View Full Version : A modern wet plate camera?

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12-26-2008, 09:25 PM
Sorry, I just realized this post belongs in this forum, not the other one I posted in.

I am new to the wet plate collodion process, and I am trying to find something that may not exist.

I would like to find a modern, possibly brand new, camera on the market that can be modified to shoot both wet plates and sheet film. I would like to shoot with an 8x10 camera (nothing larger), in order to get full plate, half plate, possibly 5x7 or 5x8 plates, and 8x10 film.

My goal is to have a very rigid camera that is also fairly lightweight. If I have to remove the capability to also shoot film, then that isn't a big deal. But I travel to areas where weight is a major issue, and every pound saved is a good thing. I am also in windy situations, and a modern rigid camera is what I would like to have.

I don't anticipate using more than a 300mm or 360mm lens, but I will need to be able to focus somewhat close to do heat shot portraits. My preference would be to do fully length body shots, head shots and environmental portraits at a distance. Some rise / fall would be nice, but no other movements are needed.

Any thoughts? I have noticed that some people have modified their 8x10 film holders to accommodate a tintype plate, which looks cool, but I wonder if there is something better out there that might already be on the market.

Thanks so so much in advance.


12-26-2008, 11:34 PM
Your best bet is to contact Wayne Pierce or Ray Morganweck (Star Camera Co.) to see if they will build a wetplate back and matching holding for the 8x10 film camera of your choice. A dedicated back and holder will be much easier to use than a converted film holder and will also minimize damage caused by silver nitrate to your host camera. The wetplate back and holder will take most of the damage instead.

Links to Wayne and Ray are on the resources/links page of my wetplate article (http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/WPC/WPC3/wpc3.html).

Another member of the www.collodion.com wetplate forum (http://www.collodion.com/forum/default.asp) has recently started building and selling half-plate wetplate cameras, but I don't recall who that is. A check in the classifieds there will turn up the source though.


12-26-2008, 11:42 PM
Thanks for the info, Joe. Looks like Wayne is a great option if I am interested in converting a modern, wooden 8x10 camera. Thanks again!

12-27-2008, 01:58 PM
I have a pair of wetplate backs/holders at home: The entire camera back is swapped with the wetplate holder - one is used for the GG, the other for the prepared plate.

12-27-2008, 02:46 PM
Sounds great, Ole. Was that a custom job that was done on a modern film camera?

12-27-2008, 03:04 PM
Andy, they are old ones I got along with a set of 18x24cm plate holders for an old camera. The wetplate holders didn't fit that camera, but the dryplate holders did - and that's what I was really after. I assume the wetplate holders are authentic wetplate-era wetplate holders, and that the dryplate back was the custom upgrade!

12-27-2008, 03:06 PM
I am looking for a solution for a modern camera that I have yet to purchase. I have many cameras on my short list, and if I can get one modified that is great, but my ideal scenario would be to find a manufacturer of a camera that makes a wet plate variant of a film camera. Older cameras are great, but I need something very rigid, lightweight and packs up as small as I can get.

bill schwab
12-27-2008, 04:30 PM
I travel to areas where weight is a major issue, and every pound saved is a good thing...I wonder if there is something better out there that might already be on the market.Hi Andy, Considering the darkbox, trays, plates and chemicals you're going to have to carry with you, camera weight is going to be the least of your worries. I think Joe's suggestion of Star or Wayne Pierce is your best bet. You'll also have to send your camera to them so they can adapt the back to your specific camera. As for anything on the market other than those already suggested, I know of no other manufacturers currently or in recent history that make anything for the wet plate process.

BTW - I think Joe has plans for darkbox/cart combinations that may help you get to more remote locations, but that may still be a challenge in the areas you have plans for. Good luck!

12-27-2008, 08:12 PM

Another thing to consider is that Wayne or Ray will only do work on certain cameras. IIRC, the adaptation needs to be done on a classic wooden view camera. They have no interest in working on a modern view camera as I understand it. You may wish to contact them before making your purchasing decision.


12-27-2008, 09:12 PM
Do you suspect that they would be interested in working with a modern wooden / metal camera, like a Canham, Chomonix, Wisner or something similar?

Barry S
12-27-2008, 09:25 PM
Andy--it seems like you've got some ideas that are at odds with one another. Super lightweight 8x10 and wet plate don't exactly go together. Maybe you ought to consider buying an old half-plate camera and using it for wet plate. If you find one with bookform holders, all you'll need to do is varnish them for wet plate work. As you go up in size with wet plate--*everything* gets bigger--camera, silver tank, darkbox, etc. As Bill mentions, the camera size is only one element. Do you really want to be messing up a $3K Chamonix with wet plate work? Do you really need all those movements with wet plate? Because most photographers use very limited movements for wet plate. Limited depth of field is part of "the look" and if you want something along the lines of selective blur--it's usually done with a big Petzval lens.

12-27-2008, 10:18 PM
Agreed, and wetplate is so slow that it usually involves big lenses with huge, heavy glass. A 13" f/4 Petzval intended for whole-plate (won't even cover 8x10) is just a monster lens. Yet, you need it if you are trying to get exposures near 1-2 seconds in average daylight conditions, on a good day. If where you are going is windy, expect some blur. The camera for it will need to be robust with strong standards, and that usually means heavy too.

I'm about to buy a Speedotron Blackline system for the 9600w/s flash head. I understand that light might let me stop down a little and still get away with one pop. I might take down the grid around here :o but it might make f/5.6 possible. Imagine all that extra depth-of-field at f/5.6 with a 13" lens. :rolleyes:

As far as the 8x10 mod, the three cameras you mention might not be ones Wayne would consider adapting. From his website: "I have been contacted by several people to convert modern cameras to wet plate. I will not do this. I will only work with the wood frames cameras of old."

I don't know about Ray since he does mention something about a Cambo conversion on one of his pages. You should probably ask him to be sure.


12-28-2008, 12:01 AM

I just noticed that Steve Silipigni at Black Art Woodcraft (http://www.blackartwoodcraft.com/Home_Page.html) is now taking orders for wetplate cameras as well as other equipment. Several posters to the collodion forum really like the portable darkboxes they have obtained from Steve so I suspect you might also be pleased with a custom camera from him.


12-28-2008, 05:08 AM
For high quality wet plate cameras and accessories take a look at C.C Davis Cameras. www.daviscam.com

12-28-2008, 05:16 AM

eddie gunks
12-28-2008, 09:02 AM
keep your eyes out for a "pressure plate" style holder. they were designed to hold film very flat. i use it for shooting glass and aluminum plates. i have a 5x7 and an 8x10. they slide into a regular spring back. they look very very similar to a regular film holder. no modifications or new camera needed!

12-28-2008, 10:05 AM
Eddie, that looks like a fantastic idea!

12-28-2008, 10:40 AM
Ray at Star Camera makes complete new copies of vintage "wet plate" cameras at reasonable prices. You would only then need to have a sheet film back adapted to one to have the capability to shoot both mediums with a brand new camera.

04-07-2009, 09:26 AM
Could you give me some advice on this, I was eyeing this up on ebay yesterday. Its a complete kit. Considering I want to make aluminotypes sometime would the holders work for this or are they designed exclusively for glass plates? or do you just buy a thickness of aluminium that is the same thickness as the glass? I'm thinking of maybe going on the Photographers Fomulary workshop in the summer maybe even though it's going to mean flying from the UK!


04-07-2009, 10:13 AM
Jarvman, You don't need to travel so far. Contact Carl Radford in the U.K. http://www.carls-gallery.co.uk/