I accidentally opened the back of my film camera while trying to advance it for the second time. I have not taken any photos yet and the film counter currently shows a "S". Is my unused film ruined due to the exposure to the light?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What camera are you using? \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Harman reusable camera. \$\endgroup\$
    – Camille
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 10:48

2 Answers 2


That depends on the type of camera. I used to have a Fuji auto-loading camera, that would spool the entire film out of the canister first and then every taken photo back into the relative safety of the canister. I'm sure there are other brands that do the same. While this is a nice feature, it does not work to your advantage in this particular case. I would count on the film being lost, although you could still shoot pictures with it and see if anything may come out of it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Conversely, if OP's camera pulls the film out of the canister while taking pictures, they probably just need to take a few dummy shots and the rest of the film will be fine. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 2:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ My Canon EOS 300 (actually Rebel 2000) does this. \$\endgroup\$
    – gparyani
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 3:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good two-fold advice: "count on the film being lost, although you could still shoot pictures with it". The actual damage depends a lot on the circumstances. It is astonishing over and over again just how much light there is in the sun, and how little there is in a room with artificial light. Consequently, if the camera was opened in the sun, the film is likely badly damaged (provided it was not in the cartridge). Indoors though with artificial light, and if opened only briefly, the inner layers even of an exposed film spool may have received only minor damage on the edge. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 17:55

This is common beginner mistake. You are fortunate that you did it in the first few shots of the roll.

Only the film that is outside of the canister will have been exposed to daylight ( ruined ) when you opened the camera. So any film inside the canister will be fine.

You use the little black nub on the end of the canister to roll the film back into the canister until just enough leader is left out to load in the camera like it was when the film was fresh out of the box.

Hold the canister with the left hand with the nub on the right and use the right hand to turn the black nub counter clockwise to rewind the film into the canister, it will take several turns to take up the slack before the film starts to be pulled back into the canister.( keep tension on the nub to keep it from releasing ) If you let go of the nub the film will release its tension and un-spool inside the canister and you will have to start over.

Rewind it back so that just the leader and a bit is left outside of the canister, do not wind it all the way in or you will need to buy a special tool to try and get the leader back out.

Load the film into the camera like normal and take several shots to advance the film past where it was at when you opened it. i would say to about 4 or 5.

Act like nothing happened and we wont tell anyone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My reading of the question is that the film was already loaded in the camera, and the OP opened the back by mistake. If so, wouldn't simply taking two or three dummy shots to ensure all the exposed film has made it past the image area be sufficient? \$\endgroup\$
    – TripeHound
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TripeHound - Depends on camera type, and possibly film type as well. [Some back coatings may allow better protection on 135 film wrapped on a takeup spool than others, kind of like 120 film's backing paper does. As a large/medium format shooter, I'm not super familiar with 135's common coatings. Potentially even some risk of light-piping?] \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 23:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TripeHound some cameras spool out the entire canister and load the exposed frames back into the canister, precisely to prevent accidentally ruining already exposed shots if the back were opened accidentally. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 6:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jwenting I'd forgotten those (I did have one, once). In either case, I can't see any point in winding the film back into the canister. \$\endgroup\$
    – TripeHound
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jwenting: Interestingly, many disposable cameras work that way as well, though in that case it is to avoid the cost of separate winding and rewind mechanisms. If the film is pulled out of the canister when the camera is loaded and closed up by the manufacturer, the camera itself won't need a mechanism to pull film from the canister. \$\endgroup\$
    – supercat
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 15:37

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