readyloads vs filmholders : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

curious to know if there might be a concensus regarding usage of readyload type film holders in the field/assignment? in many cases, one might use the polaroid type film back and process the film at a later date. however, i'm curious about the kodak/fuji readyload backs--the pros and cons of these backs and the types of films which may be limited to either. if one were not to use either polaroid or traditional 4x5filmholders, what is the concensus re: kodak & fuji?

-- raymond a. bleesz (, May 18, 1999


Raymond, there is no concensus on these things. Some like them, some don't. They don't offer the range of films needed and used by many photographers. If they work for you, fine. I personally find it more satisfying to waste my money on popsicles than on these things that are so damn frustrating & seldom work for me.

-- Dan Smith (, May 18, 1999.

If you didn't realise, there are a number of opinions under 'older messages', 'film and holders'. I didn't notice a concensus though.

-- Alan Gibson (, May 18, 1999.

hi use regular sheet film holders (lisco/fidelity stuff) and fuji quickloads (some divided opinion on other pages at this site as to kodak readyloads suffering from ight leaks - i haven't used them, so can't comment). haven't noticed any dramatic difference between them though. i load my holders reasonably carefully and have so far managed to avoid dust problems (lucky, i guess) which appears to be one of the main advantages of the quickloads. there is a reference on this site to an article by englander on less sharp images with quickloads/readyloads - something to do with the degree of tolerence in the depth of the film holder in manufacture but i haven't noticed this difference myself. at my level of proficiency, i find more variability in field conditions affecting the image - in other words, i think my technique still screws up more pictures/produces more variability than my equipment. quickloads are more expensive compared to regular sheet film (roughly $2.5 versus 1.8 or so). my bias is towards using sheet film holders and having quickloads as a backup for something that really excites me. there also obviously is a much more limited variety of emulsions you can use with quickloads/ readyloads which might be an issue depending on your favoured emulsions. the other pages at this site should have more detailed info to help you out. hope this helps. thanks, dj

-- DJ (, May 19, 1999.

I have used the Fuji Quickload system almost exclusively for the past two & a half years, maybe longer. By system I mean the holder & packets. Prior to that I was using the Quickload film packets in a Polaroid 545i holder. I switched because testing revealed sharper images with the Fuji holder, especially at the edges. I probably shoot something approaching 2 cases per year. I shoot very little black & white in 4x5 and virtually no color negative in 4x5, so my experiences are limited to transparency films.

Here the advantages to the system as I see them:

1.) weight and bulk, especially in the field or on location for commercial shoots.

2.) Ease of use. As they are prepackaged I do not have to also take a film changing tent/bag with me, and I can carry much more film

3.) Time savings; no cleaning/ loading/unloading ritual.

4.) Reliability: with the Fuji QuickLoads, I have had zero failures due to lightleaks and no dust problems. I have not had any out of focus problems either, even when shooting wide open and the camera twisted in an anti-Schiempflug configuration so as to keep the depth of field very shallow with a very narrow point of focus.

The only limitation withthe Fuji system is , alas, the lack of a color negative (supposedly Fuji will release NPS in the Quickload packaging this summer), and unless you are in Europe no B&W negative.

I have not had good experiences with the Kodak Readyload system, so for me it is not reliable, but others have had very good experiences.

-- Ellis Vener (, May 19, 1999.

While I haven't had considerable experience with ReadyLoads yet, I've done some testing, and I find that many of the complaints out there regarding the system may be traced back to unclear documentation on Kodak's part.

I recently began shooting readyload again after watching a demonstration by Richard Newman from Calumet at a workshop. He emphasized a couple of key points, illustrated on Calumet's website at: this URL.

As far as a field-tested experience, I've had much better results shooting black and white with Readyloads. I cannot emphasize how much time and aggrivation I have saved because...hey, no dust. (I usually throw away negs if they would require heavy spotting in the print.)

So, while there may be no consensus here, the two pros I met on my last workshop (Richard Newman and Seiling) have had good experiences, and that, plus testing on my part has led me to believe that Readyload will do the job if you load and unload the holder correctly (see the URL above).


