Using Polaroid 545 back for Quickload/Readload : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I recently bought a used 4x5 that came with a Polaroid 545 back. I was at my local camera shop trying to buy some Quickload/Readyload film and the clerk asked me if I already had the backs. I told him that I'd just read in the Nov 98 issue of Popular Photography in an article entitled "Up Against the Groundglass" by Dan Richards that I could use my Polaroid back for the Quickload/Readyload films. He told me that I would lose my critical focus. He said the film plane was different. I figured he was just trying to sell me the respective holders but when I asked for them he said he did not have them to sell. I then called a man who shoots a lot of 4x5 and posed the question to him and he said that I had been given bad information. He said that the film plane was the same and that I would not have a problem.

Can anyone absolutely answer the question one way or the other? I can get the other film holders but I don't want to if it is not necessary. On the other hand, since I've not used the camera yet, I don't want to introduce any additional reasons for why I might not get good shots as I test the camera. I'd sure appreciate some help here.

-- Gene Essman (, November 11, 1998



You sound like someone who is not new to photography, only new to Large Format. So Im sure you are aquatinted with the concept of Depth of Field. In LF, where the lens and the film are fluid (that is you can move them all around) there is another consideration called Depth of Focus. This is much like Depth of Field except that instead of describing the range where the subject will be in acceptable focus it describes the range of the position of the film that will produce acceptable focus. Formulas to calculate this are available at various web sites and in Leslie Strobels excellent book View Camera Techniques. Professor Greenspun (upon whos web Site we trod) suggests you read this book BEFORE buying a View Camera, so (by his standards) you are already behind on your homework.

If because of your focal length, aperture, etc. your Depth of Focus is small, it is possible that portions of the image could appear out of focus due to the film not being perfectly flat, or not in quite the right place, or not squared with front standard, and so on (see Professor Gs description of his attempts to use a wooden View Camera for copying; elsewhere on this Web Site). I think this is probably what people are talking about when they question the use of the Polaroid holder for Ready Loads (not that the film plane is different, if that were so then the Polaroids would be out of focus--Film thickness could be a factor in very critical work). Youll have to decide for yourself if this will be a factor for you. Youve got the camera and the Polaroid holder, run some Ready Loads through it and see.

Im too much of a cheapskate to use Ready Loads myself, but some others have complained of light leaks when using the Polaroid holder with them. Watch out for that.

Good shooting.

-- Steve Pfaff (, November 12, 1998.


I sure do appreciate your response and youre right - I seem to always behind in my homework.

I figure Im about an average to advanced amateur but primarily with 35mm and am very new to LF. Ive not had time to make all the rounds on the web and read all the recommended books but I do have one LF book which seems to have garnered some respect in that I have seen it at the top of recommended reading lists. That book is Photography with Large-Format Cameras by Kodak. All it has to say about Depth of Focus is " The term "depth of focus" is occasionally mentioned in technical manuals and though it is of more concern to camera and film holder manufacturers than to photographers, understanding it will keep you from confusing it with the more practical considerations of depth of field (see page 39). Depth of focus can be simply defined as the range of distance at the image plane with which the circles of confusion are acceptably small. In other words, it is the distance that the film can be away from the optimum focus point of the lens and still produce acceptably sharp images. This zone usually extends and equal distance both in front of and behind the film plane. Aperture, subject distance, and film size all affect dept of focus."

The clerk told me that the film thickness is different and that the respective holders do not uniformly position the film at precisely the same location and therefore I would lose my critical focus. Although I'd read about "film plane," a few years ago, it is such a non-issue with current smaller format cameras that what hed said to me threw me for a loop. It made sense to me but then when I went for a second opinion, I got conflicting information.

As for your suggestion about "running some Ready Loads through it and see," that is just the point. Not being a LF expert, I am not that well acquainted with the two lens I have and their quality and if I run a few shots through it and there is a problem Ill not know if it is the lens, the film, my bellows, my focusing, or what. Ive tried to learn a bit about it but time is limited. As a married amateur not overly flush with dollars but one who has just spent some bucks in transition from older Nikon stuff to couple of new Canon EOS bodies, three news lens, and other accessories, as well as a new lens for my 6x7, I can tell you most assuredly that there is only so much a man can get away with before he finds himself bunkin with Fido. Thats why I presented the question rather than learning by trial and error. I too was merely trying to exercise my right to also be a cheapskate.

I live at altitude in the Denver area and static is a real problem, especially this time of year with average humidity ranging from 5 to 40. Typically, the further away you can stay from film, the better. Ive loaded some Velvia and Ilford BW sheet film, which Ive yet to use, using a changing bag which was cramped such that I had to handle other than the edges of the film. I do not have a darkroom. I feel pretty sure that was an exercise in ruining film. I was looking for a better way because theres very little doubt in my mind that spending another $200 - $250 for Readyload film and the holders would only succeed in me getting permission to dine on Alpo tonight, and for the foreseeable future. I do very much appreciate the time you took to respond and the tips you offered but Im afraid you failed to provide me with the magic bullet I was looking for.



-- Gene Essman (, November 12, 1998.


