View Full Version : Options for compact 4x5 accepting roll film

29-Jan-2009, 16:52
Newbie here,

I'm researching my 4X5 camera options and seek some advise.

Camera will be used almost exclusively for walkaround (New York City) shots of buildings from 19th century to modern skyscrapers.
I think big shifts will be my most desirable feature to eliminate the effects of buildings toppling in on one another. I hate that. But I also know that I'll find a need to employ all the other movements if I had them.
A wide angle lens is preferred.

I've been researching PC and TS lenses to use with 35mm cameras (digital or film) but keep coming to the realization that only a real view camera will give me the versatility and quality I want.
My previous 'deal breaker' on 4X5's was not wanting to carry and load sheet film.
I figure the roll film back would eliminate that challenge.
What used cameras and lens combos should I be looking for?
Thanks, Bob

29-Jan-2009, 17:06
Just about any 4X5 can take a roll film back, those that have graflok backs have more options as to which backs you can use.

Gem Singer
29-Jan-2009, 17:27
Look for a camera that has a lot of front rise. You will be using that movement more than shift or tilt. You won't need a huge amount of bellows extension, either.

Walker makes a field camera designed specifically for wide angle architecture photography. So does Ebony.

If you plan on using roll film exclusively, look for a smaller size field camera that has a Graflock back.

Glenn Thoreson
29-Jan-2009, 18:24
If you're not going to use sheet film, why buy a 4X5 camera? What I would do is get a Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic 23. Small and light. and if you know the tricks of operating one of these, there's more than enough front tilt to keep your buildings straight. If you're doing walk arounds, a field camera would be a pain to constantly set up. The 2X3 Crown Graphic is designed to hand hold if you want to and it closes up into a small box for carrying. Rangefinder focusing if you want, or ground glass focus. With the Graflok back there are plenty of roll holders for shooting 120 available at very reasonable cost. The whole outfit would be very affordable. They're great old cameras that have taken many of the worlds greatest photographs.

29-Jan-2009, 20:07
Thanks for the quick feedback everybody.
Also thanks Glen for the Pacemaker tip. I'll check it out.

Good shooting to all,

Vick Vickery
29-Jan-2009, 21:02
See my answer on the Photo.net site, in short, within the confines of New York, you're going to have a hard time with anything less than a full view and a VERY short lens which will be a wide angle on a roll film format.

29-Jan-2009, 21:24
Another option is the Calumet rollback (6x7). It fits in just like a film holder, so it will work with any 4x5 back. They do have their drawbacks (the film gets bent around rollers in the opposite direction of the film's normal curl -- so if one leaves the film in for any length of time, the film "memorizes" the backward curl and tends not to roll up tightly. I believe they only come in 6x7, though. There are other brands using the same method.

The advantage is that one does not need to remove the back of the camera to insert the roll back -- one less thing to have to set down or stash in a bag while one exposes the film (or drop, breaking the ground glass).

Excessive front rise is not absolutely needed. One can get the equivalent rise if one tilts the camera upwards, then tilts the front and back standards forward. A lightweight 4x5 (such as the rail camera, Gowland PocketView or one of the lighter wood folding flatbed cameras 4x5's such as the Horseman Woodfield (weighing under 3 pounds) can be carried on the pod and on one's shoulder (folded up or with the lens on it ready to go)...with meter and rollback(s) in a shoulder bag. This way nothing is set down on the ground, and everything can be immeadiately moved...sometimes handy in the city.

My use of the press cameras (Crown Graphic, etc) is limited, but for me, I would not like their limited movements (for building shots, even front and rear swing can be of use...unless one plans on just straight-on shots)) A full movement camera would give you much more creative opportunities...though back shift and rise can be eliminated in exchange for stability and lighter weight.


29-Jan-2009, 22:18
Forget 4x5 with a roll film back. It's an impractical idea. A 3x3 Crown Graphic is also a bad idea because there is hardly any rise if the camera is used vertically. Just shoot it in digital and correct in Photoshop.

29-Jan-2009, 23:49
Forget Bill...;)

But for fun here is Peter Gowland's website...


Take a look at his All Moves Pocket View (both 4x5 and 2.25x3.25). Optional would have it made with a bag bellows for short lenses, but does not need one for a 90mm. Not for everyone, but all the advantages of a rail camera, under 3 pounds, and portable.

I have a Pocket View (pre-All Moves, bought in ~1985). It has been a great camera for me. Light enough to carry on the tripod all day (though I used mine for landscape until I moved up in format.)


Jim Graves
30-Jan-2009, 01:25
I'll echo Vaughn on the portability and flexibility of the Gowland Pocket View. I have two, one with a graflok back and the Calumet version without. I got them for backpacking. They have front and rear rise/fall, front and rear tilt, and front and rear swing.

They are incredibly light ... I use mine with a Feisol CT 3441 tripod and CB-30 ballhead ... total weight for camera, tripod, and ballhead is about 4 lbs. If you stick to small lenses ... like the 90 mm Angulon, 150mm Fuji, and 240 Fuji ... the whole kit ... with a Kodak Ready Load holder and 20 Fuji Quickloads is around 6-7 lbs. For shooting in NYC ... maybe one lens like the 90 mm Super Angulon to get more movement would be good.

The Gowlands are fidgety ... no center dentents ... and EVERYTHING moves (all movements) and they are simply not as solid as their bigger cousins ... but ... because they are so light and so flexible you will take them with you more often and shoot more pictures.

And, since you don't like the idea of film holders ... rather than shooting roll film ... try the Fuji Quickloads ... they are more expensive but there are no dust issues, no dark bag loading issues, and no space/weight issues when you're out and about.

Aender Brepsom
30-Jan-2009, 01:55
How about a nice Ebony SW23 if you only want to use roll film?

Paul O
30-Jan-2009, 02:16
For 5x4 film use consider an Ebony SW45.

30-Jan-2009, 07:58
Thanks again,

Since I've been shooting digital, I have tons of shots with buildings leaning all over the place when shooting wide. And I've been all over PS for correcting procedures. I don't believe, whichever PS process is employed, there is a substitute for getting it correctly on the original capture. I've used Perspective correction, lens correction, distort, etc. Just can't find something that, even if it works fairly well, doesn't require an image size of 1/2 what I took.

I'll check out all the additional input here.
You people are great. Thanks so much for, especially, your time.

Good shooting, Bob

Kirk Gittings
30-Jan-2009, 11:58
Look for an old Calumet Wide Field. It will take a 47mm lens on a flat lens board with full movements. Calumet still sells most of the parts including the bellows. I used one with 6x9 C2N roll film backs exclusively for architecture for years.

30-Jan-2009, 16:34
You will want 6x9 and 6x12 roll film backs. 6x7 or 6x6 will rob you of too much of your hard earned image.

Have you tried making overlapping exposures and stitching them together with software like PTAssembler? That path could be used with either digital cameras or large film cameras.

Michael Alpert
2-Feb-2009, 11:35
Ebony, Arca-Swiss . . . actually any view camera with lots of front rise will work. With the right camera, what you want to do is really quite simple. The advantage of a 4x5 (with roll-film back) over a 2x3, such as the Ebony 23S, is that you will likely have more rise. If you have a camera with both front and back tilt, you can easily extend your range by tilting the whote camera upwards and then leveling the front and back standards. To do that accurately, be sure your camera has a pitch (front-back) level on both standards. And this kind of movement will require a little more bellows extension, so don't get a camera with barely enough bellows for your lenses. Also, with using a lot of rise, you may need to lift the center of your bellows up with your hand, as you are making the exposure, to ensure that the bellows does not block the bottom of your image.