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How to use a roll film back on 4x5 camera?

Robert Reiss , Aug 10, 2004; 10:25 a.m.

I have a calumet type 4x5 camera with a rotating back. I have used it for 4x5 polaroid. I would like to try a roll film back. From the threads and prices I have checked, I think the Horseman 6x9 or 6x7 seems a good choice.

Once the film is loaded, is the technique the same? That is, compose and focus the image on the groundglass,close the shutter, slip in the film back, take the darkslide out and expose? Or, do you have to take the whole back off to fit the roll film holder?


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Jean-Baptiste Queru , Aug 10, 2004; 10:39 a.m.

Depends on the back, actually. With most backs you'll remove the GG and attach the roll back there. With the expensive Sinar back you'll just slide it in.

Danny Wong , Aug 10, 2004; 10:49 a.m.

There are two basic designs of film holders which fits into a 4X5 camera.

Slip in type (Sinar and Calumet come to mind) are thin at the film plane with the roll mechanism at one end. These slip into the back like a 4X5 film holder. They are easy and faster to use and does not require the removal of your groundglass.

The other type are clip on which fits only onto the Graphlock typ back. The groundglas in the spring holder is slipped off, the film back fitted and locked in place with two sliding tab one on each side of the film holder. (I do beleieve that the Horseman are of this type)

Some view camera does not have this graphlock back so you are limited to the slip in holder if that is your case.

Michael Briggs , Aug 10, 2004; 10:55 a.m.

There are two styles of roll film backs.

One style has both rolls of film off to the side, and a portion of the roll film back is shaped like a somewhat thick film holder. These you can slip under the ground glass just like a regular sheet filmholder. Some people think that the sharp bend that the film makes at end of the holder opposite the rolls can cause the film to take a set, if left in the holder, and not be flat. This style can be used in almost all 4x5 cameras. The manufacturers of this style that I can think of are Calumet, Linhof and Sinar. The Calumet is much cheaper than the other two.

The other style has a roll of film at each end of the holder. The film travels without any sharp turns. The drawback is that this design makes the back thicker and it usually can't be slipped in under the ground glass. Instead this style is used with a Graflock style back in which the ground glass can be removed and clips on the camera fit into groves on the roll film holder to hold it in place. This style cannot be used with some cameras which don't have the necessary type of back.

The technique with the first style is very similar to using sheet film holders. With the second style, you compose on the ground glass, but then have to remove the ground glass to install the roll film holder.

If you browse or search the forum archives you will find comments on particular models.

Leonard Evens , Aug 10, 2004; 10:57 a.m.

Standard roll film holders slide under the gg spring back just like film holders. Calumet Photo lists several made by Cambo in different sizes for a bit over $400. I've also seen used ones selling for about $100.

If in addition your camera has a Grafloc back, you can remove the entire gg assembly and put a roll film holder made for use with such a back in its place. Horseman makes such roll film holders. Such roll film holders can't be used with a camera without a Grafloc back. Also, you have to be a bit careful about Horseman backs because some of them are made to fit 6 x 9 view or technical cameras. (I have two such for my Horseman 980.) You couldn't use such a roll film back with a 4 x 5 camera.

In all these cases, you use it just like a sheet film holder, except that you need some reference lines or a template on the gg to frame the smaller picture. You can remove the dark slide to take the picture and put it back in afterwards, just as you would with a sheet film holder. My Horseman back for my 980 has a red mark on the slide and it suffices to pull it out that far without removing it entirely from the holder, which presumably is slightly better as far as light leaks are concerned. I assume 4 x 5 roll film holders work similarly since you don't have to pull the slide out entirely to expose the film area, at least for 6 x 7 or 6 x 9. (6 x 12 would be more like sheet film, so you might have to remove the slide entirely in that case.)

stuart whatling , Aug 10, 2004; 11:10 a.m.

The instructions for the 6x7 back I got for my Wista said to pull back the GG and slide in the holder. Which I did. Incredibly easy and held the rollfilm holder nicely - but left two annoying little scratches in the fresnel screen. So now I always remove the glass before graflocking the RFH on. I probably could put some foam on the back of the RFH to stop it marking but since it only takes a few seconds to swap the backs I'm happy doing that.

Alan Davenport , Aug 10, 2004; 12:38 p.m.

I like the Calumet roll film back. It's a bit thicker than a normal film holder, but thinner than a Graphmatic. It certainly won't be a problem for the back on your Calumet camera. The biggest advantage, IMO, is that you don't need to remove the GG from the camera with the attendant risk of damage, just slide it in and take the shot exactly like you would with a sheet film holder. These backs to make the film do a sudden U-turn at the narrow end, but unless you leave the film loaded in the back for an extended period of time that won't be a problem. I've also seen a comment or two from users who had trouble with them not advancing the film consistently, sometimes slightly overlapping frames. I've not had that problem.

Jim Simmons , Aug 10, 2004; 01:47 p.m.

I saw a Toyo roll film back on ebay not long ago that was quite thin. Seemed to operate like the Sinar roll film back, but also to have a slightly different form factor. Anybody know anything about these? Also, Arca makes a roll film back that replaces the GG back that contains a Horseman roll film back as part of its design. Looks very easy to use, faster than the graphlok back, since the Arca backs come on/off so easily.

Oskar Ojala , Aug 10, 2004; 03:16 p.m.

I've got a Toyo 6x7 back (and I've seen a Toyo 6x9, it's very similar) and it's quite thick, actually (about 1".) It slides under the GG and the construction is in general excellent' The Calumet (or whatever it was) backs I saw were thinner but didn't fit my Toyo. Generally, putting the back under the GG is convenient in that the GG stays where it should in the field, but it's bad in some macro shots one must be careful not to jerk the camera when inserting the back (which in my case is much thicker than a standard sheet holder.)

Robert Reiss , Aug 10, 2004; 04:07 p.m.

Thanks for the replies. The ground glass on my Calumet Cambo slides on and off easily. I think it is a rotating graflock back. Other threads speak well of Horseman backs compared to Calumet ones.

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