View Full Version : Whole Plate film holders: expensive, nonstandard, and...available?

Will Frostmill
12-May-2013, 19:02
Hi all!

I'd love to work in Whole Plate,* but at best, I can only afford to build a light tight box that's about the right size. Film holders & spring backs are beyond me - I just don't have the skills or tools to make them. I had thought to buy a set & build a camera around them, but I understand that the film holders are expensive and rare. Is this so? I recall reading that each manufacturer made them to have the correct depth on only their own cameras, and they went out of production before an ANSI standard was developed.

For my purposes, I don't mind using plate holders, and sandwiching in film on top of an uncoated piece of glass. I would love to know what you all think before I commit a bunch of money to this foolish endeavor.


*I blame Mike Johnston, he's very persuasive. :) More seriously, I'd love to work with contact prints, and I feel like 5x7 is a little small, and 8x10 cameras seem intimidatingly large. I'd do 8x8 square sheet x-ray film, but that brings me right back to building my own film holders, which seems beyond difficult, and well in to impossible. Plan C would be making digital negatives from 4x5.

Daniel Stone
12-May-2013, 20:03
try Chamonix


definitely NOT "cheap", but having owned a few of their 5x8 holders in the past, they're the most beautiful & well made holders I've ever come across. Definitely worth the coin IMO, even thought its much higher than other holders of similar sizing/dimensions.


Sal Santamaura
12-May-2013, 20:31
See this thread for details on the holders' specifications:


New holders can be purchased from Chamonix, Lotus and Ebony at a minimum. Others may offer them too, but I don't know what dimensions those would be built to.

If you're blaming Mike Johnston, why not buy his Chamonix camera and holders? They're for sale and you will probably never get a better deal. Send him email. :)

12-May-2013, 20:52
What's the film availability like for whole plate? Special order from Ilford or trimming your own, I guess?

Peter Gomena
12-May-2013, 21:25
Yes, the Ilford special order is your best bet. A couple of years ago, you might have been able to find some from one of the European film houses that cuts and packages various films, but whose film and which emulsions I can't recall.

I'm lucky that I bought a WP camera that came with a few holders. I've not seen more than a few for sale since. Some ancient plate holders, some with film inserts, showed up at Blue Moon Camera a couple of months ago, but they were not even remotely close to the outside dimensions of mine, and mine had been modified to fit my camera. It's a tough go unless you order new ones. It's a great format, but it's been uncommon for a long time here in the U.S. The Japanese seem to have used WP cameras for much longer, and you can find Rittreck cameras with WP backs and holders to fit them. From what I've seen, the Rittreck WP back is a big heavy adapter, but the cameras appear to be well engineered.

13-May-2013, 01:09
If you accept that you will have to cut film down, you have many options. It is actually much less expensive to cut 8x10 Delta 100 down than it is to buy whole plate delta 100 in the ULF order. I am cutting xray film, inexpensive ebay efke IR and even have some few sheets of TMY. The IR film can be a chore, but for the rest a night vision monocle or red safe light (for xray) make it an easy job.

Scott Davis
13-May-2013, 06:43
Will- do keep an eye out on Ebay- they show up from time to time there. The most common ones are the Eastman sized whole plate film holders, and they're the closest thing to a "standard" for whole plate. A good number of cameras took them - I have a pair of Seneca whole plate cameras and a Century Master studio camera that take the Eastman sized holders.

13-May-2013, 06:51
I was lucky enough to obtain some bookcase style WP holders for my Butcher and Sons. The bad news was they do not fit but the good news is they fit the Seneca Improved. As mentioned above, there was no standardization. Good luck

Steven Tribe
13-May-2013, 11:45
Dear Will,
I agree with your logic about getting a set of plate/film holders and then building a back and then a camera.
You will need a set of x holders - plus 1 to convert into a ground glass holder. The usual original sets had about 3 holders for six shots.
It would be far easier to look for a set that is the old slide-in type - simple velvet light traps and catches. Use of modern film in plate holders is MUCH easier by using book type holders where the film is pressed against internal wood framing.
There are a few UK sellers who list these (often in batches, when they have a clear out) at very reasonable prices.

13-May-2013, 12:56
I bought a Whole plate camera off another UK member of this website a few months ago, it takes time and patince finding bookform holders that fit at reasonable prices.

There was some talk that Foma might cut Whole plate or Half plate film, I can't afford the Ilford ULF prices. Foma have a cutting facility that's a joint venture with Fuji (mainly for Colour papers).


Steve Hamley
15-May-2013, 15:14
I cheat. 8x10 is so much easier in terms of finding film, cheap holders, etc. I crop in printing. I have the WP frame marks on the Wehman and Ebony. And it's a full 6-1/2" x 8-1/2". The reason I do this is the price and availability of holders and film without cutting, which I'm not terribly averse to, but plug-and-play is just easier. And I have a WP camera and some old holders.

Before you put a lot of money in a custom back and holders, take an 8x10" piece of paper and draw a 6-1/2" x 8-1/2" rectangle in it. Then evaluate how much you pay to lose that small amount. The point is you can shoot 8x10 and cut the negative down A LOT cheaper than you can shoot WP unless you just luck out on a bunch of usable holders and a camera.

