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  1. #1
    meltronic's Avatar
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    Confused about Plate Cameras

    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. #2
    Ole
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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.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  3. #3
    DBP
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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. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole
    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.
    If using rasberry jam, the "seedless" variety would probably be best to assure film flattness.

  5. #5
    Ole
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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.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  6. #6
    ZorkiKat's Avatar
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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
    FED ZORKI SURVIVAL SITE
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    "不管黑猫白猫能抓到老鼠就是好猫。" 邓小平
    It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.-邓小平

  7. #7
    Mike Kovacs's Avatar
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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.
    If it says Zeiss or Rollei, the answer is YES!
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  8. #8
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Kovacs
    I would like one of those tiny K.W. Patent-Etui cameras one day in 9x12 size.
    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...
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  9. #9
    ZorkiKat's Avatar
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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
    FED ZORKI SURVIVAL SITE
    RANGEFINDERFILIPINAS
    Zorkikat.Com

    "不管黑猫白猫能抓到老鼠就是好猫。" 邓小平
    It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.-邓小平

  10. #10
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZorkiKat
    ... I found that its "Ortagoz" 4,5/135mm lens was a rapid rectilinear instead! ...
    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!
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

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