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December 18, 2005

Backwards, but forward-thinking

If there's one thing I really love about Canon's film camera bodies, it's the way they advance the film. With a traditional 35mm camera, only the leader is initially wound onto the take-up spool. As you take additional exposures, each exposure makes it way to the take-up. The advantage of this method is that it's very quick to load — pop a roll in and start shooting once you click off the leader. The downside is that you have no idea how many exposures are on the roll until you reach the end, and occasionally you will get that odd roll that didn't come out of the factory quite right. I ran into that last month, when a roll of 36 actually only had enough film for 32 exposures. With my old Minolta, I would have been SOL and missed several shots when it mysteriously rewound early. Canon takes the rather novel approach of winding the entire roll of film onto the take-up spool, so the film actually retreats into the canister each time you expose a frame. This way you know at the outset how many frames are actually on the roll, the frame counter can accurately count down instead of counting up until the cows come home, and there's no rewinding required. Sure, you have to wait for the film to load before you can shoot, but it's no big secret that film's happier coming out of a cartridge than it is going back in. (If you've ever had the misfortune of having to manually rewind a roll of 35mm, you know exactly what I'm talking about.) Everything comes with its price, though, and contact sheets of a roll shot on a Canon are very bizarre to read. No matter how you try to arrange the individual groups of negatives, you can never get it to read forward. Time warp! Although it just strikes me that if read right-to-left, they'd be in the right order. That took an embarrassingly long time to realize.

Posted by Colin at December 18, 2005 7:03 PM

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