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View Full Version : Calumet C2 vs. C2N: Compare and Contrast



stevebrot
12-Jun-2010, 00:36
I have spent the last couple of months attempting to assemble a 4x5 kit from scratch. One of the capabilities I really wanted was the option of using 120/220 roll film in addition to sheet film on my camera. I had not ventured very far into my research before I figured out a couple of fundamental truths:

Most roll film holders are designed to lock into the Graflok back
On my camera (Chamonix 045N-2) this requires that the ground glass frame be removed
Some roll film holders are designed to slide in behind the ground glass in a manner similar to a sheet film holder
Not all roll film holders support both 120 and 220 film

After purchasing and spending some time with the first type (Linhof Super Rollex), the routine of removing and storing the ground glass frame started to get a little tedious. I was aware of the Calumet slide-in type holders, but was wary due to reports on the Web of kinked film and poor film flatness. I mentioned those fears on another thread on this forum and was firmly advised that the rumors were bunk. Hmmm, I thought...maybe I should get me a Calumet holder and see how well they work with my camera. There was only one problem at this point:


Which version of the Calumet holder should I get?

First a little bit of additional information on these holders:

The original model was the C2
A later version was sold as the C2N and is currently available as the Cambo 55xx
All accept both 120 and 220 film
Versions exist for 6x7, 6x9, and 6x12 format

Now here is the short story and executive summary:

I ended up with both a C2 and a C2N
The two holders are virtually identical except for a few key differences in construction and design
The differences are important and the buyer should be aware
Both do their job well (so far in my experience) when used properly

Basic Design
All three place both the supply and take-up reels on the right side of the holder. The film is advanced with a crank/wheel, as opposed to a lever, which draws the film directly off the roll into the exposure frame. The film path then makes a dogs-leg corner around a roller to the take-up reel. A spring-loaded metal bail rests on the take-up reel and serves to maintain film tension and discourage movement of the reel between shots. PDF versions of the user manuals may be found at:

Calumet C2 User Guide (cameramanuals.org) (http://www.cameramanuals.org/prof_pdf/calumet_roll_film_holder.pdf)

Calumet C2N User Guide (cambo.com) (http://www.cambo.com/Html/downloads/Linkedfiles/english/download/Item62/C2N.pdf)
Differences
I was not far down the purchase path before I realized that there is a significant price difference between the C2 and C2N models. Why might that be? The C2N is reputed to be the improved version, though was not clear to me what those improvements might be. Here is a short list outlining the differences:

C2

Made in USA for Calumet
Silver film advance crank/wheel
All metal construction
Build is fairly rough and heavy

C2N

Made in the Netherlands for Calumet by Cambo
Black film advance crank/wheel
Extensive use of plastic with important parts still made of metal
Lighter weight
Improved ground glass rails (see more below)
Build is not so rough as on the C2

The Troublesome Back/Lid
I bought my C2 a couple of weeks before I got the C2N. Usage appeared to be pretty straightforward. It is supposed to simply slide in under the ground glass the same as a sheet film holder. It also may be mounted directly to the Graflok/International back
with the ground glass lifted or removed. Simple enough, I said to myself and to be honest, I avoided grief for the first couple of rolls of film. About that time I took a close look at the back/lid of the holder and the metal rails that the ground glass frame is supposed to ride on.

Hmmm...something does not look right here. Why does the lid project beyond the top edge of the rails? It looks like it might be in a position to...Oh! No! It could scrape the under surface of the ground glass! Sure enough, there is a small footnote in the user instructions regarding certain Speed Graphic models where the holder might damage the ground glass. Specific instructions are supplied to avoid this issue. The instructions only make sense when you have the camera and holder in hand, but here they are anyway:

Insert the holder about 1/3 distance into the back
Rock the ground glass frame up onto the rails at this point
Push holder in the remainder of the distance

The C2N Fix
In addition to replacement of many metal parts with plastic, the C2N has a major point of modification to help prevent damage to the ground glass:

Thick plastic bumpers were added to the tops of the rails to raise the ground glass above the back/lid

It was at this point that I ordered the C2N from KEH and sure enough, the improved version has plenty clearance with my camera. At this point, I would point out that the C2N manual includes a paragraph regarding other potential clearance issues with some ground glass frames. It is enough to say that it is good to work carefully until you are sure that everything is working well together.

Here are a few photos comparing the two models:

C2N vs. C2: Side view with notes
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4009/4585752920_9db6c1c9cf_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/28796087@N02/4585752920/)

The C2N is on the left. C2 is all metal and is significantly heavier as a result.


