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I have just loaded in a 35mm film to my camera (basic Canon point and shoot) but the back accidentally opened. I haven't taken any pictures yet, is the rest of the film okay because it made that noise it makes when you first put in a roll of film.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What model camera? Does it have motorized film winding between each shot? Or do you advance the film with a lever or wheel? Does the camera make a long whirring sound when you first load the film? Or when you finish the roll does it make a long whirring sound? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 26, 2023 at 6:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a Canon sureshot 76 zoom, the camera doesn't have a lever to advance it and it does make a long whirring sound when I first load the film but doesn't when I finish the roll. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarah
    Feb 5, 2023 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ What does the camera do that lets you know you've finished a roll? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Feb 5, 2023 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ It stops you from taking any more pictures, like it doesn't make a clicking sound when you want to take another picture. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarah
    Feb 10, 2023 at 16:09

8 Answers 8

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Probably.

On many semi-automated film cameras, you tuck the film end into the take-up spool, then when you close the door it auto-winds a couple of frames - enough to make sure all the exposed film is safely out of the way.
If you then opened the door at this point, you will have spoiled about the same amount of fresh film. When you close it, it will wind that on to the take-up reel.

The rest of the film should now be safe - though you shouldn't rely on the numbers any more, there will be fewer frames left than the camera may anticipate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you think it would help to clarify that any amount film that has not yet been drawn from the canister is still unexposed and all film that has been drawn from the canister should be considered exposed and ruined? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2023 at 3:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ToddWilcox: Depending upon ambient light level, film that has been wound on the takeup spool may or may not be damaged. If the camera is closed quickly, all but a few frames may be fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – supercat
    Jan 23, 2023 at 15:59
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There are generally three places 35mm film sits inside a camera:

  1. Film which is inside the film cassette.
  2. The film directly across the back of the camera; this is where it gets exposed to the light from the lens when you take a photo.
  3. Film which is spooled onto a spindle at the other side of the camera from the cassette.

When you open the back of the camera:

  1. The film in the cassette is protected by the design of the cassette
  2. All film across the back of the camera will be completely exposed and unusable
  3. Film on the spindle will have been exposed to some light; in some cases images may be recoverable, but best not get your hopes up

In most cameras, what happens when you load the film is:

  1. The first few frames of film are exposed to light while you load it, so they are unusable.
  2. The camera (or the user, on a hand-wound camera) pulls these frames onto the spindle (i.e. from position 2 to position 3), pulling fresh film from the cassette into place for the first exposure.
  3. Then, after each exposure, this repeats: the camera (or the user) winds the exposed frame onto the spindle (position 2), and a fresh frame from the cassette into position 2.
  4. Once the whole film is exposed, the camera (or the user) winds the entire film into the cassette, protecting it until it is processed.

In this case, the film exposed to light when you open the camera is the film you've already exposed - photos you'd taken up to that point might be gone forever, but luckily in this case you hadn't taken any yet. Film still in the cassette is safe to use, but the part where the next frame was going to be exposed (in position 2) is now useless. Take a couple of "nothing" shots to wind fresh film out of the cassette, then carry on with the rest of the film. Note that the counter might reset when the back opens, so the film might run out sooner than you expect.

In a few cameras, the direction is reversed: when the film is loaded, the whole film is wound into position 3, and then with each frame, it's pulled back across to position 2, exposed, and stowed into the cassette. This is relatively rare, but is most common among late film era compact point and shoot cameras that automatically wind the film with a motor, and would probably be visible when you opened the camera.

In these cameras, the film exposed to light when you open the camera is the film that's not been used yet. Any photos already taken are safely in the cassette, but the remainder of the film should not be trusted. In your case, this is actually the worse scenario - you don't have any photos safe, but will probably want to throw away the film, rather than risk poor quality or useless exposures.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ All except the last photo already taken, which is half in and half out of the cassette when the next frame is behind the light gate. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 26, 2023 at 6:28
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It will depend upon the model of the camera.

In some cameras (as Tetsujin has answered) the film winds forward. The film is left inside the cassette until a frame about to be exposed and then the exposed frame is wound onto the open spindle.

In other cameras the film winds backwards. The film is pre-wound onto the open spindle, and then as each frame is exposed it is wound inside the cassette.

