How many backs you use?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by leonid_faerberg|1, May 19, 2010.

  1. Hello guys!
    I'm a new happy-Hassie-owner, 35mm film and digital shooter in the past (still do though), now exploring the area of medium format.
    Shooting medium is more of a meditation to me comparing to 35, still one issue is there: I feel that having more than one back is important as sometimes we need to work fast even with 120mm, so I wanted to ask how many backs do you use on a regular basis? One is not enough as I see, so will two be good enough or even three? How do you organize your workflow with several backs?
    These are my first steps in medium, so I need some survey on the subject.
    Thank you,
  2. I'm an amateur, and I rarely have to work fast. If I am carrying two filmholders, it is usually because I am using two different kinds of film (typically FP4+ in one, and XP2 in the other).
  3. I'd say that it depends entirely on what you are doing, how much you need to shoot in one go, how much opportunity and time you have to change film.
    Given that MF photography will be more 'meditational' to you, i think two backs would be fine. One on the camera, another one to switch to when you run out and need to change fast. Just take the first opportunity to reload, and this 'back-rotation' will work fine.
    Unless, of course, you need to expose more than 24 frames in rapid succession.
  4. As a rule I like to have a back for each type of film plus one .
    I only use one B&W film at any one time now so most of the time I will go out with just one
  5. I cna imagine that for most people, it would be nice/convenient to have more than one back - either for speed/reloading reasons, or for different film types reasons.
    I use my Hasselblad for slow photography, a shot here, a shot there as I'm moved. None-the-less, I own four backs, two with B&W film in them (one for contrasty light and to be overexposed and underdeveloped, and one for flat light to be slightly underexposed and overdeveloped). Then I have two backs with color film in them, usually Portra 160 and Portra 800 for people shots, as light brightness conditions allow.
    I often have my backs sitting around with film in them for extended periods of time (like months), and this is not optimal due to film flatness issues, but so far I haven't had any problems.
    I change the foam seals on my backs about once every two years, and have not had any problems with light leaks.
  6. david_henderson