C2N vs. C2: Head On
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4023/4585126821_97b3f9d360_o.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/28796087@N02/4585126821/)

The C2N is on the left.


C2N vs. C2: Inside view with notes
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4034/4692415940_a2c3b1ae40_b.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/28796087@N02/4692415940/)

The C2N is at the top with the C2 model at the bottom. Aside from the plastic components, the only real internal difference is the split film tensioner bail on the C2N.

Usage and Field Impressions
I have put several rolls of film through both holders and am generally happy with the purchase. Here are a few bullet points:

Easy to load
The protruding film reel portion can get in the way and may catch on things like coat sleeves, dark cloths, and such
Depending on the strength of the ground glass springs, it may be a good idea to lock the holder to the back once inserted to insure that it stays put
The instructions suggest advancing the film between shots by turning the wheel by its edge rather than by its crank handle. If you are using the crank handle with the holder in place on the camera, the holder can "lift" out of place if not locked into the back. This is less likely if the crank handle is not used.
Care should be taken to avoid accidentally pressing the film advance release button between shots

Inevitable Questions
There are a few things that I can't say much about:

Construction details...rumor is that there is a high degree of variability over time with these holders. I can only speak for the units I own. Others may be different.
Frame spacing...most of the time it is pretty regular, but there is the occasional wide/narrow space between frames. Who knows why?
Film flatness...I try and stay away from brick walls...can't say for sure regarding film flatness

Any additional information and insight is welcome.


Steve

GPS
12-Jun-2010, 03:58
If I'm not mistaken, then there is one difference between the two types which you don't mention probably because you cannot see it without removing the cover of the dial mechanism. The C2N has a modified mechanism with better material and some changes in the mechanics. That is an important detail as that mechanism is the most mechanically strained part of the film holder.
In 15 years of use of this holder (6x12) I never encountered a problem with either film flatness or frame spacing.

BrianShaw
12-Jun-2010, 08:05
A very impressive analysis.

Gem Singer
12-Jun-2010, 08:35
Excellent report, Steve.

Since you are attempting to put a 4x5 outfit together, why are you considering using roll film?

Wouldn't it be much simpler to use a medium format roll film camera?

One of the main advantages of a 4x5 camera is it's ability to use sheet film and it's ability to vary the type of film used for each shot, as well as being able to custom develop each frame.

With roll film, you have to develop the entire roll as if it were a single shot. Some frames will be over developed and some under developed.

Also, you will probably use the entire roll before you develop it, or waste film if you develop after only using a few frames.

BTW, I have a Calumet/Cambo C2N 6x9 film holder that I occasionally use for 120 color film. I like it. No need to remove the ground glass and risk damage.

Color roll film is more economical than color sheet film, and photo labs that process color sheet film are becoming harder to find. Many still process 120 color film, however.

stevebrot
12-Jun-2010, 09:24
...why are you still using roll film?...

The short answer would be, "because I can..." ;)


Wouldn't it be much simpler to use a medium format roll film camera?...

The long answer has to do with practical issues and expense. Here are the inevitable set of bullet points:

Options for camera/lens movements are limited with most medium format systems...expensive too.
I am familiar with roll film
Roll film allows for a compact/light option when space and weight are a consideration
Price per exposure, particularly for color, is far less
I am still learning the view camera work flow and it is less discouraging to me to wrestle with the darkslide demon and his friends when I have more exposures to waste
I am proficient at processing my own roll film negatives, but am unfamiliar with and have been not set up for 4x5
I don't have the space for a 4x5 enlarger, but do have an existing 6x7 setup that fits in a closet when not being used
Per-exposure tuning of development has not historically been a particular concern to me. I have taken the lazy approach of metering for the shadows and using semi-compensating developer. That may change now that I have the sheet film option.

What started me down the path to LF was a long-standing desire to have access to movements for both focus plane and perspective control. I considered a number of options including T/S optics on 35mm and MF and 2x3 view cameras. 4x5 appeared to offer what I was looking for along with the option of a larger negative and per-exposure processing when and if my path led me in that direction.

In any case, the box of Arista.EDU Ultra 4x5 is due to be delivered today and I will start using my camera to its full potential (finally, I can use my 90mm as a wide angle!). I am addressing the processing issue with a cheap plastic daylight tank and "taco" method. We will see how that works.

Steve

BTW...I am very fortunate to have a local lab (Citizens Photo in Portland) that does both C41 and E6 sheet film processing at under $3 per sheet. Once I get the B&W flow down pat, I will give color a try.

