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Loading chargers/magazines/spools

9.5mm film arrived around 1923. The first Pathé-Baby cine camera was hand-turned and used a light tight easy loading film container, soon to be called a 'charger' which underwent a number of design changes, later a film 'magazine' arrived, plus 50 foot and 100 foot film spools. Rather a varied assortment for a cine dealer to keep in stock with a range of colour and black & white film stocks!

In the good old days, one just went into a chemists or camera shop and purchased a ready loaded 9.5mm camera film; generally in a film charger; it was dropped into the 9.5mm cine camera and after use just wrapped up and popped in the post for processing. These days if any filmstock is made available it will often be left to the user to load the roll of camera film into the charger, magazine or spool, before actually getting down to the job of filming!

The big problem is that camera filmstock must be handled in pitch dark (it is only positive black and white print stock used for film copies that can be handled in a dim red light). Incidentally I have read that in the UK, Pathéscope employed a number of blind people who could happily work away in the darkrooms handling the film chargers, magazines and spools - a very sensible idea.

Either a proper darkroom is useful (I use a hall cupboard, fited with a shoulder height shelf); or one can use a 'changing-bag' (a light-tight black fabric zipped bag), probably still obtainable from photographic hobby suppliers.


1920s Baby charger

The first Pathé film charger used in the 1920s hand-turned 'Baby' 9.5mm cine camera, made of a black bakelite moulding with a thin metal cover. I notice the examples shown are labelled ' Cinecamera Film box' - so even Pathéscope hadn't decided to call these things 'film chargers' by that time! Like the later design 9.5mm film chargers, a roll of unexposed film (nominally 30 foot / 9 metres; actually about 28 foot / 8.2 metres) sits in the top half of the charger, runs out of the top slot with a free loop for threading through the camera film gate,. then back into the lower half of the film charger to be wound-up on a small take-up bobbin.

Take care when removing the lid of these film chargers - it will gently prise off. When replacing, ensure the side with cutaways for the film is round the right way.

A useful tip when loading a charger, is to pop the roll of film in the top section in the dark with a spare bobbin to cover the take-up section drive hole, and replace the lid. Then carefully attach the film to the take-up bobbin / spring clip in the light, then again in the dark, remove the lid, drop in the film to the lower section and replace the lid. All done!

Inside a loaded 'Baby' 9.5mm film charger

These 'Baby' type 9.5mm film chargers were the first design and only fit the hand-turned 'Baby' cine camera. Later types of 9.5mm charger loading cine cameras will not accept these 'Baby' film chargers. Also the 'Baby' hand-turned cine camera will only accept the 'Baby' 9.5mm film chargers - no other types. 'Baby' film chargers are quite rare - in fact I could only quickly locate these two used in the photos, certainly there are none on my sales lists at present (gln 06Dec2015)


By 1927 a new type 9.5mm cine camera arrived from Pathé - a clockwork motor driven 'motocamera'. From then on, until the later 1930s, all Pathé 9.5mm cine cameras used a slightly larger film charger - the 'P' type. Much the same as the 'Baby' film charger, it still contained the same roll of camera film - about 8.2 metres or 28 feet - wound emulsion out. It was easier to open, having a spring clip retaining the metal lid. Some examples are found with a metal plate insert inside the outer metal cover. Maybe it was thought necessary with the introduction of more sensitive faster film stocks, but I have never found problems with just the basic 'P' charger and modern film emulsions.

'P' chargers

The Pathé 'P' type 9.5mm film charger (did the 'P' stand for Pathé I wonder?). The left example dates back to when I supplied the 9.5mm camera film - this must have been used for the Fuji 'Velvia' colour film stocks (I got back the film chargers when they were returned for inclusive processing).


It was 1937 when a much smaller, neater 9.5mm cine camera arrived from Pathé. It was marketed in the UK as the model 'H' and because of its smaller size. used a new smaller design film charger - the 'H' type. Similar in design to the previous 'P' type charger, it still accepted the same length of film (about 28 foot) but cleverly the the two film chambers overlapped - as the feed roll got smaller, so the take-up roll could increase. There was a small slip of metal to separate the two sections of the film chamber. The metal cover of the 'H' charger is just pressed onto the bakelite base, so must be gently eased off with a screwdriver perhaps. Always take care as bakelite cracks easily. The method of loading is still the same as for the 'Baby' charger above. All filmstock in chargers is wound emulsion out by the way.

