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  1. #1

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    Why roll backs for 4x5 cameras?

    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. #2

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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.

  3. #3

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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. #4

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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. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by fran View Post
    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
    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. #6
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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. #7

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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. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by fran View Post
    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
    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. #9

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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. #10

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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.

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