Gem Singer
12-Jun-2010, 10:23
Great intellectual analysis , Steve.

I agree that the ability to use camera movements are a plus when shooting roll film with a large format camera.

However, I personally find it difficult to see the effect of movements on the ground glass with a smaller image.

Let's hope Citizen's Photo continues processing color film for a long time.

stevebrot
12-Jun-2010, 15:06
...However, I personally find it difficult to see the effect of movements on the ground glass with a smaller image...

Me too...

...of course the 8x10 and ULF guys would say the same thing regarding 4x5 ;) I would also expect that there are legions of 2x3 view camera users that would readily leap to defend the utility of their chosen format. Need I mention those people who paid big bucks for T/S optics for their MF and 35mm systems.

In any case, there are merits to be shown all-round. The very fact that roll film holders have been and continue to be made for 4x5 cameras by many different makers indicates that there is some rational for shooting the smaller negative on the larger camera. I am glad for having the option of going either way.


Steve


(Recently saw a 35mm film back for a 4x5...go figure...)

Matus Kalisky
15-Jun-2010, 01:48
great detailed description. I am considering a C2N in 6x12 for my Tachihara 4x5 for a long time.

I would like to ask - what is the weight of the C2N and what is the thickness of the part that goes below the ground glass?

GPS
15-Jun-2010, 08:16
great detailed description. I am considering a C2N in 6x12 for my Tachihara 4x5 for a long time.

I would like to ask - what is the weight of the C2N and what is the thickness of the part that goes below the ground glass?

The thickness is 24 mm, the weight 654 g (for the 6x12 version).

Matus Kalisky
15-Jun-2010, 12:30
The thickness is 24 mm, the weight 654 g (for the 6x12 version).

thanks :)

Bill_1856
15-Jun-2010, 12:55
Steve, thank you for going to the trouble of composing this and posting it.
I personally have no interest in ever buying this particular roll film adapter, but I'm sure that it is a matter of vital interest to many 4x5 users -- if there was a "QT PRIZE" for the most helpful post on this forum I think that you deserve it for 2010.
(PS, as to why anyone would want to shoot 120 in a 4x5 camera, in college I shot thousands of formal pictures of couples at the big-band dances with a pair of 6x6 backs on my Graphic View II and somebody changing the film and flash bulbs for me and writing down the names and taking their $2.00.)

stevebrot
15-Jun-2010, 16:15
Steve, thank you for going to the trouble of composing this and posting it.
I personally have no interest in ever buying this particular roll film adapter, but I'm sure that it is a matter of vital interest to many 4x5 users -- if there was a "QT PRIZE" for the most helpful post on this forum I think that you deserve it for 2010.
(PS, as to why anyone would want to shoot 120 in a 4x5 camera, in college I shot thousands of formal pictures of couples at the big-band dances with a pair of 6x6 backs on my Graphic View II and somebody changing the film and flash bulbs for me and writing down the names and taking their $2.00.)

Damn...They give prizes here? (Anxiously waiting for the post to deliver the big check!)

Seriously though...thanks for the strokes. The whole LF shift has been and continues to be a journey through uncharted waters for me and though I am still very ignorant, I figure that I can at least share what little I have learned with readers of this forum and the Web in general.


Steve

letchhausen
26-Jun-2010, 21:39
Steve, thanks for the informative post. I recently did a lot of research on roll film backs for my 4x5. I was taking a color class in school and there is no color 4x5 development here in Seattle so in order to complete assignments on time I borrowed a friends Hasselblad. While a nice camera, I wanted a way to use my Tachihara. While I considered the C2N I had read some information about it being complicated to use so I bought a Horseman 6x9 back from KEH. (Perhaps if your post had been earlier that would of turned out differently). Since I have a spring back camera I put a piece of matboard against the ground glass to protect it. This has worked out great, it's allowed me to complete assignments easily since I can get roll film developed within a few hours.

I still shoot color sheet film (which I send to Samy's in Santa Barbara for speedy turnaround and great service). I also like the roll film back as insurance if I use up my holders and am not in a situation to reload! Plus those 6x9 negs will make a pretty big print.

David McNiven
27-Jun-2010, 08:17
Hi Steve, I have a C2 which seems to be intermediate to your C2 and C2n.

It has no side rail extensions and has silver-anodised wheels, metal darkslide, metal faceplate & back door - but has a plastic body and a split bail. Marked Elk Grove Village, Ill., roll holder model C2. The side rails and the ridges on the back door are black on mine, yours appear to have been linished or polished.

