View Full Version : Roll film holder recommendations

Leonard Metcalf
27-Jun-2004, 05:37
Have been thinking of getting a roll film holder for my 4 x 5 camera (it has a universal back). Which holder do people recommend... light weight and ease of use would be a consideration... and film flatness...

Ted Harris
27-Jun-2004, 08:43
Leonard if you dwrach the archives you will find several discussions on this subject. I believe there is some concensus that the Horseman backs are the winners for solid design, ease of use and good film flatness. The Wista holders are similar but not so easy to find. The Linhof holders may hold the fim flatter but they are somewhat mroe expensive and do not come up ont eh used market quite so often (if you are shopping used). All of these are they types that 'lock on' to a universal back after you have removed the gg holder. I use the Horseman 6x9 myself and have also used the Horseman 6x7.

The holders that slide into the back (ala the Calumet holder) have always seemed fidgety to me. I have also used the graphic roll film holders and strongly recommed against them. Thye jsut don; treliably hold the film flat. I gave up on the Graflex XL system as a result of the unreliability of the film holders. I understnad that you can get the backs modified to reduce this problem but it just doesn;t seem worth the chance to me even though they are cheap.

Ralph Barker
27-Jun-2004, 11:20
In addition to the basic design (under GG vs. replace GG) and how the holder supports the film, how long you leave the film in the holder will have a substantial effect, I've found. I have the fidgety Calumet holder, which has a fairly tight film radius at the end. As such, if the film is left in the holder for any time, a bend sets in that affects flatness on subsequent exposures. The Toyo under-GG model has a somewhat larger film radius, which probably would reduce that problem.

The usage of back nomenclatures has always confused me, however. To me, the "universal" back is one where the GG is not easily removed, and thus would require an under-GG rollfilm holder. The easily removeable GGs I always considered to be Graflok types, where the GG portion of the back is attached via the slider bars at top and bottom.

Frank Petronio
27-Jun-2004, 18:26
Readyloads are cheaper and better in the long run.

Kirk Gittings
27-Jun-2004, 18:37
For commercial architectural use I run 4 new Calumet 6x9 roll film holders. The ones with the felt strip for collecting dust. They work well for all but the most critically huge enlargements. Though I have never had a complaint from a client, I can see some sharpness problems in enlargements over 16x20. One we use for a "test" roll of trans. which is run first at the lab. One is for the brackets run later. One is for color negs. as a backup or C prints. One is kept open if we need to jump to a different film for an odd shot. I've been using them for primary use for about ten years. We cycle them by replacing one a year. In ten years we have run approx. 3,000 rolls thru them with very few problems. Film never sits in them for more than a day and maybe that is why they work so well for us. They are a bargain at the price.

Ernest Purdum
27-Jun-2004, 19:50
Ralph, there has long been confusion about back nomenclature, not the least being how to spell Graflok. Regarding "Universal" this is a name which I think was started by Linhof. In their use, at least, it means a back with the same capability as the Graflok, but avoids the use of somebody else"s tradename. In a relatively recent Linhof brochure the back is called a "guicklock" type. If someone has used "universal" to describe a spring back, I haven't noticed it.

Jean-Louis Llech
28-Jun-2004, 02:23
I don't agree with what Ted Harris wrote : "the Horseman backs are the winners for solid design, ease of use and good film flatness".
His opinion carries its own contradiction when he adds : "The Linhof holders may hold the film flatter but they are somewhat more expensive and do not come up on the used market quite so often".
- A light weight is not very important, because the difference between the heaviest and the lightest holders is but a few ounces.
- Ease of use may seems important, but when you've taken the practice to use a holder, it seems less important.
- The main criteria are first, film flatness, then, something you don't mention, I mean a correct image spacing.
After these I would take into account ease of use, the price and finally the weight.
If you use an important photographic accessory like a film support, it must be the best to guarantee the highest quality for your images.
What would be the importance of the weight of the holder if your images are not flat, or if the space between images is irregular ?
You will use a light holder, easy to load, not very expensive, but if you obtain bad images, will you have achieved your goal ?
I agree that Horseman's and Wista's are good film holders, but undoubtedly Linhof Super Rollex are the best ones. Best quality of fabrication, solidity, ease of use and most of all film flatness and good image spacing.
Just buy one, if you are in a budget, not two or three, but buy a new one. And buy a Linhof.