-- Doug Broussard (, May 19, 1999.

As an addition to the above posts, I would like to offer my recent experiences with film holder-less 4x5 photography.

I am a week away from completing a 10 week, 42 location architectural book project, entirely shot on Fuji Quickload and Kodak Readyload systems. I have observed the following things over the +800 Fuji sheets [RVP, RAP, RTP] and +360 Kodak sheets [T-Max 100] used on this project:

- If a film envelope gets jammed, or the film itself becomes lodged in the holder, or most likely, the metal clip on the end becomes lodged inside the holder, your basically screwed with either system. They both require disassembly of the holder to clear the jam. The Fuji holder, while not overly complex, is worse than the Kodak as far as "field stripping" it goes. The Fuji seems to have a propensity to leave things inside the holder when it decides to puke, causing complete system shut-down, while the Kodak packets just seem to self destruct when things go wrong, ruining the first exposed sheet [Kodak uses 2 sheets per packet]. So pick your poison on which is better. Lesson learned by me was, always pull slow and straight, and ALWAYS carry a Leatherman tool - I prefer the way the Fuji system works, especially the single sheet of film to an envelope. The Kodak system will fog the end of the film sheets if you are shooting under direct sun light [i.e. the camera has direct sunlight falling upon it]. This happened more than once, so now an extra hassle of flagging the entire camera is called for. + This job was very tightly scheduled, and held no room for downloading/re-loading multiple film backs [I estimate I would have needed in excess of 100 backs to accomplish what I am doing with this holder-less system, and an additional minimum of 2 hours per day for film administration] + It is such a pleasure to be able to write processing directions, shot notes, shot ID.'s etc. on each individual piece of film [packet], and believe me, no matter how good your written notes and system for cataloging film is, when your shooting every day sun-up to sunset, for 10weeks, things slip through the cracks, but this system has eliminated most of the cracks! + The ability to make quick changes in plans. Several times we added shots that were not planned, being able to shoot in a different light situation than we planned [ tungsten vs. daylight] was definitely facilitated by this system. Unlike in the past when I would have been loaded for, say daylight alone, it is now made very easy with holder- less film, to make the adjustment [and adding shots = more $$$] by just having an extra box of film along with you for such occasions. Yes, I could have had extra film holders as well, but it always boils down to how many are you going to tie up for contingencies, how many do you want to carry along as extra baggage, and how many do you really want to own? + Very fast shot to shot times. Shooting under changing conditions this becomes a factor. With the sun ducking in and out from behind clouds, it's VERY nice to be able to fire off 6 sheets in 90 seconds. Try that with conventional film holders!

All-in-all I am very pleased with both systems [Fuji / Kodak], but did have to rely on my 545i back as a back-up when one of the others went down [Fuji]. I have not had time to try cross compatibility tests between the two holders, but knew from personal experience that the Polaroid back will work with Fuji Q/L's [Kodak / Polaroid compatibility also an unknown at this time]

Hope this info helps, I'm looking forward to a months-long sleep!!

-- Robert Anderson (, May 20, 1999.

Robert said: "With the sun ducking in and out from behind clouds, it's VERY nice to be able to fire off 6 sheets in 90 seconds. Try that with conventional film holders!"

If I am dealing with changing light, it seems that a Grafmatic is a better tool for the job. I've tried to fire off Readyloads at a fast clip, and all it takes is one kink in the cardboard film holder to ruin the shoot. The Grafmatic and a lens with a press-type shutter will smoke any other combination when it comes speed. It is not hard to shoot at a frame every two seconds with a Grafmatic and a Copal press shutter.

I use Readyloads from time to time, and have had good luck with them. They are hard to beat for dust and hassle free shooting. I also use sheet film holders (Toyo) and like them. I've found sheet film holders to be less fussy to use than Readyloads, but there is the hassle of loading them, cleaning them, unloading them, and the extra bulk they have in your pack.