loaded 'H' charger

There was one clever point in the 'H' charger design - it would also fit those 9.5mm cine cameras that were designed to accept the earlier 'P' type. So it is always a good idea to try to use 'H' chargers for any 9.5mm filming as they should fit most charger loading 9.5mm cameras (of any make) that turn up. I should mention that this really means UK 9.5mm charger loading cine cameras - read lower down for a few overseas exceptions! Incidentally I recall Pathéscope advisng that the 'H' film charger should be tipped back when in the cine cameras designed for 'P' chargers - the little lip at the top of the 'H' charger locates behind a guide in the Pathé 'motocamera' I think. I have used 'H' chargers in the 'Dekko' for example, not tipped back, with no problems, by the way.

'H' film charger

The 'H' film charger was used in the 'H' ('National' in France); the 'National 11'; and the later (1960) UK manufactured 'Prince' cine cameras.


By the late 1940s. Pathé in France began a new design series for their modern cameras and projectors - the new products were named 'Webo'. The Webo 'A' 9.5mm cine camera used a 15 metre / 50 foot film magazine which ingeniously incorporated the claw mechanism. Later versions of this cine camera - the 'Luxe', 'Rio' and 'RioPhot' also used the same Webo 9.5mm film magazine. Normally these magazines were supplied ready loaded with 9.5mm film stock. It made the camera very easy to load - the film magazine just drops in - no film threading around a film gate.

9.5mm Webo magazine

As one can see from the diagrams above, loading these things is not an eay job! The magazine is opened by undoing the three screws marked 'a', 'b', 'c' - don't lose them! The roll of film (wound emulsion in) sits on the top (feed) section, usually on a little bobbin 'N'. It follows the dark line over the top roller 'G', then down through the film gate (this has to be gently held open slightly and the claw pulled back), then through a metal guide 'E. and upto the take-up bobbin 'S'. The film is attached to the take-up bobbin by a spring clip; it is easier to put the lid back on and attach the film to the take-up bobbin (attached to a gear whweel) in the light. If you ever need to film with a Webo 'A' or 'Rio' 9.5mm cine camera, then I really suggest you try this Webo magazine loading in the light first and practice a few times before actually doing it for real in the dark! I seem to remember I had some trick to hold back that claw, but can't think how! Its best once the magazine is loaded with film, to just check that all is well by turning the outside drive dog and making sure the claw and take-up is working OK for a few frames.

9.5mm Webo magazine opened


Even in the 1930s, one or two spool loading 9.5mm cine cameras were available - the 'Bolex H9' and 'Argus' come to mind. One or two manufacturers began offering 9.5mm camera film on spools - Gevaert for one. Once the newer designs arrived in the 1950s, the Pathé Webo 'M' reflex cine camera took up to 30 metre / 100 foot spools for example. Later the Pathé 'Lido' cine camera took 15 metre / 50 foot spools. This was really because these cameras were also available in the 16mm film size, so spools were much the same. In fact 9.5mm spool centres are the same as 16mm ones.

9.5mm camera spools

So for loading 9.5mm camera spools you just neeed a 16mm winder. Note that some earlier spools had one side with a circular hole, the other square for the take-up drive; you have to check the camera first before deciding which way to wind the film! (I always use spools with both sides the same - saves thinking!). Camera film is wound emulsion in by the way. I checked my rewinder with 16mm film and a frame counter to work out the two film lengths required in terms of how many handle turns for each length (and the same for charger reloads). Then it is easy in the dark just counting the turns! In any case, once the spool is just full is about right I suppose! If the 9.5mm film stock is supplied in ready wound reloads then there is no problem of course. I think I generally filled the customers' 9.5mm spools when I was selling the 9.5mm Fuji filmstock.

It's worth practicing threading film into the centre slot in the spool in the light first; a 16mm spool gives room for fingers to thread the film into the slot, 9.5mm spools are too narrow. One way is to use a thin flat piece of metal which can guide the film into the slot. I mark each spool with a thin piece of tape on the outside to mark the position of the slot. In the dark I just hold the end of the film slightly bowed to make it rigid and then 'feel' for the slot - after a bit of practice it is easy!


I guess that Pathé had patented much of the 9.5mm cine film system, imcluding the camera film chargers. Naturally other cine film manufacturers came up with clever ideas to get round the patents. In Europe some manufacturers used entirely non-standard film magazines.