Andre Noble
28-Jun-2004, 08:13
This last one sounds like an advertisement. (pronounced "ad-ver-tessment")

David A. Goldfarb
28-Jun-2004, 12:16
Used Linhof Super Rollex holders in good working order from the 1970s (look for the tan leatherette) tend to run about $150-300, and are well worth it, in my opinion. Newer ones will be more repairable, if repair is required, and tend to be another hundred dollars or so on the used market.

Avoid the early Rollex backs with the knob wind. They will have frame spacing problems with some films, even in perfect condition.

Jean-Louis Llech
29-Jun-2004, 07:52
No, André, not an advertisement, as I payed all my rollfilm holders, and they are quite expensive.
Just an opinion ! (pronounce "experience")

Jan Nieuwenhuysen
29-Jun-2004, 13:35
I have very good experience with the Sinar Vario (old) and Zoom 2 (new)holders. Film flatness is good and spacing consistent. I find it a great advantage to have all formats from 6x4.5 up to 6x12 cm in one holder. The Zoom 2 model offers the possibility of format change in mid roll. The Vario model can only be set before loading. One caveat: be very carefull with them. Especially the flimsy plastic lever to change between loading and shooting mode is very easily broken off when you don't do things right. Read that manual! if you buy one... When you operate them with a gentle touch and in the way Sinar prescribes you will, in my experience, have an excellent holder that will serve you for a long time.

29-Jun-2004, 14:30
I'm surprised to hear KirkG's success with Calumet insertable rollfilmholders. I bought a used one a while back, and the frames actually overlapped, so I 86'ed it. Maybe the secret is to buy 'em new and dump 'em after a year.

If I were to do it again, I would go high end, Linhof or Sinar. Or better yet, Canham. However, the junky Calumet caused me to think twice, and I decided to leave my rollfilm to my rollfilm cameras. The only advantage of rollfilm IMHO is film cost, and I've learned to control it by shooting less crap.

Jean-Louis Llech
30-Jun-2004, 05:42
I agree with you, Jay, that Sinar Vario or Zoom 2 are outstanding rollfilm holders.
But keep in mind that a new Zoom 2 costs about $ 4000-4500, and is still very expensive on the used market.
It is quite impossible to buy several ones, if you need to alternate BW and color, or film sensibility.
It's nearly the price of 2 high-end Linhof Super-Rollex.

Jan Nieuwenhuysen
30-Jun-2004, 08:35
Jean-Louis, yes they are expensive, but $ 4000 - 4500 seems outrageous. Photal (Dutch distributor) actual list price is € 2320. That is around $2800. Second hand would be about half of that in good shape (bit more from Photal, but then it is checked; currently € 1400). I have no idea about prices in other countries. Jan

Erik Sherman
1-Jul-2004, 06:55
CXC wrote:

>> I'm surprised to hear KirkG's success with Calumet insertable rollfilmholders. I bought a used one a while back, and the frames actually overlapped, so I 86'ed it. Maybe the secret is to buy 'em new and dump 'em after a year. <<

Up until a week or two ago, I would have agreed, having had the same experience with overlap. However, I recently dusted off my old Kiev MF. The previous owner had said to go to the "start here" mark on the film and then go another frame's worth. I had always seen uneven spacing and this time ended up with real overlap. So I figured I'd try one more roll, went two frame lengths beyond the start mark, and started shooting. The first frame was fogged on one edge, but the rest of the frames were perfectly spaced, and I also squeezed out an extra frame at the end. So I'm going to try something similar with my Calumet back and see if that doesnh't fix the overlap probelms. I'll report back on the results (when I get around to trying it), because I'd rather save the money if a slight change in procedure will result in acceptable results.

Bob Salomon
1-Jul-2004, 10:07
""Universal" this is a name which I think was started by Linhof."

Linhof, as well as some other manufactures, call their back International not Universal. This was to avoid using another company's trademark.

However it should be noted that up to the early 1980's Linhof did distribute Graphic manufactured film holders in Germany that they purchased directly from Graphlex, Singer or the successor company in Florida. This went on until the defect rate from Florida reached more then 80% at which time they stopped selling and importing that product line.

Ernest Purdum
1-Jul-2004, 10:22
Oops! I goofed. I was, of course, confusing the two words.

Jean-Louis Llech
1-Jul-2004, 11:37
Jay, the price of the Sinar Zoom 2 is 3,994.95 US Dollars at B&H.

