Readyload vs Polaroid film holder : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've read all the threads (and thus am acutely aware of the various light leak and film flatness concerns) and am looking to settle on one of these holders. The Fuji Quickloads are not an option since I shoot mostly black and white. I would like to be able to use both Polaroid and regular emulsions; if the holder can use the Fuji film, that would be a plus, but isn't a decision driver.

What's my best choice?

1. Buy the Kodak Readyload holder and use both Kodak and Polaroid film in it.

Do the Polaroid film packets work in the Readyload holder?

2. Buy the Polaroid holder and use both Kodak and Polaroid film in it. The Readyload instructions on the Kodak site include instructions for using the film in a Polaroid holder.

What's the difference between the Polaroid 545 and 545i holders?

3. Suck it up and buy both holders (ouch!).

4. Something I haven't thought of?

I'm new to this so I want to optimize my chances for success, but $ is obviously an issue. Thanks for your help.


-- Chris Werner (, June 18, 2000


I had both the Kodak Readyload holder and the Polaroid 545i when I started with LF. I never had trouble with either, but I did not use them long. I quickly moved to regular film holders, once I got comfortable loading the film. The extra price of the readyload film did not seem worth it. Also the price of Polaroid film is high and the Polaroid holder is heavy. I found I did not need to make a Polaroid to get a good shot, so I stopped using the Polaroid film/holder as well. You may like the Readyload and Polaroid holders, but they were not for me.

1. You cannot use Polaroid film in the Readyload holder. 2. I have heard of problems with using Readyload film in a Polaroid holder, but I have never tried this. 3. The 545 and 545i are the same except that the 545i is made of plastic and lighter. The 545 is metal, heavier, and discontinued.

-- William Marderness (, June 18, 2000.

1, 2 & 3.) Polaroid doesn't work in either the Kodak or the Fuji holders, so that isn't an option. All three will work in the Polaroid holder but you'll compromise sharpness with the Fuji and Kodak materials. So yes you should suck it up and get both the Polaroid and the Kodak holder. But just the 545i holder is a very fine way to start.

2b.) the 545i is a little lighter and more streamlined. It is also the version that Polaroid has produced for several years now so unless you know the history of the used 545 holder you are considering you are better off getting a new one rather than risk getting a worn out 545 that a professional has replaced.

-- Ellis Vener (, June 18, 2000.

The SK Grimes website shows how to field service the Polaroid 545 holder.

I own the older style 545 holder and appreciate its lack of plastic parts. Fortunately, I know this one's heritage, and that it is not a professionally worn out unit. The metal style has a certain Harley- Davidson quality of strength and heaviness that appeals to me.

Mine gets limited use, typically test shots on location at weddings.

-- Bruce Gavin (, June 18, 2000.

Since you use mostly black and white film, I'm assuming you're not a professional. If that's the case, I'd hold off on buying the Polaroid holder until you see if you have a real need for it. I bought the 545i when I first got into large format about five years ago. I think I've used it once. For me, the added weight and bulk of carrying the holder and the film around in my back pack just aren't worth it. All Polaroid film does for me is give me an idea of what the compostion will look like but I can do that about as well by looking at the ground glass. You can't use it very well to check focusing/depth of field because when you put a loupe to the Polaroid print everything looks kind of fuzzy. If I were a professional working indoors with artificial light, I might use it a lot to check exposure and lighting but as an amateur working mostly outdoors, I haven't found a lot of use for mine. Actually I've started carrying my digital camera with me and occasionally using it to check composition. It's much lighter and more compact than the Readyload holder and film and if you go through a lot of Polaroid film it isn't even that much more expensive. People I've talked to who have tried to use Readyload film in the Polaroid holder generally say that they got more light leaks than with the Readyload holder. Readyload has its own problems but the holder is a lot less expensive than the 545i holder and while I don't use Readyload every day, I used to find it very useful on long trips to lighten the load and to eliminate the need for using a changing bag. In other words, for me Readyload film was more useful than Polaroid. I recently had a bad experience with Readyloads so I'm not sure I'll continue to use them but the potential is still there.

