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  1. #1

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    Intro to Plate Cameras

    I'm hoping that some kind people will give me some practical advice about getting into plate photography.
    I have looked through the threads on this sub forum, but I haven't found the info I am looking for.
    Basically I know almost nothing about this process & actually thought that it was no longer in use. Having found out that it is still being done it seems like an intriguing process & I would like to give it a try.

    I would like to know:

    What is the best camera format to buy with regards to plate availability?
    I don't think I am interested in coating my own plates so i would like to buy the pre-coated ones. I gather these are no longer being produced & I will have to search for old stock perhaps from the 1980s at latest.
    However, is there one particular size that is more common & easier to find than the others?

  2. #2
    Ole
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    That all depends...

    Pre-coated plates are still pruduced, by Slavich in Russia. I believe Retro Photographic still has a few packs left.

    In Germany, I've found 13x18cm and 9x12cm to be relatively easy to find. From the UK I've got a few 4x5", but even there 9x12cm seems easier.

    The "modern" Slavich plates are just a little bit too thick to fit in Linhof Universal film&plate holders, otherwise they could be used on any 4x5" camera. They work great in any of several hundred different models of 9x12cm plate cameras, though...

    Older Kodak, Ilford, Perutz, Agfa and other plates can be used in anything. In many cases there are plate holders which fit modern camera backs - the Linhofs I mentioned above came in (at least) 6.5x9cm, 9x12cm, 4x5" and 13x18cm. There are also wooden 18x24cm plate holders with the exact same measurements as modern 8x10" film holders.

    The other alternative is a "dedicated" plate camera. Which you should buy depends on where you live, how much you want to spend, and what you can find...
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  3. #3

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    Thanks for that.
    I like the idea of a dedicated plate camera & 9 x 12 sounds like a good size.

    I have an idea this size plate will also be relatively easy to process. I recall a guy in a lab showing me a small plastic tub with slots to hold the plates. It looked about as simple as processing film in a Patterson tank.

    Do the plate holders for the camera work the same as sheet film holders?
    i.e. can I load up several holders in a dark bag & then go out shooting?

  4. #4
    Ole
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    I process my plates in trays, little 13x18cm (5x7") ones. It's really easy. I also have "a small plastic tub with slots to hold the plates", an old Johnson's Cut Plate and Film Daylight Processing Tank, which is just about the most useless darkroom item I have ever seen! Far more useful is a small wooden plate drying rack - you can't hang glass plates up to dry on a clothesline!

    A "standard" 9x12cm camera kit consisted of a camera and three single plate holders. I have somehow managed to lay my hands on no less than six of these - three 6.5x9cm (a KaWee Patent etui, a Voigtländer VAG and a Voigtländer Bergheil) and three 9x12cm (A "Rodenstock", and two Voigtländers - a Bergheil and an Avus). The best of these are undoubtedly the Bergheils, but they tend to go for ridiculous prices.
    The plate holders are thin metal things which take one single plate. There are double-side plate holders too, but they are rare (and thus expensive). The main problem is getting holders that fit the camera, there were at least six different styles from different manufacturers. Never buy a camera without three (or more) plate holders!
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ole View Post
    Never buy a camera without three (or more) plate holders!
    Hi Ole:

    Terrific advice, but I've read it a bit late! I seem to have become infected with a Voigtlander collecting bug, an infection I hope is short-lived. I have a Bessa that is almost perfect that I bought for $35 Euro, a green Bergheil 6.5x9 in near mint condition I bought for 150 pounds, the Avus which I picked up for US$51 which is in excellent shape, and I just bought a Vag 9x12cm in very good condition for US$40 that is being shipped to me.

    I have a home made ground glass (gg and an old film pack) and the official ground glass that came with the Avus, a Rollex Patent roll film back, and several sheet film backs (Ole, remember, you sent me 6.5x9cm sheet film holders. Thanks again for your kindness!) that can be used by both the Bergheil and Avus. I had intended to buy a Vag that was also 6.5x9 so it, too, could share the film holders, but I got the 9x12 for a good price and couldn't resist it. In retrospect, I should have! It doesn't have any type of film back.

    I was planning to have all my collection be Voigtlander cameras that used either 6x9 or 6.5x9 cm film. Now I have to decide whether to resell the new Vag or get some 9x12 cm holders and use it.