The Kodak system has a much wider range of emulsions available in the US. This made up my mind so far as Readyload vs Quickload. I would base my choice on the films that you like to shoot, and get the system that suits you best.

-- Gary Helfrich (, May 20, 1999.

Actually Gary, I can think of 4 E6 emulsions that Fuji is currently releasing in Quickload (Velvia, Provia, Astia & 64T). Kodak has two: (E100s & 100T.) I agree that in the US Kodak also has a color negative and a B&W negative material.

-- Ellis Vener (, May 20, 1999.

I've read implications from several notes in this forum that the Kodak Readyload holder can effectively handle both the Kodak Readyloads, and Fuji Quickloads. Is this indeed true, and if so, is there any downside to using this approach.

To date, I've been a traditional film holder & Grafmatic user. I have ocassionaly used Fuji Quickloads in a 545i holder, but after seeing this as unsatisfactory (no light leaks, but major film flatness issue), I won't use Quickloads anymore until I decide if I want to get into one or both of the dedicated holders.

Has anyone done an analysis about the cost effectiveness of Quickloads? I've often wondered if for professional use, their higher purchase cost more than offsets their advangtages in:

* no loading time & labor * less likely to have dust * superior film management * higher packing density

-- Larry Huppert (, May 21, 1999.

I've just returned from a trip on which I used Readyloads exclusively. I made the decision to take them because I've had some trouble with getting boxes of film through security. While they are "supposed" to hand check them, this isn't always the case and when a security guard decides he's either going to open the box or run them through the x-ray machine, there's not a lot you can do.

Anyway, I did find it more compact to carry a holder and two boxex of EPP rather than regular sheet film holders and a box of film. However, this is mitigated somewhat by the unusual length of the film packets. You need the right shoulder bag or backpack to carry these with ease. Without question, NOT carrying a changing bag is an advantage.

Dust has never been a problem for me, perhaps due to the high humidity in FL. However, loading holders in a hotel room and, worse, being in a new area where you are excited enough to make many exposures but have to deal with loading holders remotely, are enough to make me glad I carried the RL's.

Because of economics, if I'm to photograph at home or nearby, I'll carry sheet film holders. For trips, I'll use the RL's or QL's.

One secret to using the RL's is to make sure you stick the "exposed" label over the metal tab so that it holds both sides of the packet in place. That way you know instantly not to reuse it and it prevents an accident by pulling the metal tab off. Kodak does not provide enough "exposed" stickers. If you stick one on side 1 and then later over the tab to indicate both are exposed, you only have 1/2 the amount you need. So, I immediately reverse the packet to side 2 and leave it in the holder. Once exposed, I use the sticker and retire the packet. This is asking for trouble in my opinion and Kodak should provide 20 stickers (yes, I know I can make my own a

-- Mike Long (, May 22, 1999.

One carrying/storage trick I have found with Readyloads, Quickloads and Polaroids is to use the Fuji Quickload boxes to carry both my Quickloads (Readylloads fit too) and Polaroid materials in the Fuji Quickload boxes.If you carry the Polaroids in the Quickload box there is much less bulkto carry, trash to dispose of and the unshot Polaroids are better protected. As I use up the Polaroids and shoot real film, the emptying box that held the Polaroids gets used as an exposed film box.

-- Ellis Vener (, May 23, 1999.

There is a design flaw with the Readyload holder that will cause part of the film plane to be misaligned with the ground glass plane resulting in a soft image at one edge of the film. When the paper slide is in the retracted position to expose the film no provision in the design was made to account for the paper slides thickness. That is, the film plane is pushed back away from the perimeter of the 4x5 opening at the end where the paper slide is hidden just out of sight. This is further exasperated by a velcro-like light stop on the same end that pushes the paper slide and film even further back away from the perimeter of the opening that the film rests on.

To measure the magnitude of the departure, do the following:

1. Set the Readyload film holder down on a table with the 4x5 film opening facing up and insert a Readyload packet. Slide the paper slide back to expose the film (Yes you will waste a packet, but it is well worth it to understand what I am talking about). You should be able to see where the film is pushed back away from the perimeter where the paper slide is retracted.

