View Full Version : Making Custom Back

8-Apr-2014, 17:29
I'm about to ask a question that some here will think is heresey, but I don't care. I have to ask. ;) I've always thought older cameras were pretty cool looking, and would like to use one as a "regular" camera. What I'm thinking of are the more "affordable" (cough) wet plate tailboard cameras from the late 1860s to late 1870s. I'm thinking of a smaller one, like 10 x 10cm and even smaller. They rarely come with holders though. Here's my question. How tough would it be for a company like National Star or whoever to make me either (1) a custom 4x5 film holder (2) a holder that accepts standard 4x5 film holders? While I really like the look of the old tailboards, I'm not sure I want to get into wet plate right now. Shooting 4x5 with one would be satisfying enough for me right now, and leave open the opportunity to try dry plate later. Any guess on what the cost of something like that would be, or the feasibility?

8-Apr-2014, 18:06
Why not have a good carpenter/cabinet maker take an existing regular 4x5 or whatever camera back, and adapt it to the camera so you can use the readily available normal film holders that are out there? It's quite easy to make an adapter for the standard backs to fit an existing camera. A good friend of mine has made several for me for a a few of my large format cameras and is getting ready to make another for my 8x10 Empire State which currently has an original plate back. I've just got to come up with a standard 8x10 film back and he'll do the adapter in a few hours.

William Whitaker
8-Apr-2014, 18:17
It's completely feasible to have a back made to allow use of modern film holders with a vintage tailboard camera, e.g., 4x5 on an old half-plate camera. Ultimately it would depend on the specifics of what's available and who's doing the work. But I've made a back for a camera and modified old cameras to take modern lensboards and didn't find it particularly daunting. The end results were very satisfactory. Keep in mind that a 19th century plate camera is not going to have either the amount of movements or the mechanical refinement of a modern camera. Upgrades can often be made, but at the risk of losing some authenticity.