks for the advice. Personally I’m aware about these risks but pointing out these risky aspects could be a hurt or even a life saver. In my experience (at least on the presented Ilford camera) the high voltage section thankfully is out of reach, the only electrical part you can touch is the low voltage battery (1.5V AA) only and only if you actually intend to remove it’s cover.

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