Widepan 6x12 Roll Film Back

I recently acquired a Cambo Wide 470XL camera with the primary intention of taking wide angle 2:1 panoramic landscapes.  The Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon 47mm XL is something of a fabled lens and has been on my wanted list for a while but I did not want, or need, a conventional field camera with bellows focusing.  Apart from other handling issues, this extreme wide angle lens (similar to 14mm on 35mm format) throws a very dim image onto the ground glass, making composition on 5x4 extremely tedious.  Having the convenience of a helicoid focus ring and 120 roll film, composition with the Cambo Wide is done with the aid of an external viewfinder and can be used hand-held if needs be.  It's a cheaper solution than a Linhof or Horseman 612 and I'll write-up a review of the camera once I've had a little more time with it.

The next step was to find a suitable 6x12cm roll film back.  The obvious choices are Linhof Rollex ( expensive!) or Horseman.  I've read several disconcerting reports of light leaks with Horseman backs and as I wanted to keep costs reasonable, I was loath to take a chance on a second-hand Horseman even though a couple were available in used condition from a dealer in Scotland.  A bit of internet research threw up a few other Chinese-made options via Ebay.  The most commonly available Gaoersi and Da-Yi backs are odd-looking things, some versions with lever wind and some with knobs, some made with plastics and some in metal.  I wasn't keen, despite a few positive user reports around.

I then found the Widepan 6x12 roll film back available new .  I recall Widepan made a range of panoramic cameras in 6x12, 6x17 and 6x24 formats that were well regarded by those who used them.  I once handled a Widepan 6x17 with a SA 90mm XL lens and the stand-out feature I remember was that the camera was very well engineered and substantially built for rugged use.   Manufacturing accuracy and quality was on a par with my Fuji GX617.

 There was a good selection of illustrative images on the seller's page and the back appeared to be well made and completely conventional, seemingly a close copy of a Horseman back.  I decided to take a chance and made an offer to include shipping from China that was accepted by the seller.  In total, it was considerably less than the obviously well-used Horseman backs advertised by the Scottish dealer.  The Widepan 6x12cm roll film back arrived within a week, brand-new and sealed in it's box as advertised, so no complaints there.  The camera came with both 6x6 and 6x7 Horseman backs, which I do not need.  By comparing the Widepan back with them, I can say that the quality of materials and construction of the Widepan is at least as good as Horseman.

I took the combination of Cambo Wide 470XL and Widepan 6x12 roll film back to Ogwen in Snowdonia and Dartmoor for a trial run in somewhat less than good conditions.  Everything works without hesitation, the materials and workmanship are top-notch and it all looks good for doing what it is intended to do.  The proof of the mechanical integrity will be in light-tightness and frame spacing.  I'll continue the review once I have processed the films, but so far I'm pleased with how it performs.

 The Widepan 6x12cm roll film back in situ on the Cambo Widepan 470XL.  Incidentally, although I have the original Cambo external viewfinder with 6x12 mask, I prefer the Chinese-made Gaoersi 6x12 finder as shown.

 The film insert is made with predominantly metal components.  All parts operate smoothly and are well finished with no rough edges.  As a unit, I cannot fault it.

 The back is opened by pinching the two lugs together.  I found this easy to do even when wearing gloves.  The back springs open and closes again positively, overall it feels very similar in it's operation to my Fuji GX and GSW.  The dark slide has a bright red plastic grip to make it obvious that it needs to be removed before an exposure is made!

 Pushing the black buttons in the film chamber and the spool spindle assemblies shoot out of the base to make inserting and removal of the spools easy.  The action is very positive and the spring rating is obviously intended for substantial and prolonged use.

 Wind the leader until the arrow appears in the circular window of the insert and the back is ready to be closed and wound on to frame number 1.

 Stainless steel springs under and above the spools ensure tension is maintained on the roll and take-up spool to retain film flatness and smooth winding.

 Dark slide in place.  It might be useful to mark one side of the dark slide to indicate an exposed frame a la Fidelity 5x4" dark slides.  The metal surface of the rfh is perfectly flat and painted matt black to kill light scatter.


With the back closed, it takes 4 strokes of the lever to set frame number one. The Widepan roll film holder surface is textured to aid grip.  The frame counter is clear and precise and the film cannot be wound beyond the unexposed frame.  The wind-on lever has a stand-off position or can be pushed flush with the back, reminiscent of 35mm film cameras.  Push the wind on lever lock button to the left and it takes two strokes of the lever to wind on to the next frame after an exposure, the action is very smooth.

So far, I'm impressed with the attention to detail, materials and build quality of the Widepan 6x12cm roll film back. 
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