I gave some thought to Manfred Borgis’ article in Issue 7 and how to cut-down 120 roll film. Although this appears simple on paper, three things niggle in my mind.
- Firstly how to cut the film to size without scratching the emulsion; the film should also be slightly narrower than the paper backing to ensure a light tight seal between the spool and the paper roll. This is not too much of a problem if the film is kept in the dark and loaded in virtual darkness.
- Secondly, how much to cut off the length of the leader and trailer paper and how much to cut off the film emulsion.
- Thirdly, because the film is taped to the leader, when it is wound through the cutter system, the untapped trailer would be first back onto the roll when rewound and thus would need taping to the paper backing so it is correctly wound onto the spool again.
I have found that when running 120 film through a camera as a test and then re-winding it (in daylight), it is almost impossible to correctly position the film with the backing paper so that when the film is wound back onto the spool, the taped film portion does not cause a ‘bump’ where the emulsion and backing have ‘slipped’. The only way to correct this is to peel off the sticky tape and re-position it on the paper and carry on rolling. A quick flash of inspiration! Could I just trim 120 emulsion and attach it to 127 backing paper?
Having ‘rolled-my-own’ 16mm film for my Rollei 16, I know how easy it is to scratch the emulsion, although with such a small negative, the damage is much more noticeable.
I know that people have and do cut down 120 roll film to 127 and Manfred’s photographs show clearly that it is worth the effort, so my concerns can’t be that much of a problem; but I do worry…!
My ‘idle’ mind wandered through these issues and I was thinking about a suitable cutter; whether to make a cutter like Manfred uses; to adapt a cheap 120 camera along the lines of the one that appears appended to Manfred’s article or whether a Rolleiflex plate back adapter could be non-destructively adapted to do the job ‘in style’.
My first task was to get a roll of 127 film, measure it, compare it to a 120 roll and then evaluate exactly how much needs to be cut off and from where.
I had purchased some Efke R21 127 B&W 100 ASA film years ago (dated April 95) and some Kodacolour 200 ASA 127 film (dated June 93) as soon as Kodak announced its withdrawal. These have been kept in the fridge.
Getting 127 film developed is not easy unless you do-it-yourself and of course you may want to keep the spools for re-use. The logical choice was to use the B&W film, because it’s easily replaced at present and I have B&W (and colour too) developing equipment. So, I ran a film through my ‘Baby’ during a walk around Bosham.
National Trust Sign on Bosham Creek with 127 Film
I have not used my darkroom equipment since it was moved 8 years ago. I have some Agfa Rodinol which was opened in November 1999 (I date my chemicals when I open the bottle) and I have read that Rodinol does not deteriorate with time. I would be able to put this to the test – nothing ventured, nothing gained. I pulled out my changing bag and loaded the film into the tank; 127 film, being narrower than 120, is less likely to kink and it aligns with the reel quite well. Also, being shorter, it is much easier in a changing bag. I pulled out all my chemicals and equipment and I noticed that the column of alcohol in the thermometer had separated. “Confound it!” There was only one thing to do, dip it into near boiling water and watch the lower column run up towards the upper column. This got a bit ‘hair-raising’ because the upper column was pushed right up to the top with a gap still in the middle! “Easy does it!” By just easing the bulb up and down in the hot water, I coaxed the lower column up until it joined with the upper section and quickly snatched the thermometer from the water. ‘Bingo’ it had worked! One complete column of alcohol again and a working thermometer. The thermometer had been stored horizontally for eight years, so I guess that this was the cause. I will now keep it vertical.
I had to find the development times for the Efke R21 from the internet, the instructions with the Rodinol did not specify the information. I found the details at digital truth which rated the film the same as Efke 100. The times from the internet, again on the Digital Truth site, gave details for 50:1 and 100:1 dilution. I decided on 100:1 for 16 minutes @ 20° C. Due to the age of the film I worked at 70° F (21.2° C) which gives about a 10% increase in development to compensate for this fact. I cleared a space in the bathroom and went through the process. Although it has been at least 10 years since I had done any developing, it all came back quite naturally. Once dry, the negative strip looked tiny compared to 120 film, really quite manageable. The film had plenty of detail and I was pleased. When I scanned the negatives, they were quite ‘flat’, lacking contrast, a little adjustment in Photoshop can soon improve that. There is a small amount of fogging on the edges of some frames too. On a number of frames it looked as if the film had reticulated (caused by rapid change in temperature) which was not the case because even the rinse water had been maintained at exactly 70° F and anyway, this emulsion damage was random. It shows up in the highlight areas of the print, e.g. the sky. I think, because the film was just wrapped in foil, that with changes in fridge temperature, dampness/condensation may have been the cause. It is not really a problem because this was just a test, firstly to see that the camera worked and secondly that the Rodinol was still active as was my fixer and stop bath. I also now had a used 127 film to take comparative measurements from (see below).