    Now here's my question - Are there 120 roll film holder backs that will fit my Vag? I see different types of old roll film backs on eB*y that are advertised as fitting 9x12 plate cameras and have written to the people selling them to ask if they'd fit my Vag. The sellers don't know. I don't want to buy one hoping it will fit and find out it won't. Do you have suggestions for what kinds will fit?

    Thanks,

    Craig

  6. #6
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by cblurton View Post
    ... Now I have to decide whether to resell the new Vag or get some 9x12 cm holders and use it.

    Now here's my question - Are there 120 roll film holder backs that will fit my Vag? I see different types of old roll film backs on eB*y that are advertised as fitting 9x12 plate cameras and have written to the people selling them to ask if they'd fit my Vag. The sellers don't know. ..
    Yes, there are roll film backs that will fit. even some that will fit well! "RADA" is what you search for, but as you've noticed the sellers don't know what they fit. Quite often they don't even know what size camera they fit, much less what brand...

    Anyway the Voigtländer cameras all used the same type of holder (in 5 different sizes, but that's relatively easy) with the most popular "Universalfalz". So the odds are on your side!

    I started with 9x12cm cameras, then came across a 6.5x9 VAG. And then there was the Avus which fit so neatly inbetween, and by that time I had enough plate cameras that I could hide a little 6.5x9 Bergheil in there too. Not to mention the 6.5x9 KaWee Patent Etui - smaller than a cigarette case!

    Just a stray thought: What if we swap VAGs? I could thow in a case and a few holders...
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

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    Ole, I think swapping is a great idea but only if you find that the Vag I've bought is worth as much and is in at least as good a shape as your Vag. I bought it on eB*y (Item number: 270062332687) and have't seen it yet.

    Here's a thought. I could contact the seller and ask him to send it directly to you (at my expense of course) if he hasn't sent it to me yet. Then, after it arrives, you can take a look and decide if you think the swap is fair. If so, you could send your Vag on to me in Hong Kong. Again, I'd be happy to pay for the postage. As I recall, I can do that using Paypal. How does this sound?

    By the way, I was in Denmark all of last week doing some work at the University of Copenhagen. I looked for vintage cameras and found one shop, Photographica, that is near the shopping street in the old section of town. The store had a few interesting cameras including an unidentified brown "luxus" version of an old folder that looked like it was an Agfa. However, the prices were very high for these old cameras, just like they are in Hong Kong. In the face of competition from the Internet, I don't know how shops can stay in business.

    Let me know about the swap and I'll see if I can arrange to send the camera directly to you. I will need an address and phone number if you want me to do this. Send it to me email address.

    Craig

  8. #8
    Ole
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    Craig, that's not the original lens or shutter!

    The VAG would have either a Voigtar or a Skopar lens in an Embezet- or Ibsor shutter; never a Steinheil lens in a US-made shutter! (I have a 1934 price list in front of me.) Remember that Voigtländer was primarily a lens maker who also made cameras to attach their lenses to, not the other way round.

    That lens might actually be better than the Voigtar - The Unofokal is four elements in four groups, and got its name because in the original design all four lenses had the same focal length (two positive, two negative).
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  9. #9

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    Ah, see, that's why we need knowledgeable people like you on these forums, to keep people like me out of trouble! I should have known better but didn't. I'll have the camera shipped to me, find a cut film or roll film back, and try it out and see how it works. I am also going to keep looking for a good 6.5x9 cm Vag with standard lens and shutter for my burgeoning collection!

    Thanks for all of the help!

    Craig

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by cblurton View Post
    Ah, see, that's why we need knowledgeable people like you on these forums, to keep people like me out of trouble! I should have known better but didn't. I'll have the camera shipped to me, find a cut film or roll film back, and try it out and see how it works. I am also going to keep looking for a good 6.5x9 cm Vag with standard lens and shutter for my burgeoning collection!

    Thanks for all of the help!

    Craig
    Not to confuse the issue here, just give you another option.

    In the 50s and 60s, camera mags advertised slide in springbacks for 9x12 cameras that would allow you to use then standard 3.25 x 4.25 inch press film Type 5 film holders. They have built in GG too. I have 2, one for my Zeiss Tronar, one sits in it's box. 3x4 film is available again here in the states through J&C and I suspect through mail order to HK. The camera itself has a 135mm Zeiss Tessar that is quite sharp and contrasty.

    Just another idear.

    tim in san jose
    Where ever you are, there you be.

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