I know nothing about readyloads or polaroids, being far too poor to afford them, but I can't let you go spending all your money without telling you that film is more durable than you think it is and unless you folded the film in half or spilled ketchup on it inside that changing bag it will probably be okay. I don't have a darkroom either - I wait until dark and then load my film in a closet while uttering vocal prayers to the dust gods. Changing bags never worked for me and I only use mine away from home in the field when I have to.

My advice is to stick with the film holders and though others will disagree with me here, buy a box of 100 sheets of Arista 125 from Freestyle. It's only 37 bucks so you can shoot away and not feel too bad about screwing up, which you are bound to do for awhile. Remember, you are going to screw up loading the film, you are going to screw up composing the picture, you are going to screw up focusing, you are going to screw up exposing, you are going to expose twice on the same sheet, you are going to screw up developing, you are going to scratch your negatives, and you are going to screw up in your very own original ways that nobody else seems to screw up in but you. You need cheap film. Welcome to large format. Erik Ryberg

-- Erik Ryberg (, November 12, 1998.

Since you have the Polaroid holder, why not pick up a package of black and white Polaroid type 52 and shoot a few sheets. If they're sharp, the camera and holder are OK.

Get the Type 55 if you want to get a negative as well as a check print.

-- Tony Brent (, November 12, 1998.

For a thorough discussion of film holders, including different holders for Readyloads and Quickloads, see the following page on Quang-Tuan Luong's excellent large format site:

-- Greg Lawhon (, November 13, 1998.

This is a modified repost of my answer to a similar question from about a month ago. I tried sending it directly to you Gene, but got no responce so I figure the e-mail monster ate it. If you are testing for sharpness with Polaroid the film to use is the Type 55, not 52. reason being that all polaroid is a transfer from a negative to a positive and only Type 55 lets you examine the negative directly. This was in answer to the question "Qickload and Readyload."

...I very much like the Fuji QuickLoad system. You can use either the Fuji or the Kodak in the Polaroid holder but it it is not ideal.

Focus Plane tests:

Fuji was best in Fuji holder, equal to two tried and true Riteway holders; Kodak as good in Kodak holder. Both not acceptable in Polaroid 545i. I Didn't try Fuji in the Kodak holder or vice-versa. The Fuji holder is nicer to use.

Methodology for tests: Arca Swiss F-Line w/ 210mm f/5.6 Nikkor W, no filter; camera mounted on sandbagged Gitzo 410. Target: brick wall eight feet from camera, focus marks were made with a finetip black sharpie on white gaffer tape taped to wall in multiple places. Camera was squared to the wall using a mirror attached to the wall as alignment target. Sets of test exposures were made at both f/16 and f/5.6 for all films. Backs were held in place on camera via spring back plus graflock. Films tested: Fuji Velvia, Fuji Provia and Kodak E100s.

Failure Rates:

Kodak Readyloads: High failure rate, 25% to 30%, caused by light leaks due to bad jacket reseating, with film (averaged over three years of trials) with three Kodak holders and one Polaroid 545i.

Fuji QuickLoads: Zero failure rate with Fuji over three year period using one Fuji holder and one Polaroid 545i.

Operational note: Using the Fuji Holder I can leave the holder attached to the camera between shots. Many people have had better success with the Kodak product by a method called "slamming" whereby they insure the reseating of the film sleeve by tapping the end of the loaded holder (after shooting each side) on a solid surface. This may work, but I do not feel inclined to bother as this as it can eat up valuable time and concentration when the light is changing and also because clients think photographers are strange enough already without me having to a little tap dance to further that impression.

Please note I am not a Kodak basher; I really like the new Kodak E-6 and C-41 emulsions in many formats. I just think they really need to rethink and rework the Readyload system.

Please note: these results reflect my tests of a very limited product sampling. One of the Readyload holders, the Fuji Quickload holder and the Polaroid 545i were purchased off the shelf from local dealers. The other two Kodak QuickLoad holders were given to me by Kodak reps who were trying really hard to solve my problem with ReadyLoad film. I think the Kodak reps are trying really hard and it is upper management who is not listening.

Ellis Vener

Answered by Ellis (_evphoto@insync.net_) on October 23, 1998.

-- Ellis (, November 13, 1998.

Last summer I spent six week in the Colorado Rocky Mountains photographing mountainscapes. I used the Polaroid 545i back, Polaroid type 54 film, Kodak Readyload PRN-100 film. I shot about 200 frames of the Readyload and around 500 frames of Polaroid film. Here are some things to considered:

1. The Readyload metal clip on the bottom of the film cover will fall off real easy and expose the film. You must develop robust techniques to manage this short coming. I do not using jamming and I follow the instructions to the letter. Of the 200 frames I shot I had zero light leaks.

2. I had six negatives that were not sharp. All were taken with my 720mm lens with the bellows extended to 20 inches. I believe the problem was caused by camera vibrations from the wind.

3. I had ten negatives that had minor dust spots. None of the dust spots showed up in the final prints. The rest of the negatives were perfect.

4. I carry everthing on my back: food, shelter, clothing, film, six lenses, 4x5 camera, tripod, and and bunch of filters. Using just one film holder to handle a variety of film solutions is light and simple.

5. I was very productive because I eleminated the time needed for loading traditional film holders. This allowed me to take more photographs and be more responsive to changing light conditions.

-- Stephen Willard (, November 24, 1998.

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