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View Full Version : Shooting 6x17 - using a roll film back vs split/cropped 5x7 sheet film



djdister
10-Dec-2014, 18:59
Seeing a recent 6x17 roll film back for sale got me thinking - would it be better to use the roll film back or just to shoot 5x7 sheet film with a split back, or just cropping the 5x7 image down to size?

On one hand, there are more film options in roll film, certainly more than in 5x7 sheet film. Also, processing roll film is easier and takes less chemistry.

On the other hand, 5x7 sheet film is on a thicker base, lies flatter than 120 roll film, and thus yields a better, sharper negative. Shooting on sheet film would also give me more alternative cropping options other than just 6x17.

This presumes that I will be using my 5x7 camera in either case - so buying a dedicated 6x17 camera is not part of the equation here.

I am leaning towards just shooting them on 5x7 film, rather than acquiring a somewhat pricey film back.

Are there other reasons why using a 6x17 roll film back would be superior to just shooting the panoramas on sheet film and cropping?

Dan Fromm
10-Dec-2014, 20:00
Dan, after I set up for 6x12 (6x12 roll holder on a 4x5 camera) it occurred to me that if I got a 6x9 roll holder to fit the 4x5 camera I could leave my 2x3 gear at home. So I got an AAR 620. Cheap and cheerful but its gate isn't centered in the back's gate. Centering the roll holder's gate in the back takes some shift. A nuisance, but the AAR was inexpensive.

In your case, if you want to center the 6x17 frame on the lens' axis you'll have use a bit of rise or fall. If your lenses have marginal coverage for 5x7 this could be a minor problem. You'd get better image quality in 6x17's corners with a roll holder centered in the back's gate.

If you want to print selectively from 5x7 and can afford the film just do it and don't look back. This will save you the joy of carrying, attaching and detaching a roll holder.

If I were you and didn't have an unrepeatable opportunity to buy a 6x17 roll holder at a wonderfully low price I'd try the split dark slide trick first to see whether ease of use and results were good enough.

vinny
10-Dec-2014, 21:04
"On the other hand, 5x7 sheet film is on a thicker base, lies flatter than 120 roll film, and thus yields a better, sharper negative. Shooting on sheet film would also give me more alternative cropping options other than just 6x17."

I'm pretty sure the canham 6x17 holder would yield results just as sharp or even sharper than standard sheet film holders. Ask brian kosoff about which is sharper.

Oren Grad
10-Dec-2014, 22:49
"On the other hand, 5x7 sheet film is on a thicker base, lies flatter than 120 roll film, and thus yields a better, sharper negative. Shooting on sheet film would also give me more alternative cropping options other than just 6x17."

I'm pretty sure the canham 6x17 holder would yield results just as sharp or even sharper than standard sheet film holders. Ask brian kosoff about which is sharper.

Yes. There's a lot of slop in most sheet film holders, and depending on temperature, humidity, and camera orientation, sheet film may not sit very flat at all. Assuming you have proper alignment between your GG and the film surface, a well-designed 6x17 roll holder with a good pressure plate and adequate tension across the spools may well give you more consistent focus.

Old-N-Feeble
11-Dec-2014, 07:18
From all I've read the Canham 617 holder does a fantastic job of keeping film flat across the full length and width. If I was shooting 5x7 and the camera had a Graflok back and I had plenty of funds then I'd buy the Canham back. However, I wouldn't use it very much because I don't like 1:3 ratio as much as 2:5 or 1:2. For 1:3 and 2:5 ratios I'd use the roll film back but for shorter ratios I'd use sheet film.

djdister
11-Dec-2014, 07:31
There seem to be a lot of votes for how well the Canham 6x17 roll film back holds the film flat - good to hear. But given the thinner 120 film base, how does it apply tension across the frame, and has anyone done a direct comparison between the roll film back and 5x7 sheet film? I have downloaded the directions for the roll film back, so I have tried to do some research, however the directions are geared towards usage of the back but not so much on describing how the roll film is held flat across the wide frame.

I do appreciate the feedback - thanks!

Old-N-Feeble
11-Dec-2014, 07:59
Call Keith Canham. He's a great guy and will tell you all you need to know even if he knows you're buying used. Do us a favor and report back what he says.

Oren Grad
11-Dec-2014, 08:04
But given the thinner 120 film base, how does it apply tension across the frame, and has anyone done a direct comparison between the roll film back and 5x7 sheet film? I have downloaded the directions for the roll film back, so I have tried to do some research, however the directions are geared towards usage of the back but not so much on describing how the roll film is held flat across the wide frame.

