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Thread: Half-plate madness.

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Half-plate madness.

    So when my eyes laid sight on this beauty I couldn't let it pass. I paid a little over 60 dollar for it, no idea if that is a lot or not, but it seemed cheap to me.
    It has a removeable half-plate back with groundglass, Thornton Pickard rollerblind shutter, and Beck Symmetrical lens. The body is marked Triple Diamond, British Made. It is a triple extension.

    Now, I didn't really think about using it.. But it's really tempting, and it seems like a lot of fun. It folds up quite small, and is quite light. Compared to a 4x5" monorail, that's quite a relieve!

    Now sadly it's not in a great condition.. The wood looks great. The brass looks fine. But the bellows.. They might look okay from this angle, but whole parts on the lower edges are missing, and makes it look un-repairable... I can post some pictures later.
    What would be the easiest and cost-friendly way to repair or replace these? It doesn't have to look as good, as long as it light tight of course

    The rollerblind shutter works, but the original cloth has a lot of pinholes.. Where would I be able to get some new cloth for it, and how to repair it? Or just replace the whole front with a modern shutter and lens?

    The Beck Symmetrical lens has no focal length marked on the lens, only f-stops. (f/8 to f/64.) How would this lens perform on either 5x7" or 4x5"? (I was thinking of replacing the back with either a 5x7" or a 4x5" back, so I can use easily available film.) And what is the focal length of this lens?

    Then another question. There's no way of securing the camera to a regular tripod, as there's a large hole in the bottom of the camera, with three small metal plates with two holes around it. How would a tripod be secured to this? Would the legs be secured to the plates directly, or is part of the bottom missing?

    Information about this camera seems to be hard to find, but it looks to be a Houghton. I can't find the logo anywhere on the camera, (Where would it normally be located?) but it looks identical to the Triple Victo by the same company. Anyone know if there are any differences?

    Pardon me for all the questions, I'm not quite as knowledgeable as some of you here! I'm quite new to large format photography.
    Last edited by Math; 11-Apr-2009 at 14:48. Reason: Added question about tripod.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Washington, D.C.

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    First off--$60 is a steal, and it is a Houghton's Triple Victo, so good catch. However, you're going to have to put in some money if you want a working camera.

    Bellows-- Custom Bellows UK, Western Bellows or Turner Bellows can make you a new bellows. You can even make your own bellows if you're really ambitious.

    TP Shutter-- These are fun, but limited. If you carefully take it apart, you'll see it's very simple and you can replace the shutter cloth with material from microtools.
    If you make some extra lens boards, you can use any lens/shutter you want. The Beck is probably an 8" lens or something close.

    With a little work, you can have a beautiful usable camera.

  3. #3
    Rafael Garcia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Atlanta, GA, USA

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    This is my half-plate. It is now a dual format 4x5 and 5x7, on top of still being a half-plate.

    By the way, yours was a steal! $60.00 is one of the best deals I've heard of.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Wondervu, Colorado

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    Can't help w/re to the shutter, but I've had success with bellows repair using a craft store black fabric paint. Comes in both glossy and flat. You can paint the entire bellows to achieve a more uniform look and use several coats on pinholes or tears. Works well on vinyl or synthetic leather (leatherette).

    I've also read about mixing ashes and regular white glue to paint holes, but haven't tried it. Stay away from silicone caulk--it tends to melt when it gets warm.

    Do a search for bellows repair to find lots of other posts here.

    Great looking camera and lens!

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 2001

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    Regarding the bellows, Bostick and Sullivan sells a bellows repair kit that works well - until your bellows simply wears out. It comes with some fabric to cover larger holes and some Bellows Patch Sealer to paint onto the bellows. I used it on my Japanese whole plate camera until the bellows recently were just full of pinholes - presumably from being used so much. I sent the camera to AWB Enterprises to have the bellows replaced and am hoping to get it back this week.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    Thanks for the replies! They are very useful.

    About the bellows, they are in worse condition then the photograph might make it look, so I don't think it will be fixable with the kit. There are multiple tears like the one pictured.

    By ambitious, do you mean it's hard to make your own bellows?
    Custom Bellows UK does not seem to have a lot of information on their website, what would something like this cost me? I'm located in the Netherlands myself, so if I would have to ship off the whole camera to the US, it would probably cost as much as the bellows itself.

    Rafael, that camera looks lovely! May I ask how you made the backs for it, and managed to adapt the base to a tripod? (If you did? There seems to be a different material on the base.)

    I did find another problem, which seems to be the cause of most of the damage on the bellows. This bar and the same on the other side (Circled red in the picture) won't fold in completely. Strangely I cannot find anything blocking it's path. It can be pushed further a little, but it'll move back in this position directly after letting go.
    When the camera is closed, this pushes against the bellows. Maybe I'm missing a simple step needed to close the camera? First off I thought it was the rollerblind shutter hitting the metal bars inside the camera, but it won't fold in with the shutter removed either.

  7. #7

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    Nice camera and as told above a steal, in that bay they go double or even triple, I short time ago bought 2 1/2 plate cameras (in pieces) for much more. The bellows look good, nothing missing, just a little glue needed, I hope.
    If this doesnt work I had the thought to go to my shoemaker and ask him to make a bag-bellow from smooth leather. Maybe a bag -bellow isnt that nice looking but I want to take pictures with this camera and not to display it, so the look doesnt care me much.
    BTW, I dont really understand why this fragile cameras have triple extension and that long bellow; what I know from my 5x7 gear a 300mm or longer lens is much to bulky and heavy for. So I plan to use my 1/2 plate with a 120 Angulon or a 135 Xenar or another tiny lens, maybe 165, but for sure not longer. So I dont need a long bellows and a bag-bellows which is easy made in best quality fits my needs.
    Just my 2c
    Regards and Have fun

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    I'm going to shamelessly bump this thread, as I still have not found out why the bar (Shown circled red in the last photograph) doesn't fully fold in. I want to fix this before installing or repairing the bellows, as that bar will probably damage them..

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Van Buren, Arkansas

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    You need to remove the bellows including the frames it is glued to, and send the whole assembly to Custom Bellows (Camera Bellows new name) in England. While it will cost you more than you paid for the camera, they are quite fair in price, and your new bellows will last your lifetime.

    This type of camera was designed to have tripod legs (only) attached to the bottom of the camera. If you wish to use it with a modern tripod, you will have to make a plate for the bottom of the camera with a threaded insert to accept the modern tripod screw.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Re: Half-plate madness.

    I can't seem to find any prices or estimates on their site, what would a bellow like mine cost?
    Paying more then the camera shouldn't be a problem, I'd love to get it working again.. Currently the biggest problem for me to built is the tripod base.

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