Why roll backs for 4x5 cameras?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by fran, Sep 27, 2013.

  1. fran

    fran Member

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    Hi all,


    I have a question - something that's puzzled me and I must be missing something. Nearly anyone who has a 5x4 camera more than likely has a 5x4 enlarger, right? (or at least is trying to find one!). Roll film backs come in a variety of formats/sizes and invariably cost ~$100 upwards. 8 shots to a roll of 120 probably $5 a roll, so ~65c a shot. 5x4 costs twice that per sheet, but overall cost is still low.

    Why would someone not just use 5x4 film, and crop it to the size? If you only had a 6x9 enlarger etc I could understand it....

    What am I missing?


    Fran
     
  2. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Have you looked at the difference in cost for E-6 between one sheet of 4x5 and one frame of 6x7 on a roll of 120?

    8 shots per roll means four filmholders of 4x5.

    Sometimes you don't need or want that big 4x5 negative, but want to use the movements of a view camera.

    Some of us don't believe in throwing money in the garbage.:wink:
     
  3. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    I generally prefer to use full-sized sheet film, but rollfilm backs can be convenient for travel. For example, I just returned from a week backpacking in the high Sierra, where I had to take hike up to 12000 ft twice, and 1000 once, all in the same week, and then return right
    back to work without a rest day. When I was a teenager in my mid-40's, I had no trouble hauling an 85 pound pack up all the peaks and passes. But now I'm in my mid sixties, so have basically wimped out, and carried only about 65 lbs. What prompted that decision is that I am
    down to my last boxes of Readyload and Quickload film sleeves, and am saving them up for a different trip. Plus I like the elongated format of
    6x9. And a 300mm lens with this format gives me about the same perspective as 450 with 4x5. The down side is that it is a lot fussier focusing and setting the tilts and swings with the smaller format, and the degree of enlargement is obviously somewhat less. But I have way
    too many full 4x5 and 8x10 shots on hand anyway, for those really big prints. The introduction of Ektar was a game-changer in this respect
    for me. Of course, since this is being done with a 4x5 camera to begin with, I can still elect to carry along a couple full-sized filmholders, or
    leave some in the picnic box in the truck for road shooting on the way home (which I did a bit of)... Just nice to have options. A changing
    tent for 4x5 doesn't add that much weight, but weather conditions don't always work out, and in this particular instance I was in a regulated
    area where bear canisters had to be carried, so I didn't have a lot of space left in the pack.
     
  4. fran

    fran Member

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    Great responses guys!!

    See - told you I was missing something!

    Nope, I hadn't considered the E6 - but as regards throwing the money around I still think that the film is probably the cheapest part of any photographic trip.

    Drew - yer doing good enough hauling to that altitude!!!


    Fran
     
  5. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Film, paper and chemistry are the only costs (besides time and effort) for about 80 % of my photography. I have an 8x10, too - with a 4x5 back for when I want to use a 16 1/2" lens on 4x5. I've even used the 6x7 rollfilm back on the 8x10, via the 4x5 Graflock.

    There are many reasons besides cost to use a rollfilm back. I've used the rollfilm back on my Linhof with a 90mm lens, taking panned photos of bobsleds in action. Not an ideal outfit, but very effective with a little practice. I've done that with the same camera, a 150, and 4x5 film.
     
  6. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Subscriber

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    A few years back I had taken several rolls of 135-36 color film to the convenient pro lab that did quality work. They charged $3.50 or $4.00 a roll for developing and did quality work. Then I took 8 or 10 sheets of 4x5 color sheet film in for developing and they charged me the $3.50-$4.00 per sheet to develop them. I wasn't paying for the film surface/chemical requirements but per load into the processing machine. I did not like the clip marks that ranged from the rebate edge of the film to 1/4 inch into the frame from the dip and dunk tank clips so I resorted to processing my own film.
    Also its nice to be able to select the format you want for the subject at hand and still use just one camera.
     
  7. fran

    fran Member

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    All true.

    I want to add that I'm not in any way trying to diss the roll film holders - the truth is I've been tempted so many times to buy one, but held out as I couldn't justify it. So I suppose I was genuinely curious as to how others used them.

    I suppose I'm thinking that for me, a "local" trip for some landscape work to the nearby mountains will still burn $25 worth of petrol. Hence my comments about the costings. I really only work with b&w film that I develop myself so costs there are low anyway (s big bottle of rodinal, use at 1/50 lasts quite a while). I hope that goes a bit of way towards explaining the reasons for my questions.

    The answers given so far have really shone a light on the use of roll film backs.


    Fran
     
  8. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    You ask questions to learn. A rollfilm back is a nice thing to have, sometimes I wish I had two. I used to use PKR 64 Kodachrome in mine quite a bit - an emulsion unavailable in larger sizes, and now unavailable period. The 6x7 transparencies when projected must be seen to be believed. I used that film in my Rollei, too, but the 6x7 back allowed me to use it with lenses from 75mm to 420mm.
     
  9. MSchuler

    MSchuler Subscriber

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    I picked up a couple of roll film holders because of better availability of film and easier development/bracketing. Portability is also a good point. Finally, I can use them in home-made pinhole cameras.
     
  10. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Convenience too, I guess, I can find labs near me to process 120 film easy enough, 4x5 is a different story. 120 backs are so much easier to load too, especially on the move.

