View Full Version : Review of Argentum Explorator II wholeplate camera

Per Berntsen
22-Feb-2011, 08:47
Some of you may remember from this thread (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=58726) that I was considering getting either a Chamonix or Ebony wholeplate camera. I ended up buying an Argentum Explorator II camera, and I have posted a review (http://perberntsen.com/tekst/argentum_review.html) on my website.

I'll be happy to answer any questions in this thread.

Sal Santamaura
22-Feb-2011, 09:36
Per, thank you for the comprehensive review. I can find only one aspect that needs correction. You wrote:

"And I believe they do not comply with the international standard for these holders."

There never was a standard for 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 inch film holders. When attempting to start a resurgence in this format by ordering the first Ebony SV Wholeplate and film holders from Lotus, I hoped to create a defacto "standard." We used the Lotus 8x10 film holder as a foundation, then simply shortened and narrowed it for the smaller film size, exact dimensions and cutting tolerances of which I obtained from Ilford and other manufacturers. Therefore, lock rib location, T-depth and other aspects are closely related to the ANSI 8x10 film holder standard.

Later, when Chamonix agreed to support the format too, I provided one of my Lotus holders so Hugo could match the critical dimensions. I'm glad you had your Argentum built around Chamonix holders. It seems my "standard" may actually be taking hold for modern cameras. :)

Per Berntsen
22-Feb-2011, 09:52
Well thanks for clearing that up Sal, I thought it was an international standard ...

24-Feb-2011, 02:27

Interesting read, thanks! I was wondering what film you use, and if you cut it down from 8*10.



Per Berntsen
24-Feb-2011, 03:39
I use Ilford FP4+ - you probably know that Ilford produces FP4+ and HP4+ in ULF and other odd formats like wholeplate once a year - you have to pay and order in advance.
I thought buying from Robert White in England would be the cheapest, but it turned out that buying from Badger Graphic in the US was a lot cheaper.

Andrew Plume
24-Feb-2011, 08:34

thanks for posting all of this

I've been interested in an Argentum wp for some time - up until now there has been scant comment on the web regarding Argentum cameras as a whole, so your input here is much appreciated (by me)



Mick Fagan
3-Mar-2011, 04:44
Per, very interesting, I read your original thread with interest once I found it some time ago.

Do you think it's possible that the newness and possibly the cold climate you live in, may be another factor with the bellows stiffness?

This shouldn't be an issue with me as quite a lot of my photography is done in a much warmer climate.

In warm weather, or a warm house, do you have much bellows sag?

The picture of the bottom shows a large central metal plate, it looks as though this is slightly recessed, or is this an optical illusion?

I think I would have no spirit levels, I have generally found spirit levels built into camera bodies to be incorrect.

The little roller bearings under the knobs are something I have never heard of before, I can understand how they must be a joy to use.

The lens board holder with the knobs would also be a welcome assurance, especially with a camera tilted forwards heavily. I have had one heavy lens in a number 3 shutter slip out.

Really good write up, hmmm, what can I sell to raise some spare cash?????


Per Berntsen
3-Mar-2011, 06:18

The bellows are quite stiff, even at room temperature, and sag very little. And I don't know if they will become less stiff with use, like leather. (I doubt it) You could ask Istvan if he could make leather bellows.

The metal plate under the camera is not recessed - it's flush with the surrounding wood.

Mick Fagan
5-Mar-2011, 05:14
Per, thanks for that information, seems I need to think my retirement strategy a bit.

I have wished for something this size with regard to contact printing, 8x10 being just that bit too big to lug around, with 5x7 really being a tad too small, image wise, for contact prints.

Seems this may be a time for me to re-think about one of these sized cameras again.

I purchase my Ilford sheet film from Jeff at Badger as well, keenly priced product and good service. I note that he currently has four FP4+ by 25 sheet boxes of this size in stock.


6-Mar-2011, 07:19

Very nice review. I too am looking to make bigger contact prints and this format is what I have been looking at but I have a concern about the size of the camera.

Is there a chance the 8.5" side of the image being vignetted from too much front movement? From what I can tell the outside of the box is about 11", minus the thickness of the box and the frame inside it would seem the opening is under 10".


Per Berntsen
7-Mar-2011, 02:58
Is there a chance the 8.5" side of the image being vignetted from too much front movement?

Not quite sure what kind of vignetting you have in mind - bellows? In any case, it's not a problem - the only thing that will cause vignetting is lack of lens coverage. Also bear in mind that the front movements are quite modest, considering format size.

Per Berntsen
7-Jan-2015, 09:12
I have added a short update to my review, which is now here (http://perberntsen.com/misc/argentum/argentum.php)
It's so short that I'll post it here:

Update, December 2014
I have for some time been using a 150 mm Super-Symmar XL with the camera, and I can get about 30 mm front rise with this lens. But the lens has a tendency to tilt by itself when the rise is applied, so care must be taken.

I have been using the camera for two summers for serious work now, and I'm really pleased with it. The only problem I had happened after several days of driving on bumpy Russian roads. Several knobs had unscrewed, and some of them, along with some washers, fell to the ground when I took the camera out of the car. Luckily, I found them all. The work from this project can be seen here (http://perberntsen.com/_artwork/_pages/metsa1.php).