-- Brian Ellis (, June 19, 2000.


You are correct in assuming that I am not a professional; just an interested amateur. As I think about your comments, I realize that my interest in the Polaroid is mostly as a learning tool. Is this valid or is it unnecessary? Maybe I don't need it since the ground glass is WYSIWYG?


-- Chris Werner (, June 19, 2000.

Chris before you dismiss Polaroid consider using type 55 P/N material it's capable of delivering a superb negative for latter enlargment. I use this on the odd occasion for its unique qualities. Regards, Trevor.

-- Trevor Crone (, June 19, 2000.

1. Polaroid film will not work with the Readyload holder.

2. You can use Readyload film in the 545i for wide angle shots because you have a large depth of focus with these lenses. This will over come the film flattness problem to some extent.

3. If you what to get real sharp negatives then you must use the Readyload holder and make modifications to it. To see where the offset varies on the holder use a tooth pick and a straight edge and take depth measuremets with the film in place and the paper film cover retracted. You will have to take the holder apart and do some filing to fix it.

3. I use Readyloads exclusively. They completely eliminate dust which was a big problem for me and could result 50% waste. They also free me up from having to pack film holders, film changing tents, and different boxes for storing exposed film of different contacted development times. I simply write the development times (N, N-1, N-2..) on the paper cover. It reduce my weight considerably and I do not have to spend time cleaning, loading and unloading film. These attributes of Readyloads are important to me because I shoot most of my stuff in remote areas (using a llama) for many weeks at a time.

4. I use Polaroids extensively. Sometimes I may take as many as 10 Polaroids to formulate one composition. Polaroids help me discover unwanted elements of the composition in the field where I can make corrections. They allow me to properly crop my images in the field so that I do not have to make excessive enlargements in the darkroom. I bring a marker to write on them for recording all my notes and thoughts. I mark the zone placement of each area right on the Polaroid. I record the lens used and exposures applied. I record all camera movements. I note expected results and the theme and mood I am looking for. I use the negative (type 55) to check for sharpness. Polaroids allow me to inspect the composition for dodging and burning. Sometimes I will make a minor change to make dodging and burning easier. I take all of my polaroids in midday marking the tripod placement for each composition. I will then revist the site that evening or the following morning. By the time I am ready to use wet film there is no quessing or surprises. I have an intimate understanding of what I have to do and the kind of light I need. After I take the shot I tape the Polaroid to the Readyload. Many months later in middle of winter my Polaroid print and notes will tell me exactly what I have to do in the darkroom to make the final image come true as I had invisioned it in the field.

Hope this helps.

-- Stephen Willard (, June 19, 2000.

One use of Polaroid P/N55 which is unique is portraits. An expression is fleeting. You may have it. You may not. With a Polaroid neg. and pos - you know if you captured the instant. Obviously with still life and landscapes, this doesn't apply to any near the same degree, but if you're interested in large format portraits, Polaroid is the way to go imho

-- Yaakov Asher Sinclair (, June 19, 2000.

Hi Chris - You certainly can use Polaroid materials as a learning tool but it's a pretty expensive way to go if that's all you ever think you'll be doing with it. The holder costs something like $150 if my memory is correct and the film is in the vicinity of $35 per box (again from memory). If you're learning you presumably would be most interested in working with the movements and seeing what they do so you could keep the aperture wide open and thus be able to see everything pretty well on the ground glass.

-- Brian Ellis (, June 19, 2000.

Thanks for all your feedback, including one kind person who responded directly by e-mail whose message I accidently deleted :-(. I think I'll just go with Readyloads and decide later on Polaroid. If you have any additional thoughts, they're always welcome. Thanks again.

-- Chris Werner (, June 21, 2000.

You should consider using type 55 with the 545 or 545i holder. However, you could try type 51 which also provides a pos/neg. As far as I can remember from the data sheet, type 51 provides a high contrast print, but a medium contrast neg.

-- David Kirk (, June 22, 2000.

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