View Full Version : 4x5 recommendation for wetplate

19-Jan-2015, 15:23
Hello friends,

I'm looking for a recommendation for a fairly inexpensive ($500 or less?) compact 4x5 camera with a revolving back for wetplate collodion. A decently fast portrait lens as well.

I've been making wetplates with an 8x10 for the last several years in and out of the studio. I need something smaller primarily for use on location. Ugly and cheap is fine for the camera.


19-Jan-2015, 15:49
Hi Marc,
Look at the Toyo D45, it's what I bought for 4x5 wet plate; very solid, full movements (some geared), tons of cheap accessories and well-built.
I put mine up for sale for $250, then decided to keep it for wet-plate use, for all of the above reasons.
As for lenses, why not start with what you've been using on 8x10? You'll hit the sweet spot overtime when you're shooting 4x5.

19-Jan-2015, 18:32
Thanks for the tip Ari. I'll take a look at the Toyo.

The only lens I've been using on the 8x10 is a 13" Vitax 3.8. Will most likely need a bit smaller lens for 4x5.

Anyone have any thoughts on a press camera like a Super Graphic for wetplate? Or other inexpensive options?

Tim Meisburger
19-Jan-2015, 18:58
I think you should look at a B&J 5x7 with an additional 4x5 back. Then you can shoot half plate or quarter plate in modified 5x7 or 4x5 holders. The cameras are relatively cheap, fairly light, and have full movements. If you object to the grey color you can strip and stain them, or simply treat grey as primer (it looks the same) and spray paint the camera black. Here are a couple of links so you can see what I mean: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Burke-James-5x7-Wooden-Folding-View-Camera-w-4x5-Back-/301490849200?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item46324145b0

And here is a nice example of the 4x5 version, which will be somewhat lighter: http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-BURKE-AND-JAMES-4-X-5-FIELD-OR-STUDIO-VIEW-CAMERA-WITH-CASE-ACCESORIES-/371239710406?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item566f9c6ec6

19-Jan-2015, 19:27
The only lens I've been using on the 8x10 is a 13" Vitax 3.8. Will most likely need a bit smaller lens for 4x5.

If it helps, I'm planning on using a 12" f4.5 petzval on 4x5; it's a heavy lens, but the Toyo is much too rigid, steady and stable to be intimidated by it.
If you find a kit with two (or more) rails, you'll have about 520mm of extension; more rails means more extension.

Joe Smigiel
19-Jan-2015, 20:21

I have several 4x5 Cambo/Calumet cameras with SC square monorails that I originally purchased to teach wetplate workshops. (I wanted everyone to have similar cameras so time would be spent explaining the process and not how this or that camera worked.) I've since abandoned the workshop idea and sold much of the system I amassed, but I still have a few bodies left that I will let go inexpensively, like between $50 -$125 depending on which model/rail/back you would want and the condition/length of the bellows. All the remaining cameras have something wrong with them like dry levels, maybe a cracked handle, or patched bellows, but they all should still function. Assume the bellows will need to be replaced ($45 most days on ebay).


Someone also mentioned considering a 5x7 with reducing back. I also have a 5x7 Cambo for sale with a 5x7 back and a revolving 4x5 back w/4x5 Fresnel, an extra bellows, one lensboard, and a well-worn leather wide-angle bellows that needs patching. I'm asking $500 net to me for that package.

128310 128311

Also available are a few other Cambo/Calumet items like hard cases, extra standards, bag bellows & short rail, etc. If the 5x7 package was purchased with a 4x5 bag bellows and rail ($70 additional with the 5x7 camera package) along with one of the cheapo 4x5 bodies for the compatible rail and standards, it would be pretty versatile system. If you have an interest, we can talk more about which lensboard or 4x5 model you'd want, whatever.

FYI, the Cambo lensboards are 163mm square aluminum. I have an Aero Ektar mounted in one, so a short Petzval shouldn't be a problem. I also have a (NFS) Dallmeyer 1A on a Deardorff board in a Cambo adapter, so I know 4x5 Petzvals are an easy match for the boards.

I don't need the Cambo stuff anymore since I'm going to concentrate on whole-plate and I also have an 8x10 Cambo with reducing backs in case I still want to shoot with that system.

20-Jan-2015, 08:38
Thanks for the info Joe! I'll send you a message.