The plastic body probably accounts for it feeling a little lighter than my Cambo, which more closely resembles the C2n. The Cambo has a different pressure plate & springs and a plastic darkslide. I haven't compared the winding, spacing & counting components because neither back has ever failed.

Calumet's pressure plate spring only exerts pressure on one end of the pressure plate assembly, to the left of the roller in your picture. The hinged end is fixed except for its rotation when loading film (ie. it's not spring-loaded at this end) - this and the fact that the pressure plate is shorter than the film gate may be related to the reported film flatness issues.

On the Cambo the roller is at the very end of the hinged assembly and the pressure plate is able to be longer, covering the film gate completely. The pressure plate is spring-loaded at both ends (the hinges have oversized holes to allow this to work).

In theory this ought to be superior to the Calumet system but I've had no film flatness or transport problems with either make. They both have a large diameter roller - which must kink stationary film less than the smaller rollers in many other backs.

stevebrot
27-Jun-2010, 13:19
Hi Steve, I have a C2 which seems to be intermediate to your C2 and C2n.

It has no side rail extensions and has silver-anodised wheels, metal darkslide, metal faceplate & back door - but has a plastic body and a split bail. Marked Elk Grove Village, Ill., roll holder model C2. The side rails and the ridges on the back door are black on mine, yours appear to have been linished or polished.

The plastic body probably accounts for it feeling a little lighter than my Cambo, which more closely resembles the C2n. The Cambo has a different pressure plate & springs and a plastic darkslide. I haven't compared the winding, spacing & counting components because neither back has ever failed.

Calumet's pressure plate spring only exerts pressure on one end of the pressure plate assembly, to the left of the roller in your picture. The hinged end is fixed except for its rotation when loading film (ie. it's not spring-loaded at this end) - this and the fact that the pressure plate is shorter than the film gate may be related to the reported film flatness issues.

On the Cambo the roller is at the very end of the hinged assembly and the pressure plate is able to be longer, covering the film gate completely. The pressure plate is spring-loaded at both ends (the hinges have oversized holes to allow this to work).

In theory this ought to be superior to the Calumet system but I've had no film flatness or transport problems with either make. They both have a large diameter roller - which must kink stationary film less than the smaller rollers in many other backs.

Yikes! More variations. Thanks for sharing! The hinged assembly/pressure plates for both my holders appear to be the same with the pressure plate extending the full length of the film gate and spring loading at the roller only. Both of my units have metal dark slides.

Any chance you can provide a photo of the hinged assembly on your holder showing the spring-loading?


Steve

David McNiven
27-Jun-2010, 15:42
Hi Steve, no time for the next few days but if you pm an email address I'll send photos of both types as soon as I can.
Posting pics here is such a pain.
"with the pressure plate extending the full length of the film gate"... not on my C2. It stops about 3mm. short to allow room for the roller, which can just be seen through the gate with the slide out.

stevebrot
27-Jun-2010, 16:34
Hi Steve, no time for the next few days but if you pm an email address I'll send photos of both types as soon as I can.
Posting pics here is such a pain.
"with the pressure plate extending the full length of the film gate"... not on my C2. It stops about 3mm. short to allow room for the roller, which can just be seen through the gate with the slide out.

Oh...

I just took a second look at my C2 with the dark slide out and just as you say, the plate does end about 3mm short of the edge of the film gate. My C2N has film in it so I am not in a position to check it until later. I will update the original post when I have a chance to look at both holders.

stevebrot
14-Jul-2010, 12:23
Oh...

I just took a second look at my C2 with the dark slide out and just as you say, the plate does end about 3mm short of the edge of the film gate. My C2N has film in it so I am not in a position to check it until later. I will update the original post when I have a chance to look at both holders.

The same is true of my C2N. It also has the short plate.


Steve

David McNiven
14-Jul-2010, 18:02
Hi Steve, item no. 300443137961 on evilbay has a pic of the Cambo back's spring arrangement. The back door presses down on both ends of each of the 2 springs which you can see - so pressure on the plate is more evenly distributed than on the Calumet version.

stevebrot
14-Jul-2010, 22:27
Thanks David. Yes, that is quite a bit different.


Steve

rdenney
14-Jul-2010, 23:00
Since you are attempting to put a 4x5 outfit together, why are you considering using roll film?

Wouldn't it be much simpler to use a medium format roll film camera?

If you want view camera movements, cameras made for roll film are rarer and more expensive than 4x5 cameras. And they cannot be adapted to accept 4x5 sheet film, or Fujiroid holders.

Rick "who uses a roll film format that won't fit in roll-film view cameras" Denney