table top photography with a 4X5

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I have a question obviously. When using a 4X5 for table top as I remember if the film has a tendency to pop or bow. Does anyone know if a 6x9 120 roll film holder {Linhof Super Rollex} will do the same thing? Can one shoot parralel to the table top with the 6X9 back? I plan to shoot wide open so stopping down isn't really an option. How far past a 90deg angle to the table can I go with out worring about 4X5 film bowing? 100deg? 120? 140? Thanks for answers in advance and as always please pardon any spelling mistakes.

-- john (dogspleen@juno.com), February 06, 2001

Answers

This is the common sense answer because I don't specialize in tabletop, but I would think at the apertures you'll be using to get your depth of field for those kinds of shots that even a 1mm bow would be moot. At f64 if I recall you can get an "acceptable?" circle of confusion while compensating for about 22mm of focus offset. That's a tradeoff you'll probably have to live with anyway so that 1mm bow will fall in there somewhere in the middle.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@sierra.net), February 06, 2001.

I shoot a fair amount of table top and just haven't had the problems you describe. Frankly it sounds like you have some bad film holders. You might also try using either KodaK Readyloads or Fuji Quickloads, the design of these films assures that the film is pulled flatter than film that is just being held along the edges. I just shot some copy work with Quickload Fuji Astia in a Fuji QL holder where the camera was pointing straightdown. Because I was polarizing the camera and the lights andwas using an 82A filter I had to shoot at /16.7 (using strobes). The lens was a 210mm /5.6 W-Nikkor. The subject was recorded absolutely sharp from edge to edge on the film.

No standard view camera lens (as far as I know) is designed to be at it's best performance when wide open. And the performance problem is magnified when you use roll film as what is considered "acceptably sharp" for 4x5 is less stringent than what is considered "acceptably sharp" for roll film.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), February 06, 2001.


I was also just sitting here thinking that I've never had that problem as well. I work in an in-house studio in a history museum and have to do tons of copywork using a 4x5 camera. Even with a 150 G Claron stopped down one stop (usually we shoot around 22-32) we get tack sharp chromes/negs on our copystand. We also do quite a bit shooting from directly overhead/to nearly overhead views when shooting large textiles from places like cameras clamped to hydraulic lifts and even the second floor railing of our building (shooting straight down on a huge 22' long flag...)and I can't recall any buckling problems with the film. We use modern holders, though. View Camera magazine had an issue several years ago where they reviewed holders, you may want to check that out. Also, I guess humidity might have something to do with your situation as well. I would think that your problems may actually get worse with a roll film holder, over a sheet film holder, unless you had a vacuum back or something like that. Is there some reason why you're shooting wide open anyways? I've only done this when I've absolutely had to, like doing an extrememly long exposure on the copystand where I didn't think I could avoid any vibrations otherwise. You know, like the freight elevator shaking the floor during a 2 min. exposure. Even then, I'd only go to one stop down.

-- D. K. Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), February 06, 2001.

From your explanation am I correct in saying that you have the camera pointed straight down? In such a situation I have had a problem of the film bowing or drooping only very rarely. Since I seldom have the problem, I have always concluded that gravity was not the cause of the problem. Though I have never been able to draw a definite conclusion, I have attempted to at least theorize the cause. I have theorized that humidity might have been involved in some way. Since I use tugsten lights that are very hot, I have always theorized that the heat build-up was also a factor. Humidity and heat together could conceivably be the culprits. However, the problem has been encoutered so rarely that I can only theorize.

-- Ken Burns (kenburns@twave.net), February 06, 2001.

Yeah, you know, after I wrote my response I thought about it for awhile, and while this has not happened to me on the job, I have seen some old copy negs that may have exhibited some bowing. I'm talking about negs that are 40 to 50 years old, long before my time...but most likely shot on Speed Graphics with either pack film or old Graflex holders. Usually you'll see an uneven edge along the short sides of the film. It's hard to explain, but if there's a full frame image of say a newspaper, you'd see this definitely not straight edge, like the film was sagging in the holder. Or else, not loaded properly. I also don't know if you are just theorizing that this may be a problem, or whether this has actually happened to you. But we shoot probably about a thousand sheets or more yearly on a copystand and never have this happen. I'd have to agree with Ellis and say to check your film holders.

-- D.K. Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), February 06, 2001.


D.K.: Yeah, I have actually had this happen to me three times (that I'm aware of)in the last 25 years. Once using a copy stand photographing fabric swatches, once on a set in the studio, once on location out of doors. In both situations in the studio a keg light was located very close to camera's bellows. In the situation out of doors, the camera sat in direct sunlight for a while after inserting the holder and pulling the dark slide. All of the holders were either Fidelity Elite or Lisco Regal II. In all cases, the image was sharp toward the edges, but soft toward the middle. Having the two ends of a sofa sharp but the middle not is a bit baffling. Other negatives exposed in the exact same setups turned out perfect. All I've been able to do is theorize since the problem occurs so seldom, and usually, by the time the problem is discovered, the exact conditions are history.

-- Ken Burns (kenburns@twave.net), February 06, 2001.

Well, I didn't want to rule out the possibility altogether on this guy's question. Just because it hasn't happened to us here doesn't mean it can't happen to someone else. That's the thing about shooting in general, Murphy will always strike when you least expect it. Some weird thing will happen on your best shot, the cleanest sheet of film, and it will be completely unpredictable. On these old negs I've seen an actual out of focus area in the center, with sort of sharp edges. And I've seen this uneven edge that I was trying to explain. You know how you can see the hard edge of a holder around the very edges of an exposed piece of film? Well, one or more side edges will be bowed out. Usually these negs print okay, there's not much we can do about it anyways because they're pretty old. We don't use any fancy equipment or holders here. We've got an odd mix of Fidelity and Lisco holders, pretty much the same thing I guess. Now watch, the next time I have to shoot a huge battleflag this is going to happen to me!

-- D.K. Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), February 06, 2001.

Well thanks for the info. This has really never happened to me and I can't seem to make it happen with an open film holder and piece of film. I have heard that this was a problem with large format film holders maybe they are talking larger than 4X5. Hence the creation of adhesive backs, pressure plate film holders, and vacuum backs. Further that stopping down was needed to compensate for the film plane being uneven. Maybe I should stop listening to theroists and just go out and do it. Thanks for sharing the experience. John

-- john (dogspleen@juno.com), February 06, 2001.

I was digging through my old View Camera magazines last night and couldn't quite find that issue with the film holder reviews in it. Maybe someone else remembers it, but they did get into film flatness and all that. I read it at the time and thought the same thing as I did when I read your question. But, I don't know, maybe this happens to me and I just don't realize it. That said, I wouldn't worry about it unless it was something that happened to me every day. We have had some odd things happen to us while shooting in regards to holders, static discharges, weird marks from a holder gone bad, that sort of thing. But these are usually just random things, they worry us for awhile, but then go away. The thing to do is to just shoot alot of film, and back up all your exposures and shots. Strength in numbers... It could also be a thickness of the base issue. I've cut down Kodalith in the past to 4x5 and had it be really "flexible" in a holder, but haven't noticed any problems. Most sheet films now are on a polyester base, which is alot heavier than acetate I think. Sorry to be so long winded with this, but the view camera really excells with tabletop work, you shouldn't be afraid to put it into all sorts contortions if you have to. But I'm still curious why you'd be shooting wide open for tabletop, other than some sort of depth of field effect?

-- D. K. Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), February 07, 2001.

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