2. Take a ruler and set it on edge across the 4x5 opening. Attach a toothpick perpendicular to the ruler using a spring cloths pin. Adjust the tooth pick so that it is touch the film surface close to the edge where the metal clip of the film packet is latched. Now slide the ruler and toothpick towards the edge of the 4x5 opening where the paper slide is retracted. This will very clearly show you the magnitude of how far the film plan is misaligned. In my case it was about 3/32".

You can fix the film holder to get proper alignment. Take the Readyload holder apart. Move the light stop that rest near the edge of the 4x5 opening back away from the opening about an inch. There is a valley in the mold that seems to accommodate the light stop. Now grind the edge of the applicable side of the perimeter down to allow for the thickness of the paper slide. Once you think you are there assemble the holder and apply the toothpick test. If the film continues to be pushed away then repeat the grinding until the film no longer is pushed back. You may also have to add some additional self-sticking velcro to make an effective light stop. You can test your changes for light leaks by loading the holder with film and placing it in the camera in full sun with the paper slide fully retracted for about 10 minutes. Develop the film and check for leaks adding additional velcro as needed.

Good luck!

-- Stephen Willard (, May 24, 1999.

There is a lot of good information in all of these messages. I'll add my 2 cents. I looked at the Calumet site that someone mentioned and it is very good. However, if you look at it carefully you'll see that it says little that the Kodak instructions don't say. I mention this, not to denigrate the site at all, but just to stress the importance of following the instructions carefully, meticulously, and to the letter. I've long suspected that the problems some people experience with Readyloads is really caused not by the system but by their failure to carefully follow the instructions in their haste to get the photograph made. Secondly, I think it's important to keep the film as perfectly parallel with the holder as possible when inserting the film into the holder. I've seen people in the field try to load the film by grasping the holder in their left hand and shoving the film in with their right. I think you will have better success if you first put the holder in the camera and then use two hands to gently and slowly push the film into the holder. Finally, I believe Kodak has made at least two versions, perhaps more, of this holder. I would buy the holder new rather than trying to save a few dollars on a used, possibly older, version.

-- Brian Ellis (, May 25, 1999.

As a newcomer to the Kodak Readyload system I thought I would contribute my experiences and thoughts.

I have now exposed 80 sheets of Koadak T-Max 100 in Readyload packets. My first 40 sheets had a light leak failure rate of approximately 50%. Unfortunately most of those were due to a defective box of Readyloads. It seems that I noticed too late that the black clips were not seated correctly. If I had noticed it sooner, I would have returned the box to the store.

I found that I was inserting and removing the packets too quickly. Perhaps this caused the packet end to bind a bit resulting is the clip not seating properly. I experimented and have found that inserting and removing the packet slowly results in virtually no failures.

At one point I was so frustrated that I was about to give up. I have a dozen Riteway holders with which I have never had a single failure. They are fine for local shooting, but when travelling 4 or 5 boxes of ready loads take up relatively little room and weight compared to the cut sheet holders.

I believe that with a bit of care in inserting and removing Readyload packets, this can be a very viable system. Especially for those of us that shoot primarily B+W in the US where the Fuji B+W emulsions are not available.

One other item, I add my name to the list of those who wish for Delta 100 in Quickload packets. ;-)

-- Mike Kravit (, November 16, 1999.

I have used both systems since they were introduced (yes, I went through all 3 generations of Kodak holders). Both systems work, but I have never had a failure with Fuji QL, I have had some failures with ReadyLoad, although in its latest incarnation, I would put the failure rate at less than 5% (one sheet per box). As a previous post noted, the Kodak holder does not put the film in a plane that matches the focusing gg. One end is pushed back by the strip on each packet. This curvature of the film plane is visible to the naked eye. In many cases, it doesn't create a problem with 3D subjects, but I would never use it for copy work. One advantage of traveling with these, rather than holder and film boxes, is that you can show airport security folk the packets.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, November 18, 1999.

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