Rollfilm on 4x5 or not To Rollfilm on 4x5 That Is The Question? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

For years now I nave been a religious large format user. I also love the control of the swings and tilts that view cameras offer.But over the last year roll film has come back into the picture for me. Last summer I shot roll film on a work shop I took in the bristle cone pines in CA the results were outstanding, I was able to get closer,compose better, & capture more images than I would ever have been able to do with just using sheet film. The film was Agfa 100 b&w outstandig stuff. So you say what's the problem shoot roll film and be happy. Well every time I do I feel like I'm selling out on the GODS OF LARGE FORMAT( THE BIGGER THE BETTER) and I keep watching out for lighting to strike me at any moment. Why do I have these feeling? Do any of you suffer this pain ?DO the GODS also haunt you? can roll film be this GOOD? this shakes all this dogma I had about bigger being better. Please help, What are your thoughs opinions comments sign ROLL FILM JUNKY.PS I am a landscape photographer working in B&W only

-- Richard A. Johnson (, July 07, 1999


I would consider why you're using large format. Are you trying to squeeze every line pair per milimeter of resolution for huge enlargements? Do you need the perspective correction a wiggly camera offers? Do you need the odd focal planes a flexible camera offers. Do you work better at the slower pace of a view camera? Can you stand processing every frame on a roll the same way? Can you afford extra rollfilm backs for the contrast expansion and compression (if you do such things)? Are you photographing or loading film holders where dust is a problem? Are you traveling, and rollfilm is much less bulky than lots of sheet film and holders?

I'm sure you can see where I'm leading.

Now I'm not really sure I understand the ability to "get closer, compose better". I do find when I change from my usual format, it forces me to think a little differently than I have been. Maybe this gentle nudge out of your comfort zone was helpful.

-- mike rosenlof (, July 07, 1999.

Well, I do know what you mean. Having used 4x5 for a while, I ended up using roll film in roll film cameras. My reasons were two fold: firstly, the quality of a 16x20 black and white print from a medium format negative using modern emulsion exceeds what I was getting from 4x5 twenty years ago. Secondly, I became lazy about weight, set up time and especially all the palaver with loading and unloading film. However, I did like the slower pace of sheet film and especially the tilts. So, yesterday I did what you may consider the dumbest thing: bought a second hand Arca 69 monorail. I hope for a 4x5 look with medium format portability. Hope springs eternal....

-- Mark Eban (, July 07, 1999.

Well Richard, if you are a heretic then I'm a heretic too. I sold my Busch Pressman 4x5 and recently acquired a 2x3 Crown Graphic. Why? I found I was getting images with my medium format gear that I would have missed with my 4x5, the 4x5 was too heavy and bulky for backpacking, I got sick of dust spots, and my first experience with Readyload backs was a total disaster.

To add to my heresy, I sold my darkroom equipment and am now doing all my post-development work on a computer, including black-and-white printing.

-- Darron Spohn (, July 08, 1999.

Darron! You heathen you. Digital? Aaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!

-- james (, July 09, 1999.

If it works for you, use it. Using a 120/220 back on your 4x5 will give you the film options you want and keep control over the image with the movements the view camera offers, while at the same time allowing you to shoot a sheet or two of specific films in 4x5 as needed, so you get the benefits of both film types. Bigger is NOT better simply by being bigger. Using a camera is like learning about a lover, an individual experience. Not everyone wants the same thing, and given the same thing as someone else, your experience will be different. You use what you use to get the picture you like, format be damned. Choose/use the film format that best expresses your vision. As Paula Chamlee says, "It's not what it is, it's how it looks". If you get good results with a minox, use it. No one really cares if you used a Linhof or Toyo or 1921 Kodak folding camera if the photos are good.

-- Dan Smith (, July 09, 1999.

James, I guess I shouldn't mention that I'm using a cheap Crown Graphic 2x3 so I can save my money to buy a digital camera in a few years and dispense with film forever, should I?

-- Darron Spohn (, July 09, 1999.

Darron, I use my 2x3 Busch Pressman all the time but "stoop" to cheating with a "digital" camera....aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh......never. You heretic! Lumberjack

-- james (, July 10, 1999.

The gods of LF will forgive you. I carry both a horseman 6x9 back and a Fuji Quickload back with my Canham DLC kit. If I am feeling really ambitious and have a spare back to carry gear I'll also bring a 405 and 545i Polaroid back along.

-- Ellis Vener (, July 10, 1999.

I have found the benefit of my 6x9 roll film back are, more economical justification for bracketing, increases the focal lengths of existing lenses, conveince, less errors due to avoiding loading / unloading film holders, smaller size if you backpack and want to take 50 shots, .... etc. The down side is, you may not have lens of small enough focal lenght for it to meet your needs. However, if I were to purchase one again, I would bite the bullet and get the Sinar multi format back, it covers from 6x4.5 thru 6x12, therefore, one back can get you any shot you want. And if you use it enough it may eventually pay for itself with film cost savings. The used cost for this back is about $1200, however, they are very hard to find. If you find one used, let me know!

-- Bill Glickman (, July 17, 1999.

I have recently gone the other way for the following "non-commercial" reason. I have old, near-sighted eyes. When I look at a 4x5 transparency from 6 inches, I can see it perfectly (without glasses) -- much better than when I was there taking the pictures (with glasses)! If I try this with a medium format slide it is too small. If you love the brilliance and sharpness of the original transparency, LF is the only way to go. Viewing prints through $200 glasses is not nearly as good and I think it is ironic to take pictures with a $1500 lense and never see the result except through the cheap, single-element lenses in my glasses.

-- Mark Hollingsworth (, December 18, 2001.

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