View Full Version : Lens for wetplate camera

9-Oct-2012, 12:40
I have a spare 4x5 sitting around and was thinking of making it a dedicated wet plate camera. I know wetplate can be messy so I figured using my old Cambo 4x5 would work out well.

Is there a recommended lens to use for wet plate or will any LF lens do?

9-Oct-2012, 12:53
Since hirtorical accuracy appears irrelevent I would think the shutter would be more of an issue than the lens itself. Since wet plate is so slow the shutter must be able to be held open by B, T, or a locking cable release.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
9-Oct-2012, 13:08
I would look for a f4.5 Tessar or Xenar in barrel, coated preferably.

Mark Sawyer
9-Oct-2012, 13:36
There's no need for a "dedicated" wet plate camera. I've probably shot over a thousand wet plates using converted film-holders as plate holders, and have yet to get a spot on a camera from it. And any conventional lens will work, though people refer faster lenses for shorter exposures. Anything in the neighborhood of f/4.5 is fine.

9-Oct-2012, 14:03
Thanks for the info. I have a 4x5 film holder that I machined out to hold my glass plates. I always thought a 2nd camera was needed because I hear wet plate can be messy, but in the 4 times I've shot I have yet to have any issues either.

Brian: Yes, it would be nice to be historically accurate, but in reality I have a budget, and a small one that the moment until the NHL lockout ends. So I need to work with what I have.

Still doesn't explain what to do with my old Cambo.

Reinhold Schable
9-Oct-2012, 14:05
What subjects are you shooting?

Tabletop / Still life?
Ansel Adams Landscapes?
Kids & Pooches?
Rusty cars?
Commercial / advertising?
Gandolfi style Art?

Lot's of folks get by nicely with uncoated, shutterless lenses.
A simple meniscus lens suits wet plate photography to a "T".
(Except possibly, Kids & Pooches, Commercial / Advertising, and Ansel Adams Landscape photogtraphy).



9-Oct-2012, 16:28
Portraits mostly. I have an idea for a portrait series that I would love to shoot on wet plate. And also some urban city/town scenes.

Reinhold Schable
9-Oct-2012, 16:59
Here are some examples of images formed by a simple meniscus lens:
These were shot on film by various photographers.


9-Oct-2012, 18:18
Portraits mostly. I have an idea for a portrait series that I would love to shoot on wet plate. And also some urban city/town scenes.

For portraits, you want fast exposures. The two portrait lenses that were invented to give speed and sharpness and were used from the 1840s to the 1940s were Petzvals at about F4, with Rapid Rectilinears coming along about 1866 at F8. Both are sharp, which is what wetplate really needs because of the inherent artifacts in the process. Soft focus lenses are difficult with wetplate.

Meniscus lenses can be sharp, but only when stopped down to about F11 or more, too slow for indoor portrait studios (no one can hold still for more than about 6 seconds - for that you need F4). So they were used as landscape lenses where you could take as long an exposure as you needed. Their spherical aberrations (softness) was not desired during the wetplate era, with few exceptions. When they were made as doublets with two types of glass cemented together, they became chromatically corrected, which fixed the singlet's chromatic aberrations (more softness). When dryplates and film came along some photographers started embracing the look of these old landscape lenses, which when opened up to as fast as they could make them, are very soft.

Here is a group of over 2,200 photos taken with Petzvals, many wetplates: http://www.flickr.com/groups/868027@N25/
And here is a wetplate only group where some list the lens they used: http://www.flickr.com/groups/wetplate/