Adapt-a-Roll 620

The Adapt-a-Roll 620 is a thing. A love it or hate it sort of thing? Take it or leave it? Need it or nope it. Yeah, you either need it or don’t. So, what is it?

Keep in mind it’s available in different sizes, this is all about mine. The Adapt-a-Roll 620 is an adapter to use 620 roll film in a camera that takes slide-in film holders. What kind of camera takes slide in holders? Old press cameras for one, but medium and large format field, technical, and view cameras as well. It even looks like a slide in film holder—with a tumor like winder on one side.

Instead of that bulge turning out to be stuffed with a sock, it’s got a roll of film, and a take up spool. The take up spool is a 620 spool. Kodak put out 620 to try and keep their cameras fed with Kodak film. It’s literally just 120 film and backing paper on a different size spool. The hubs on the spool are flat sheet-metal and they—as well as the shaft of the spool, are a bit narrower than a 120 spool. The slot on the end of the hubs is a bit smaller too. That means you have to use a 620 spool as the take up, but can jam a 120 in as the feed-spool or re-roll a 120 film onto a 620 spool and load that.

Anyway, way back in the day cameras used film holders. they slipped in between ground-glass viewfinders on the back of cameras and held a sheet of film on each side. Pretty much every serious camera used the ground-glass & holder set up. A great many cameras had that ground glass on a board mounted to prints that pulled out a bit from the camera to let the holders slid in then hold it in place, sandwiching the holder between the camera body and the ground glass.

Then roll films got popular. Newer cameras used arrangements that let the ground glass come all the way off. Then any roll holder could lock right on, it didn’t have to fit under the springs. People with spring back cameras had to upgrade—or get an Adapt-a-Roll 620. Why might someone want one today? Speed is one, convince is another. An Adapt-a-Roll 620 means one holder can hold 8-16 frames worth of shots. You could grab a Grafmatic holder and get 6 frames in one holder, but those won’t fit in every spring back camera.

Holder, Adapt-a-Roll, Grafmatic

A wood holder is 13mm thick, a Grafmatic is 22mm, the Adapt-a-Roll is 17mm. Grafmatics will fit in some spring back cameras, but certainly not all and. not without a degree of risk even when it does. The Adapt-a-Roll will pretty much always fit.

Holder, Adapt-a-Roll 620, Grafmatic

So how do you load it? There’s scans of the original manual on the web but they don’t have pictures. There’s plenty of written descriptions of what to do, but well, here’s pictures.


Once it’s loaded to the point as shown above stick the feeder spool onto the pegs and close the holder. Slide the dark slide in not quite all the way, leaving just a tiny slot of an opening.

The frame counter works by registering the rotation of the silver roller the backing paper is pressed against. If it doesn’t count stick a piece of foam in the shallow depression as shown and it will put enough pressure on the roller to engage the counter. Remember the Adapt-a-Roll winds onto the take up spool emulsion side out, so if it seems wrong, it’s probably not.


The Best Exposure Meter

A Light Meter is not an Exposure Meter

Some people call it a light meter, but it’s not. A light meter probably won’t help you with photography. Knowing that there’s slightly more foot-candles or lumens here or there doesn’t help. Knowing what shutter speed you need for a given scene, what f-stop you would need for your fixed shutter speed, that’s useful, and that’s what an exposure meter can tell you.

What’s the best all-time exposure meter?

Hands down, it’s the GE PR-1

Why is the GE PR-1 the best exposure meter?

  1. It’s cheap, maybe all of 10 bucks on eBay including shipping.
  2. It’s built like a tank so just about every single meter ever made is still in circulation
  3. It’s a selenium cell meter so you don’t need a battery.
  4. The zero point is adjustable so you can make sure it’s accurate.
  5. The needle locks into place once you’ve taken your reading.
  6. It has a massive range across two sweeps of the meter so a shift of a given amount of light registers as more movement on the GE PR-1 compared to other meters.
  7. The GE PR-1 “trident” let’s you get readings for bracketing your shot almost instantly
  8. It can measure reflected and incident lighting.
  9. Huge range of film speeds, from ISO .2 to ISO 1600
  10. Huge range of f-stops, from 1 to 128
  11. Huge range of shutter speeds, from 1/3000th to 2 minutes

Use Example

So say you have a Lomography Diana +/F+ and you want to shoot without the lens and do some pinhole work. Grab a tripod and your GE PR-1. The Diana’s pinhole is f-128 just take your reading and you can see immediately that you need a two second exposure or whatever. Yes, you can do that with other meters and just count stops to get the right speed but it’s nice that you don’t have to.

If you have a shot that you absolutely need to have come out, meter it. Then you just do a bit of quick math in your head to bracket it. If you want to bracket but want to mix things up and not have the same shot use the meter. Here’s how, take your reading, and line up the center tine of the trident with the reading. Make your exposure for the f-stop or shutter speed you want. Then if you want to shoot one stop more or less exposed you can just turn the dial to the + or – tines. Easy enough to do in your head, but with the meter you got the information all right in front of you. Want to shoot it a stop under and wide open for some bokeh, read it off the meter. Worried about shake so much you want to use a fast shutter but still shoot a stop over, line up the + tine and read it off the meter.

Can you do that all just counting stops in your head? Absolutely, but just because you can bake a cake from scratch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a box of Betty Crocker for convenience.

Scanned Manuals – Two Versions

GE PR-1 Manual 1 CoverGE PR-1 Manual 2 Cover