View Full Version : Kodak film Packs - mystery film

Dan Dozer
30-Oct-2005, 17:40
About two years ago, I bought what I thought was two used 4 x 5 film holders on EBAY. What I got was something of a puzzle. Both were wooden film packs made for Premo Cameras, and only one was 4 x 5. The other one seems to be for film that is approximately 3 1/2" x 5 3/4" in size. They both have a dark slide on one side and a metal back that you can open to insert a film pack. Both are labeled "Premo Film Pack Adapter". The 4 x 5 is imprinted on the side "For Premo Cameras" and the odd sized one is imprinted "3A Premo". Inside on the metal back is stamped "Manufactured for Eastman Kodak Co. Successor to Rochester Optical Co." along with various patent dates from 1903.

I know all about the history of Kodak and Rochester, but I have to admit that I know absolutely nothing about these old type of holders or the film packs that go (or went) inside them. If anyone could shed a little light on these for me it would be appreciated.

Now for what I thought was going to be the fun part. One of the two holders still had a film pack inside it with all the tabs sticking out (Kodak Super XX film). I know we've all seen the ads on EBAY for the occasional old Kodak folding camera that "still has film in it". Well, there is virtually no way that any film in those old cameras could survive without someone opening the camera back. However, my curiosity finally got the best of me, and I started thinking that maybe the film in the one holder had been exposed.

So I read up on old Super XX film and decided to try to develop it. So here I am in my darkroom trying to open a holder and film pack that I have never seen the likes of before and only guessing at what I'm feeling trying to decide what is paper and what is film. I finally got everything apart and had what I thought were 10 sheets of film and started at it. Here I am trying to shuffle 10 sheets of film in a tray (and very thin film at that) at once wondering what might be on it. Could it be some press photographer's images of some dead president, or the burning of the Hindenberg, or even some lost negatives that Ansel himself took. Most likely, easter sunday photographs of Aunt Mabel down on the farm. Imagine my dissapointment when they came up blank - the film had not been exposed yet. Oh well, it was a fun couple of hours anyway.

So now I have two film pack holders that I don't have any possible use for. Rather than putting them on EBAY and getting a dollar for them (not worth my time), I was wondering if any of you all out there are still really into this type of thing. The only cost for either or both of them is to reimburse me for the cost of shipping from California. I'll even through in the dissambled film pack as well. I don't really know exactly how it goes back together so that is something you will have to figure out. How is that for a deal.

30-Oct-2005, 19:38
I can't believe that they quit making film packs. Imaging hitting the trail with several 18 sheet packs of Tri-X in your kit, weighing only a few ounces each. BRING BACK THE FILM PACK!!!!!

Donald Qualls
30-Oct-2005, 20:03
The 3A film is "postcard format". Many cameras that used it supported both roll film (122 size, 6 exposures) and, often with an accessory back on a camera originally sold with roll film capability only, plate holders, which in turn could be used with film sheaths and cut film. The same mount that took a plate holder would usually also accept a film pack adapter.

Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any source for either 122 roll film (90 mm wide, paper backed, on spools similar to 120 only HUGE) or postcard format sheet film. Glass plates haven't been made in that size since long before they effectively vanished in the commoner 4x5 and 9x12 cm formats, and as suggested above, film packs haven't been made in any size, by any manufacturer (AFAIK) in about 25 years.

Much as I like the idea of being able to rip of a dozen or more shots with one of my plate cameras in a matter of a minute or so (with Tri-X, you can actually shoot action with the wire frame finder on these!), I doubt we'll see film packs again, even though we can buy sheet film in almost any format we like. The stuff was super-thin, at least as flexible as modern 120, and required several operations to attach it to the backing paper (which ended in the tab you pulled to advance the sheet into the storage chamber in the back of the film pack), mount the film and backings into the pack, and ensure that the tabs were all correctly numbered and in the correct order. The film sizes weren't the same as sheet film, and I'm told, by those who've processed film pack film, that it was a significant pain to separate the film from the paper (had to be attached well enough to pull around a pretty tight 180 degree bend without jamming or coming loose).

Yeah, "tabs sticking out" means those sheets haven't been pulled through yet -- after exposure, you'd pull the tab to advance that sheet into the back of the pack, then tear it off against a cutter bar provided in the adapter.

30-Oct-2005, 20:29
Donald, If they can make Polaroid type 55, they could make Film Packs.

Mark Sampson
31-Oct-2005, 06:24
I used 4x5 Kodak Tri-X filmpack from 1989 (when I learned about it from Norman McGrath) until 1992 or so when Kodak discontinued it. That was the end of filmpack, and I miss it. It was slightly more difficult to process- it was on 4-mil base like 120 film- but the convienience in the field outwieghed that (and the higher cost). Given the modern world, we'll never see filmpack revived. It is a shame though.

Bruce Wehman
31-Oct-2005, 08:30
Ditto to "bring back the film pack." I used them in the Navy, in the early sixties. Yes, they were light, fast, and had a loyal following, but they didn't exactly take over the world; they took a bit of getting used to. There was "robbing the film pack," or the art of taking out a few sheets and putting it back together. Then there was processing the film in the oversize, curved, Carr hangers - without loosing a few in the tank, or if you didn't like that, you could cut them down to 5" and process them in standard hangers. But yeah, once you got the hang of all that, man they were slick.

