Confused about Plate Cameras

Discussion in 'Plate Cameras and Accessories' started by meltronic, Jun 17, 2006.

  1. meltronic

    meltronic Member

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    I saw a beautiful Lili plate camera that blew my mind yesterday, and I've been thinking about using a plate camera ever since. Here's my beginner's questions:

    What do you need to get a plate camera up and running? I've read in this forum about plate holders and film sheaths and plates. Do I need all of these?

    If I want to use a 9x12cm camera, do I need plate holders that were designed specifically for that model, or is there a standard holder that fits most 9x12 cameras? Same situation for other sizes?

    If you plan to use film rather than plates, do you just tape it to a piece of glass?

    I obviously need all the help I can get, and I thank you for your advice!

    One more question: Besides torn bellows, what other points do I need to be careful of when buying?

    Yours,
    Matt
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    1: Most plate camera need special holders, which fit only that type/model/variation of camera. There were a few "standards", quite a few in fact. That's the problem. There are also cameras that need unique holders, made especially for that camera. That's very rare, but it's still best to get a camera with holders if at all possible.

    2: There are two ways to use film: For smaller sizes, up to 18x24cm (that's the largest I have, there may be larger ones available), there are film adapter sheaths available. The film is slipped into these, which are then put in the holders just like plates were.
    For larger sizes, I attach the film to a glass plate with a "tacky" glue - HAMA spray glue works fine. So does a little thinly smeared jam.

    3: The cameras are up to a century old, so check for rust, wood mites, cracks, termites, lacy bellows, missing knobs, botched repairs, and just about everything else you can think of.
    If buying a classic "Reisekamera", be aware that there are two very different "coarse focus" methods: One uses the same rack the whole way, the other has the back fixed into little "keyholes" on the bed. This second method tends to be inherently wobbly.
     
  3. DBP

    DBP Member

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    For my 9x12s, I use either metal inserts or a glass plate behind the film to put it in the right plane. I would expect the two weakest points to be the bellows and the holders.
     
  4. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    If using rasberry jam, the "seedless" variety would probably be best to assure film flattness.
     
  5. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I know that blueberry jam works if you manage to avoid the seeds, although you should take care not to get any of it on the emulsion unless you want very weird effects. Next time I'll try orange marmelade.

    Why jam?
    I had brought my 30x40cm plate camera, with holder and glassplate "inserts, and film, but forgotten the sprayon glue. Looking around in desperation, I remembered how sticky dried jam is, and how easy it is to wash off with a little water. So I decided that would be perfect for the job - sticks to anything, but won't form a permanent bond, and is easily removed in the prewash. So I tried, and it worked.
     
  6. ZorkiKat

    ZorkiKat Member

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    When I got my Russian FOTOKOR 9x12 camera (a fine camera, by the way, built like any folding plate from the 1930s), its metal holders had broken glass sheets in them. I had no idea why there was glass there, but it then occured to me that it was the way to keep thinner sheet film in place. Sheet film I put in there almost always fell in the camera when the dark slide was drawn. BTW, I cut 9x12 cm from 4x5 inch sheets.

    Jay
     
  7. Mike Kovacs

    Mike Kovacs Member

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    VERY CLEVER!

    I've only owned a Voigtlander Avus 9x12 plate camera. It was a nice shooter provided one was OK with one (excellent) Skopar 135mm lens, no tilts/swings, and all the film type you want as long as its 100 speed B&W. (Europe has more choices but $$$) I could have cut down 4x5 film if sufficiently motivated.

    I would like one of those tiny K.W. Patent-Etui cameras one day in 9x12 size.
     
  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I've got one of those, in 6.5x9cm size. That's even tinier! But since I also have a 6.5x9cm Voigtlander Bergheil with a 120mm f:4.5 Heliar lens, the KaWee doesn't see much use.
    The third 6.5x9cm is also a Voigtlander, a VAG. Then two of its bigger brothers, an AVUS (135mm Skopar) and a Bergheil (150mm Heliar) 9x12cm. For good measure I have a "Rodenstock" 9x12cm camera too, with a coated(!) 135mm Eurynar lens.

    And two 5x7"/13x18cm plate cameras. And a 18x24cm plate camera. And a 24x30cm plate camera. And a 30x40cm plate camera. And Linhof Universal plate and film holders ("mit Auswerfer") in 9x12cm, 4x5" and 13x18cm. And a few 18x24cm plate holders which will fit in "modern" 8x10" cameras.