    It really does depend on how you're using the camera. I tend to have one back for daytime landscapes or dull weather (Velvia 50) , one for early and late in the day when the Velvia just exaggerates colour too much (Provia 100F) and one back for b&w. So either in the bag or in the car I'm using there will be three loaded backs. Typically one of the colour backs has been a 220 but that's getting hard to obtain in the UK now.
    If you choose to use the camera differently you might need fewer or more backs. But I would suggest thinking through what films you want to use to make that decision.
  7. I actually have 5 backs. One for 220, an A16 back with a mask for 645 prints, and three for 120. This is actually one more than I need since two 120 backs would be fine.
  8. I have 3 120 backs, though I only take two with me most of the time. Typically, they're loaded with different types/speeds of B&W film. I bought the 3rd back for color reversal film. I was waffling on whether to get an A24 because the color films I use are still available in 220 and processing is much cheaper. I made an intentionally low maximum bid on a really nice A12 back, thinking I'd lose the auction for sure, which would convince me to buy an even cheaper A24.
    Needless to say, I won the auction. I'm happy I got an excellent bargain, but am still considering an A24 for color. I keep telling myself that someday I actually won't need to buy any more accessories, but haven't set a target date for obvious reasons.
  9. Unless you have an assistant to load for you, multiple backs won't speed shooting much. However, they are invaluable when you use more than one type of film in a session (e.g., travel and landscapes). I would use three backs, with Velvia, Reala and TMax 100 for travel. Now that I have a digital back, I carry one film back for safety, with a few rolls of Ektar 100, TMax and NPH400, loaded as needed.
  10. Roger,
    The small amount of money that will buy you an A24 back reflects the usefullness of a 220 film back.
    There is not much which you can run through an A24 anymore. I'd save my money and put it towards something else. Something like another A12. ;-)
  11. Agree Q.G., forget the 220 unless you have a definite use for it. I have several like-new 12 yr old ones here from my FT days and they only get dry run so they don't bind up. I will normally use two or three 120 backs for my black and white projects so that I can fine tune the exposure/developing curve/zones to my subject. I only shoot black and white in the HBs. A few backs will do, get good glass instead.
  12. I have four backs (2 for 220, 2 for 120) but typically only use the two 120 backs, one for color film, one for b&w. I use the
    220 if I know I'm going to be bracketing. Coming from 35mm where I used 36-exposure film, 220 served as a bridge until I
    became comfortable using 120, which is my favorite.
  13. Here is the US there is a boatload of cheap Fuji short dated 220 in C41 and even some E6.
    I have 2x 220
    and 3x 120
    I running my own color processing now so I MUCH prefer 220 if available.
  14. I use 3. Velvia 50, TMX 100 and TMAX 400 (or Ektar , 160VC).
  15. I have four - two 6x6 and two 6x4.5. Based upon the shoot I tend to only use one size at a time. Sometimes I shoot two different films one in each and other times I shoot the same film in both only having to reload after shooting both backs. It only takes a couple of minutes to change the film so having more backs than that just takes up space in your bag and takes money away from buying better lenses. It's not like the drama of having a view camera and needing to load film in a changing bag at a shoot.
  16. One!
    Hasselblad digital 22 MP back! After 20,000 actuations it's already paid for the cost of film and processing that I would have spent to create all those images. Plus, the hasselblad digital backs are amazing. The colors and clarity rock!
  17. "It only takes a couple of minutes to change the film so having more backs than that just takes up space in your bag and takes money away from buying better lenses."
    But if you're shooting at sunrise or sunset or when the light changes rapidly, that could mean the loss of an unrepeatable image with the best lighting. No amount of extra lenses can compensate for that.
  18. I carry 2 backs, one for B/W and one for color. I don't shoot color film all that often, but it is nice to have the option immediately when I am out on a "film only" day. I would hate to miss a great opportunity for a fantastic color shot because my B/W roll is not finished.
  19. I'm a simpleton & I've found with equipment simple works best.
    I use one back per camera (as well as one lens per camera). When I was film based for my business, I found that changing film provided me with the time to get to know my subjects better, provide time for me to get them to look natural and also to review the session and see if all is going according to our vision.
    My recommendation, use the time when changing film to look over what you're doing and see if a little tweak here or there will give you photographs that will better be able to tell your story.
    Remember the jingle, "slow down, movin' too fast, gotta make the morning last...."
    Have fun with medium format! You have a great camera to work with.
  20. I agree with the comment from Bill; "Slow Down!"
    I'd rather get ONE great printed photo that lasts a lifetime, rather than a disc full of average shots that no one ever uses!
  21. I have four A-12 backs that I use for my 503 CX and 509 SWC. Since I do not need to use the high speed film for the SWC I have to speeds of film that I use. It breaks down to:
    • Two backs are for color => 400 Ultracolor or Vividcolor and 100 or 160 C-41 color film
    • Two backs for black & white => 400 Tri-X and 125 Plus-X
  22. Thanks a lot!
    Appreciate your answers, things are getting much clearer now!
  23. Use as many as you feel a need for based on what you are doing and how you evolve your shooting style.
    When you say to yourself, "gee I wish I had a roll of xxxx for this shot," then you know you want another back for that film.
    I use multiple backs to give me the option that I did not with 35mm, but I now have with digital. This is to change film speeds based on the subject. Lets say you are shooting in daylight with ISO-100 film, but then you want to shoot "lacy" waterfalls. You switch to a SLOW ISO-25 film that will let you use a slower shutter speed than your normal daylight film. Or in reverse, you are now in the deep shade and want FASTER ISO-800 film.
    Secondarily it would be to switch between color and B&W, again based on the subject.
    BUT you NEED to clearly label the backs with what film is inside, or you WILL get confused and mix them up.
    When you change backs, you also need to make changing the ISO setting on your light meter part of the process...or you WILL expose the film at the wrong ISO setting and be under or over exposed.
  24. Just scooped up my second back- Portra in one, TriX in the other!

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