Cut film holders for 4x5

Compiled by Q.-Tuan Luong for Updated July 2004.



In Europe, the formats 4x5 inches and 9x12 cm coexist and you can get both sizes (but metric is easier to find). The size of the film is different, therefore the holders are too, however, the exterior dimensions of the holders are the same so you don't have to modify the camera. The same applies of 5x7 inches vs 13cm x18cm, although both are difficult to find.

In the United States, metric size sheet film is very difficult to get.

Classical double holders

Riteway vs Lisco/Fidelity

Older Riteway Cut Film Holders (the ones with the metal handles on the darkslides) are more highly regarded than say older Lisco. The Riteway holders seem to hold up better. When I worked in a studio about 15 years ago, my boss had over 100 holders all of which he had bought used. Probably all but about 5 were this style Riteway and none of them leaked light. Of the Lisco holders he bought, the failure rate (of used holders) was high enough that he quickly stopped getting them (maybe 50% of the ones he got leaked).

The current Riteway holders are made by the same company as current Lisco and Fidelity holders (these three companies merged probably 20 years ago). The Lisco and Fidelity holders are identical except for the name and slight differeneces in the pattern embossed in the plastic. The Riteway holders also appear identical except for the automatic locking built into the darkslides, and the very cheezey number wheels for marking negatives. I have 2 of the current Riteways and lots of the current Lisco and Fidelity holders. I can't stand the Riteways. The lock on the darkslides takes quite some effort to unlock on my wooden camera and make it very easy to move the camera when removing the slide. The number wheels turn way too easily and the numbers extend into the image area. The different handles on the slides make the holders too large to fit in the quart size Ziplock bags I use to keep dust out of my holders. None of my holders (all bought new) have ever had light leaks (except the one slide I managed to crack, the holder itself was fine once I replaced the slide).

If I were were buying used holders, I'd look for the older plastic Riteways with the metal slides. They seem to hold up much better than other holders of the same age. If buying new holders (or used current style holders), I'd avoid Riteways for the reasons mentioned above. John Sparks

Hi John, My experience with old holders (4x5) is the same. The Riteway holders all are fine, the film plane is in the right place etc. I have a box full of Lisco and Fidelity holders most of which have warped, or maybe were just not accurately made, and are not useable. This is a matter of the film plane rather than light leakage. I started measuring holders after getting unexplained mis-focussed pictures. I found the film-plane to vary all over the place in all but the Riteway holders. OTOH, later 8x10 Fidelity's seem to be ok. Richard Knoppow.

How to isolate a bad 4x5 film holder giving unsharp images ?

You can measure them using a depth micrometer (one good enough is about $30 US) and a plate of sheet aluminum with some holes drilled in it to clear the micrometer. Measure with a sheet of scrap film in the holder. The distance from the reference surface of the holder to the film plane should be 0.187 inches (I think this is the right value). check the corners and center. It should be very accurate and should show no signs of warping. If your holders are reasonably new you may find they are all OK and the problem came from mis-loading the film. Its all too easy to miss getting one edge under the rail. If you find a bad one keep it for spare parts, especially the dark slides and end flap. Richard Knoppow

Problems with used wooden holders

The main problem with old wood holders is that they can warp. The thing is to check that the film plane is in the right place. This can be done with a depth gauge and a reference block which can be a sheet of thick aluminum with a hole for the guage in it. Put a sheet of film in and check that the distance from the edges of the holder are exactly 3/16 from the film (4x5). The correct value for 8X10 is 0.251 inch measured with film in the holder. Make sure the film isn't tilted in the holder. Sometimes you find a holder that is right on one side but not on the other. Plastic holders can also warp and wear but its less likely. Either kind should be checked before use, there isn't really any difference if they are OK. Once wood holders start to warp there really isn't much you can do. I've seen articles showing how to mill them down or build them up in some way, it seems a lot of work for something that will be a makeshift. A lot of fuzzy pictures that get blamed on cameras or lenses are really due to bad holders. BTW my experience with used 8X10 holders hasn't been good, far too many of them are way out of spec. 4x5's are better but I will buy only "Riteway" holders used now and no wooden ones regardless of manufacturer. I also have a bunch of 4x5 Fidelity Deluxe holders I got with a bunch of other stuff. They are all over the place, I think I found two usable holders out about fifteen. The newer 8x10 fidelities seem to be much higher quality. Richard Knoppow