    And a box of 13x18cm Tmax plates, another of 13x18cm Perutz Peromnia, and a box of Slavich 9x12cm plates.

    Did I mention I have film sheaths for 6.5x9cm, 9x12cm, 5x7" and 13x18cm, and 18x24cm too?

    Three of the plate cameras (13x18, 18x24 and 24x30) are fitted with iris universal lens mounts. The 13x18 is a great "test bed" for old lenses of unknown quality and coverage, especially those without a mounting flange. The largest (and widest) lenses go on the 24x30 camera just to see how much they cover. Surprisingly many do. Cover the whole 24x30cm, that is...
     
  9. ZorkiKat

    ZorkiKat Member

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    Lenses?

    When the Fotokor came, I had (as many others here would likewise be) the urge to take the thing apart to see what made it work. Nothing much inside, just leatherette and metal and wood. But the lens was a revelation. Where I expected to find the usual triplet, Tessar type lens, I found that its "Ortagoz" 4,5/135mm lens was a rapid rectilinear instead! In most of the rare occasions I used it, I put bromide paper in its holders, rather than film.

    Jay
     
  10. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    Are you sure of that? Rapid Rectilinears tend to be f:7.2 at best, anything faster than f:7 would surely be called "Extra Rapid" in some variation. My bet would be a 2+2 Anastigmat instead of a RR. Anyway, it should be a very fine lens!
    Don't underestimate the triplets though - some of them are very good, and the best ones are exellent!
     
  11. ZorkiKat

    ZorkiKat Member

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    The lens' layout does resemble a rapid-rectilinear. Two "doublets" on either side of the iris, laid out symmetrically. Having a 4,5 max aperture does cloud it up.

    I have fine regard for the triplets. I like them in my "cheap" TLRs. When I use older cameras, I'm never really concerned with lens quality. I could easily turn to the more modern ones if I wanted that. :D In fact, the main reason for me to use older cameras/optics is the charm that the older lenses have which I think have far more relevance than sharpness or contrast :D

    BTW, the Fotokor is the camera which my cat is shooting with in my avatar.

    Jay
     
  12. DBP

    DBP Member

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    BTW, if anyone needs plate holders for the Voigtlander Avus 9x12 or any of its German cousins with the same back, the Fotokor holders fit, and are really cheap. I got mine from Alex-Photo on the auction site.
     
  13. meltronic

    meltronic Member

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    Contessa Nettel 9x12

    Thank you all for your help. I've gone and done it, bought a camera because I'm impatient. It's a Contessa Nettel 9x12 (1926 model). It didn't come with any plate holders, so I thought I'd ask if anyone knew just which brands of holders would work. Is it compatible with the Fotokor holders? Any others? Anyone have extras for sale? Yours, Matt
     
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  15. Mike Kovacs

    Mike Kovacs Member

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    Anyone know if those Fotokor holders also fit the Patent Etui 9x12 (aka Kawee)? I recall this camera has just a slightly shorter holder or some small difference.

    It just occured to me - the North American name "Kawee" is simply the German way of writing-out the sound of the letter K.W., "Kah-vay". I guess similar to Ihagee, german I H G pronouced "ee haw gay" for Industrie und Handelsgesellschaft.
     
  16. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't know the Fotokor holders well enough to say what they fit.

    If anyone has a list of the dimensions of the holders for various plate cameras, it would be a very nice gesture to make it available here!

    I do know that Voigtlander holders almost fit the Kawee (that's German pronunciation of "KW", not American. The Germans call it KaWee too!). Almost, but not quite. The "lip" on the sides should be thinner for the KaWee.

    BTW, the only one of my plate cameras I dont have holders for is the 6.5x9cm KW Patent Etui. I'm still looking for some (I have the film inserts, though).
     
  17. Mike Kovacs

    Mike Kovacs Member

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    I understand the name "Kawee" was a name variation of the "Patent Etui" for North American markets (source, McKeown's 2006). I'm certain most English speakers would say "kaw wee" not "kaw vay".
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    "KW" is the abbreviation for Kamera-Werkstatten, Dresden; the maker of the Patent Etui among other cameras. So the KaWee is a German "invention" from the pronunciation, just like the (IHG) Ihagee.
     
  19. Mike Kovacs

    Mike Kovacs Member

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    We're preaching from the same pulpit Ole!

    ...and getting off topic (apologies). Plate cameras are a lot of fun to shoot with. Just try when you can to get all of the pieces together in one package when possible (ground glass back, plate holders, film sheaths etc).

