View Full Version : Preliminary questions before I begin purchasing equipment.

06-02-2012, 03:58 PM
Hello everybody, I'd just like to start my first post by saying I'm amazed I haven't come across this forum until now. I'm enthralled such a forum exists and look forward to the many years to come in my journey with analog processes. I'd also like to inform you that this community comprises about 0.000008% of the worlds population based on a real time world population clock and the amount of members in this community. I consider this a good thing.
After reading most every post in the "Plate Cameras and Accessories", I have a few specific questions that I couldn't find answers to in the posts previously made. I'd like to make a list of all the equipment necessary to make an exposure using the dry plate medium and their respective cost (Denise did most of this work, much appreciated!). I have in my possession an enlarger and I plan on doing both contact printing and regular printing (placing the plate in the enlarger to make an exposure on retail light sensitive fiber based paper) with the dry plate negatives, so I was wondering, which camera is best for this (4x5, 5x7, 9x12, etc)? If you could point me towards a resource that lists all the types of dry plate view cameras and their various formats that would be great. When I search for "dry plate camera" in the shopping section on google, most of my results come up with cameras used for the wet plate process, and from what I understand, the holders of the plates for the two processes are slightly different. I've bought Alan Greene's book "Primitive Photography" which lays out plans for a sliding box, or folding box camera that accepts paper negatives (uses a FILM holder and not a PLATE holder), so I was wondering if there were plans for the construction of a dry plate holder that I could adapt to Greene's camera (I understand this would require me to fabricate a shutter mechanism)....

Now that I think about it, with Denise's comprehensive layout of darkroom procedures and equipment, all I really need to know are the options available to me for cameras and where I can purchase them and their glass plates. So again, thank you Denise, you've done the world a tremendous favor!

06-02-2012, 04:58 PM
First off, welcome!

It is reassuring to know that APUG is only a sampling of the film shooters; so for every one here, there are hopefully thousands of others out there.

Well, it sounds like you're going to be making gelatin emulsions and coating on glass, and you'd like to be able to shoot these in a view camera? If that's the case, searching for a "dry plate camera" isn't going to get you very far. In fact, that's not a term I hear said very often.

What you really need is any view camera, but with a plate holder. My recommendation would be to get any of the hundreds of 4x5" cameras out there, and then find a good pressure-plate film/plate holder. There are some modern Linhof holders that are very nice, but a bit pricey, and then there are many older style plate hodlers which can be had quite cheaply on eBay if you can find them.

Getting a 4x5" will give you the most versatility. It's the LF format of "choice", with the widest selection of films and accessories. Remember that there aren't near as many enlargers accepting of formats bigger than 4x5".

I hope that helps; below are a few pics of said holders.


06-02-2012, 05:10 PM
Ok, hypothetically, I have my 4x5 view camera without the plate holders...

Can a modern 4x5 view camera accept ANY 4x5 plate holder? I was under the impression that modern view cameras were only compatible with 'film' holders for fear of the plate holders being to thick. I may be wrong. Thank you for giving me some clarity on the subject and resources for the holders, it certainly helped!

06-02-2012, 06:56 PM
also, will I need to have single strength glass cut down to size for the plate holders. I'm aware that Slavich in russia makes holographic plates but if I'd like to go the route of making my own emulsion, how do I acquire the glass plates?

06-02-2012, 07:05 PM

I have a couple of these MPP holders - They are fractionally thicker than a regular plastic film holder and fit a modern 5x4 camera just fine. If a spring back on a modern camera can accommodate a QuickLoad/ReadyLoad holder (which my Wista does), it will cope with the old wooden MPP plate holders.

You will find Ilford also do holographic glass plates (for a price) and if you opt for coating your own, get the glass from a glazing supplier cut to size.

06-02-2012, 07:20 PM
Are the dimensions for the plate exactly 4"x5" or are they a bit smaller? If so, would you kindly tell me the dimensions for plates that fit in a 4x5 view camera? Or point me in a direction that gives me information on plate sizes for a range of LF cameras?

06-02-2012, 09:50 PM
I have 1 4x5 plate holder with a couple of unexposed glass plates inside.
The plate size is very close to 4x5 perhaps 1/32 of an inch less.

06-03-2012, 12:34 AM
I'll second the Linhof holder idea. I just picked up a 2x3 for $9 and a 4x5 for $14 from KEH.com. They are really nice and can be used with either film or plates. Try searching for Linhof Doppelkassetten on Ebay worldwide.

06-03-2012, 08:15 AM
Ok, any suggestions for a camera? Denise recommends the "Speed Graphic" to start out. Anybody care to share what they started out with so I can get some ideas?