Anytime I have ever bought or used older, used, wodden 4x5 film holders, I have had problems - warping, dust spots, light leaks, etc. I qucikly found out the hard way why you can buy used, wooden 4x5 film holders for a dime a dozen at photo flea markets. Older plastic film holders however, ones I bought used, have worked just as fine as new plastic film holders. Joseph O'Neil


a Grafmatic film holder is the same general size and shape of a conventional 2 sheet film holder. It has a "D" ring, a locking device, and a small release tab. The holder is actually a light tight box with an internal tray that holds 6 "septums". Each septum is a thin light weight metal holder for a single piece of sheet film. These are stacked one on top of another inside the tray that is then inserted inside the outter light tight box. When used, the holder shuffels the 6 septums sequentially from the stack to the film plane and then back to the stack.

In operation, the holder is inserted into the camera the same as a standard film holder. I recall that it is a little bit thicker, but that should cause no problem. To bring the first piece of film up for exposure, you rotate the locking device and insert your finger into the "D" ring . With the thumb of the same hand, press the release tap and pull the "D" ring so that the inner box is pulled out holder to the stop. At this time, the bottom septum is freed from the stack and springs push it to the film plane. Pushing the "D" ring to press the tray back into the holder does the final positioning of the septum to be exposed. After exposure, cycle the "D" ring again, this time you don't need to active the release tab, and the exposed septum is pressed to the top of the stack inside the tray and the film holder is now closed so that you can remove it from the camera. (I may have the sequence slightly in error, I don't remember if you use the release tab to position the unexposed septum or the exposed septum, or if ilt shuffels film from the top to bottom or bottom to top, but you get the concept.)

This takes about 10 times longer to explain than to do. As each septum is positioned for exposure, a little wheel, positioned at the edge of the sheet of film rotates 1/6 of a turn, exposing a different number siloutte. When the film is exposed, this siloutte "exposes" a frame number ( 1 =>6) onto that piece of film. After the last piece of film is exposed, the holder locks to prevent accidental double exposure.

You can use this holder to shuffel 6 pieces of film though the film plane in well under 30 seconds, if you can cock the shutter of the lens that fast!. If you want to expose both black and white and color film of the same image, consider using the same ASA for both types of film and alternating 3 color and 3 B&W films in the holder. Then just set up, figure exposure and expose two consecutive pieces of film. This will give you 3 pairs of B&W/Color negs in one holder. You can do this fast enought that for most things that you would use a 4X5 camera for, the image/exposure isn't going to change between exposures.

The Grafmatic film holder is a VERY compact way to handle sheet film, and I think a much more convenient way that standard film holders. If you find one, just be careful to be sure that the septums are not bend or damanged. Harvey Chao

Preloaded systems - Fuji's Quickloads and Kodak Readyloads

Picture courtesy of
Robert White

The film is in a factory-loaded paper packet that you put in a special holder. There are several advantages: Drawbacks: Fuji makes the Quickloads. At the time of the last update (July 2004), the following emulsions are available: Provia 100F (transparency) Velvia 100F (transparency, enhanced saturation) , 64T (tungsten-balanced transparency) Neopan (B&W negative), NPS (color negative). The Fuji holder is available in two versions that are almost identical, save for a small ink stamp for marking the packet as exposed.

Kodak makes the Readyloads, with the following emulsions: EPP (transparency), E100 VS (transparency, enhanced saturation), TMax 100 (B&W negative), 160 VC (color negative). The Kodak holder was designed to take Fuji readyloads as well as Kodak readyloads.

In addition, Polaroid makes a large variety of instant emulsions, and a dedicated holder to process them. This holder can be used with Readyloads and Quickloads as well.