    I have just ordered a new 4x5 camera, and reading this thread makes me want to get a 6x12 back for it.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    shooting 2x3 on a 4x5 graflex slr is much easier than shooting 4x5 ..
    4x5 i have to lug around 2-3 bag magazines ( like grafmatics ) or a handful
    of film holders ... shooting 120 film is much easier, its just a few rolls.
    i never use roll film with any other 4x5 ...
     
  12. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    a) cost of colour sheet-film
    b) bulk of loaded holders
    c) access to movements
     
  13. ROL

    ROL Member

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    The ability not to compromise. I'm with you – don't be swayed by the gearheads. For me, those roll backs are an unnecessary luxury to carry with you, in terms of weight (I'll not regale you with Drew-ish tales), function and price. Movements are much less of an issue with the increased DOF of MF systems, with the possible exception of shooting architecture, so using roll film in LF may not get you very far in that regard. Better to take advantage of the finer lenses available with some MF. Yes, color films may be an issue of cost, but if working primarily in B/W, I've never seen much point to the extra hassle of roll film backs, and the inexact complexity of applying the Zone System to multiple frame development. And it is in the fine tuning one's negatives that sheet films coherently shine. Crop, I say – damn it! (IMO, :laugh:).
     
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  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Its not a direct comparison, but I find it useful to be able to use the 6x4.5 backs on my Mamiya RB67 when:

    1) I am shooting E6 that I want to be able to project using my 6x6 projector;
    2) I want more shots on a roll; or
    3) I want a result that is similar to using a longer lens on 6x7.
     
  16. snederhiser

    snederhiser Member

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    Hello;
    When in high school I took a photography course. 75% of the film used was 120 and the standard camera was the Yashica A. Being a big kid they stuck me with the Graflex 4x5, 150mm lens, 502 Metz, and a Graphic 6x9 film back. I was responsible for supplying the school paper with football pictures. This turned out to be a good combo, having a telephoto lens for medium format and being able to check out a camera that nobody else wanted to carry, Steven.
     
  17. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I sometimes carry a 6x9 back for a couple of reasons. Firstly when backpacking I only carry a limited number of darkslides, a roll film back gives me the abilty to shoot more images if needed. Second reason is some images work better 6x9 format, I always work to the format and don't crop later.

    Ian
     
  18. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    d) far fewer dust problems with 120
    e) much easier and less time consuming to load film, film can be loaded anywhere without a changing bag or the dust problems that go with loading holders in one
    f) film selection - want to shoot Portra 800 or Delta 3200 or Pan F+ or many other films not available in sheets in your view camera? You can do it with a rf back.
     
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Rollfilm backs open up a variety of options. Don't have a long enough lens, but you want to make a lot of exposures?--Rollfilm can be a good option. Or say you're shooting handheld press camera style with a 4x5" rangefinder camera but don't really need 4x5" and you want to have more exposures available without having to deal with filmholders. A rollfilm back and rangefinder can also be a good option for portrait sessions. Or maybe you're traveling and don't always need 4x5", but you don't want to carry two different camera systems.

    There are also good reasons just to shoot 4x5" all the time and crop. Sheet film can have better flatness than rollfilm. There's something to be said for having only one size negative to file.

    It all depends on what you're shooting, and what your work habits are.
     
  20. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Tanks for 120 B&W processing are cheaper than most 4x5 daylight processing equipment.
     
  21. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Tanks for 120 B&W processing are cheaper than most 4x5 daylight processing equipment. Dust can still collect on the 120 film when you take out the darkslide, but the dust on the film is usually more of a problem associated with sheet film.
     
  22. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    +1

    Also, I only use 6x12 roll film backs and just *love* the format for landscapes, makes for a really fun way to look at scenes in using it along with the aspect ratio of 4x5. When I am out working on a project at the local ski areas, I have to go light and using 6 cut film holders plus a 6x12 roll film back keeps me in the game by being able to reload without a loading tent. If some extraordinary light hits a scene and I am close to if not out of 4x5 film...I can and will most certainly find a way to get a nice shot with 6x12.
     
  23. Salem

    Salem Member

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    I use Toyo 6x7 roll film holder on a toyo-field camera. The reasons are: 1. my 4x5 lenses and shutters are better than my medium format gear. 2. movements. 3. a film holder is lighter than a medium format camera with it's lenses and backs. 4. the relatively cheap cost per shot of 120 roll allows for more experimentation (This might not be of great importance for those who have been using movements for decades, but for me it is important).
     
  24. fran

    fran Member

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    Great reasons everyone!

    What's interesting is the variety of reasons people are using them - its not any one big reason, and lots of ones that I would never have thought of.

    Can I ask another question: Did you all buy a roll back with the specific use you have cited in mind, or did you buy one (eg through GAS) and then fell into using it in that way?

    Fran
     
  25. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Well, I don't actually use one, at the moment I just shoot the 4x5s. I am, however saving for a 6x12 back and will use that as described above (for colour etc). Paying $4/sheet is not really where I want to be...
     
  26. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think I bought my first rollfilm back mainly with the idea of having the option to use camera movements with medium format, but then other uses (like shooting rangefinder press camera style without dealing with filmholders) came along.