View Full Version : Which polaroid film holder

Robert Haury
17-Sep-2003, 08:08
I want to start using polaroid film to check composition, exposure and focus. I noticed that there are four different models on the Polaroid web site. The 545 pro, 545i, 405 and 550. Is there any reason not to get the 550? What are the things to look out for when buying a used 545 or 545i? Any advice from polaroid users?


Tracy Storer
17-Sep-2003, 08:32
Hi Robert, The 550 is great, but not as many films are available for it, many stores don't stock the 4x5 pack films. 545i is good. 545 pro is better, it has not only a temp-sensing timer built in, but also, and more importantly to me, improved catches for holding the film in place during exposure. Best, Tracy

Brian Kennedy
17-Sep-2003, 09:35
Tracy - what are the improved catches? I thought the only difference between the "pro" and the 545i was the timer.

Robert - I have both an older 545, bought off an auction site for $50, and a new 545i from Badger. Both work fine. For a used 545, the most important thing (IMO) is to look for clean, unscratched, "undinged" rollers.

As for differences in models, the 545i is just a newer lighter weight 545 (plastic instead of metal), the 545 pro is a 545i with a built-in timer, and the 405 and 550 are for film packs (545 is for single sheets). Packs are cheaper, but you obviously can't change emulsions as frequently. Plus, I don't think you can pull them out for later processing, like you can with the 545/545i. The 545 backs also work in a pinch as a Quickload or Readyload holder; the 405 and 550 don't.

Rob Barker
17-Sep-2003, 09:39
I'm not sure if the catch in the 545 pro is any better than in the i, but it does have an indicator on the LCD display (a little tick icon) that confirms that the film is properly engaged in the holder.

I have a 545 pro and an old 545 metal holder and I find myself using the pro almost all the time.

David R Munson
17-Sep-2003, 10:02
I use the 545i and am very pleased with it, but the older versions of the 545 and the new 545 Pro are all good, capable holders that you can service in the field if you know what's up. I also used to have the original #500 holder and it worked wonderfully, and was practically bulletproof. The only trick with those is that it won't stop you from pulling the paper out all the way on the film packet. I just got used to knowing when I had pulled it out far enough by the markings on the paper. Unfortunately, the thing died after being dropped out of a moving car (don't ask). Overall, I'd say go for the 545i, but occasionally you can find the older ones for pretty darn cheap, and if economy is much of a consideration, it might be worth looking around for a used one.

James Driscoll
17-Sep-2003, 10:08
I own a 545i and a 405 and a 550, and I find them all useful.

The 545 series backs are the "standard"- good film choice and as mentioned can use quickload/readyload.

The 405 is great, it allows you to use 600 series instant material (polaroid and the WONDEFUL ABSOLUTLY AMAZING fuji instant stuff), designed to be used with a graflok back, but can be used on some cameras without removing the GG. On my Sinar, if I don't remove the GG I lose one shot- because I cannot remove the darkslide with the GG on. The advantage of the 405, is MUCH lower operating costs. The disadvantage is that it is quite a bit smaller than the 4x5 frame. Perfect for exposure proofing, and for making sure your shutter didn't take a dump.

The 550 is the unsung hero of the instant picture world. It is enjoying a new life, due to the fact that the newly imported to the USA, Fuji FP100c (and Fp100b) 4x5 film is Pack film not single sheet film. Fuji makes a version of this holder called the PA-45, and straight from a former Polaroid employee "it is made a LOT better than the 550". The advantge of the 550, is you get a centered full frame 4x5- not a off center 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 image like you get from single sheet polaroid.

I use my 545i for type 54 and type 55 shooting, my 405 when it is a low budget job, and my 550 when shooting color. The fuji material it not only my humble opinion, but alot of others- way superior to either type 59/79 or 90. (689 vivid was repacked FP100C and no longer avail.)

