My experience with the Linhof film back for the Linhof Color 4×5 View Camera had been…well, frustrating. The film would not advance properly, the counter did not engage and it seemed broken from age [in fact, I had to get a second back from keh.com due to roller problems]. I am stupid. The reality is that the Linhof back is much different from a Hasselblad V-Series back, and without directions it seemed like it would forever sit in a closet.
Fortunately, keh.com had an original manual for the film back available for a mere $3 [albeit $1 a page]. Suddenly, the mechanisms that had baffled me now made sense and I saw the errors of my assumptions. I was able to easily load a roll of my favorite Kodak 160NC, and the counter engaged along with the mechanism. I was almost giddy with relief and anticipation for shooting that first roll.
Given the difference the manual made for me, it would be miserly for me not to share a scan of the long-forgotten information online with other photographers for free. Frankly, Linhof does not have anything listed on their site to help users of their equipment from the old West Germany days, so it should not cause any issues of copyright for them.
Just to be clear the 56×72 Super Rollex film back takes 120 film and lets you shoot with roll film [ten 6x7 negatives] on a 4×5 camera. It seems like a great alternative to shooting with a Hasselblad FlexBody, and will give us the opportunity to learn how to perfect our tilt/shift movements before we try the 4×5 Ilford sheet film. Depending on the next work I receive for product photography, I might try shooting a few hero images on film.
Again, the main focus for taking in the Linhof would be to offer a unique and arcane portraiture option for clients, as nothing else looks like film with movements. Photographers ooh and ahh over Lensbaby tilt, but that pales in what you can do artistically with a view camera. The 4×5 set-up in the studio is pretty minimal so far: a Schneider-Kreuznach APO Symmar 210mm lens, the Linhof Color 45 S camera body, two Riteway film holders and the 56×72 back. The plan would be to purchase two more lenses as they show up on the used market to cover landscape [75mm or 90mm] for V. and a wider portraiture perspective.
About the manual itself…it was printed in West Germany, which is always so cool because after re-unification such a country no longer exists. When I first look at the little pamphlet I doubted that it would help me at all, but the instructions are quite clear, and without these I would never have been able to learn how to operate the film back in sequence.
The film back as a piece of machinery belongs to an age and a place when professional equipment had to last a lifetime. It is made of…you guessed it: metal [see earlier blog entry for my tongue in cheek discussion of metal as a building material]. The lever arm works like a casino bandit, and it certainly moves the film through the transport smoothly. Visually, the Super Rollex is an odd cream colour, but it does provide a unique look to the kit. I believe that newer Kardan backs were done in a basic black.
The only other touch that really stands out to me is the striking Linhof emblem that adorns the back, the lensboards and other pieces of kit. I don’t know but it makes me feel nostalgic for a time when those crests mattered and were a source of pride for a company. I feel like I am working with the Hogwart’s of cameras. Again, I just feel lucky to own such a well-built camera, and the Super Rollex back should make it through my lifetime even if the film used in it does not – but it will. Analogue is the future.