Lens quality & Film planeity

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I am about to start photography using LF (probably 4x5). In ususal 35mm or 6x6 cameras a great deal of care is given to film pressure plates (i.e have a look on the plate of an Hasselblad A12 magazine)It seems that this might be a weak point in LF

The question are: 1) Are there several types of film slides for 4x5. 2) Is film planeity and/or proper poisionning always guaranteed ? 3) Is it worth buying the best lenses (apo whatsoever) if one is not sure that the film is 100% at the right position ? Are these lenses better in real shooting situation.

Thank you for your help L Vuillard

-- Laurent Vuillard (lv2@st-and.ac.uk), February 25, 1998


Film location is probably the weakest link in large format. I wouldnt loose to much sleep over it though. For the most part, most lenses will perform pretty much the same. On prints or chromes, most people will not be able to tell a 50 year old lens from the latest versions, as it will be diffraction limited at the apertures typicaly used in large format. For some cases, this may not be true. In very wide angle lenses, newer ones are better corrected than the older versions, and possibly for demanding commercial work, the newer lenses may be benificial, as well. I would recommend a good, reasonably modern optic on the used market, and save some money. Once you start LF, you will never go back! Good luck.

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), February 25, 1998.

I use Toyo and Riteway holders and have never had a problem with film flatness or positioning. The only problem with holders I have had is with light leaks (Riteway only). Toyo holders are quite expensive but are very well made.

I would certainly recommend buying the best optics you can afford. Nikkor, Schneider and Rodenstock are all comparable in terms of optical quality...much less variation than you would find among the different types of 35mm lenses made by the various manufacturers. Of primary consideration in choosing which LF lens to purchase is the image circle...this decision is going to be dictated in large part by the type of photography you will be doing.

-- Mark Windom (mwphoto@nwlink.com), February 25, 1998.

If you really want to delve into this subject, there was an article setting out the results of some extensive testing of sheet film holders in the March/April, 1996 issue of "View Camera" magazine. The author of the article ranked film holders on the basis of sharpness of photographs taken in the course of his extensive tests and conlcuded that the "best" 4x5 film holders solely from the standpoint of film flatness were Kodak Readyloads and old wooden Graphic holders. Among more modern, conventional holders Fidelity Riteways were the "best." Interestingly, Sinar makes a holder called the "Adhesive," which is hideously expensive. It was one of the worst in the author's tests. There are, however, a number of cautionary notes about these tests that the author discusses so before drawing any conlcusions you should read the full article. Back issues or xerox copies of individual articles can be bought from "View Camera" if you don't have access to back issues.

-- Brian Ellis (beellis@gte.net), March 12, 1998.

If you are concerned about film flatness and precision film plane positioning the ultimate answer is to purchase a Schneider Hi End Camera Back. It is quite expensive (about $2,500) but should lay these concerns to rest for good. It is a complete system consisting of dedicated precision film holders a dedicated film loader and the vacuum back and ground glass. Thus all the variables are under the control of Schneider in one "system". A very impressive piece of equipment. Whether it will actually yield practical improvements in sharpness in real world conditions remains to be seen. Certainly when the camera is pointed straight down it will as the film cannot sag under the pull of gravity.

-- Nous (eshaver@earthlink.net), May 17, 1999.

My reasoning was just the opposite of yours, when I decided to trade my Hasselblad for LF. You see, or in my view if you like, try a 120 roll-film in a random brand cassette, or take the 'best', like Hasselblad, and put in an expired film. Take out the cassette with the film when you're at frame 2 or 3. Look at the film-plane: it curls at the sides. This is due to the very nature of *roll*-film. Can only be counter-acted by vacuum-sucking like in the new Contax 645 cassette does. In LF this curling does not appear because the film is not on a roll, it has always been flat. That's why LF-film is called 'flat-film' in Dutch. Every roll of pvc-like material, when bended inside out, which happens in an MF cassette (and NOT in a 35mm camera: here the film bends in the camera the same way as in the cassette), will curl at the ends.

In cheaper versions of MF this draw-back of MF can be seen on the pictures, like in Mamiya 645: the middle of the picture being sharp and the outer bands being unsharp.

-- Lot (lotw@wxs.nl), May 17, 1999.

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