Cheers, Steve

Will Frostmill
15-May-2013, 19:27
That's the most practical thing I've read all day. Sometimes I need to wake up and just try the most straightforward solution. I'd put off the notion of buying an 8x10 because lenses that cover the format are big, heavy, and expensive, but if I'm cropping a little bit to WP size, then I could probably abuse a cheap Tessar meant for 5x7. Thinking it through helps!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. I'm really grateful that I can turn to a place like this forum and receive so many thoughtful, kind, and intelligent replies. That's quite rare on the internet.

Sal Santamaura, buying Mike's kit is a very sensible approach. And, wallet factors aside, one I'd pursue. :) I had forgotten your part in the tale of the whole plate resurgence - a really neat story.

Steven Tribe, refitting a plate holder to be the ground glass is a brilliant idea! Boy, I wish I'd thought of that. Totally solves the problem of how to construct a spring back! Fantastic!

IanG & everyone else who mentioned a combination of patience and time: good point. I've got plenty of the second, and maybe enough of the first.


Steve Hamley
16-May-2013, 05:35

The IC of WP is 270mm and 8x10 310mm, in round numbers. For 40mm in difference, you won't find much difference in lenses, because if a lens covers WP, nearly all of them will cover 8x10 too. It's a "twofer" because the "rectangles" aren't much different in diagonal. They ARE different in shape, and I like the WP proportion better. You might find some lenses that will cover WP but not 8x10, but aside from portrait lenses and petzvals, probably not many. 240mm plasmats might be the exception unless you're looking at 75 degree lenses.

8x10 lenses don't have to be expensive, any run of the mill f/5.6 plasmat over 240mm will do fine. And run of the mill f/5.6 240s will likely cover WP.

Cheers, Steve

Will Frostmill
16-May-2013, 06:15

Ah, I see. Yes, that makes sense. And, 240mm seems pretty close to the right focal length for portrait work on 4x5, so, doubly useful.


Steve Goldstein
16-May-2013, 07:34
One point about cutting down 8x10 to WP - the two cuts are the same - 1.5" on both the long and short sides. You can also easily preserve the notches.

So far I still have the luxury of WP film in the freezer so haven't had to resort to this myself.

Peter Gomena
16-May-2013, 07:34
My 210mm Symmar-S covers WP with room for a little movement. My 120mm Super Angulon covers as well, with almost no room for movement, which is impossible anyway given the amount of bellows compression with the shorter focal length. I don't own a 240, but it would be a great focal length for 4x5, 5x7 or WP.

Steve Hamley
16-May-2013, 08:57
Another thing to consider about film is that you will have to cut to get the full range of available emulsions; not all are made in prepackaged WP formats. So if you're going to cut, you might as well cut or mask after developing rather than before! If you cut before, you're throwing away film and image area, not to mention cutting in the dark versus cutting in the light.

Cutting 1.5 inches off both sides of 8x10 film wastes 24.75 square inches of film every shot (10x1.5 + 6.5x1.5). If you can find the film you want in 7x17, you can cut 1/2" of the long side and the remainder in half with no waste, and you've lost 8.5 square inches.

But the cheapest route is undoubtedly an 8x10 and a pair of scissors.

Cheers, Steve

Steve Hamley
16-May-2013, 09:15

Here are a couple of examples of images shot on 8x10, printed to a full 6.5x8.5, matted and framed in a standard 11x14 frame. These are not great images, but they do show the results. One of the things I like about the WP format is that it looks wonderful in a standard 11x14 frame with a 8x10 mat.

Cheers, Steve

Diane Maher
16-May-2013, 13:54
I bought a WP camera a while back and it came with 5 holders. I was able to get Keith Canham to make me an adapter for my 8x10 so I can use longer lenses that won't work with the actual WP camera body. I do also have some of the Chamonix holders that I have used with a Kodak WP camera.

Dave Tolcher
25-May-2013, 12:10
I am in uk & have a spare Kodak wp back and some holders which are sat in a cupboard gathering dust at the moment. Not sure what they are worth but pm if interested.

Jim Andrada
25-May-2013, 23:07
Hi Dave

I sent you a PM

Joe Smigiel
26-May-2013, 09:22
I picked this up a couple years ago and haven't used it to date. But, a couple days ago I loaded some film sheaths with FP4+ and intend to expose the first few this weekend. I had to use plate holders and film sheaths as I have no actual film holders for it. I only have 3 plate-holders that fit although 7 different whole-plate sizes are present in the various film/plate holders shown behind the camera. I'd be up for a trade of those offbeat holders if you have any that would fit this camera or a Rochester Universal or ROC Carleton whole-plate.


Eastman #2 whole-plate format (6.5" x 8.5"), predecessor to the Kodak 2D. The lens is a Wollensak Voltas 8x10 triple-convertible (12", 20", 28.5") in Autex shutter. Bellows are intact, the shutter works like new, the lens is in excellent condition, and the tripod block and extension rail are present. It's a sweet camera.