    Otherwise you may be looking for esoteric odds and ends for your plate camera for a LONG time!
     
  20. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    No, even the Contess-Nettal 645 holders that are similar in size do not fit the Patent Etui (been there, tried 'em). The side recesses for the slide rails don't go far enough up the sides toward the dark slide end, so the 645 holders won't seat in the Kawee/Patent Etui back. KW did make a couple other models of plate cameras prior to issuance of The Patent which, as far as I've been able to tell, used the same holders, and the company or their designs were apparently bought or licensed by Bentzin at some point -- there's a Bentzin Primar that's a perfect copy of the Patent Etui, and Bentzin made/sold at least one version of the Pilot 6x6 SLR as well.

    BTW, I tried Voigtlander holders -- they actually would slide into my Kawee (tolerances, or wear), but they were too long to match up the velvets, and the film wouldn't have been lined up behind the body opening. It might be possible to trim the edges of a Voigtlander holder, if you have a Kawee with enough tolerance to let it slide in, but you're on your own for light tightness afterward (maybe some JB Weld from the inside?)...

    Generally, if you find 9x12 plate holders with KW imprint on the back, they ought to fit the Etui -- otherwise, it's a matter of very careful measurement, and then they still sometimes don't fit because you missed measuring something important...
     
  21. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Being the owner of a 1926 9x12 ZI-Trona, I have one of the "Standard" cameras, of which it has mentioned, there are many. ZI came out with plate holders and film holders for this camera that match most of the cameras in the ZI line. I don't use them.

    In the 40's and 50's, many aftermarket firms came out with adapters for standard Type 5 film holders. These are the 2 sided types used in press cameras, even to today. The adapters I have are equipped with ground glass and spring backs. Very nice and the good part is you don't have to remove your ground glass before every shot. The Type 5's use 3.25 x 4.25 film, readily available vie the internet (Thanks John), and the cameras are very small and easy to use. This is one of the cheapest ways to get your 9x12 up and running.

    tim in san jose
     
  22. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    Real fun starts when you find a Linhof plate-holder-to-international-back-adapter.

    They only take Linhof plate holders...

    The worst thing? They work. And they'll even take the too-thich Slavich glass plates!
     
  23. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Subscriber

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    The "non-standard" nature of these things is becoming ever more clear to me with every purchase. Latest? I just bought Zeiss 9x12 plate holders, with film adapters for my camera. I was happy with the price and they fit the camera beautifully. When I went to put 9x12 film in them, it wouldn't fit. The adapters inside, made in Germany, are marked 725 1/4 (?) and take 3.25x4.25 film. They also require some backing since the middle of the film holder is open and the small metal "fingers" that keep a glass plate steady are free to press forward on the film.

    Go figure
     
  24. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Congratulations, Whitey -- you're close. That marking is probably 725/4, and as I recall the /4 is the designation for quarter plate, aka 3x4. You want /7 for 9x12. The 725 model is, IIRC, a holder that fits a Trona or other Zeiss-Ikon slide-in back (derived from the Ica line; the Trona was sold by Ica before the merger). *IF* the adapters come out like a plate, you can just replace them with 9x12 film sheaths; if not, you need 3x4 film sheaths. You can, with the adapters especially, also get away with a sheet of thin glass or metal, maybe even plastic, to back the film.
     
  25. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Subscriber

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    Yup. Replacement is in the works, since the basic holders are in great shape and the sheath is held in with a spring clip. I actually have enough of these plate adapters to start thinking about making my own sheaths ( about 14 now.) The sheaths seem to be harder to find. I could use Ole's jam method, but I'd be tempted to lick the glass when changing film!

    The 725/4 is correct. A little corrosion made it hard to read. Thanks!
     
  26. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    If you want to use the jam method and avoid temptation, you can buy 3-M Post-It type repositionable low-tack adhesive in a spray can. Spray the plate in daylight, let dry, and then it'll be good for half a dozen uses before it needs cleaned and resprayed, perhaps more.

    I have *one* spare film sheath I could send you if you need a pattern for making some -- and I think if you had a means of making those that wasn't too labor intensive, you could actually sell quite a few of them for a couple bucks each (I'd guess a minimum of a couple hundred, maybe as much as several times that if you had a cheap means of getting the word out). I've got some ideas, but it's about Project #124 on my list, and since I have enough sheaths for my holder stock, and no plans to buy more holders, it's very non-urgent for me.