Medium/Large format? to start - newbie questions.

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by sobreiro, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. Hi everyone.

    Im thinking of buying an Agfa Standard 254 6x9 or a Voigtlander Vag also 6x9 to
    start and I have a few questions. Hope you can help...
    These cameras come with several large black inserts (I suppose that it's where
    you put the film). My questions are:
    What kind of film must I use? For exemple, will Agfa agfpan APX 100 6,5x9 do?
    How do I load the film in the inserts? do I need a dark room?
    Is there another format wich is more commonly available?

    Any help is much apreciated.
    Best regards

  2. jeg


    So you want a plate camera. Fine. The best way to use them is by getting a contemporary roll film adapter (i.e., Rollex, Rada cassette) and shooting modern 120 roll film (in 6x9 format) with it. First get the roll film back, then buy a matching plate camera (the roll film adapters come for 6.5x9, 9x12 and possibly larger formats). Sheet film is just too much hassle and too expensive to be fun in the long run. The roll film adapter just works like a regular medium format back, so no need to load it in darkness. Frame counting is done by a ruby window in the back.
  3. in these "american" days, 4x5" is pretty common, but several kind of films were and are still produce in 6x9 and 9x12 plate formats. APX comes to my mind, FP4 too and Adox/Efke films too., Foma I think too.

    Some people use a small cutter in the darkroom.

    One problem I see, to which I don't have a solution, is the difference between plates and sheet film. Today all film is sheet film, that is some synthetic support, once it was nitrate, now it is polyester, acetate, ESTAR or PET or I don't know. ANyway something thin like 135 or 120.
    Glass plates were thick. So More "modern" cameras came with some sheet film holders in which you slide the film in and then put the whole holder in the plate holder. So that it also has the correct thickness and the springs or holder tighten the sheet.

    What to do if the sheet holders are missing? I have no idea if they are still available somewhere. They used to be in the sixti0es as "upgrades".
    Another problem is then what to do if you don't have or have only few plate cassettes. Some are compatible, some are of strange kind...

    But if you do, you can have like 4, 5 shots compact.. never have the trouble to "finish" the roll.

    Loading and unloading needs to be done in the dark. It is not that difficult, the sheets have a marker to know which way is up.
    I guess that with a 100film package and a changing back you can even change plates in a tent and have virtually unlimited supply!

    For b/w development is easy: either done in tray like in good old times or in tanks. Easy, just unusual today.
  4. I agree with the first poster - the roll film holder is the way to go. I suggest you look for a nice plate camera on ebay that comes with a rfh. Preferably 6x9 size but 9x12 with a 6x9 rfh will do.

    The other alternative is to look for a 4x5 camera such as a speed graphic and use sheet film.
  5. I agree with the first poster - the roll film holder is the way to go. I suggest you look for a nice plate camera on ebay that comes with a rfh. Preferably 6x9 size but 9x12 with a 6x9 rfh will do.

    Another alternative is to look for a 4x5 camera such as a speed graphic and use sheet film.

    I found cuttimg my own sheet film to size was too risky for my finger tips!
  6. if you like efke film (and I do!):

    4x5" is very available and probably will be for some time... the efke supply may become less stable... but maybe not, they seem dedicated to filling the niche of obsolete formats (only 127 film current).
  7. If you want to use 6x9 why not just get an older folder that uses 120 roll film. Should be lots available in Agfa and Voiglander brands. If you use an old camera made for plates you can get sheet film inserts to properly hold the film in the holders. You will need a dark area or changing bag to load and unload film. Basically the film is put on the insert(slips into grooves along the sides) and the insert put into the holder. A spring holds it in place. Another problem is holders aren't standardized so be sure you get some with your camera purchase. If you want to shoot sheet film a good option is an old Graphic camera. Not much film available but you can use a 2x3 model. 4x5 is easier to find film for. Also in old plate cameras 9x12 cm is another common size. Still will need the film insert system and film not common. Don't forget don't buy an older plate camera to use without having a source for both film holders and film insert sheaths.
  8. The thing about using a plate camera with roll film holder is you get a little movement.
    and you can compose on the ground glass. Most roll film cameras like the agfas or
    voigtlanders don''t allow this. So it can be a nice introduction to large format but still use
    less expensive roll film.