Quickload, Readyload and Polaroid Film holders compatiblity

By Robert White

The following table was put together through straight experimentation, by trying each film in each back.
All the films physically fit all the backs but it is their operation in these backs that counts. Therefore if it failed to work faultlessly first time then in our opinion it doesn't work at all. The test was carried out using the current Kodak Readyload back and both the Fuji Quickload Mk1 and Mk2 backs. The only significant difference between the two, that we are aware of; is that the Mk2 has a small ink stamp built in that can be used to mark the film as exposed. The Polaroid back is the current 545 Pro with timer and thermometer. It has to be said that there may well be people out there with different experiences than this; but it should go without saying, that there is nothing safer than sticking to using manufacturers's backs with their own brand film for absolute certainty that everything will be OK for critical work.
However there is the obvious temptation to mix and match for various reasons; so, hence the experiment.

Film/Holder compatability

Readyload Film

Quickload Film
Single sheet film
Kodak Readyload Holder
Fuji Quickload Holder I
Fuji Quickload Holder II
Polaroid 545 Pro

About the OLD readyloads

The OLD readyloads from Kodak hold two sheets of film. In 2001, Kodak introduced a NEW readyload system, which holds only one sheet of film like the Fuji Quickload. The new system, unlike the older one, is reliable (see Paul Butzi's report by following the link at bottom of the page). The old system was unreliable. A lot of people have reported having light leaks problems with the old Kodak readyloads. Kodak redesigned the holder three times. They had a dedicated forum on AOL for "Readyload Problems". The fact that there are two sheets of film made it worse: when you had a failure, you lost both sheets Infortunately, some desirable emulsions (B&W) were not readily available preloaded from Fuji, and therefore a lot of people put up with the old Kodak system. Please note that the material that follows refers to the OLD readyloads.

Readyloads, Quickloads, and Polaroid holder

The quick/ready loads are more convenient, cleaner and more expensive than using film holders. I think it's that simple. Kodak Readyloads are double sided (two sheets to the packet) and because of this don't work well in the Polaroid holders. I've had thick emulsion films like T-Max fog in the Polaroid 545i holder. The Fuji Quickloads are a single sheet affair like Polaroid and work just fine in the Polaroid holder. We use more Fuji than Kodak now mostly for that reason. We can go from proof to final exposure without changing holders. If you're going to use Kodak Readyloads you should buy the Kodak holder. It's a very inexpensive plastic affair and it works fine with their films. Fred/ Maplewood Photography

I've used the following combos with the following results:

Holder                  Film Packets            Results

Kodak Readyload         Kodak Readyload         Massive Light Leaks
Koadk Readyload         Fuji Quickload          Massive Light Leaks
Polaroid 545            Kodak Readyload         Occasional Light Leaks
Polaroid 545            Polaroid ProChrome      Occasional Light Leaks
Polaroid 545            Fuji Quickload          Occasional Light Leaks
Fuji Quickload          Fuji Quickload          Not a Single Problem
After a very high failure rate with the Kodak Readyload holder (over 50% with the original holder, about 30% with the "improved" model III) I abandoned the Kodak system altogether. In fact, I was so turned off that they would market such a poor product and then blame the users for such consistantly high failure rates (improper technique - oh yeah, then why have you re-designed the holder at least two times?) that I have vowed to never buy Kodak products again. I finally got smart and bought a Fuji Quickload holder about a year ago. I have since shot several hundred sheets of Velvia Quickloads without a single failure. No light leaks, no jams, never a problem. The Fuji holder costs more, but IMHO it is well worth it (especially considering how many sheets of film will be lost to failures with the Kodak system at 2 sheets per packet times $4.00 per sheet for film and processing). The Fuji holder works smoothly and positively. It feels like a precision tool, not a piece of plastic junk. Some folks will say that if you stand on your head and tap the packet just right, you can eliminate MOST of the light leak problems with the Kodak system. I say, why bother? The Fuji system works right every time (I used to shoot extra shots with the Kodak system in the hope that at least one wouldn't be ruined). My time and my work are both important to me. I can't afford to constantly have important shots ruined by poorly designed equipment. I spent good money on a camera and lenses. I work hard to get to the locations where I shoot. It doesn't make sense to me to jeopardize that investment to save the cost of buying the Fuji holder. No matter how good your lenses, the images will be useless if you suffer light leaks. If you want to shoot Fuji film, and you need dependable results, I highly recommend you spend the $105 and get the Fuji holder. It will pay for itself within a very short period. You will never regret it, and you won't always be wodering which important shots we ruinued this time. Kerry Thalmann

