View Full Version : Seeking more info on Burke & James Watson 5x7

20-Apr-2014, 12:31
I'm on the hunt for a camera for wet plate portrait work. I'm looking at a B&J Watson 5x7 (that also has a 4x5 reducing back) on the auction site. I've dug up a little information on the camera but still have a couple questions.

I found this catalog link which was helpful: http://www.piercevaubel.com/cam/catalogs/1940burke&james.htm#page%2028-29 It's on pages 28 and 29.

One thing I can't find is the bellows extension. I'm also curious if there is a rail extension for it and if so how easily found it may be.

Of course the old catalog also does nothing to clue me in to it's present day value. It has some attractive features like all the movements (to some degree) on the front standard, some movements on the rear and reversible backs, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to pay too much for it.

I guess I'd also like to know if there are any things i might be overlooking on what to look for in a first LF camera.

If anybody has any knowledge or wisdom on this camera, I'd love to hear it.

20-Apr-2014, 12:50
Oh, here is the auction: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Burke-and-James-Watson-5x7-4x5-View-camera-with-3-Lens-/291125903350?pt=US_Vintage_Cameras&hash=item43c874bff6

If anybody has anything on those lenses, I would welcome info on that too.

20-Apr-2014, 13:29
Looks like a good start!
You never know what kind of deal, until an auction ends.
Have you been on this forum long enough to have access to the for sale section?
You might find something you like there.

20-Apr-2014, 13:32
Have done any wetplate yet?
Most wetplater's want to use a lens with a more historic look (like a Petzval type), and faster than f4.5 if possible.

20-Apr-2014, 13:34
I get access to the classifieds here and I'm watching it closely.
Of course, buying local is the absolute ideal so that I can personally check out the condition. Second best would be buying from a forum member. This seems to be a good collection of people.

20-Apr-2014, 13:37
No, I haven't had a chance to try it out first hand. A friend in my neighborhood shoots wet plate. We have plans to get together this summer.

Faster is definitely better, of course. I'm guessing I'll likely spend more for my portrait lens than for my camera body.

20-Apr-2014, 13:47
You're on the right track.
Enjoy the journey....
Happy shooting!

Michael Clark
20-Apr-2014, 13:53
I have the newer version of this 5x7. It is battle ship grey and the rear standard is metal, it has a 21" bellows draw but the bellows can only extend to about 18 to 19" due to age. For the price they are pretty good cameras for there lower cost. The build quality is a bit crude but very functional , has unlimited movements front and back.

The first time I used this camera it seemed a little shaky, but never did it produce a blurry neg, I named it Shaky Jake and it did come with extension as well as a 4x5 back and the standard 5x7 back and Vulcan carrying case with a few holders for the price of $250 plus shipping it was a great deal.


20-Apr-2014, 14:23
I've never had a B&J , I like Ansco's or Kodak 2D, there are plenty of great deals on 5x7's out there.
No need to be in too big a hurry.

20-Apr-2014, 18:16
I'm eager, but will try to be patient. I really want swing on the front standard which rules out the Kodak 2D (I think). I do like the Agfa Anscos and I think some of them have all the movements. Thanks for the suggestions.

Michael, thanks for the info on your similar model. I wasn't even considering that the condition of the bellows could effect their extension. Best to ask the seller to measure the actual capabilities.

20-Apr-2014, 18:52
If you want full movements & think 4x5 would be big enough, monorail cameras (like Toyo, Sinar, Calumet), are often priced lower than field cameras.
Being metal they're more resistant to wet plate stuff.

Michael Clark
20-Apr-2014, 19:01
Cb33, that B&J you showed has front swings and shifts, also rise and falls and maybe even tilts.

Jim Jones
20-Apr-2014, 19:23
Unlike some other B&J cameras, the one on pages 28-29 apparently doesn't have the extension rail. I used another B&J 5x7 with the extension rail for 5x7 and 4x5 film for many years. They are more shaky when using the extension rail than many other cameras, but that never seemed to give me problems. One can always mount the camera and extension rail on a strip of wood to reduce any problem with stability. The later B&J extension rails had two attaching screws instead of the more common single screw. It appears that one can improvise an extension rail from the rail of a junk flatbed B&J. The bed is the same width on the 4x5 and 5x7 flatbed models that I've seen. That leads to a rather bulky 4x5 model.

20-Apr-2014, 19:30
I like monorails and haven't counted them out. However, silly as it seems, I want the camera to have a certain look. I'm not going for historical accuracy or anything like that, but I do want it to look believably appropriate for shooting wet plate for the sitter. I guess, I want it to help create an experience for the portrait subject.

The B&J definitely appears (by that catalog and pictures elsewhere) to have rise/fall, tilt, swing and shift at the front. All focusing happens from the rear and it has limited rear movements but I'm hoping that won't be too much of a hinderance.

20-Apr-2014, 19:45
Looking closely at the pictures of the camera up for auction it looks like the teeth on the focusing track go all the way to the back as though it should accept an extension, but I see no screw for attachment and couldn't tell if there are hole(s) for the attachment of an extension.

Jim, I can't find any hard evidence that it was designed to accept an extension or not, but I think you are right that I could utilize parts to make it happen. I guess that's assuming the bellows will make it that far back.