The simplest way to answer your question may be to open the camera again. How much film is wound onto the open spindle ? does it fill the space available or is there only a short length of film tucked around the spindle ?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Cameras that wind all film out of the cassette when film is first loaded are absolutely the exception to the rule, and probably given more mention than they deserve. I've never come across a point & shoot camera that does this. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 22, 2023 at 15:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, just every EOS film camera ever made. They're extremely rare. Every compact Canon point and shoot with motorized film winding, too. They're also very rare. <sarcasm> \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 26, 2023 at 6:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ List here: camera-wiki.org/wiki/Category:Prewind \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 26, 2023 at 10:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC At the Canon Camera Museum, it's not made clear which cameras have the prewind feature (if any), but several models have listed: "Frame Counter Counts up during film advance and counts down during film rewinding". Any camera that "counts down during film rewinding" doesn't prewind film out of the film cassette. Unless, I guess, the counter counts down as frames are exposed, though if that's the case, then the wording seems quite strange to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 26, 2023 at 10:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I looked at many of the manuals available at Butkus. Most of the EOS film cameras pre-wound. The EOS 1/1N/1V), EOS 3, and EOS Elan series did not. The EOS 5/5QD, EOS 500/500n/500QD, 5000/5000QD, 1000/1000N/1000F/1000FN, 3000/3000N/3000V/3000N Date, 300/300X, 100, 750/750QD/850, Rebel/Rebel II/Rebel IIs/Rebel X/RebelXS, etc. all did. Here's a representative example from the 500/500QD manual (please see p.15): cameramanuals.org/canon_pdf/canon_eos_500_500qd.pdf \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 26, 2023 at 14:09
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There are cameras that wind all the film onto the take up spool and then rewind to advance the film to the next unexposed frame. They are rare, but they are out there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Very rare. They are absolutely the exception to the rule, and probably given more mention than they deserve. I've certainly never heard of any point&shoot camera that does this. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 22, 2023 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ My Canon EOS 300V works like that, I woudn't call that model rare. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erbureth
    Jan 23, 2023 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Using signatures is not Expected Behavior. You may want to remove the "B2" from your posts. \$\endgroup\$
    – xehpuk
    Jan 23, 2023 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ This may not be as stupid as it looks because the photos already made are protected instead when the cover is opened. \$\endgroup\$
    – h22
    Jan 24, 2023 at 5:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC There's a list here: camera-wiki.org/wiki/Category:Prewind. I hold my hands up - there are more cameras with the feature than I realised, but it seems it was predominantly favoured by Canon (for SLRs) and Fuji. Certainly not "almost every single" late P&S. Or maybe that page is simply way under-maintained. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 26, 2023 at 10:37
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You may have inadvertently exposed the first few frames. I would take a few (2 or 3) inconsequential pics before taking any important ones. Better to waste some than ruin any important pics.

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The first few pics will be messed up but roughly 3 images in should be fine. the 35 mm roll case shielded most of it. Worked at a photo processing lab for a bit!

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This question has already been answered, but I'll give another angle... Film that is exposed to light is ruined. Film that hasn't been exposed to light is still usable for photos. (Film inside the cassette is protected from light.) There isn't really much more to it than that.

Take a look also at this other question on the site here:
My film camera’s exposures count went back to 1?

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Nobody has mentioned: just because the back opened doesn't mean ANY film is impacted.

In addition to understanding what film might have been exposed, the other question is: how much light and what kind of film is it?

"Slow" (low ISO) film, such as 25 or 50, is much slower to react to light. Might have no issues.

Black and White film, exposed briefly to red light, may not have any issues.

If it was night time, perhaps no issues.

In general, it's worth developing the film rather than assuming it is worthless.

At the extreme, we never saw my in-law's wedding photos. They sat in the glove box of their car during a very hot summer as they traveled on their honeymoon. Yes heat, not so much light. But the principle is similar.

We developed the film. Yes, the photos were all washed-out orange. YET -- a quick color correction in modern photo tools, and everything became perfectly usable. Every single photo.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is misleading information to give a newbie. Slow film will be pretty quickly destroyed by exposing to light. Don't give a newcomer the impression that it's OK to "quickly" open the back of their camera. Same applies at night. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 23, 2023 at 22:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're missing a word - "as the (what?) travelled". Also, how did you know "the photos were all washed-out orange", if you "never saw" them? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24, 2023 at 7:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did mention this briefly in my answer: "Film on the spindle will have been exposed to some light; in some cases images may be recoverable, but best not get your hopes up". In this case, though, the OP is asking about the unused portion of film - the equivalent in your story of taking an unused film out of the hot glove compartment and using it for the wedding photos, rather than buying a new one in better condition. \$\endgroup\$
    – IMSoP
    Jan 25, 2023 at 7:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TobySpeight we never saw them... for several decades! My in-laws "knew" it was useless. Until we went ahead and developed them, then color corrected the result. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrPete
    Feb 22, 2023 at 19:19

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