The slam technique

I have had several otherwise nice looking negatives ruined by light leaks a few years ago when I started using Readyloads. Btw - I've never had a similar problem with Fuji Quickloads. Only Kodak Readyloads.

I've found a solution to the problem, though: ensure that the covering envelope is well seated in the metal clip which closes the bottom before removing it from the holder.

How? After exposing the film I slide the envelope shut normally. Then, keeping the release lever in the holder pressed down so that I can withdraw the entire Readyload, I pull the Readyload out maybe 1-2 inches, and kind of "slam" it home again. Repeat. Repeat a third time. Note that this doesn't take long. Just a second or two. It's really just a quick "slam-slam-slam-withdraw the Readyload". It's the equivalent of removing the Readyload normally and then tapping the metal clip on the bottom on a hard surface to ensure that the envelope is properly seated in it, except that it's being done in the dark inside the Readyload holder.

The result has been that rarely do I have a light leak at all and on the rare occasions that I do it almost never extends far enough into the image area to be a problem. This is still not as perfect as the results that I get with Fuji Quickloads, but then Fuji doesn't make Tmax 100 and I used to have far more negatives ruined by dust on the film at exposure time than I now do from light leaks with Readyloads. Barry Sherman

Other tips

I use TMX in readyloads extensively. I confess to having something of a love/hate relationship with the things. I love the light weight and compactness of the things. I hate the increased cost (incidental issue in my mind - film costs are small compared even to gas for me) and the increased fiddlyness of using them. On the bright side, they do offer a nice place to put a sticker with notes on it; this sticker stays with the film until it's taken out of the packet at development time. I've ended up with far fewer sheets of film that wanted N-1 development but somehow managed to sneak into the N+1 box as a result.

Kodak have gone thru several different versions of their Readyload holder. It may be possible to differentiate between the different versions and ensure that you're buying a recent one when buying used, but I don't know how. I'd recommend buying a new one from a store which turns them over, to ensure that you get a newer holder. They apparently avoid some of the problems caused by the old holders. I've never actually seen one for sale used, but then I don't hit the swaps and stuff. Caveat emptor.

Lots of folks have had problems with light leaks, particularly at the corners where the envelope seats in the metal clip. I've evolved a procedure which seems to eliminate this. It's included below. My procedure is as follows:

1. Before I load the holder, I inspect the packet carefully. At one point I determined that I was causing fogging because the non-clip end of one packet was catching the clip on another packet, bending the clip and causing a leak. I now stack readyloads (after exposure) with all the clips at one end, to prevent this problem after exposure. Packets with bent clips are now placed in the 'fogged film' pile. (I haven't found one in months and months)

1a. I dust the readyload holder before inserting it in the camera. I've gotten dust on the film, and finally concluded that it was dust on the pressure plate, transferred to the film on the other side from the exposed film. Then when you withdraw the packet, the dust stays with the film. Dusting the holder eliminated this.

1c. John Sexton, who consulted on the readyload packet design with EKC, told me that it was a good idea to expose the 'side one' side first. Apparently if the packet is going to fail, it's more likely to fail in that orientation. If it fails, of course, both sheets of film are ruined. Better to ruin unexposed film than exposed film.

2. I shield the holder when withdrawing the darkslide/envelope as much as possible. I've had no problems with fogging occurring while the envelope is out, but I suspect I've gotten fogging whilst pulling it. It's vital to make sure that when you pull the darkslide/envelope, you pull it out *straight*, with no flexing to the front or back of the camera.