06-03-2012, 08:28 AM
also, I'm quite disappointed in the amount of Gelatin Dry plate images available for view online...are there many in the apug gallery? I'm very low on money due to a recent injury so I can't subscribe just yet :/

06-03-2012, 08:35 AM
Are the dimensions for the plate exactly 4"x5" or are they a bit smaller?

Note: The dimensions that follow are for an MPP holder. Others may differ slightly.
Overall maximum size of the plate is 4.045"x5.052" - As the plates are only retained at opposing ends, the width is not critical, so anything under 4" will fit. The length should not be less than 4.900", so this needs to be cut fairly accurately or the plate(s) may not be retained securely.

While I have the vernier out, a standard plastic Fidelity DDS is 11mm thick. The wooden MPP holder, 15.75mm - Well within the capabilities of a spring back on modern 5x4 cameras.

06-03-2012, 08:42 PM
I had to make a basic modification to make the Linhof fit my B&J Press camera; but I suspect it's spring holder is thinner than most cameras. Any monorail would easily accommodate it. That mod here (http://www.apug.org/forums/forum44/102558-modifying-b-j-press-4x5-accept-thicker-plate-holders-i-e-linhof.html).

Every town will have a glass cutter than can supply you with the necessary glass at a very low price. Any window/door kind of place will have multiple sizes and the ability to cut to any dimension.

Good luck!

06-04-2012, 10:09 AM

Welcome to APUG! Thanks for the kind words. Warms a girl's heart :). You've gotten a lot of good advice already here. I'll add a couple of thoughts.

Inexpensive, good quality film cameras and accessories are not as cheap as they were just a while back. Never let it be said that film is dead. Its role in photography is simply changing. I see it coming roaring back in the art sector, but also high-end portraits and wedding albums. Those observations are my own crystal ball, of course. Time will tell the tale. Anyway, point being, I think you're making a good decision to learn this stuff now.

Also, the 'cart' and the 'horse' are a little different than they have been historically. It's harder (or at least, more expensive) to decide on your format and kit ahead of time. But, there is a serious upside to diy. You can go shopping for an orphan format camera and then fit your plates to its holders. You can even start with one really cheap camera with a p.o.s. lens and one holder. Then, while you slowly assemble your dream kit (and learn to make emulsions), you can shoot out your darkroom door and come back to develop a plate at a time, and/or learn how to use a changing bag.

There is three gotchas to watch out for. 1) Cameras that take book style holders. Make sure you never buy one without getting at least one holder that fits. They are very hard to mix and match, and they do not accept (without modification) regular film/plate holders.

2) Most post-1940s cameras are pretty standard for format size, but not necessarily for glass thickness. My advice is to buy your camera and plate holder(s) first and then take it to a good glass shop and have them professionally measure for fit. If you start to collect misc holders, especially 4x5, quarter-plate and some half-plate book styles, you'll find about half of them take what we consider 'regular' framing glass, and half take thinner. You may have to special order the thinner glass, but you should consider having all your plates made from it. You can always add a sheet of construction paper behind a plate in a holder that takes thicker glass, but you won't be able to squeeze too-fat glass into a too-small space.

3) When you have the glass folks measuring your holders, take along a piece of thick construction paper and add that to the total thickness. You'll eventually have emulsion in addition to the glass. Don't forget the emulsion that will be on the edges.

One last recommendation: Check out the for sale items here and on Large Format Photography Forum (registration is free there.) You are more likely to get good equipment from "the community." I hope all this doesn't sound daunting. It's pretty straight forward and can be very inexpensive. Basically, your coin of the realm is time and attention, rather than money. That's a bit backward from what most of us have become accustomed to in photography, but it can be enormously liberating.

All my best wishes for your fun and success,

Ian Grant
06-05-2012, 05:22 PM
The International standard for film/plate holders is post WWII 194/7 I think, and some new cameras still took non standard book form holders well into the late 1950's. Watson and Gandofi were two companies still making book form holders :D

I have a couple of these MPP holders - They are fractionally thicker than a regular plastic film holder and fit a modern 5x4 camera just fine. If a spring back on a modern camera can accommodate a QuickLoad/ReadyLoad holder (which my Wista does), it will cope with the old wooden MPP plate holders.

You will find Ilford also do holographic glass plates (for a price) and if you opt for coating your own, get the glass from a glazing supplier cut to size.

I must have at least 15 or 16 MPP holders now, 6 are plate holders 2 with the same film inserts, others are identical except MPP riveted the inserts in place from new. Some MPP holders have a different register as did some very early MPP cameras. I have checked mine and they are all standard. MPP holders do have slightly wider edges holding the film so the film area is a touch smaller. They are very well made and despite high prices on Ebay from certain sellers can be picked up quite cheaply. (2/$3.15 is about the average I've paid for them).