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  1. #1

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    120 film inserts advice needed - Pentax 645

    Hi everyone,

    Alongside my 35mm stuff, I also shoot 120 format film. I've tried conserving my inserts for those "desperate times" when I need a quick change but sometimes I find myself fumbling over the inserts (since I don't have much of a system) and the time it would've taken to just reload a roll into the same insert would've been about the same.

    My question is: What's your system for quickly loading/reloading 120 format film and/or inserts? I shoot events and love my 120 shots. But I've found myself fumbling over changes with inserts and would like to take advantage of them (otherwise, thinking of trying to learn to just reload the 120 rolls very quickly in one insert).

    In my Lowepro Classified 160AW, I am thinking of making one "slot" for ready-to-use inserts and then another "slot" for used inserts. Should I even bother licking the roll or should I just "dump" the insert into my bag and lick it later? Suggestions?

    Note: I'm looking to do this without the help of an assistant.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    CGW
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    This recalls why I finally decided in favor of the Mamiya 645--film backs. A friend who shoots Pentax just loads and labels up to 2-4 inserts. Exposed film is swapped out, taped up, and stored. New film gets loaded as needed. Reloads are quick once you get in some practice with your inserts. Though I have insert boxes for the Mamiya, I found cheap backs sold with 220 inserts, found 120 inserts, and just plunked 'em into the backs rather than hunt for spare boxes.

  3. #3

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    I'd be amazed if you can remove a film from the insert then remove a new film from its package and spool it onto the same insert in anything like the time it takes to simply remove the whole insert then insert a second insert on to which the film has been already spooled.

    Have you tried timing the two methods to ascertain there is only a few seconds either way?

    If of course you have and the time difference is so small as to create no problems for you then you have the obvious answer and it saves the expense of a second or even third insert with its protective box.

    Maybe you are the one in the old western who is described as having a draw like greased lightning.

    pentaxuser

  4. #4

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    I think practice is key here. I shot weddings with Pentax 645s for close to two decades and I got pretty fast at changing the 120 and 220 inserts and at loading them.
    Weddings were a breeze compared to shooting farmsteads from a Cessna 172 at 500 feet at near stall speed. We would go down a concession road and I would get 30 shots in using the 645 and a 150 mm lens. While the pilot was turning around I would unload the roll of 220 VPS, lick the seal, put it away safely, reload a fresh roll and insert into the camera at about the same time we were in position for me to shoot the other side of the road. I would take the wrappers off the rolls before we took off and kept them out of direct sunlight. All this to tell you that the more you do it the faster you will get. Having a few preloaded inserts is a good idea, too. They seem to go cheap these days.

  5. #5

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    I took my Bronica ETRS out for a spin with my Pentax 645. Quite a heavy combo. I can see why one would favor film backs. Slide out the dark slide, shoot photos... and when the time comes to change, put dark slide in, take out back, put new on in and repeat. The time required to reload and/or change films was very very quick.

    However, I still love the Pentax 645 and having a good insert system will help me quite a bit. And no, I don't have "greased lightning" hands... although I wish I did sometimes! The reason why I'm so slow to change inserts is that I don't have a system. I put used insert somewhere (ground? Table? floor), put new one in, release used film, lick film or tape up, put that in a box/bag, put now loose insert into bag... it's a process I need to work on.

    I definitely agree that I need more practice. I'm always concerned that, at that critical moment, I'll be in the middle of reloading and a moment will happen before me while I fumble with the 120 insert. My plan is to have a 35mm handy for this sort of thing but of course practicing my timing and insert changing will be much better.


    I gave it some thought this weekend and I think I'll try to change film by using the same insert over and over but just reloading the film. For some reason, I find the Pentax 645 inserts more difficult to work with than the Bronica ones... but maybe this is a practice thing. Perhaps a design thing?

    Here's what I'm thinking:

    Pre-prep: have all inserts in my bag loaded. Have one section of bag for loaded inserts, another section for "finished" inserts. Have one more section for loaded film backs (for the Bronica).

    1) Finish roll. Pentax 645 winds automatically to end.
    2) Take out insert. Lick finished roll and place safely somewhere.
    3) "Discard" insert into "finished inserts" section.
    4) Reload Pentax 645 with new insert.
    5) When down time, reload my inserts?

    Thanks for all the advice.

  6. #6

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    Inserts vs. backs, speed of operation, and that awful awful noise the Pentax 645 makes is why they're inferior to a Mamiya, Hasselblad, or Contax when shooting on location and speed is a priority. I'd rather shell out $300/back for the Contax than fiddle with loaded inserts.

  7. #7
    lxdude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by F/1.4 View Post
    Inserts vs. backs, speed of operation, and that awful awful noise the Pentax 645 makes is why they're inferior to a Mamiya, Hasselblad, or Contax when shooting on location and speed is a priority. I'd rather shell out $300/back for the Contax than fiddle with loaded inserts.
    Don't forget Bronica! It's very fast to swap in preloaded backs, but just about as fast to swap preloaded inserts. Inserts don't have to be matched to the back and can be 120 or 220. Bronica recommended swapping just inserts as a way to save money on backs (and it saves some on bulk and weight). They made nice cases to carry an insert in- a little hard to find, but convenient and protective. A suitable canister or pouch works fine.
    I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
    When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.

  8. #8
    andrew.roos's Avatar
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    With the Bronica you don't need to insert darkslide or remove the back to change the insert so changing inserts is almost as fast as changing backs but less expensive and less weight to carry.

    Of course the advantage of backs is you can change mid roll.
    "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs" (Ansel Adams)

  9. #9

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    Oooh... starting to like my Bronica more now that I'm reading all this. Hmmm....

  10. #10
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    Practice definitely helps. I shoot a lot of 645 for school events, birthday parties, Little League, you name it. If I intend to load different types of film I don't usually bother with the inserts, I just remove the old film and then reload fresh stuff right into the same insert. But, if I am shooting an event, and I am using the same film, Kodak Portra 400 or 800 are both favorites of mine, I almost always use my inserts.

    I wear a vest with relatively large pockets. I keep the inserts with fresh film on the right side, and I put the used ones on the left side. I can keep 3 inserts in play pretty easily this way, one in the camera and two in the pockets. When I get a bit of a break I will reload a used insert with fresh film and the used film goes into my shirt pocket until I get close to my bag to drop it off. At the same time I will typically pick up another roll of fresh stuff. I use a monopod a lot so the camera can lean against my shoulder while I am swapping film and it stays pretty handy if something happens.

    Don't misunderstand, I am not a pro, just a grandpa, and I am not being paid for this so I am usually not too worried about being really quick. But I don't like missing a good play on the ball field or some other action either so I try to stay ahead of the game as much as possible. After a few times you actually get pretty good at it.

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