550's and 405's go for peanuts on E of Bay (550 I got for $18, 405 I got with 5 packs of in date 679 for $60) and are cheap enough and useful enough to have in the arsenal.

neil poulsen
17-Sep-2003, 11:45
Be sure to try out the 405 prior to purchase. I got one, because the film's less expensive. But, I can't use it in vertical orientation on an Arca. It has a lip that sticks down below the plane of the film.

Alan Davenport
17-Sep-2003, 12:32
I've got the 545i, never used any other LF Polaroid backs, in fact it's my first Polaroid apparatus since the Swinger camera (!) I've never had any problems with this unit, either with Polaroid or Kodak films. I'm currently using it with a Tachihara, works great. The 545 (non "i") is the same back with metal construction vs. the 545i's plastic.

17-Sep-2003, 12:58
I have both the 545 and 545i Pro models. The metal 545 I find not as smooth in operation as the largely plastic 545i Pro model and it does not grab the clip end as securely (this is particularly noticeable when using Readyloads in it) but I expect this is at least as much due to the age of my 545 as much as anything. The 545 would probably survive being dropped on hard ground better though...

As I only use Type 55 P/N Polaroid film, the time and temperature metering on the Pro model sees little use, as neither are very critical for the negative and I always wait until I get home to process the sheets if I am interested in the negative rather than the positive.

Bottom line: as pointed out by others above, the 545 series gives you the widest range of film. If you want ruggedness, look at a *good* used 545, if you want lighter weight and are buying new (or nearly new) the 545i will suit; it's up to you if the Pro model with the temperature and timer will be useful for your purposes - it does add extra bulk to the holder.


Tracy Storer
17-Sep-2003, 13:43
The 545 Pro is supposed to have two catches instead of one to hold the film both more squarely and securely. In addition to the above comments both the 545i and 545 Pro are much easier to re-assemble after stripping to remove the occasional metal film end tab.

Brian Kennedy
17-Sep-2003, 14:21
FWIW, the 545i (non-"Pro") also has two catches to grasp the clip end of the film, one slightly above center, one slightly below. It sounds the same as the Pro version. The old 545 metal holder has just one catch, right in the center (or at least, mine has just one). I haven't noticed that the two catches work any better than just one, but what Tracy said makes sense.

Don Miller
17-Sep-2003, 14:22
The weight of the 545 is significant and a factor in backpacking. If that's important I would compare specs with the i version. I don't see much value in the timer/thermometer for landscape photography. Most people doing landscapes are very weather aware and know the approximate temperature. We have to have 'timers' for shutter speed anyways so I don't need an extra clock.

I try to be reasonably precise on timing polariods but it doesn't require the exactness of film.

Robert Haury
17-Sep-2003, 14:25
So, as usual the more you learn the more you don't know. The use of the 550 holder with the Fuji instant film sounds very interesting. Might be just the ticket for my needs. Any other feed back on the Fuji film?

Thanks for all the replies

Christopher Condit
17-Sep-2003, 15:51
Just wanted to mention that in the plastic vs. metal debate, don't assume that the plastic is a problem. They are perfectly well made and sturdy, and the lighter weight (and presumably cost) fully justifies any slight increase in fragility.


Bill Jefferson
18-Sep-2003, 03:43
Polaroid Film Holders 545 pro, 545 i, 545 (steel), 500

newest model to oldest model


James Driscoll
18-Sep-2003, 06:57
Plastic vs Metal debate....

I have dropped my 545i about 17 times on PAVEMENT and never had a problem, except the damn thing looks like it was used for football practice now!!!

Seriously, I have run about 2000 sheets of polaroid through mine already and I bought it USED. I have never had much of a problem, except once when the spring got screwy but was able to fix it while sitting on the curb in Brooklyn.

All versions of the 545 are built like tanks, I used to work in a big rental house in NYC, and we had something 20 of them- a mix of 545's and 545i's, and they NEVER broke in my two year tenure.

Now if polaroid the company would just hold up like there 545 backs.....