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Thread: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

  1. #1
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    Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    I continue to toy with the idea of buying a vintage LF camera. I currently shoot a Shen Hao 4x5 and love vintage lenses. Also shoot 1914 Kodak 6x9 and 1937 Bessa. I was thinking of trying wet plate, but I think it's just too limiting for me, an outdoor shooter. I'm now looking hard at dry plate cameras. I was thinking of trying something that can shoot both dry plate and 4x5. Dry plate when I want the look, sheet film when I want the convenience and faster ISO.

    What I would want is something fancy! Very striking and well made--no 1880 Holga! I think I'm looking at time period 1880 to maybe 1900. I've read that the best American cameras came from American Optical. T. Anthony doesn't look bad either. Many of the British cameras look nice--Lancaster, Sanderson, etc. I've also consider a Pickard & Thornton because of the cool looking shutter! These seem to be more fro 1900-1920 though. I really like their look though. I want something reasonably portable--no big studio cameras LOL. The English field cameras are so elegant!

    I'm thinking of half plate. That would be cheaper to shoot dry plate, easier to haul around and set up. I've also been reading that I can take a half plate holder and "glue" (with honey!) a sheet of 4x5 onto the glass and shoot it just fine. Is this true? If so, I think that's what I'm looking for.

    One final thought is to skip the half plate deal and for a mini-camera made in the 20s or 30s that shoots either 6.5x9 or 9x12, such as an Avus, Bergheil, or Zeiss Ideal. I almost bought the little 6.5x9 on eBay yesterday (brown & brass one from 1925.) I'm thinking the smaller the camera, the more likely I am to bring it along and keep using it. Downside is they aren't as old or as fancy looking.

    One final question. Sheet film and dry plate seemed to exist side by side for about 50 years. Why was that? If dry plate had an ISO of "1" and film was at least ISO 12, who would still shoot dry plate? It was a hassle to make, didn't have a long shelf life, and seemed to have mostly disadvantages. How come it didn't quickly disappear as sheet film become widely available in the 1890s? This puzzles me.

    So, what are some of the top fancy brands of half plate/4x5 from 1880--1900, 1915? Something I can likely find available--not too esoteric! What about shooting film in the half plate holders?


    Kent in SD
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  2. #2

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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    From what I've read (there's a lot of information in this forum if you read the back posts) dry plates are nearly extinct. There may be some Russian plates available, but you'll have to buy from overseas. I believe Kodak did make T-Max 100 plates a few years back for scientific purposes, but no more unless (maybe) you placed a huge special order. Hope you're rich.

    Film sheaths can be found for converting plate cameras to film. They are sheet metal inserts for the plate holders. E-bay is your best bet.

    There are other methods for properly spacing film in glass-plate cameras. I use modern film holders on my 5x7 plate camera. A previous owner simply flipped the ground glass around frosted-side-out. I get good, sharp negatives. I also own a whole-plate camera from 1895. It originally was a plate camera, but it came with film holders. Someone must have modified or changed the back at some time in the past. It works fine as-is.

    Take some time and read the back posts. Most of your questions will be answered if no one chimes in to answer your specific questions.

    Peter Gomena

  3. #3
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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    I've been reading older posts as I find them, and have been looking online generally. I don't mean buying ready made plates, but am instead talking about making them using gelatin and something like Liquid Light. I didn't really realize there were ready made plates a hundred years ago. How did those compare to the sheet film at the time? Why would the glass plates be more popular than sheet film then?


    Kent in SD
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  4. #4
    Carpenter
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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    Mabee it had something to do with "film flatness". Perhaps plate holders were so abundant that this "new" sheet film technology took a while to catch on. Things moved alot slower back then. It took nearly 10 years or more for digital tech to finally match film quality. The time period your talking about was 100 years earlier.

  5. #5
    IanG's Avatar
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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    Film was already around when Eastman was still using paper negatives in his cameras but for plate cameras was usually sold in film packs in the early days.

    Kodak actually bought the rights to John Edward Thornton's Patented film pack which they made for many years, he also Patented the first Roller blind shutters in the 1880's. His company made Thornton Pickard cameras & shutters.

    Ian

    By 100 years ago there was plenty of film available in film packs for plate cameras but some used very large roll film instead.

    In the 1920's & 30's 9x12 (cm) plate cameras often came with3 plate holders, a roll and had the option of an additional 6x9 120 0r 620 roll film back or a 9x12 film pack.

  6. #6
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    Dry plates were in common use at least as late as the 1970's, I know of one local commercial photographer who used nothing but plates as long as they were available from Ilford. Dry plates had exactly the same emulsion as film, the only difference was teh substrate!

    Dry plates are still being made too, but not by Ilford - or Kodak: Slavich in Russia still make dry plates, mainly for scientific purposes where stability and flatness are crucial. Unfortunately these are slightly thicker than the old "general photography plates", making it difficult to use them in SOME plate holders.

    Many of my cameras started life as plate cameras - the Gandolfi Universal, the Voigtländer Bergheil, Avus and VAG, the huge German "Reisekamera", and so on. One nice thing with older plate cameras is that the plate holders often came with format reducing adapters, so that my 24x30cm camera can readily take 9x12, 10x15, 13x18, and 18x24cm plates (or film, with inserts) in addition to the full 24x30cm.

  7. #7
    Consulting the pineal gland
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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    Theres a liquid light as dry plate article at Alternative Photography. Looks a bit more involved than just using liquid light, you must sub the glass first but you don't have to actually make the emulsion yourself.

    I've also seen The Light Farm referenced as a resource, and I think there are a few threads on making dry plates in the apug emulsions forum as well.

  8. #8
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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    Ole, Ilford still make dry plates. On the last factory visit which was 18 moths ago we had a demonstration of the plate coating line.

    However Ilford only coat specialist emulsions for industrial use and the prices are high as it's very labour intensive. So Ilford plates are a special order product.

    I guess if someone wanted to place a large enough order Ilford could make FP4 plates again to special order.

    Ian

  9. #9

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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    Kent:

    I have three Bergheil's and I love them! Not SO old, but beautifully made and easy to use..
    They are really compact when folded, so using them outside is no problem!

    Also they often comes with Heliar fitted on them...

    (And the bergheil is cool. as you can change lenses on it. (and use a musch older cool lens on it if you want...)

    The "DeLuxe" model is cool, as it is beautyfully green!

    A word of warning: the holders/cassettes seems to be the most difficult to fine - and if you do, the inserts to film use are often missing.. (can be made though).

    (Often you can get a roll film holder for this camera too (6x9))

    I like my 9x12 best, BUT if you want to use the 6.5x9, then you can buy new glassplates for it!

    here: http://www.macodirect.de/apx-100-glasplates-p-2038.html

    ---

    the older wodden cameras are so beautifully made! But if you're going for 4x5" ish, then if you get a field camera, the front plates are often very small, which gives a limit on what size of lens to put on...
    "Reisekamera's" looks different - and the front plate are often bigger - giving you the choise to fit larger lenses on it...

  10. #10

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    Re: Plate Cameras: Educate Me

    Since you don't mind doing things yourself, a British camera can be very fancy, and you can cut your glass to fit the sometimes uncommon sizes. Look here:
    http://www.woodandbrass.co.uk/catego...?camera_type=2
    http://www.photographica.nu/
    http://www.historiccamera.com/photo_history.html

    I've had a couple, like the Sanderson I sold here, and it was miles above the typical American camera of the period. The brass is inlayed and the screws are aligned on a typical British camera, for example.

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