3. Finally, the most important step: when you return the darkslide/envelope after the exposure, run the packet back in, and then, with the release button held in, grasp the envelope firmly where marked for 'expose', and give the envelope several sharp raps back into the holder. This prevents about 99.5% of the cases where the packet doesn't re-seat in the clip. This trick was given to me by Barry Sherman, and I think that using the 'slam' turns using readyloads from a nightmare into a reliable thing.

4. For people who are just beginning with readyloads, it's important to note that you *must* hold the packet firmly where marked 'expose' when pulling the darkslide to make an exposure, and must hold it *firmly* where marked 'remove' when withdrawing the packet afterwards. I've noticed people struggling with packets coming open whilst taking them out of the holder, and it's almost always caused by holding it on the 'expose' part of the tab and having the clip catch on the light trap. Note well: the location of the 'expose' and 'remove' switch when you turn the packet over.

5. Even when the envelope reseats properly, you can get minor leaks at the corners. I noticed once that a stack of readyloads that I left on my desk for two days all got fogged in the corner nearest the window (the sun was shining on them directly) and now I keep readyloads in boxes to keep light off of them. Use the little 'exposed' stickers by putting them over the clip. This prevents the clip from pulling a bit when snagged, and letting light in.

Kodak have gone thru several generations of the readyload packets, ranging from the yellow ones of several years ago, thru at least two different versions of the black packets. When they first switched from yellow to black, I had a run of problems (mostly bent clips from offset stacking the packets). In the past two years or so, I've had no problems at all (at least since they started with the black packets with large white labels on the clip end).

I use the Kodak readyload holder. I've tried the Polaroid 545i holder and that's just more hassle than I can stand. Other people report good success. I suspect that the Kodak holder holds the film flatter. I've put packets in both the Kodak holder and the Polaroid holder and pulled the dark slide/envelope and examined the film for flatness, and it looks flatter to me. I didn't measure it, though. Paul Butzi.

I bought a pack of Tmax100 ready loads and did some lens testing with them out side in the sun light. My experience is a follows: READ THE DIRECTIONS: The two sided packs stick out the end of the Polariod 545 holder. The problem I had was that I couldn't pull the dark sleeve out and trying to do so let light in the back of the camera. The reason I couldn't pull the sleeve out is that on the inside there is a plastic sheet that holds the film on one side of the sleeve. YOU DO NOT WANT TO PULL ON THIS when you are making the exposure, only when you pull the pack out of the holder do you hold this side of the sleeve. Once I figured this out (once you develop your first film it becomes obvious) and that you have to be careful when you pull the dark sleeve to take the exposure all works well. I got no fogging from waving the packet around in the sun light (not recommended). Sooooooo, well, they are not bullet proof. Film holders are easier to use for the actual exposure. Kirk Fry

Effect of different holders on sharpness

"Readyload, Quickload, shoot. A comparison of 4x5 film holders":
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4 (gif files).
by Joe Englander (, Copyright 1995. The article was published in the April 1995 edition of C&D, pages 52-7. The current publication name is Photo Techniques.
Reproduced with the author's permission. Thanks to Gary Rowlands for scanning.

There is a concern , raised by an article by Joe Englander in Camera and Darkroom, that preloaded systems would give results less sharp than conventional holders due to film flatness problems. He does a comparison of focusing accuracy, and it's relationship to different film holders. There are some very interesting shots made through the same lens (180 Apo Symmar) using both Velvia and T-MAX film. The resulting test pictures show very obvious variations in sharpness. The best holder (Grafmatic) is noticeably sharper than the Riteway holders that I normally use. The Fuji QuickLoad, Kodak ReadyLoad, and Polaroid 545 trail in sharpness. The author explains that the ANSI standard for film holder depth is .197". Most film is .007" thick. In order to have the ground glass in exactly the same plane as the film, the back of the film holder should be at .190". The center depth of the Graphmatic was .189". The Riteway measured .185" on side one and .198" on side 2. The other holders with T-Max varied from .175" to .205". The holders also varied in corner-corner flatness. The test prints (admittedly based on flat test images) showed some pretty dramatic correlation to his measurements. Todd Alleckson

