The Memo Holder: Understanding the Little Black Square on Your Film Camera

Have you ever wondered about that small black square on the back of your film camera? If you’re new to film photography or even an enthusiast who’s overlooked this detail, this mystery component might raise questions.

In this post, we’ll shed light on the subject and help you understand what that little square is: the memo holder. We’ll go through its identity, purpose, and practical use, turning this seemingly trivial detail into a tool you can leverage in your film photography adventures.

So, let’s demystify the memo holder and enhance your understanding of your film camera’s features.

Identifying the ‘Mystery’ on Your Film Camera

When it comes to film cameras, every component serves a unique and vital role, including that small black square, the memo holder. Let’s break down what it is and how it’s commonly referred to.

What is the ‘Little Black Thing’ on my Film Camera?

If you’ve been asking questions like “What is that small black thing on the back of my film camera?” or “What’s the purpose of that tiny compartment on my camera’s back?”, you’re not alone. These are common queries of many film camera users, both seasoned and novice. The little black square that has sparked your curiosity is known as the memo holder.

At first glance, it may seem insignificant or easily overlooked, but this compact component of your camera serves a purpose that’s invaluable in film photography. Sometimes referred to as the “Camera Back Note Holder” or “Back Panel Memo Slot,” this little square is designed to make your photography experience smoother and more organized.

Unveiling the Memo Holder

The memo holder goes by many names, depending on the camera’s make and the user’s familiarity with film photography terminology. You might have come across terms like ‘Film Back Memo Holder,’ ‘Memo Card Clip,’ or even just a simple ‘Memo Clip.’

Regardless of the term used, these all refer to the same small, black square on the back of your film camera. Now, whenever you spot it or hear it being mentioned, you’ll know exactly what it is and the name it goes by.

In the following sections, we’ll explore more about this intriguing feature of your film camera and the role it plays in film photography.

A Closer Look at the Memo Holder

Upon closer inspection, the memo holder is a small but noticeable feature on the back of film cameras, often appearing as a small black square neatly integrated into the camera’s design. Its location, typically on the back panel, allows for easy access without disrupting the camera’s overall aesthetics. The memo holder often includes a transparent or semi-transparent cover to view the contents within and may feature a clip or sliding mechanism in certain models to hold the film roll’s box end label securely. Now that we’ve become familiar with the physical attributes and location of the memo holder, our next step is to understand its purpose and role in film photography.

The memo holder of my Minolta XG-M, even useful when not in use

Discovering the Purpose of the Memo Holder

Now that we’ve identified and described the memo holder, the question arises: why does it exist? What function does it serve for a film photographer?

The memo holder was designed with a simple yet ingenious purpose in mind – to keep track of the film currently loaded in the camera. It’s especially handy when you have multiple cameras or when there’s a gap between shooting sessions.

The memo holder allows you to insert the end tab of your film box, providing you with the vital information about the film you’re using: the film type, speed, and number of exposures. This function enables photographers to quickly identify the film without needing to open the camera and potentially expose the film.

In essence, the memo holder acts as a simple yet effective film data holder. It’s an organizational tool, helping photographers manage their film, especially when handling different film types and cameras. Now, let’s learn how to use this practical feature effectively.

My Canon AE-1P loaded with Kodak Gold 200

Practical Guide: How to Use the Memo Holder

Understanding the purpose of the memo holder is one thing; utilizing it effectively is another. Here’s a simple guide on how to use this feature to manage your film photography.

When loading a new roll of film into your camera, take the end tab or ‘tongue’ from the film box, which contains essential information about the film, such as type, ISO, and number of exposures. Insert this tab into the memo holder. Ensure it’s secured and that the film details are visible through the transparent or semi-transparent cover. This way, you can quickly glance at the back of your camera to remind yourself of the film currently loaded.

Using the memo holder can significantly improve your organization, especially when juggling multiple cameras or film types. By spending a few moments to update the memo holder each time you change the film, you can avoid confusion and make your film photography experience smoother.


To further enhance your understanding, let’s address some of the commonly asked questions about the memo holder.

  1. Is the memo holder present in all film cameras? While most film cameras include a memo holder, there might be some exceptions, particularly in older or specific camera models. Always refer to your camera’s manual for accurate information.
  2. Can the memo holder hold other items apart from the film tab? While primarily designed to hold the film tab, the memo holder can hold small notes or reminders.
  3. I lost the end tab of my film box. How can I use the memo holder? If you’ve lost the end tab, you can write down the necessary film information on a piece of paper and insert it into the memo holder. You can also browse around the web, there are numerous sites that give you printable templates for your favorite film stock.
Some Camera models do not feature a memo holder but a transparent window in the cameras body


To sum up, the little black square on the back of your film camera, known as the memo holder, is more than just a design element. It serves a significant purpose in film photography. The memo holder acts as a convenient tool to keep track of the type, speed, and exposure count of the film currently loaded in your camera. By simply inserting the end tab of your film box into this slot, you can avoid the guesswork and confusion, particularly when handling multiple film types or cameras.

Understanding and utilizing this seemingly minor feature effectively can enhance your photography experience and take your film management skills to the next level.

Happy shooting!