Some choices define people. Conservative or Liberal. Carnivore or Vegan. Drive on the left hand side of the road or the right. Polar opposites define us. But none more so than Rokunar reel or Paterson reel.
I can remember long ago in the Denver Darkroom, rolling film on to reels to develop. The other student who also went on to be a dark room rat with me and I had been selected to finish some odd rolls up and get them in a last tank so we could get on and develop. Everything went well until I picked up a Paterson reel and tried to use it after only using Rokunar reels. I promptly jammed it and had to pull the film out and try again. The second attempt did not go well either. Nor the third. I swore in the dark at the same time my colleague did. I asked her what was wrong and she said she had jammed the “effing Rokunar reel” trying to get a roll on it. We swapped reels, and balance was restored.
The reels aren’t that different. Made of plastic. Spiral loading. Adjustable for use with 35mm, 126 and 127, and 120/220 by unlocking the two sides and moving them further apart. They’re pretty much identical because they use the same approach to the task at hand. The spiral the length of a roll of film in so that the chemicals can circulate during development. But the difference is the feed.
Rokunar reels have a ramp that feeds the film in to the reel, leading right to the tiny metal catch used to push the film further in to the spiral, and the Paterson reel doesn’t. Which doesn’t seem like a large difference, until you are trying to spool film on to one of them in the absolute black darkness.
I always had trouble with the Paterson reels. They call them Auto Load reels, but I never thought so. I was perpetually getting the film fed wrong and jamming them up. Then you have to take the reel apart and start over.
The ramp is used not only on the Rokunar reels, but ones made by Samigon and Omega as well. For all of my former colleague’s issues, I rarely have problems with this design, it just feeds the way it’s supposed to with no issues.
A Rokunar reel will cost more than the Paterson reel. It seems the Paterson is pretty much the cheapest one you can buy. Maybe because Paterson makes just about everything you need in the way of developing accessories: trays, tanks, mixers, jugs, squeegees. Perhaps the volume business gives them the pricing edge.
Me? I’d pay more for the Rokunar. Ease of use is something I can appreciate, even if I can hear some of you going on about if I want easy I should just shoot digital. Quiet, you Paterson users.
Those metal reel folks I left out of this conversation? Well, they’re just weird.