Jan Nieuwenhuysen
1-Jul-2004, 11:48
Did they actually ever sell one, Jay-Louis?

Michel Roig
2-Sep-2004, 06:08
Robert White sells them at £995. That is considerably cheaper but still is a lot of money...


4-Jul-2011, 14:47
I'm using a couple of Toyo roll film holders and I love 'em!!! They are larger than most but lighter in weight. And best of all, they hold the film absolutely flat. And yes, they are expensive. I bought mine used in mint condition.

Roger Cole
4-Jul-2011, 15:03
The only advantage of rollfilm IMHO is film cost, and I've learned to control it by shooting less crap.

And lack of dust and film type availability and ease of loading and number of frames you can carry easily and... well I guess those are about it.

Ok, they're not easier to load than a single holder, but it's much easier to load a RF back in the field than fooling with a changing bag and associated dust.

Drew Wiley
4-Jul-2011, 15:48
Since I'm grounded this wkend as my foot heals, I spent the day printing 6X9 negs
from a Horseman roll film back vs Pentax 6x7, all onto 16X20 B&W. This is my first
time printing from a roll film back, placed on my Ebony 4X5, using typical but modern view lenses. My first impression is that the presence of movements using
the view camera leads to much better odds of acute focus throughout the image.
This was expected and the results are certainly impressive. What I am also learning
is that the film seems to need less spotting when I use the Horseman back, simply
because there no nearby shutter curtain and mirror flipping stuff around. I typcially
load everything in the cleanroom; but if lenses or film are changed in the field, it's
very difficult to keep minor contamination out, especially in the mtns or desert.
So I looks like I have a good alternative to sheet film on long backpack trips, provided I don't plan shoot color too. I tend to print color larger, and it would
necessitate a separate back, so the weight saving over a changing tent and half
a dozen holders would be negligible, that is, once all my remaining Quickloads
are finally used up.

12-Jul-2011, 00:49
I have a Horseman 6x9 back for my MPP MKVII, it's light and sturdy with no problems with film flatness at all, I can understand why they are highly rated backs.

Edward (Halifax,NS)
22-Oct-2011, 06:49
I have been considering buying a roll film holder to use with my 4X5 camera. I have a CC400 which has the spring back. This limits me to something like the slider type holder. Another option would be to upgrade my camera. I was looking at the Cambo SC II with the International back. Then I could use the Shen Hao 6X12 back. Anyway this thread has given me much to consider.

22-Oct-2011, 16:54
hey ED
if you wont a newer camera then get one! BUT you can buy a Calumet Roll Holder Model C2 from $50 to $250. & what would the newer camera cost?? I have had
one of the Cambo SC BUT I STILL HAVE a CC400 , CC401, & a CC402 any one of I like better then I did my Cambo SC the ONLY thing I miss is the Graflok back

Edward (Halifax,NS)
5-Nov-2011, 12:47
The camera would have cost about $200. I have decided to ask my wife for a C2 6X7 holder for Christmas. If I really enjoy the roll film experience I may upgrade the camera and get a 6X12 holder. I have a suspicion that this may lead to the purchase of an Epson v500 scanner to replace my 2450.

Brian K
6-Nov-2011, 09:27
With roll film backs one has to consider film flatness as well as fit. The slide in RF Backs like the Sinars are fairly thick and not all cameras will fit. The sinar zoom backs have excellent film flatness though and if one is serious about shoot roll film in a view camera one needs to give them serious consideration.

Edward (Halifax,NS)
14-Nov-2011, 14:02
I placed the order for a Cambo 6X7 C2N film holder. I will be using it with the following two lenses: 150mm f/9 G-Claron and 210mm f/5.6 Sinaron-S. Merry Christmas to me!!

Joseph Dickerson
14-Nov-2011, 14:19
May be bad form...hope not...but I have a couple for sale in the classifieds. Four or five pages back by now.


Edward (Halifax,NS)
19-Nov-2011, 10:18
My roll film holder came in the mail yesterday and I have already shot through half a roll of T-Max. I will shoot the rest of the roll at a cemetery tomorrow. Now I just need a place to post my pictures. I never thought of my CC400 as a medium format camera.


Edward (Halifax,NS)
8-Dec-2011, 06:37
Here is my first picture with the roll film holder.

T-Max 100
210mm f/5.6 Sinaron-S @ f/22