Leica, and earlier models of Canon, FED, and Zorki, as well as the other Barnack (after the inventor of the Leica, Oskar Barnack) style cameras load from the bottom. There is only one correct way to load these cameras: the RIGHT WAY. Any other method which involves extra “tools” like cards or removing anything else from the camera other than the baseplate cover and the takeup spool is clumsy at best, and harmful to the camera at worst.
The loading diagram found on the baseplates or crate bottoms of Leica.
Loading film from the bottom would look difficult. That’s true, but it is a skill which can be easily learned. It isn’t even as “inconvenient” as the process would suggest. Some people have gone as far as describing the process to be impossible. False. Not because they can’t means no one can. Fussy and slow at the start, but can become quite easy and quick at the end. It’s possible to do the whole bottom loading thing in under 15 seconds!.
It starts with cutting the film: Most factory loads now have a short film leader tongue.
Using the Leitz “ABLON” trimming template.
Leica bottom loaders need a leader cut which is 10-11 cms long (that would be about 21 perforations). Shown above is the Leitz “ABLON” template trimmer
A template can be used, but freehand cutting with a pair of scissors is possible. The cut shape need not be exact, but it has to be clean, and no break in the perforation must be done.
There should be no breaks on perforations. The shoulder of the leader should taper gently.
STEP 1. Insert the tip of the film leader into the spring-clip of the take up spool. The spool in these cameras must be pulled out for loading:
On Leica or Canon Spools, there is a spring flange which grips on the film leader tip. In Zorki or FED,
there will also be a hooked catch. The first perforation should hook on this catch.
Draw out enough film so that the cassette and the spool will span the length of the camera. From the cassette side, one perforation should protrude through the felt lip trap, on the cut shoulder side:
STEP 2. Insert both cassette and takeup spool into the camera, at the same time. The distance between cassette and spool must span the distance between their respective chambers. The slope of the trimmed leader must show one perforation from the felt lips of the film cassette. If the film cassette does not go in easily, try turning the rewind knob.
Push the film cassette and the takeup spool into the camera at the same time. They should fit snugly and engage properly:
Before closing, see first that the film sprockets engage with the sprocket shaft teeth:
Replace the baseplate cover, and lock properly. “Open” and “Shut” or “Auf” or “Zu” (German) or “Откр” or “Закр”(Russian) respectively:
STEP 3. Turn the Advance Knob to cock the shutter and fire. Do this twice.
…and Dry Fire Twice….
…to make sure that all the exposed rebate is reeled into the takeup and a clean fresh film frame is in position.
Set the counter disc (using the embossed nipples) to “0″. With cameras whose counters turn fully during winding, the counter disc must be turned in the winding direction -as indicated by the arrow on the winding knob- to prevent damage to the winding brake-spring. This would include all pre-IIIc Leica, all FED-1 and Zorki-1, Zenit-1, and bottom loading Canon.
Note: Leica IIIc and later models have disc counters which turn 1/40th of a circle each time the winding knob is turned. This type of counter is SET BY TURNING THE DISC COUNTERCLOCKWISE, to Zero Position.
STEP 4. Continue the wind and advance sequence until the end of the roll is reached. At this point, the winding knob will no longer turn and a resistance is felt. Set the rewind switch to “R” (“B” on Zorki and FED) position to disengage the winding gear.
Pull up the rewind knob and turn in the direction indicated by the arrow engraved on it. Continue winding until the end of the film is reached. A slight resistance will be felt when the film leader is reached. It is still attached (hooked in Soviet cameras) to the takeup. A slightly more forceful turn will pull the leader off. Continue winding until all the film is reeled into the cassette.
NOTE: THE LONG LEADER CUT IS REQUIRED ONLY FOR BOTTOM LOADING CAMERAS. THE CUT IS NOT NECESSARY FOR RUSSIAN OR UKRAINIAN LEICA COPIES WHOSE BACKS OPEN. Zorki-3, 3M, 3S, 4, 4K, and 6; as well as FED-2, 3, 4, and 5 will load normally using short-leader films.