Switching Between GG and Roll-film Back Efficiently

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Do flat-bed / monorail camera manufacturers have some sort of efficient system for switching between the GG and a roll-film back such as Horseman's optional rotary back type 1 or type 2? (Please do not confuse this option with a revolving back for switching between horizonal and vertical shots.) Is this convenience worth the extra weight and cost? Are there any other drawbacks to this option? I would like to purchase a view camera but am used to the convenience of an SLR.

-- Charles Mangano (cmangano@heart.umaryland.edu), July 06, 2000


Toyo has a sliding-back setup, which they state will fit any camera that has a standard Graflok back; list price $1064, plus you'll need a 2x3 rollback.

I haven't used one.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), July 06, 2000.

Beyond the obvious disadvantage of making your compact camera more unwieldy, a big minus is that the Horseman rotary and, I believe, the Toyo slider push ground glass and film further away from your lens. When using roll film you'll likely be working with shorter focal length lenses. Managing focus, tilt and rise/fall/shift movements with those short extensions is tough enough; requiring further bellows compression compounds the problem.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), July 06, 2000.

A view camera is, almost by definition, inconvenient.

The only really convenient cameras that use rollfilm that have some movements that I know of are the Rollei SL-66, which has some front tilt, and the Fuji GX-680, which I believe has full front movements.

The Rollei is exquisite, but a bit of front tilt doesn't substitute for full movements. The Fuji is _huge_. Both these are rather expensive.

Perhaps a good solution is a technical camera, such as a Linhof Technika in 2x3 or 4x5 or the Horseman VH-R (and earlier 980 etc) in 2x3. Leave the rollback on and use it as a handheld RF/VF camera (without using movements) or, if you really want to use movements, use it as a standard view camera, attaching the rollback when you're ready to shoot.

You know the saying "f8 and be there"? Well, for large-format types it's "f22 and be there a half-hour early."

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), July 07, 2000.

Most metal monorail and folding technical cameras made after about 1970 were fitted with an "international" back, which allows the whole of the GG screen and its normal pressure springs to be removed. This leaves just a couple of sliding clips at either side of the back to take rollfilm holders, older polaroid backs, Graphmatic holders, etc. etc. Some modern makes of wooden field camera still have only a simple non-removable spring back, to save weight mainly. These spring backs can only take DD slides, the 545i lightweight polaroid insert, or insta-loads or whatever they're called.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), July 07, 2000.


As a previous poster noted, the main drawback with these "slider" backs is the increase they force in lens-film distance. This makes it very difficult to work with short lenses. I bought one and returned it because it rendered my short lenses unusable.

If you want convenience and rollfilm, you need a holder that inserts under the groundglass like a 4x5 film holder. There are 4 options here.

1. Sinar makes exquisite holders including the Zoom holder that allows you to switch between 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 and 6x12 on the same roll of film. Wonderful device. VERY expensive, over $2000 new.

2. Linhof makes a similar holder that is 6x7 only.

3. Toyo makes a 6x9 and 6x7 holder that insert. The Toyos are much thicker than Linhof or Sinar, but much cheaper, only about $100 more than Horseman type backs. Because they are thicker, you need to make sure the springs on your gg can accomodate their thickness.

4. Calumet makes insertable backs. I found them to be poorly made with poor film flatness and registration. They also require alot of film to be rolled out when loading and I had some fogging problems. I cannot recommend these, but others may have better luck.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), July 07, 2000.

Seriously, once you see a 4x5 image on a GG as compared to a rollfilm back image, you may change your mind about using one. Mine are now regulated to getting a cheap telephoto. BTW, LF is a different attitude. Don't expect an SLR efficency from them; Even with a rollfilm back. It takes less time to put a film holder in than putting a rollfilm on, or sliding it over for that matter. If you can afford the camera you should be able to afford the film. (^:)

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), July 07, 2000.

You note that you want to purchase a view camera but you're used to the convenience of an SLR. If convenience is one of your primary considerations, don't bother with large format-- get one of those medium format autofocus cameras. There is nothing "convenient" about a view camera. To use one requires knowledge, patience, deliberation and self-discipline. If you are adding large format to enjoy the spectacular detail and tonality of large negatives and chromes, and exact the extra control of lens and film plane movements, you will find they are worth the extra work. However, if you think a LF camera will improve your photography, you are dead wrong. A large format camera is the ultimate mistake amplifier. If you are already producing great photos and can adapt to composing your pictures upside down and reversed (and quite dim)you will benefit from a LF camera. As far as convenience back adapters go, they are designed for the studio photographer who is shooting catalog shots. For such work, saving a few seconds switching backs becomes a big issue when producing several hundred shots per day. (And also saves wear and tear on the equipment.) For the typical fine art or onesie-twosie photographer, such "convenience" isn't worth the extra weight and bulk.

-- Randy Shafer (heavysteam@aol.com), July 10, 2000.

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