buying used filmholders : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm making my first steps into LF.Bought a camera (cambo SC)for a good price. Now I have a dicision to make; should I buy used filmholders or new ones. If I look at second hand filmholders and for instance polaroid holders, most of the time they all look so very much used that I very much doubt they are working ok; I mean its not possible to test them before I'll buy them. Could anyone have some tips or tricks or method I can use before buying, to narrow the chance of getting unuseful stuff.

-- peter koning (, October 12, 2001


Check out the used stuff at KEH ( They have a good reputation for realistic grading and you will have a 14 day return priviledge to test the equipment out and they will repair it for 60 days if a problem crops up. Russell

-- Rusell Levin (, October 12, 2001.

Peter, for the savings you make buying used holders you may as well "splash out" on new ones. No worries about dirt/grit/light leaks. I have bought used, but am always dubious when using them! Once bought ten on ebay at lowish price, but rejected 3 as they were very mucky. From what I gather modern holders are tricky to repair if faulty, and dodgy film holders are one area where a shot is likely to get ruined. I would recommend new Toyo holders, and there are often deals around if you buy in bulk...I bought mine from Robert White and although I bought ten, I saved a fair amount. Also used holders may check out okay...but who knows how long they will stay that way.

-- paul owen (, October 12, 2001.

I echo the comments on grit/dust in s/h film holders - I got a number of s/h film holders (Toyo mainly) with my s/h Cambo. Its taken 4 load/unloads (= wasted pictures) to get the dust down to an acceptable level. Film seems to be the best vacuum cleaner around for film holders ! No amount of sucking and blowing has done as good a job.

-- David Tolcher (, October 12, 2001.

The wooden graflex (usually "graflex for Eastman Kodak") holders are my favorite. You can get them cheapish on ebay, check them over, chuck the ones that are no good, clean up the remainder. These holders are easy to evaluate and easy to clean. Save the bad ones for parts. Look at the article about all this by Gordon Hutchings a couple issues back in View Camera Magazine. You can save a hell of a lot of money, and the new plastic holders can't be taken apart and cleaned. -jeff buckels (albuquerque)

-- Jeff Buckels (, October 12, 2001.

Midwest Photo in Columbus and Quality Camera in Atlanta are excellent sources of good, almost new, used holders. So are camera shows-you can check them all out and dealers are usually glad to move them.

-- David Stein (, October 12, 2001.

Unless you can get used holders that are fairly new, I would advise against getting used holders. The main problem I have had with older holders is dust. I believe the light seal is either decomposing or full of collected dust that cannot be cleaned out (the holders can't be dis-assembled). When I have had dust problems, it was always with these old holders, until I retired them. Yes, they were a good deal cheaper than new, but what is the cost of all those dust spots? I have all but eliminated dust on the negative by use of HEPA filters in the dark room, always storing the holders in zip-lock bags, and blowing them out/cleaning before loading....and using new holders. BTW, even buying new holders, they still need to be cleaned before loading. (at least with Riteway and Lisco) You would think they could seal them in a dustproof container.

For used I would suggest avoiding anything with chipped paint, wooden (they would be to old for the lightseal to be clean). If you find it at a swap meet in the bottom of a dusty old box...etc. If you're still interested I have a small drawer full I'll sell you real cheap. They work fine... if you think you can clean them.

-- Gary Frost (, October 12, 2001.

All my 8 X 10 and 5 X 7 holders, and most of my 4 X 5 holders were purchased used. However, I bought them only after inspecting them myself, one-at-a-time. I would never purchase holders over the net or site unseen. Check for warn light traps, broken, chipped, etc. darkslides, warped holders, improper fit, etc. etc. etc. Dirt & grit can always be cleaned out. I believe Gordon Hutchings wrote an artical on purchasing used holders in VC within the last year.

-- Sean (Who Alec Jones is watching) yates (, October 12, 2001.

every one of my holders are used. some are probably 60 years old from the looks. i inspect the light traps and inside velum before i buy them. you can clean holders. It's really easy. You can take them to a gas station and use their airhose if you have a lot of stubborn dirt in them. New holders are expensive and I don't think the plastic ones are all that good anyway. I have some newer plastic holders and don't like them. The ends keep coming off. James

-- james (, October 13, 2001.

I would buy at least 2 new film holders and use these while you are learning to use the camera. They will eliminate one variable when exposing film- light leaks you may get with used holders. Nothing is more discouraging than exposing film and finding it fogged or hopelessly marked with dust spots and scratches. For any used that you do buy, clean thoroughly and expose a test sheet on a grey card with every holder to check for deficiencies before using in the field.

-- James Chinn (, October 13, 2001.

FWIW, I use a bathroom to load film holders. Run the shower hot for 5 or 6 minutes to settle all the dust, let the steam clear and load. I also load JOBO reels the same way. Anything you can do to minimize dust on negs will save you a huge amount of time in the long run.

-- James Chinn (, October 13, 2001.

To add to Jim's comment, I had a stand-alone HEPA filter unit (got it at Sears) that I got to filter out dust in my apartment because of dust allergies, but I let it run in my "darkroom" before I use it for loading holders or printing.

If you have a dedicated darkroom, you might want to get a <$100 unit and let it run in there all the time. Might improve your health, too.

-- John H. Henderson (, October 16, 2001.

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