New Holders for 12 X 20: Recommendations : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

New holders in 12 X 20 run close to $500 (AWB). I'm getting three from Wisner together with a 12 X 20 camera, and am therefore getting a better price. One thread archived here suggested that the Wisner holders might not be the best choice. Leaving $ aside for the moment, anybody have personal experience with the different new wooden holders available for the larger film sizes(Great Basin, AWB, Wisner, etc.)? Anything to recommend or stay away from? Anybody used the vacuum holders (Hoffman, I think)? Is film flatness really a practical issue, assuming you've got the film plane in the right place to begin with? It ought to be by sheer gravity, but I understand film flatness tolerances become less critical as format size increases. How about in the real world of 12X20 and up? Thanks as always for your thoughts!


-- Nathan Congdon (, December 07, 2000


Have you tried Lotus View? They sell for 368.60 (euro, about 325 US dollars). Ask Burkhardt Kiegeland ( I have seen his work. Simply impressive!

-- Geoffrey Chen (, December 07, 2000.

Weight. Cost. Control of film positioning. Why not devise a single-sided cassette system a la Readyloads for these mega-formats, even if it takes a slightly smaller usable film area, that would save enormously in investment in holders; weight out in the field and produce better results. I challenge our best-know designers (Lotus, Wisner, et al) to think outside the holder.

-- David Stein (, December 07, 2000.

The Lotus holders are very nice and seem to stay light tight very well. I have only heard good things of AWB and Great Basin, but have not used them. I have used the lotus holders. Not only do they work well, but they look nice also. And, after two years of use, including High School students using them a lot, they still work just fine.

-- Dan Smith (, December 07, 2000.

The Lotus holders (as others have noted) are very nice, and witht he currency exchnage make a good buy. Beautifully finished in Cherry wood, good solid workmanship. These are the holders that I use on my 7x17 Korona. Now... I was very impressed with the Lotus holders until I saw the work that Alan does (AWB), and his holders are the equal if not better then Lotus'. What sets Alan aside is that he will make the holder to order and in the wood combination that you desire. His Canham holders in Black Walnut are just simply beautiful.

One thing to note about Great Basin holders is that they do not have a flap with tape on the one side. One slides the film in the groves and then bends the film so that it goes under the lip. You will note on the web page that the holders have larger opening to slide the film in... this accomodates the fact that you have to bend the film etc... to slide it under the lip. The system works and hey... you'll never have to replace the 'tape'.

-- Steve Nieslony (, December 07, 2000.

Nathan - In 12x20 I only have experience with Alan Brubaker's holders, but that experience was the best possible. He is a meticulous craftsman. I went to his place and left my back with him so he could build a holder to fit my camera (not all older 12x20 cameras take the same size holder) and he did an exemplary job. It fits perfectly and the back-to-film distance is the same on both sides to within a thousandth of an inch (out of curiosity I took a mike to it). I asked him to try and match the finish on the camera (a deep reddish brown) and he stained it to a perfect match. None of this would matter if it didn't function properly, of course, which it does to a high degree. First, my tests show that the holder holds the film in perfect registration with the ground glass. Second, even though I have left film in the holder for days at a time and hauled it all over (in full daylight) I have never had it leak even the tiniest streak of light. To the best of my recollection I paid approx. $400 for my holder (direct from Alan) maybe three years ago, and in my opinion it was worth every penny. (No, I don't have any connection with AWB - I'm just another happy customer.) All this and he seems to be a heck of a nice guy, too! Highly recommended.

As far as film flatness, remember that in the landscape position (90% of most 12x20 use) the film is only 12" high, which is only 2" more than an 8x10 in portrait position (which doesn't seem to present much of a problem for 8x10 shooters). In fact, the extra width of the film may even add a stiffening effect. In any case, as a practical matter I have never experienced out-of-focus effects in the center of an image due to film sagging. Be advised that most of my photos are in landscape orientation with the camera reasonably close to level, front to back (or maybe with a bit of upward tilt.) I can imagine that if one were shooting at a steep angle downward on a very hot day there might be a flatness concern, but I have yet to experience it.


-- Mark Parsons (, December 07, 2000.

Can someone please supply a web page or contact information for AWB or Alan Brubaker? Thanks!

-- Sol Campbell (, December 07, 2000.

-- Mark Parsons (, December 07, 2000.

Good luck getting ANYTHING in a timely manner from Ron Wisner, especially if he, personally, is taking care of it. He still owes me a Copal #3 mounting flange and a brass aperture plate (from an order that should have been filled in May). I warned him that if he didn't take steps to appease me and to accomodate his customers in a more professional manner that I would take every opportunity to share this information with his prospective customers. It's not that I have a problem with his knowledge or his products or his experience; I don't. But his customer service skills leave much to be desired, and to avoid frustration on your part, I would recommend going elsewhere (such as Lotus) for your materials.

-- Chad Jarvis (, December 08, 2000.

Weight. Cost. Control of film positioning. Why not devise a single-sided cassette system a la Readyloads for these mega-formats, even if it takes a slightly smaller usable film area. This would save ENORMOUSLY in investment in holders; weight out in the field and produce better results. I challenge our best large format minds to think outside the holder.

-- David Stein (, December 08, 2000.

One intriguing idea for a home-built setup that cropped up on Usenet and have I tucked away for a rainy-day project was to turn the inside of a ULF camera into a changing bag, with armholes or even glovebox-like tubes into the interior. You store a whole a box of film inside. Instead of a film holder you slide in a planar surface with some sort of clip at the top and/or edges, and simply remove a sheet of film from the box and put it into position (having closed the shutter of course :-).

This might not be practical with wide angles, but since the only lenses I can afford for ULF are longish process lenses that's not a problem for me.

-- Struan Gray (, December 08, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