View Full Version : 4x5 Box Cameras - Any Usable?

Benno Jones
16-May-2008, 11:20
I like to play around with vintage equipment and simple cameras now and then and have thought about seeing what kind of results a 4x5 box camera might give. I've been browsing around the auction site and while there appears now and then the "falling plate" type of 4x5 box camera, I haven't seen any that might take a modern film holder. Does anyone know if such a beast was ever made?

robert fallis
16-May-2008, 13:17
I have a 5x4 film holder made by M.P.P it takes glass plates and cut film, it has ametal plate inside that takes the cut film, it slips out when you want to use glass, if you can find one of these then you could adapt it to fit your box camera plate holder.


Glenn Thoreson
16-May-2008, 15:39
I have a Butler Brothers 4X5 box camera. It uses the same plate holders as the 4X5 Premo and others used. Modern film holders work fine but for one thing - they're longer, due to having two light trap ridges, and the door to the storage comprtment won't close. With the old plate holders, I can carry three in the compartment. I found, quite by accident, that the guts out of certain old Fidelity wood holders are similar to Grafmatic septums and are exactly the same size as 4X5 plates. I've installed them in the one good ancient plate holder I have. A card stock shim behind the septum might be a good idea, but I don't really think the 1mm or so difference will matter at all. The camera has a fixed shutter speed and aperture. The combo is good for 100 speed film in daylight. It has a time setting for long exposures. The lens seems to be an achromat meniscus and it does take decent pictures. It's just something fun to play with.
I would shy away from falling plate cameras. Too many problems to overcome to be practical. If anyone has two old plate holders in good shape that aren't being used, I would like to talk.

16-May-2008, 16:42
i've been using a delmar ( sears ) box camera .
it works very well.

you might also look for a "falling plate camera" ,
it is a box camera that you can load
with a whole bunch of paper ( dry plates ) in septums.
when you shoot one, you jiggle the knob, it FALLS to the
floor and you are ready for the next one.
they come in all sorts of sizes, the cyclone sr, is 4x5.

i used buy them, restore them and resell them.
the shutters are simple I /B / T guillotine afixed
to the front, usually gummed up and tired from cobwebs.
just use a wee bit of 3-1 oil and you are good to go.
i had a rare one once, that had a variable shutter speed
it went from T/B and intermediate speeds from slower to slow depending
on how much you turned a knob ( tensioned the shutter-spring ).

have fun :)


ps. a lot of them are listed on http://www.boxcameras.com

Glenn Thoreson
16-May-2008, 18:13
I should mention that I've seen a number of 4X5 box cameras similar to mine go through the auction site in the last few months. Falling plate cameras are nearly always described as such. The type I have is often poorly described because people don't know what they are. In fact, it helps to be on your toes when looking for these. Mine cost 15.00. They seem to be going for 25.00 to 50.00 +. There are a number of brand names. Most are identical to myButler Bros. There is one other design I've seen a few of lately that has an added "feature" or two.
There is a post I put up on nelsonfoto.com some time ago with a picture of mine. There may be a post with a negative scan, too. You'd have to search the site. I'm not good at pointing you to it. ( I don't know how :( )

EuGene Smith
16-May-2008, 19:27

You missed the boat last month on plate holders. I gave away 15 regular style 8x10 plate holders and 3 hinged book-style 5x7 holders. I say 8x10 and 5x7 as that was the approximate sizes they appeared to be. I didn't measure them, and I don't know in what exact sizes plates were/are normally found.

Anyhoo, I didn't have a use for them or any money in them, so I tossed them to the wolves over in the want ad section.


Pete Watkins
16-May-2008, 22:32
Be careful of the MPP plate/film holders. The register is different to normal film holders. There might be some info on the MPP users website.

Ernest Purdum
18-May-2008, 07:48
And then again there ius the Newman & Guardia Special B with plates in a nice bag magazine, front rise and shift, a Series VII Double Protar lens and a shutter with multiple speeds.

Benno Jones
19-May-2008, 14:23
Thanks for the responses. I'll keep my eyes open.