You may have seen Canham's product description, which claims "The film plane, pressure plate, is flat to within 0.0005 inches (0.0127mm)." (http://www.canhamcameras.com/Roll%20film%20back.html) This is far better than you'd get from a standard 5x7 CFH. Why not contact Keith Canham and ask him for any further clarifications about how this is achieved, and his take on the pros and cons compared to sheet film?

Daniel Stone
11-Dec-2014, 08:20
The biggest upside that I can see with using a 617 rollfilm back, such as the Canham, is that you get to shoot emulsions NOT available in sheet film formats. Now that Velvia 50 is "no more"(except for a VERY shiny penny) in sheet film sizes, you can still easily get it in 120. Or Portra 800, or the multitude of other films out there that aren't sold in sheet form.

But the upside to a single sheet of film is this: you have some "slop" in being able to crop. If you prefer a say, (8)x17, vs 7x17 ratio, or correct for something creeping into the frame you didn't see when lining up the shot initially, etc... Also, you only need to click the shutter (once), since you don't have to feel bad about wasting a following 3 shots on the remaining roll.

If you have the pennies, and a camera that can accept the back, give it a try. I don't believe you'll lose much(if any) on the resale value.

-Dan

djdister
11-Dec-2014, 08:29
You may have seen Canham's product description, which claims "The film plane, pressure plate, is flat to within 0.0005 inches (0.0127mm)." (http://www.canhamcameras.com/Roll%20film%20back.html) This is far better than you'd get from a standard 5x7 CFH. Why not contact Keith Canham and ask him for any further clarifications about how this is achieved, and his take on the pros and cons compared to sheet film?


Call Keith Canham. He's a great guy and will tell you all you need to know even if he knows you're buying used. Do us a favor and report back what he says.

Okay, okay, you're right, I just need to ask Keith about it. I've pestered him with other questions (since I have two of his cameras), so I might as well ask him about this too...

djdister
11-Dec-2014, 08:39
The biggest upside that I can see with using a 617 rollfilm back, such as the Canham, is that you get to shoot emulsions NOT available in sheet film formats. Now that Velvia 50 is "no more"(except for a VERY shiny penny) in sheet film sizes, you can still easily get it in 120. Or Portra 800, or the multitude of other films out there that aren't sold in sheet form.

-Dan

It's true, there are a lot of options in 120 - B&H lists 62 types of 120 roll film, including old and new favorites - Tri-X, Portra, Ektar, T-Max, Velvia, Provia, all the Ilford emulsions, and etc. Almost dizzying...

Randy Moe
11-Dec-2014, 08:45
You may have seen Canham's product description, which claims "The film plane, pressure plate, is flat to within 0.0005 inches (0.0127mm)." (http://www.canhamcameras.com/Roll%20film%20back.html) This is far better than you'd get from a standard 5x7 CFH. Why not contact Keith Canham and ask him for any further clarifications about how this is achieved, and his take on the pros and cons compared to sheet film?

That is really flat and I have been measuring flat all my life. The standard for new automotive is flat to within 0.001" across a cylinder head. Of course that may be 12 to 24" X 6". So the same machines could make 0.0005" over a shorter distance. Now let's talk surface finish, 'RA' or roughness, as RA is basically tiny hills and valleys within the flat spec. Also an issue leakage of pressure and light?

I believe Keith and he makes great cameras, matched to his metal camera 'T' and flat could be extremely accurate. I have not checked his claims.

Randy Moe
11-Dec-2014, 08:59
Ok, I will confess. I bought the 617 Fotoman listed here.

I have been shooting 5x7 and cropping it in half, usually the bottom half, cutting out excess sky. I only just got the 617 and I am a fair weather shooter, but I have been peeking through the viewfinder and it is tough to frame. tough to even find the edges. Last night I shot a studio shot, but I am waiting to shoot 3 more outside tomorrow. From the door of my loft...

In studio I used the 617 GG to examine coverage while aiming at big softbox. I won't be using GG very often if at all in field.

So the biggest difference I see, is using fast lenses on 5x7 GG may be much better for composition than a peep sight.

Nonetheless, I think I am going to like the P&S possibilities with the Fotoman 617.

I also have 6x17 film carriers and can enlarge on my 5x7 enlarger. I had considered 7x17" 4x10" and then realized as a weak old man, I better use a 'lightweight' 617 P&S. I will be more likely to move about the city with it. The Fotoman is a brick, but a complete brick that needs only tiny rolls of 120 and maybe a tripod.