Cutting down 120 film to 127
In the meantime, whilst quietly inverting the developing tank once a minute, I had ‘chewed over’ the cutting down 120 to 127 task and had added the wasted length of film into the equation, I have concluded that, other than actually being able to take 4×4 transparencies with a ‘Baby’, it would be more economical and easier to use a 4.5×6 adapter in a Rolleicord, Rolleiflex ‘T’ or Rolleimagic, and get 16 frames on the 120 roll commercially developed for a few pounds. Then, is all you have to do is to trim the transparency to size and mount it in a 4×4 slide mount. Of course, if you really insist on ‘roll-your-own’ 127 transparencies (unless you are happy to develop the E6 127 film yourself), certainly in the UK, it is not easy to find a processor who still has the ability to develop sizes other than 35mm and 120 at a ‘sensible’ price – and then you still have to make sure you get the spool back again for re-use.
Developing colour film (negative or reversal) is as easy as developing B&W only it takes longer. The main differences are that the temperatures must be accurately maintained (ideally use a temperature controlled bath) and the number of steps is greater. The cost of the processing kits is quite high and they do not keep for more than a few weeks once opened. It pays to expose the correct number of films for the kit and then process them in one go or over a few days. The home developing cost per 120 or 35mm colour film is not a lot different to commercial processing, so economy with these film sizes is not a reason to consider it.
Bosham Boat Shed with Baby Rolleiflex – 127 film
If a few members would like to purchase 127 colour print film from Maco or Frugal Photographer, then it would probably be worth placing a ‘multiple’ order to reduce pro rata carriage costs. If this is of interest, please contact me and I can look into it further. Black and white film, being available in the UK, is not such an issue but if added to a colour order could bring savings too. The only proviso is that payment would have to be ‘up front’.
I will continue my ponderings in due course and get back to you…
Some useful links:
http://www.onetwoseven.org.uk/– offers tips and has even used 35mm film in a Yashica 44.
http://www.photofilmprocessing.co.uk/110filmprocessing.html – offers 127 processing & printing @ £9.
http://www.jcbimaging.com/126_developing.htm @ £25 per film (!).
This article was originally published in ‘PHOTONpro’ – ‘Kitchen’s Cupboard’ and is reproduced here by kind permission of the Author.
Over the years I have owned four 6 x 6cm Rolleiflexes… and for reasons which at the time seemed sensible. I sold them. Each time, suffering withdrawal symptoms, I bought a replacement, the last being the subject of this article. If I had to settle for but one camera of the many I have owned, it would be a metered 2.8F Rolleiflex.
So what is it about a Rollei that affects me this way? There are several reasons. I like the square 6 x 6cm format, allied to looking down into the viewfinder screen showing, effectively, a bright clear ‘transparency’ of the subject. Eye up against the focusing magnifier, I become absorbed in what I see, almost completely isolated from my surroundings. The psychology of all this is hard to explain to those who use only 35mm SLRs, but in practice, where it matters, it works superbly well.
Quality is apparent as soon as you pick up a Rolleiflex. Even well-used models possess this intangible quality. The results, provided focusing and exposure are correct, are superlative. It is possible to use a Rollei at shutter speeds impossible with a medium format SLR. Why? Minor vibration. Yes, even the best vibrate be it ever so little, as the mirror hits its stops. In practiced hands a Rollei is safe at 1/30th, and usually safe at a 1/15th, which is more than can be said of any roll film SLR.
The Zeiss Planar and Schneider Xenotar were the best lenses available. It has been claimed that the Planar was the better lens, but in my experience this is not demonstrable by taking photographs. The one lens one rarely hears about is the f 2.8 80mm Tessar fitted to the Rolleiflex 2.8A of 1951: Clan Rollei glosses over duff lenses as readily as Clan Leica! This highly unsatisfactory lens, one definitely best left to collectors, was soon replaced by a f 2.8 Zeiss JenaBiometar, the model being designated Rolleiflex 2.8B. 2.8A introduced the new bayonet III filter mount. The Rolleiflex2.8Cof 1953 with Schneider Xenotar restored confidence in the 2.8 series, the 2.8 Zeiss Planar completing the job in 1954.
My ‘model 5’ Xenotar-lensed 3.5F is of 1979 vintage. The focusing hood lifts up at the rear edge, and can be collapsed by squeezing the sides. It can also be removed in order to fit an eye level prism. The focusing screen has a 1cm grid and provides a bright contrasty view of the subject. A split image rangefinder assists precise focusing. A moving mask under the screen provides parallax correction. The front flap holds flat to provide direct vision viewing, with focusing (of an inverted image) via a mirror attached to the flap.
The Synchro-Cornpur shutter provides speeds from 1 second to 1/500th, and enables electronic flash to be used at all speeds, bulbs with the customary 18-20mS delay, plus delayed action. A sliding switch permits multiple exposures. Moving the shutter beyond the 1 second mark brings into view figures in green, doubling from 2 seconds to 60 seconds. These are not shutter speeds. Instead they are all the `B’ setting of the shutter, and act as metered times for exposures longer than 1 second.
The Rollei’s exposure meter is set into the focusing knob, which also bears a unique and most effective DOF indicator: a white band expands and contracts in accordance with the aperture set.