    I have a certo plate camera with a RADA holder that's fun to play with. The Certotrop has a
    removable lens mount even, so I can switch lenses easily. Of course I had to buy three of
    them just so I'd have the extra lens plates. :( but the certotrop has a copy called beebee
    that usually sells for much less.

    Still, the Certo doesn't get out that much. If I'm going to shoot 6x9 I usually grab my Agfa.
    If you just want a larger format than 35mm without the little bit of movement than a good
    folder is much easier and quicker to use. If you don't mind 6x6 than get a TLR. You won't
    have to worry about possibly wobbly struts or worn bellows of an old folder.
  9. You'd probably get more movements on a tilt/shift 35mm lens... just a thought... a plate camera would be fun if you get the complete kit etc. etc... but for not much more you can probably get a FSU M42 T/S lens to use on a classic SLR if you are after movements (I have the more expensive Canon 45mm and 90mm T/S lenses and they are a blast!)...

    Every time I look at nice plate camera kits I end up deciding the ones I'd like are a good down payment toward the Horseman 6x9 field camera... which I'd really really like.
  10. Your OTHER option is to look into getting a 6x9 folding camera specifically made for 120 roll-film. This is the simplest route to go, however these cameras are very limited and are basically no more than a very large range-finder camera. Focusing is usually via guessing distance, except in a few of the higher-end models that have real working rangefinders, like the Super Ikonta and its Russian clone, the Moskva.

    If you are really interested in large format, then maybe go ahead and invest in a more modern (sheet film instead of plate film) 4x5 camera. Graflex made a variety of cameras which are usually fairly cheap on ebay that are good introductions to the concept of sheet film. They made large cameras for 4x5 as well as smaller cameras for 6x9 sheet film, both of which have 6x9 roll-film adaptors available. They made both "press cameras" and large-format SLRs. (You manually flip the mirror up and down to focus and shoot.) The "press camera" usually is distinguished from a true professional large format camera in that it has little if no front-standard movements, and focusing and composing was usually done with the aid of a rangefinder and sportsfinder as opposed to using the ground glass. (Although you can still use the ground glass to focus and compose if you want). The Graflex cameras usually do have interchangible lens boards which does give you more flexibility than being stuck with one lens.

    The cool thing about going with a 4x5 sheet-film camera instead of cutting sheet film for a plate-film camera is that you can buy a Polaroid back for 4x5 and shoot Polaroids as well as shoot fancy films like Fuji Velvia.
  11. Hi Josè,

    I also very recently started to shoot in medium format. I had a low budget, so I bought a folding camera from Jurgen. This guy restores these old cameras to almost brand new status. Mine came in excellent shape and looks almost new. It can be a fun way to start!

    Of course you can buy more expensive equipment and probably get better results, but it would cost way more.

    You can find these cameras on ebay. Go to for more info on these cameras, it is Jurgen's website. Even if you don't buy one from him it is the best site I found on folding cameras.

    These cameras use readily avaiable 120 roll film, which can be developed at home on a darkroom or at a lab.

    I wish I could be of more help but I literally just received my camera!

    Have a nice day,

  12. Thank you all for your answers.
    As many of you said, if I want to shoot in 6x9 I probably better stay with rollfilm. I already have two folding cameras, a 6x6 and a 6x9 so I'll stick with them for those sizes. Anyway, if I can find myself a nice, cheap 9x12 camera with some holders I just might get it to give it a try... I've been changing film on my cameras ever since I started photography and I was hopping to try something different...
    Best regards.

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