This is in regard to Kodak ReadyLoad holders. The sleeve, when pulled out, stays within the "throat" of the holder, thus forcing the plate and film back from their nominal location by the thickness of the sleeve material AT THAT END. According to my measurements, Kodak did not compensate for this discrepancy in the design of the holder. Therefore, I shimmed my ground glass on that end by approx. .005", as I recall, which seems to produce fine results. I usually make subtle adjustments of the swing or tilt of the camera back anyway, which makes up for the ground glass being out of whack with the lens axis. At least, I have the confidence that what I see on the ground glass is the same as what hits the film (aside from any warping or curling of the film). Ken Schory

According to my measurements, it's a lot worse than .005". The numbers are at home, but I recall it being .215" or more from the septum (at the edge where the film is inserted vs. the desired .197". Furthermore, the positioning of the film in the Readyload accross the entire film surface is not as accurate as the Quickload or standard sheetfilm holder. I've seen some followup posts where people questioned the ability to focus within .005" or whether that difference would be noticable in the results. If it's within .005", I think the error would be fairly benign. However, I think the error is actually worse than this. In doing comparison shots of actual scenes with the Readyload and Quickload holders, there was no question that the Quickload produced sharper results. This is really too bad as I would like to use some Kodak films more frequently. Dan Baum

Back in April, when the article in C&D came out, I spent some time using a micrometer depth gauge to measure different film spacing in various film holders: Polaroid 545, Kodak Readyload, conventional Fidelity, Grafmatic. I found that my measurements agreed with the article: The only two which conformed to the ANSI specs were the Grafmatic and the conventional Fidelity with the Grafmatic being somewhat superior to the Fidelity. The Kodak Readyload and Polaroid 545 both deviated from the spec. I'd remember the numbers off the top of my head. Shots of a test target (glossy magazine page taped to a wall) confirmed the measurements with slightly noticible differences between sheets exposed in the various holders. I used an aperture of f/16 on my sharpest lens, a 135mm APO-Symmar, as I recall. But then I set up for a couple of "real world" scenes, using movements to optimize the the plane of focus and stopping down for maximum DOF, and used the different methods of holding film. I was utterly unable to distinguish between sheets exposed in the different holders. I decided that there are enough other factors degrading focus in the real world including variations in focus position (I think of those who doubted that anyone can repeatedly set focus to within .005"), diffraction from stopping down to "real world" apertures (not too often do I use f/16 as I did in the test target shots), variations in setting of plane of focus, puffs of breeze, et alia, that small variations in film placement don't seem terribly important. So I've continued to use Tmax in Readyloads and Fuji emulsions in Quickloads in the Kodak Readyload holder. I did do a little shimming which seerved to bring the center of the holder into the ANSI standard range, but haven't felt bothered by softness of focus at the edge. On the other hand, I fully believe that Dan obtained different results in his tests. We each try things for ourselves and conclude our own conclusions. Barry Sherman

For the Picky: Quickloads vs. Regular Holders re Sharpness

By Dan Benjamin

I haven't tried Readyloads nor the Fidelity Regular film holders, so my test results technically apply only to the Quickload holder and several Toyo Holders. However, based on earlier experiences with Fidelity holders and other information I've seen on this site and elsewhere, I do feel it probably applies in general, that the results with regular film holders will be superior to the packet holders, as far as desired sharpness is concerned.

While perhaps most amateur and professional 4x5 photographers find packet holders not only more convenient than regular holders, but find that they give sufficiently sharp results (for most uses), my tests show that where ultimate sharpness is desired, it's best to use regular holders. Of course, sharpness is not the most important part of most photographs, etc. - I am just saying that for those interested in such matters, at times, the info below could be of value.

