View Full Version : Whole Plate Options and Suggestions

15-Sep-2009, 15:32
I'm considering a whole plate (6.5 x 8.5) camera. One of the reasons I am considering WP is weight and portability. I am working on a project that requires frequent travel to a remote location and I end up having to ship stuff ahead for the 8x10 and it is real pain not to mention worrying about loss or breakage. I have been taking a 5x7 on some trips but for some subjects I just feel the prints are too small.

I have cruised all the various forums and it seems there are three cameras out there (new anyway). The Chamonix, Ebony and Argentum. The only one of these camera makers whose products I have any experience with is Ebony which is too heavy anyway (see above). There's lots of stuff from Chamonix users but very little out there on the Argentum. So what I am wondering is:

- Are there any options I am missing other than used?

- Any Argentum users and/or purchasers out there, not just WP but in any format?

- Any advice regarding WP?

Yes, I have contacted Chamonix and Argentum.



15-Sep-2009, 17:12
Try Gandolfi -- they're bulletproof, very light, and the need the business. When I hit the lottery....

15-Sep-2009, 18:12
How about a nice Kay Cee #3? I have one I can sell.

15-Sep-2009, 18:16
I assume you're contact printing only and enlarging is out of the question?

15-Sep-2009, 18:22
I assume you're contact printing only and enlarging is out of the question?

Yes, that is correct. I've been working on this project for a while making only contact prints and I want to keep it consistent.

15-Sep-2009, 18:27
Try Gandolfi -- they're bulletproof, very light, and the need the business. When I hit the lottery....

Thanks for the tip. I sent them an email but you lottery comment has me a bit worried about what I may hear back from them!

16-Sep-2009, 00:48
I am using an Argentum 5x7" so I can't tell you anything about the WP cameras, but I am very happy with my camera, the buying and after sales experience. Wholeplate is a really cool format!

Diane Maher
16-Sep-2009, 06:31
I use an old Charten whole plate camera. The problem with older whole plate cameras is that the holders you can obtain today may not fit or may not be of the standard type. I have taken part of my whole plate kit on a plane in a laptop bag.

You can also find Century whole plate cameras which will accept the modern Chamonix holders, although I have found that these holders give a full frame only in the portrait position due to the bellows on the camera. In the landscape orientation, I lose approx. 1/4 inch.

I have seen the Chamonix, though do not own one. For me, the operation of the controls of that camera do not fit my style of shooting. I played around with one at the Foto 3 Conference last year and simply didn't get along with them.

I believe that Canham would make a whole plate camera, a back/bellows combination or a reducing back for 8x10 to whole plate, but they would need a holder and it would take some time to do this, so it is not an immediate option.

I believe I saw that someone was selling a Gandolfi whole plate camera somewhere. See here:

http://www.quietlight.co.uk/2009/09/gan ... 65x85.html


16-Sep-2009, 06:40
You might try posting your question to the British Whole Plate Forum, at http://wholeplate.co.uk/forum/index.php. It's just getting started at this URL, so it does not seem too active, but there are some participants.

16-Sep-2009, 08:17
Diane -

Thanks for the great info. I had a Charten 5x7 at one point. The smallest 5x7 I have ever seen but it lacked front swing which I am finding many of the older WP cameras also lack. I am aware of the holder situation. The Chamonix is one that I am considering. I have a Shen Hao 5x7 (bought on this forum). It has characteristics similar to the Chamonix and I had a little trouble getting used to the focus knob on the rear and having to reposition the front every time I open it but eventually got used to it. It is just so light and I love that aspect. I contacted the Gandolfi owner . . . no front swing. Too bad!

R A -

Thanks for the tip, I'll do that!

16-Sep-2009, 12:38
I have a charten as well and plate holders are as hard to find as hen's teeth, especially ones to fit the camera. just like what Diane says about plate holders is very true, if you want to buy an old camera it had better come with a few plate holders to make it worthwhile. Otherwise you will spend alot of time looking for them all other the place or sending the camera off to one of the plate makers to see if they can make one for you.

the whole plate forum listed above is trove of information, RJ is in the midst of re-defining what his site should look like. Also, he has reviewed a series of whole plate cameras, to include, I think, 3 cameras still being manufactured. I cant remember what RJ is shooting but I think it is a Chamonix, ask he will tell you.

Anticipating the next question...have you sourced film yet? Ilford has an annual special size order which is now over and Efke, based on the work by RJ and some British film sellors, has been convinced to sell as well. The down side is the $, Efke really doesnt seem to want to make whole plate film so are charging almost Ilford prices. Sheetfilm.be has seemingly straightened out their film sourcing issues and offers special runs 2x a year. I ordered some and it should be at my mail box in a few months. Another way to get the film is to cut 8x10 to size.

Welcome to the whole plate club!


Diane Maher
17-Sep-2009, 05:43
Yes, RJ shoots with a Chamonix.

17-Sep-2009, 09:03
Anticipating the next question...have you sourced film yet?

Welcome to the whole plate club!


Well Erick, I'm not there yet but I think that may be the way I go. I shoot in 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10. I used to shoot mostly 4x5 and enlarge but for the past few years I have been mostly contact printing and have been somewhat seduced by it. Except for some close ups of small things, figure studies and a few portraits the 4x5 contact prints are just too small. The 5x7 is getting there although too small for subjects with lots of detail. The 8x10 works out well for lots of subjects but the logistics are difficult. These are my opinions of my work only, YMMV.

I am using FP4+ for contact printing and it looks like Midwest Photo keeps it in stock. I'll check with them before I leap. I would hate to get a "new" camera and not be able to get film for months. I usually buy at least years worth of film at a time so the annual special order deal from Ilford would be no problem for me.

Thanks for all of the advice!


Scott Davis
18-Sep-2009, 09:30

another camera to keep an eye out for is a Seneca "black beauty". They show up on the used market with surprising frequency (I actually have TWO of them!) and for not much money (thus the two of them!). I may have just gotten lucky, but both of mine came with the accessory extension rail, and were bought for less than $300 each. They take the "eastman" "standard" film holders, which are the more common variety of film holders out there - there was also a "gundlach" (I think) format which was less common than the "eastman" size. Then there are the plate cameras, which usually have proprietary sized glass plate holders and would need to be fabricated from scratch should you find a camera without some.

As to film availability, if you can't find any factory cut whole plate film at the time you get your camera and holders, you can always cut it down from 8x10 - I get the Arista.EDU Ultra 200 in 8x10 and treat it that way. It's a great emulsion, and quite inexpensive.