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Thread: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

  1. #1

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    Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    What type of camera and lens do I need for wetplate? That used to be the first question a newcomer asked. And interestingly, the answers have changed somewhat since 2006 when I started.

    Back then, there was a strong "history" contingent, and re-enactors at battlefields. So having an authentic camera was important. What people learned on then were:
    Medium sized tailboard cameras, by Anthony, Scovill, Blair, and sometimes Rochester. Usually about 5x8 sized plates, many were originally dryplate cameras. Work well adapted with a holder. Their lenses are often slow, landscape types like Waterbury or Morrisons. Work well for landscapes, you need a faster lens for portraits. There were thousands of these made in the 1870s-1890s, and they're cheap.

    Then there was a "esoteric art" group:
    They wanted beautiful, custom made cameras and dark boxes made of expensive hardwoods. Star Camera and Black Arts made nice replicas of the above, and you could sometimes get special woods. Very expensive though, compared to using an original antique.

    And then there were the "Huge plate, fast lens" group:
    These people wanted to amaze the beholder with a large plate, 8x10 or larger, usually of just a head shot. Often a beautiful girl, sometimes wearing a gas mask. Cameras here become somewhat less portable. You can't get a small field camera with a large enough lens board to hold a fast petzval that will cover. So swirl became part of the picture. Literally. Anthony and Scovill studio cameras from the 1800s, then Century and Eastman studios from the early 1900s-1940s work great. They have a 9" lensboard usually, and you can fit your F3.1 16" Voigtlander petzval on it. Studio cameras were also common, and should be fairly cheap, a few hundred dollars.

    Middle ground group:
    These wanted medium sized cameras with some movements and moderate sized lenses. The Kodak 2D or 2 work nicely, in 8x10 or 5x7. Also Burke and James. Usually pretty cheap. Rochester made some nice cameras, but again, their lensboards are small, usally 4.5" or so.

    In the past 5 years, it's changed. Many young photographers and do it your self people want to shoot wetplate, cheap. They don't want mahogany and brass. They want to shoot plates.

    Small and cheap group: Speed graphics work well for wetplate, but the same difficulty exists of getting a petzval that will cover 4x5 onto a 4" board. It can be done, but you'll need a slower petzval. F5 would be great....like a Dallmeyer 2D or 3D.

    Huge and modern group: These people want to shoot mammoth plates. They don't care what the lens or camera is. A box, a packing crate, a U-haul trailer all can be used. You can make a wetplate camera out of a pumpkin. Be creative and try just about anything.

    That's all for now. Lenses next.

  2. #2

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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    Lenses are my specialty and love. Coming soon.

  3. #3
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    I have a few lenses that I plan on using for WP. I like how they look on film and I hope they'll work well for tintypes.
    10" Schneider Xenar
    B&L Tessar 1c
    12" Anastigmat (3 of them)
    Wollensak Vesta 14"
    CZ Tessar 12"

    All the lenses are f/4.5 except the Vesta, which is f/5. They're mostly 8x10 lenses, which is my ultimate goal in tintype size.

    Of course, as Garrett says, any lens can be used, but right now these are what I have (or will have soon) so I'm going to work with them for a while.
    I'll start off with 4x5 and hopefully things will go well enough to justify shooting 8x10 tintypes.

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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    I have used a B&L Ic and IIb before, they work great. Actually, Tessars at F4.5 are really about as fast as a lot of Petzvals. So that is one lens I recommend. The Vesta is of course a fantastic lens on wetplate.

  5. #5
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    Thanks for confirming, Garrett.
    Most of these lenses are quite common and in barrel. It goes to prove what you said in an earlier thread that WP doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor.

  6. #6

    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post
    I have used a B&L Ic and IIb before, they work great. Actually, Tessars at F4.5 are really about as fast as a lot of Petzvals. So that is one lens I recommend. The Vesta is of course a fantastic lens on wetplate.
    I was recently given an Industar-37, f4.5 lens, which is basically a 300mm Tessar. Apparently these can be had for under $100. and they are every bit as good as most any other Tessar, but far less $$$. Its a barrel lens, so its well-suited to wet plate work. I've used it a few times and find it to be an excellent lens.

  7. #7

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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    Another tip: beginners will usually overexpose. Especially if using a fast lens outdoors in sun, like a F3.8 Petzval, they cannot believe they will need to be at about 1-4 seconds. So their first day is usually with fogged plates that barely show anything. So, start with a medium speed lens, around F4.5 to F6.8. If all you have is that super fast petzval, put a stop in it the first few shots and see if you can get a decent exposure, before going "full speed."

  8. #8
    Foamer
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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post
    Another tip: beginners will usually overexpose. Especially if using a fast lens outdoors in sun, like a F3.8 Petzval, they cannot believe they will need to be at about 1-4 seconds.

    Wide open I've been getting 1/2 sec. exposures with a wide open Petzval. With f16 on my lenses I was shooting 2s in bright sun yesterday. Since you really can't meter and have to develop by inspection, my suggestion is to keep trying exposures until during development the shadow detail has just started to appear--then you dunk it in the stop bath. Much more than 15s you've underexposed. Much less and you've overexposed.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  9. #9
    Foamer
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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post

    Middle ground group:
    These wanted medium sized cameras with some movements and moderate sized lenses. The Kodak 2D or 2 work nicely, in 8x10 or 5x7. Also Burke and James. Usually pretty cheap. Rochester made some nice cameras, but again, their lensboards are small, usally 4.5" or so.

    That would best describe me. I wanted one of the repro 19th C. cameras but realized they were fairly heavy and offered no movements. I wanted a more versatile camera than that but appearance is important to me too. I also shoot film and dry plates. I ended up with a 5x7 Gundlach Korona that is beautiful, and a Kodak 2D 8x10. These ~100 year old cameras have the brass and dark wood I'm after. For 4x5 I just use my Chamonix 045n. It's fast to set up and light to carry. I might yet buy something like a Star Camera but they do cost a lot of money and it's hard for me to justify a dedicated camera for wet plate.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  10. #10

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    Re: Equipment needs, cameras and lenses. Making, buying, adapting

    yes, 1/2 second is pretty common in bright sun. And if an image comes up fast and disappears during dev, esp if under 12 seconds....you blew it.

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