Randy Moe
11-Dec-2014, 09:02
One more hidden advantage of 5x7 cropped or using 617 back on view camera, is your images will be considered LF and mine will not.

That may be important to some.

Willie
11-Dec-2014, 11:07
If you use a splitter to get 2 shots on a sheet of 5x7 film the cost is a wash in most respects.

120 film on a 6x17 back will get you four exposures. Film about $5-6 a roll. 5x7 film about $2 a sheet - same film in both cases - Ilford FP4+ for the comparison.

If you shoot one sheet of 5x7 and crop, cut the negative or use a cut out dark slide the cost is not quite double what the roll film will cost you.

Then, changing rolls in the field compared to pre-loaded 5x7 film holders. Weight and size come into it.

As you say, cropping options for final prints are more open with 5x7 film.

Developing - sheets are a bit more hardy and seldom get kink marks from rolling wrong onto a reel as 120 does.

Either way you will need an enlarger to handle the size unless you stick with contact prints.

Old-N-Feeble
11-Dec-2014, 11:13
RE 120 Roll Fim vs. "cropped" sheet film.........

Even if you shoot just ONE subject.......

You can shoot FOUR images of one subject per 120 roll. SO... you can have FOUR duplicates in case one or more are damaged. AND... an entire roll costs about the same as a SINGLE sheet.

Less wide subjects are a different story, of course.

Bob Salomon
11-Dec-2014, 11:16
If you use a splitter to get 2 shots on a sheet of 5x7 film the cost is a wash in most respects.

120 film on a 6x17 back will get you four exposures. Film about $5-6 a roll. 5x7 film about $2 a sheet - same film in both cases - Ilford FP4+ for the comparison.

If you shoot one sheet of 5x7 and crop, cut the negative or use a cut out dark slide the cost is not quite double what the roll film will cost you.

Then, changing rolls in the field compared to pre-loaded 5x7 film holders. Weight and size come into it.

As you say, cropping options for final prints are more open with 5x7 film.

Developing - sheets are a bit more hardy and seldom get kink marks from rolling wrong onto a reel as 120 does.

Either way you will need an enlarger to handle the size unless you stick with contact prints.

The big benefit for me, shooting with the Linhof Technorama 617 S III is easy use hand held, trooping through Death Valley or Arches, with a bunch of rolls of film in my pocket, and another lens, or two, in my bag. And I can easily shoot with a 72mm or a 250. Though I have no problem hand holding the 72, 90 or 110mm I wouldn't want to try to hand hold the 180 or the 250mm.

You just can't do that with a 57 with or without a roll back. And, if I wanted to, I don't, I could also add the Shift Adapter and go tripod mounted with ground glass focusing with rise and fall with the 72 to 110mm lenses. Instead I get up on my toes or squat down.

Willie
11-Dec-2014, 11:21
RE 120 Roll Fim vs. "cropped" sheet film.........

Even if you shoot just ONE subject.......

You can shoot FOUR images of one subject per 120 roll. SO... you can have FOUR duplicates in case one or more are damaged. AND... an entire roll costs about the same as a SINGLE sheet.

Less wide subjects are a different story, of course.

Direct price comparison has you a bit high on the cost comparison as far as 5x7 film goes. Pricing for my checking is Glazers Camera today. On sale, a bit different at times.

djdister
11-Dec-2014, 11:22
The big benefit for me, shooting with the Linhof Technorama 617 S III is easy use hand held, trooping through Death Valley or Arches, with a bunch of rolls of film in my pocket, and another lens, or two, in my bag. And I can easily shoot with a 72mm or a 250. Though I have no problem hand holding the 72, 90 or 110mm I wouldn't want to try to hand hold the 180 or the 250mm.

You just can't do that with a 57 with or without a roll back. And, if I wanted to, I don't, I could also add the Shift Adapter and go tripod mounted with ground glass focusing with rise and fall with the 72 to 110mm lenses. Instead I get up on my toes or squat down.

No question that the Technorama is a great camera and a great way to go, but as I said, my assumption going in is to use my existing 5x7 camera and lenses (from 75mm to 480mm). Unless of course, someone has a Technorama camera for about $800 or less :D

jbenedict
11-Dec-2014, 12:40
RE 120 Roll Fim vs. "cropped" sheet film.........

Even if you shoot just ONE subject.......

You can shoot FOUR images of one subject per 120 roll. SO... you can have FOUR duplicates in case one or more are damaged. AND... an entire roll costs about the same as a SINGLE sheet.

Less wide subjects are a different story, of course.