Amateur Cine World magazne Jun1938 advert

Sometime around 1938, the Belgian film company Gevaert introduced the 'link' two piece film charger for their 9.5mm camera film. These consisted of two inter-locking parts which when fitted together, perfectly fitted all the 'P' type charger loading cine cameras. I think the film just arrived in one half of the 'link' charger with the user connecting the film to the other half before use (this could easily be done in the light).

Gevaert 'Link' charger



Ilford 9.5mm "Selo" camera film

In the same way, the UK Ilford film company began marketing 9.5mm film in their own style chargers which would fit all the 'P' charger 9.5mm cine cameras. strangely the Ilford 9.5mm film charger (a black bakelite moulded 'inner' with metal outer parts - ''British patents applied for') had both a take-up dog, but also one on the feed roll - was this perhaps intended for backwinding? The film supplied was Ilford 'Selo' fast panchromatic black and white movie film - processed in the UK by Ilford Ltd.

Ilford 9.5mm film charger



There was also a special 9.5mm film charger used for the 9.5mm Dufaycolor filmstock which arrived later in the 1930s (made by Ilford by the way). Unlike many of the other chargers, this design was all bakelite - to open, just slide that metal clip. This one is unused - dated 1940 - not much use now!!

Dufay 9.5mm film charger



Ditmas 9.5mm film charger

The advert clip above comes from 1937 when Actina began to import Ditmar cine cameras and projectors. together with Bauchet camera films. The Ditmar film charger was OK for all 'P' charger loading 9.5mm cine cameras. A clever trick enabled the two halves to open separately enabling the user to attach the film to the take-up dog in daylight. I/m sure I have an example somewhere, probably in a Ditmar cine camera, but I'm sure the illustration above will do just fine.



Eumig 9.5mm film charger

Eumig (who produced a number of 9.5mm cine cameras), also designed their own 9.5mm film charger to emulate the Pathé 'P' type. Doubt if these were marketed in the UK though.



Something that was never sold in the UK, was the French made Ciné-Gel Reinette cine camera; this used a metal/bakelite film charger, but one that would take up to 15 metres / 50 feet of film. It's the same principle, place the roll of film in the top section (wound emulsion out), thread the film out through the slot and back in again attached to the take-up bobbin. The charger lid just prises off (careful - it is bakelite!); the screws that are visible are just for the various rollers inside. Again, I guess users had to load these film chargers - there were three with my camera; you would need quite a few to go on holiday or whatever..... These Ciné-Gel film chargers were only used with that one 'Reinette' cine camera.

Ciné-Gel 15m film charger



Another French company who produced a number of 9.5mm cine cameras which didn't arrive in the UK. These also used non-standard 9.5mm film chargers; the first design, was used just in the earlier OS cine camera, holding up to 9 metres / 30 feet of filmstock, it just had a single cover that removes for film loading in the dark.

Ercsam 9.5mm OS film charger

The later design, used for the 'GS' and 'HS' 9.5mm cine cameras, was made of metal; it had removable covers for the top and bottom sections - there was also a sliding strip which closed off the section between the top and bottom film chambers. This Ercsam charger held up to 13 metres / 45 feet of 9.5mm film and again, must have been loaded by the user.

Diagrams from "La Pratique du 9.5mm" - a French book published 1958

In '1' above, in the dark, the fresh roll of film is placed in the top section of the charger, with the intermediary slider closed and the top chamber cover replaced.

In '2' above, in the light, the end of the film can be attached to the take-up dog.

In '3' above, the lower chamber cover is replaced and the intermediary slider is opened up to allow filming. (The space allows the rolls to overlap the two compartments during filming).

In '4' above, after filming is completed, the film has ended up in the lower section and this can be unloaded in the dark.

A bit of a procedure, hope you remember to open that slider before filming! Incidentally you can see that these Ercsam film chargers incorporate the rear film pressure plate.

I do hope the various notes above will be of some use, especially if 9.5mm filmstock of some sort becomes available again! Whatever the system, the best bet is to try a test roll of 9.5mm film in the daylight, after a few practices then do it for real in the dark! Good luck!

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13Dec2015 - Ilford film charger added / 15Dec2015 - Ditmar & Ercsam film chargers added / 02Jan2016 - Ilford film pack photo added
Created 06Dec2015 ......... Last updated: 10 Feb 2017 ...........95filmingloading.htm ........ ©Grahame Newnham's Web Pages MMXV