Thursday, 18 April 2019

Rollei 16 Cassettes

Super 16 Cassette loaded with Ilford Pan F film
I wrote my original post about the Rollei 16 subminiature camera after a moderately intensive period of using the camera during which, as I did not have any of the Rada 16 cassettes for the camera, I could only shoot one roll of film before needing to unload the camera in the darkroom or darkbag. Unlike many other subminiature cameras using 16mm film, the Rollei 16 is loaded with a single cassette into which the film is rewound after being shot. The same cassettes were used for at least two other cameras, the Edixa 16 and the Goldammer Goldeck 16; however, these rarely appear in online auctions, and when they do are often priced highly. Having been looking for the cassettes for some time, I chanced upon an auction listing in which another Rollei 16 was being sold along with some rolls of unexposed film in the original cassettes. Winning the auction, I subsequently sold on the camera, and, as the cassettes were loaded with film from the 1970s and 1980s, I waited for an appropriate occasion to use the films. This was 'Expired Film Day' last month.

Super 16 Cassette loaded with Vericolor II film
There were four rolls of film that came with the camera I'd bought: two boxes with 100 ASA colour negative film (which was Vericolor II Professional Type S) with a develop before date of August 83; and one box, a 'twin pack' with two rolls - the box itself was labelled as Ilford Pan F, develop before October 74, but one of the rolls inside turned out to be Ilfochrome colour transparency film. The black and white film box had a price label from a French shop, the colour films from a German one. The long four sides of the boxes (almost the same dimensions as a standard 35mm film carton) have the same information in German, French, English and Spanish; leaflets inside are also in Italian and Dutch. The Vericolor films were in white plastic tubs very much like those which 35mm film now comes in; the films inside the Pan F box were in smaller metal screw-top containers, perhaps indicating their age from a decade before, as similar to the metal containers 35mm films were protected with. The Pan F box has the information "Packed by Rollei-Werke Franke & Heidecke Braunschweig West Germany", while the colour film boxes explicitly states "cut, respooled, repacked by Rollei-Werke [...] wholly independently of original manufacturer." This information could suggest that Pan F film was available in 16mm at the time, as it was only 'packed'; it is also interesting to note that Franke & Heidecke continued to support the Rollei 16 at least a decade after the second model, the Rollei 16 S, had been discontinued.

I happened to be in Gdansk, Poland on Expired Film Day this year, and dutifully shot the three different expired films there on the day (one Vericolor roll remained unshot); for the remainder of my time in Gdansk, I reloaded the cassettes with 16mm Eastman Double-X (I usually take a dark bag with me when travelling for more than a couple of days). The Rada 16 cassettes have a central spool with a white snap-in 'plug' that secured the tapered end of the original films; when reloading I simply taped the end of the film to this. The Rollei 16 requires perforations to advance the film, so one has to pay attention to the orientation of the film when taping and loading - perforations are at the bottom of the film when loaded into the camera.

Rada 16 Cassette opened
When rewinding the film after shooting, the Rollei 16 revealed one more curious design decision: the rewind crank will only turn when the viewfinder is extended. Flipping over the rewind crank extends two pins which connect either side of a tab on the spool inside the cassettes; both ends of the spool have this tab, so it can be used either way around.

Rollei 16 opened, showing rewind pins extended
Returning from Gdansk, I had expectations that the Pan F film would most likely provide the best results: I had rated it at 25 and 12 EI to compensate for age, but after development, I pulled the film out of the tank to find the whole roll black. Possibly it had been unspooled at some point over the last four decades. This does not promise well for the colour films, which I haven't yet developed; in lieu of illustrating this post with images from Expired Film Day, other shots re-using the cassettes with Eastman Double-X will have to suffice.


  1. Another great article - but I'm a little disappointed the film didn't turn out.

    I managed to pick up a beautiful Rollei16s a couple months ago, with 10 rolls of 1979 64ASA Ektachrome and was hoping that the film was still useable, and that there would be somewhere to develop it.

    Going by comments on your previous articles, I picked up a 400ft roll of Double-X a few days ago and look forward to try reloading the cassettes and shooting with the camera.

    As a side note - I'm surprised that no-one has attempted to 3D print any of these old cassettes.

    1. Thanks for your comments. If I had easy access to 3D printing, subminiature cassettes would be high on my list - well done on getting 10 rolls with your camera though - I do like the Rollei 16 as for shooting, and a lack of cassettes was frustrating.

  2. I've got one of these cameras that I want to get going, but I'm confused. Why do the sprocket holes show in some of the images and not in others? Is some of the film you're using double perforated, or was the film loaded upside down? Bob

    1. Yes- the photographs in which the sprocket holes show are with double perforated film: the film (when single perforated) can't be loaded upside down as it needs the perforations to be advanced.