Yes, but you can get four exposures out of one film holder with 5x7. You can take a duplicate of a shot on the sheet on the other side of the holder if that's where it's at for you and then you will have two shots on each holder including the duplicate.

Bob Salomon
11-Dec-2014, 13:27
No question that the Technorama is a great camera and a great way to go, but as I said, my assumption going in is to use my existing 5x7 camera and lenses (from 75mm to 480mm). Unless of course, someone has a Technorama camera for about $800 or less :D

New or used?:)

richardman
12-Dec-2014, 03:12
One more hidden advantage of 5x7 cropped or using 617 back on view camera, is your images will be considered LF and mine will not.

That may be important to some.

Only by the LFF forum rules, not necessary by anyone else. We went through this millions of times, my 617 neg is about the same size as my 4x5 neg, and my Shen Hao 617 is as much a view camera as my Chamonix F1 4x5. I play by the moderators' rules, but that doesn't mean it's a good one.

djdister
12-Dec-2014, 05:24
Only by the LFF forum rules, not necessary by anyone else. We went through this millions of times, my 617 neg is about the same size as my 4x5 neg, and my Shen Hao 617 is as much a view camera as my Chamonix F1 4x5. I play by the moderators' rules, but that doesn't mean it's a good one.

Well the rules of the forum don't really matter that much in this case, because my number one objective is a print, not posting online.

richardman
12-Dec-2014, 07:17
Yes, I agree. In any case, I use a Shen Hao PTB 617. Best thing since sliced bread :-) I have actually hiked with both my Chamonix F1 4x5 and the Shen Hao 617. They share the same lens. Probably lighter than a 5x7 kit if you can slump down to a 4x5? :-)

Old-N-Feeble
12-Dec-2014, 08:31
I once planned to shoot 4x5in and 6x17cm so I bought a Canham 5x7in with 4x5in reducing back and the Canham 6x17cm RFH. I never got a chance to use it before I sold everything but the quality of the camera and RFH were impressive.

angusparker
12-Dec-2014, 16:13
The advantages of a view camera in 120 is really just in the shift function which is available in some P&S versions. Shooting a roll which is 4 images has never been a problem for me - bracketing is always nice to do anyway for important images. And the choice of color transparency and negative films is so great - no need to stick with B&W. But that's all easy to say when you don't have a 5x7 already. I think if I were in that situation I'd buy the roll film back and be done with it. Otherwise, I'd definitely consider the Shen Hao PTB 617 and the Fotoman or Gaoersi P&S - preferably the shift versions if they have one.

djdister
12-Dec-2014, 20:46
I appreciate all of the thoughts and suggestions so far. As part of my research, I thought I would look through some of my 5x7 negatives to see how they would lend themselves (be cropped) to the 6x17 format, which can be seen in the images below. These were all cropped generally using the full width of the 7 inch dimension, to the 6x17 format. It was not as easy as I thought. The overwhelming majority of my 5x7 shots could not stand such a severe cropping, because they were never framed to that format.

So to be really thorough, I think I should go out and shoot some sheet film with my 5x7, using a 6x17 cropping guide centered on the ground glass. This should give me some indication about how readily and effectively I can capitalize on the 1:3 ratio, and just generally how well I like shooting in that format. Obviously these cropped shots don't represent the best use of the 6x17 format.

126473

126474

126475

126476

Old-N-Feeble
12-Dec-2014, 20:59
I appreciate all of the thoughts and suggestions so far. As part of my research, I thought I would look through some of my 5x7 negatives to see how they would lend themselves (be cropped) to the 6x17 format, which can be seen in the images below. These were all cropped generally using the full width of the 7 inch dimension, to the 6x17 format. It was not as easy as I thought. The overwhelming majority of my 5x7 shots could not stand such a severe cropping, because they were never framed to that format.

So to be really thorough, I think I should go out and shoot some sheet film with my 5x7, using a 6x17 cropping guide centered on the ground glass. This should give me some indication about how readily and effectively I can capitalize on the 1:3 ratio, and just generally how well I like shooting in that format. Obviously these cropped shots don't represent the best use of the 6x17 format.

Right... you've got to match the subject to the frame at time of exposure.

richardman
13-Dec-2014, 00:01
I just threw some of my favorite images in a gallery: http://richardmanphoto.com/PICS/Favorites/ They are NOT a portfolio and truly random in subject and cameras (I used everything from an Olympus E-3 to 4x5) and no surprises that Xpan and 617 images are well represented. I just the pano format a lot, and it's definitely a case of "frame as you do them" for me, and with few exceptions, not an after the fact cropping thing.