Glenn Thoreson
5-Jun-2008, 19:28
I just wanted to update this one and say how much it can pay to scrupulously watch the auction site for things like this. I just received three immaculate Premo plate holders and a couple of like new Premo film pack adapters, which are a pretty useless thing. The plate holders, to my surprise, are fully equipped with Kodak cut film sheaths. 15.00 plus postage for the lot. No other bids because of the vague description. I knew what it all was, by the pictures. Here's the deal - these plate holders have been selling like hotcakes at 10 to 15 bucks each. Film sheaths are very hard to find. 10.00 each for these. So, 90 bucks potentially, for 15. Now my turn of the century Butler Brothers Pennant Camera Number 20 is back to it's original fully equipped condition. It looks almost new and it's a blast to use, too. :D
Benno, look mine up in McKeown's for an idea of what to look for. Many are identical.

Glenn Thoreson
15-Jun-2008, 15:00
Here's a picture of my Butler Bros. camera. Next to it is a tin Voyager 6X9 box camera for scale.

http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a378/Thoreson/th_PICT0008-2.jpg (http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a378/Thoreson/PICT0008-2.jpg)

Here's a test shot using a modern 4X5 holder of questionable origin:

http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a378/Thoreson/My%20photos/th_boxcam-.jpg (http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a378/Thoreson/My%20photos/boxcam-.jpg)

This shows a few things you don't want to do. Namely, don't try to hand hold it in the wind. Especially if you shake and wobble around like I do these days. Secondly, even if you have the proper holders, don't let the sun shine in the thing. Keep the door closed and change holders in the shade. Lots of shade. The negative is actually a little sharper than this scan. Mostly due to the fact that I don't know how to work the scanner very well. I hope this gives you some ideas, one way or the other.

Benno Jones
16-Jun-2008, 08:49
I won an R.OC. Cyclone Sr. 4x5 box camera on the auction site for a minimal price over the weekend. It only comes with one original holder, but I'll see what I can do with it.

Glenn Thoreson
17-Jun-2008, 10:55
Please post a picture of it when you get it. That may be what Tim's camera is, too. My old McKeown's lists yours but no picture.

Benno Jones
17-Jun-2008, 11:14
There's a pic on boxcameras.com. but only from the front. I'll take some other views when I get it.

Benno Jones
26-Jun-2008, 08:04
I got the Cyclone yesterday and it appears to be in very nice shape. The shutter (simple T/I shutter with a single aperture) works well and the lens is clear. The original plate holder that came with it is in beautiful shape, but unusable to me unless I decide to start coating my own plates. A modern film holder is taller and a shade thinner than the plate holder, but it looks like if I slide a piece of cardboard in behind the film holder it fits snugly. I'll get some pics of the camera up in the next day or so and I should be able to give it a try as a shooter next week.

Benno Jones
10-Jul-2008, 13:39
Spaced on taking pictures of the camera, I'm afraid, but will do so soon. I took it along with me on a trip to Central Washington 2 weekends ago and experimented with sticking in my Quickload holder with a piece of cardboard behind to tighten it up a bit. Finally developed the film on Tuesday. Got some fogging around the sides, but the centers came out decently exposed (I was using Acros and developed in Pyrocat-HD for 25 minutes - F&R tank with normal agitation - I'll scan a neg soon and post it). I guess the next step is either figure out the light leaks or find film inserts for the orignal plate holder it came with.

Glenn Thoreson
10-Jul-2008, 20:09
Cool! I'd like to see what you got with it. I think the secret to these things is what I've mentioned before. Use the original holders so you can keep the door shut. Pull slides and change holders in the shade or dim light and keep the door shut. I've made my own film sheaths using the innards out of junk wooden Graflex Graphic film holders. Knock the flap end off and there are two aluminum "sheaths" in there that are exactly the right size. They fall right out. I don't know for sure if there are differences in design on those old Graflex Graphic holders. The ones I had in my junk box work perfect. A piece of card stock glued to the back of these "sheaths" would help approximate the thickness of a glass plate. I don't think it's critical. The real purpose made sheaths that are so hard to find have ridges on the back to make up the thickness. With a meniscus lens, I doubt it makes much difference. It just makes it focus a tiny bit closer.

Benno Jones
11-Jul-2008, 19:46
Here's a scan. It's a bit too contrasty and raw, but gives you an idea of what kind of light leak I had.

Glenn Thoreson
12-Jul-2008, 11:59
Similar to my test shot. Hence the advice about keeping the door shut. I now have four holders for mine. Time to se what happens. The picture looks pretty good except for the leaks. Not bad at all.