To be more specific, for those who don't print larger than 16x20 (from 4x5), or don't look at 16x20 prints extremely closely, and for those those who usually need great depth-of-field that can't be taken care of by movements (i.e. need f32 or smaller apertures), and for those who find the decreased dust, lower weight, and general convenience of Quickloads and Readyloads outweigh other considerations, what follows won't matter (maybe that means 90%+ of the 4x5 shooters out there,, so no reason to read further if you are one of them.

Here are the details of my results:

It may be known from other postings and articles on this large format forum that regular film holders give a more consistently accurate or flat film plane, than the packet type holders (Quickload, Readyload, etc.). However, I didn't know how significant this was until I had reason to obtain the sharpest possible result in a close up, and in another case, of buildings in the distance. Using 10x and 20x loupes to review my RVP 50 and Provia 100F transparencies shot with Quickloads, I noticed areas of unsharpness that were at the same distance as other areas that were sharp (although for the most part nothing looked totally sharp). Thinking I didn't focus carefully enough, or the camera was not aligned properly, or that there was something wrong with the camera, I did some careful tests.

The tests: I used high quality lenses (for most of the shots I used 135mm Apo-Sironar S, 90mm f8 Nikkor, 300 f9M Nikkor lenses at f16-f22, with some at f11 and f32, and a few comparisons with a 110mm XL), focused carefully on different areas, using a 7x magnifier on the groundglass of an Ebony 45SU, on two different subjects (one distant landscape with fences and building signs, etc, and 12 foot distance series of shots with several resolution targets on a wall). I shot more than 30 comparisons on Velvia 50 and some on Provia 100F. I compared exactly the same conditions - same focus tightly locked down and checked after a series of shots, the same F-stop, same shutter speed, etc, even the lighting was matched very well.

Viewing transparencies with a 4x loupe, comparing shots on the Quickload vs Regular Film Holder, no difference can be seen if the f-stop was f22 or smaller (like f32) unless one looks very very carefully. With a 10x loupe the difference is more easily noticeable. With a 20x loupe the difference is glaringly apparent at a glance and the difference appears to be large in many places on the transparency. The regular holder shots always came out right on the money, whereas the Quickloads shots always showed some areas of unsharpness.

For example I can easily read wording on signs and detail on objects (detail that is contained WITHIN signs or other objects, the object or signs themselves appear about 1/2 to 4mm on the transparency) on shots made with the regular holder, but with the Quickloads shots the wording or other detail is totally blurred, and nothing can be read/made-out. Fence posts are blurred in most places (but not all) on the quickloads shots, but uniformly sharp with regular holder shots. The difference between shots with the two holder types decreases when diffraction comes into play, which is around f32 for most lenses.

So what does it really matter anyway? For me, an amateur, if I'm going to the trouble of lugging LF gear, taking a lot of time and effort and expense, most of the time I want the best results possible, regardless of my subject or potential enlargements.

I now feel that one of the reasons some people feel that high-end digital may appear to be superior in certain respects to medium format cameras, and scanning backs superior to LF film up to maybe 8x10, is that the imaging plane in the digital cameras/backs is totally flat and very accurate; but not so with film (even 35mm and MF). When film is scanned, which is probably a compromise in itself, and the film image plane was already compromised by inaccuracy or unevenness, then the digital to film comparison is going to be even worse (than if the film image was made with a totally flat and accurate plane). Of course there are many other factors involved in a digital capture vs film capture debate, but sharpness is surely one of them.

For other factors involving whether to choose regular holders or Quickloads, I've found that in using regular holders I don't have to worry about the packet waving in the breeze, and that it is quicker for me to insert a regular holder, and then shoot, than with all the steps involved with a Quickload - if the light is changing and I'm trying the get a shot off quickly this has come into play. However, if the difference in sharpness between the two methods was closer, I 'd gladly do 100% of my shooting with the packets, so as not to deal with dust, nor limitations on how much film I can easily take with me on a shooting outing due to weight and bulk.

After going thru this exercise I did find that another photographer, Ken Rockwell, who has a website at, Ken Rockwell, already came to a similar conclusion (about the sharpness difference) long before I did.

More information

View or add comments