Donald Qualls
31-Oct-2005, 10:21
Actually, Bill, the packaging of the 660 series and 80 series Polaroid pack films is, on the negative side, almost identical to the old film pack setup. Problem is, making film packs would probably cost about as much as making Polaroid packs (the chemicals and unsensitized print don't really add much to the price over the cost of assembly and the pack shell) -- though come to that, $1.50/exposure in 3x4 (for Type 665) isn't really all that horrible compared to Ready-Loads or Quickloads in 4x5.

Say, maybe Polaroid could be persuaded to package only the negative side of T665 into pack shells with a stop to prevent pulling the negative all the way out (or just no second tab, except the second tab is what sets the next first tab, so they'd have to modify the internal layout some way). All it'd take is a firm committment from the LF community to buy a million packs or so... :P

31-Oct-2005, 12:19
My apologies, Donald, for a senior moment. When I said type 55 I was really thinking of the peel apart pack film. D'oh! I think that Polaroid has just recently discontinued it in 4x5 size.

31-Oct-2005, 20:21
I always developed my sheet film in trays, so the size variation of film packs didn't matter. Anyhow, it was easy to rob them since I was standing there at the counter in the dark.

Hans Berkhout
31-Oct-2005, 20:45
I miss them too. used to process them in BTZS tubes, that was in '94, 95 . Still print the occasional neg using glass neg carrier.

Donald Qualls
1-Nov-2005, 17:57
Okay, Bill, you were thinking of the 500 series films that fit the 550 holder, not the 50/70 that fit 500/545/545i, or the 660 series in the 405. BTW, Fuji still sells films that fit the 550, so if you have one, don't scrap it yet.

Also worthy of note, apparently the old 3x4 film packs would drop right into a Polaroid camera or film back that accepts 660 series films, though I don't know how you'd go about advancing them -- might just pull all the tabs out where the single tab emerges in the Polaroid, though you'd be likely to damage something trying to tear the tabs off.

Certainly seems as if there'd be a market for film packs (the fellow who found a pallet of Tri-X 4x5 film packs in a warehouse somewhere doesn't seem to have had any trouble selling them off despite being 20 years expired), and heaven knows the adapters are easy to come by. Maybe some dealer like J&C Photo could get some of their house-brand 120 film stock cut to pack film dimensions and mated up to backing paper. Get the work done in China or India, and you might well be able to make the film competitive with big name sheet film in singles. Cut and load it in 4x5 and 9x12 cm to start, and then branch out if there's demand...

Ed Shapiro
29-Oct-2007, 15:53
When I first started as a wedding photographer in the late 50s all work was done with 4x5 press cameras. Most studios required that the candid photographer be equipped with enough standard film holders (2 sheets) or Graphmatic Film Holder (6 sheets) to accommodate 120 sheets of cut film. We were given a film pack or two but theses were only to be used in dire emergencies.

Every darkroom guy in the City of New York HATED film packs because of the thin film base. This requires special film hangers that were difficult to use and oftentimes released the film in the middle of processing. Some brave souls would process film pack film in large trays, 100 at a time, handling them like a deck of cards. Imagine trying to do this in a busy studio with dozens of weddings every weekend????????

Suffice it to say that “film pack” became a dirty word in the trade. Too bad at the time because a dozen 12 sheet film packs weighed less than 3 Graphmatics let alone 20 of them. OOF- It makes my back ache just thinking about that plus the weight of the press camera and those Ascor strobes with 10 lb external power packs!

Them was the (good?) ol’ days!


31-Jul-2010, 04:10
The film in Kodak Film Packs was on 120 support which is why it feels so thin. This was necessary in order to get 16 sheets in the thin space allocated for the pack. The last film packs a were 4x5 Tri-X Professional.

From a manufacturing point-of-view it is very difficult to make. The operator needed to manually assemble the various pieces of paper, film, tape and metal. Only the most highly skilled operator could do this. Volumes could not justify automated equipment. It required a special work station prepare the film and assemble the various parts.

I discontinued the manufacturing of the product when the factory floor was reorganized perhaps in the early 90's. Volumes were very small and declining. Most of the use was US military. By modern manufacturing quality standards (Six Sigma) it was not manufacturable without redesign of both the pack and the manufacturing technique.

Jim Noel
31-Jul-2010, 11:08
Oh how I miss film packs. I only have 5 Super XX left in the freezer. I hoard them until I want to take a hike with the little field camera.

Made on roll film stock which accounts for the flimsiness, but two packs weighed little more than the film itself. And as someone mentioned, rob the exposed sheets then re-close the pack so it could still be used. An added advantage - the images were a full 4x5 inches, not 3 3/4 x 4 3/4. Of course the labs disliked this feature because it took a different carrier in the enlarger.

Jan Pietrzak
31-Jul-2010, 11:40

I just gave the last of my holders to Gordon. He said something about wet plate holders?????? TriX and film pack and I was off for the day one for plus, one for normal, and one for minus. Ah the good old days, when film was film and cameras was cameras.

Jan Pietrzak

ps going to the Platypus Party this afternoon I will say HI!!!!!! for you.