The exposure meter needle and ‘follow’ pointer appear in an arc on top, clearly visible in use. Coupled to both shutter and aperture knobs, it is calibrated for film speeds from 12 ASA to 1600 ASA. Along with their DIN equivalents these appear in the filter factor setting knob, by means of which filter factors up to three stops, can be set in half stop increments. For incident light work a diffuser can be clipped over the meter’s cell.
Film loading is automatic, assisted by a removable back. Thread the leader under the film sensing feeler roller, attach it to the take up spool, close the hack, operate the lever wind forward until it stops. Reverse the lever to cock the shutter and you’re in business. Photographers who also use 120 SLRs can forget the loading sequence and ignore the feeler roller. The result is a wasted film and a feeling of utter foolishness.
The early SLR Hasselblad with its TTL viewing, interchangeable lenses and film magazines, offered versatility the Rolleiflex could not. When Victor replaced his quirky focal plane shutter with time-proven Compur Rapids, then Syncho Compurs to provide flexibility to users of flash, the TLR Rollei’s fate was inevitable.
Despite changes to company name, reorganisation, and the acquisition of Schneider, ownership finally passed from German to Korean hands. The new Samsung-led Rollei puts 35mm first with new £1,500 compacts, and all 6 x 6cm Rolleiflexes are collector’s items for the future.
The example of the Rolleiflex 4.0FW I brought with me to the November 2006 Club Rollei meeting attracted a fair amount of interest from members present, and I felt it might be useful to provide some information for a wider audience. This camera seems to have attracted very little coverage in the general photographic press apart from quite a good review in the British Journal of Photography some time ago. In some ways this is surprising, because the introduction of a new TLR model is not exactly commonplace in the 21st century.
It is essentially the same body as the Rolleiflex 2.8GX but fitted with a 50mm f4 Schneider Super Angulon lens (and a matched Heidosmat viewing lens). As such, the exposure metering is the same with the red/yellow/green LEDs in the focusing hood and the sensor in the viewing lens. Flash synchronisation is ‘X’ type only for electronic flash via the traditional socket on the lens panel or using the ‘hot shoe’ adjacent to the focusing knob. In the latter case, through the lens flash sync. can be obtained by using a suitable flashgun such as a Metz 45CL4 and a SCA 356 adaptor.
Finish of the camera largely follows Rollei TLR tradition, but the leathers are a dark brown type rather than the more usual black or grey. How does this model compare with the previous 1961 Wide Angle Rolleiflex? Well, I have been using mine on a regular, but not intensive, basis for 18 months or so now and have found it generally very satisfactory. The metering is a very considerable improvement on the rather fiddly, uncoupled meter of the earlier model. Apart from this, the operational use of the 4.0FW is almost identical to its predecessor. There appears to be little practical difference in performance between the current Schneider lens and the Zeiss Distagon previously used, but although the Schneider is claimed to have a focal length of 50mm as compared with 55mm for the Zeiss there is no discernible difference in the field of view and I suspect both are in the 52-53mm range. Presumably one manufacturer chose to ‘round down’ and the other to ‘round up’.
Bosham Sailing Club, Rolleiflex 4.0FW, Fuji RHP III
Film loading is the same as for the Rolleiflex 2.8GX or the Rollei T with winding to a red dot to position correctly for the first exposure rather then the film feeler system. The focusing hood is simply the standard 2.8GX type but with the rear ‘eye hole’ not punched through so that there is no sports finder facility. This arrangement avoids the considerable cost of the special optical sports finder used on the earlier Wide Angle model. I have found it no drawback as a pentaprism (new type or old type) can be fitted for eye level use on the odd occasions this is required.
Like the 2.8GX, the 4.0FW does not offer the option of using a Rolleikin or the optical flat glass. The lenses have the identical Bayonet IV fittings to the earlier wide angle model, so all accessories are interchangeable. Rollei have reintroduced a slightly shallower version of the lens hood (which allows the ERC to be closed with it in situ). Neither Rollei nor any other German maker, so far as I am aware, is now manufacturing the Bayonet IV filters, but this is no problem as SRB Film Services of Luton can produce them to order in just about any colour or strength.
Bosham Church from Quay Meadow, Rolleiflex 4.0FW, Fuji RHP III
There is a smart black leather ERC for the 4.0FW which will fit the earlier camera equally well because both have the same centrally positioned scissor strap mountings on each side. It could also be used for the similar Rolleiflex 2.8E2 but will not fit the Rolleiflex 2.8F well due to the 2.8F’s filter dial. So far, the only problem with the 4.0FW has been the fact that the brown leathers are prone to damage and thus the new appearance does not last long (whereas the more usual black leathers generally stay good for years). Perhaps I would more truthfully say this is the only ongoing problem – when received from Robert White, the film transport was wrongly set up so that the first exposure did not occur until the film was halfway through the camera. Whilst RW’s were very helpful, it took the UK repairer, Johnsons Photopia, the best part of three months to decide they could not carry out the warranty repair and send the camera to the factory who promptly fixed the fault!