View Full Version : Multi-Sheet Film Holders...Surely There's A Market

Scott Rosenberg
21-Dec-2004, 08:47
while i love the convenience afforded by quick/ready load films, i am frustrated by the lack of emulsions and the increased cost per sheet. exploring other options leads one to grafmatic backs, great tools to be sure, but they haven't been made in 40 years. the used market for these holders is strong, but many out there are rendered useless after a long life of service by bent septums and light leaks. then there's the fuji quickchange backs, but those command VERY high prices now-a-days... in excess of $300!

what i was wondering is why some talented machinist/photographer like keith canham, ron wisner, or richard phillips hasn't put out an updated version of the venerable grafmatic... surly there's a market. is the cost of making such a device so high that the ROI would be too low?

i for one would love to have a newly designed and manufactured multi-sheet film holder; i can't imagine that i'm alone here.

Bruce Watson
21-Dec-2004, 09:11
The reason is that total demand (that is, everyone in the marketplace who would conceivably want one) is low, on the order of a few thousand units. There aren't any consumables here either - once you sell a customer a back, you've sold him all you are ever going to sell him outside of accidents and theft.

It's likely seen as too few units to recover your R&D costs, which would be far from negligible.

That said, I'm with you Scott. I'd buy a few if a reliable, lightweight, reloadable multi-sheet back (ten is a good number, but I'll take what I can get) came available for 4x5.

Jerry Flynn
21-Dec-2004, 09:20
I use only Grafmatics, but I second Hogarth's comments and would add that it would be unlikely for someone to bring a back to market at a time when manufactures are apparently not getting enough buyers of film (a consumable) to keep afloat.

steve simmons
21-Dec-2004, 09:42
There was an effort a few years ago to make a Grafmatic like holder but the best guess is that the retail price would have been around 300.00. It was felt they would not sell enough to warrent the investment in time and money.

steve simmos

Dan Jolicoeur
21-Dec-2004, 10:01
If the dies are still available for grafmatics it would not take much to get them back into production. I couple of punch presses and and some trim And finish machinery and it could be back into production pretty easy. Wouldn't Fred Lusting still have this stuff. Just one small cell of world war one equipment would do it.

Scott Rosenberg
21-Dec-2004, 11:09
dan, it sounds like you or calamity jane are our best options! it sure would be sweet to have ten sheets of your favorite emulsion at the ready.

David A. Goldfarb
21-Dec-2004, 11:36
Another one out there that held 10 sheets is the Kinematic filmholder. I have one, and it's nice to be able to go out on a casual stroll with ten sheets in one holder, but it's not as smooth in operation as a Grafmatic.

If one were to try to build such a thing, bag mags seem much simpler in construction, and while not as quick as a Grafmatic, it is a compact way to carry a lot of film. I have a 12-sheet metal bag mag and a 12-plate wooden bag mag with film sheaths for 5x7". A nice thing about bag mags is that you access the septums from a panel at the exposed end of the stack, so if you just shoot, say, 7 sheets, the seven exposed sheets are on the top of the stack when you unload.

Some sort of multi-sheet back for 8x10" would be a real attraction, since filmholders add a lot of weight and bulk quickly as you go up in format. It would have to be thin enough to fit in a typical spring back, but something like a 4 or 5 sheet 8x10" bag mag might not be out of the question. The bag could be the nylon material used for changing bags instead of leather.

On I think the glennview website, I saw a 22-sheet 5x7" bag mag for around $400, so someone has thought of making them.

Dan Jolicoeur
21-Dec-2004, 11:54
Seriously, what ever happened to all the spare parts Fred had. I thought he bought all the punches and dies but was going to focus on curtain shutters. If this stuff is available, and there are no patent infringement why reinvent the wheel? Somebody out there has more capital than I to get this going. Those old punch presses could be bought for scrap metal prices, if someone has access to the old punches and dies. Their maybe even some left over spring steel for the septums hanging around some warehouse. I myself have had a problem with metal filings getting on my film from the holders rubbing together when indexing sheets. It is way worse than dust.


Scott Rosenberg
21-Dec-2004, 13:34

this 'bag mag' you mention... i've never heard of such a thing. a google searchg yielded only one reference at pacific rim camera which wasn't very helpful. do you know of a site that has a little more info on them?

David A. Goldfarb
21-Dec-2004, 15:24
Try graflex.org. "Bag mag" is short for "bag magazine" which is a common way of referring to the "Graflex Film Magazine" or "Graflex Plate Magazine." A typical bag mag is a box that holds 12 film or septums and has a closed lightproof leather bag on one side.

To take a photograph with a bag mag, you remove the darkslide as you would with a conventional filmholder, fire the shutter, and then there's a metal slide with a thin metal protrusion that pushes the septum into the bag. Generally, the septum is pulled most of the way into the bag, and then manually the operator pulls the septum out of the box and reinserts it in the bottom of the stack. The septums are numbered and there is a red window with a cover so that you can see how many exposures you have left (you can order them in any way that makes sense to you).

Jim Rice
21-Dec-2004, 17:27
Once upon a time, I had a Graflex bag-mag with, unfortunately, a bad bag. How does a graphmatic work?

David A. Goldfarb
21-Dec-2004, 17:48
There's some discussion on the graflex.org discussion board about repairing bag mag bags. If it's in really bad shape, you can make a new one out of leather or nylon. One of mine just had a thin spot (enough to let light through outdoors in the sun), so I patched it with a thin piece of leather and Pliobond.

There's an instruction manual for the Grafmatic on graflex.org, showing how it operates with pictures.

Jean-Louis Llech
22-Dec-2004, 09:46
As Scott says, Fuji made a few years ago a system like the Grafmatic, the Fuji Quickchange for 8 sheet films. Unfortunately, this system is no more in the Fuji catalog.
The Grafmatic is heavier than the Quickchange, but probably more solid. It is difficult to find spare septums.

Scott Bacon
22-Dec-2004, 12:20
Scott, From our recent conversations, you know I'm of like mind. In regards
to the Bag Mag, check out this
<a target="_blank" href="http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=3860953604&ssPageName=STRK:MEWA:IT">
listing</a>. It's the only time I've ever seen one on eBay.

Scott Rosenberg
22-Dec-2004, 15:57
hey scott... good to see you one tuan's site! thanks for the link... i really wish someone would put out a new back like these!

for anyone counting, you can put me down for 6!

Scott Bacon
23-Dec-2004, 08:41
"hey scott... good to see you one tuan's site! thanks for the link..."

Been hanging around here for a looooong time - mostly lurk and try to soak up as much as I can. ;-)

Bruce Wehman
21-Jan-2005, 07:48
Speaking of multi-sheet film holders: how many out there remember the film pack? As a Navy photographer in the sixties, my life was made a lot easier, by using film packs.
For those who have never seen one, it was about ½” thick and held 16 sheets. True, the film base was thin, and you had to cut the length down to 5” to process them. But think of the advantages: light weight; convenient - a backpacker’s dream. And the tooling for it has to be under a pile of dust somewhere. With the advances in film base technology that have taken place since then, you would think that someone would have thought of it.