British photographic history

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Hello all,

I am extremely keen to get my wetplate practice up and running by this summer but have been stopped in my tracks by buying a dud 19C camera.

I know this forum has not got many practitioners on it but is there anyone out there who knows where I can buy a new or old camera that is suitable for wetplate use - i.e. it must have a usable or converted darkslide and must be in working order but I don't care if it doesn't 'look the part' at this stage.

Any help gladly appreciated!


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Hi Gavin,

Depends on your budget and what size plates you want to shoot.

I've no spare cameras at the moment having just sold a batch.

Do you have a 5x4 camera by any chance? You could get hold of a MPP plate holder, thats easy enough.

Or maybe use a box brownie if your not fussed on plate size and a slow aperture.

If you want something made theres a few people in the US and one I know of in the UK who makes bespoke wet plate cameras.

What was wrong with the one you bought?


Hi Tony.

Its a little bigger than a 5x4 - I know this because I bought a 5x4 darkslide for it and its too small - though i'm not sure where/how you measure to find out....maybe you can tell me?

One of the joists in the central folding mechanism is totally eroded and the camera can't sit still as a result so is no good for taking pictures. I have thought of putting some kind of putty in there.

Its hard to get a  photo of but I've added one of the camera and one of the joint. You can't really see that there is bassically just a big hole where the screw is supposed to go.

Any advice is appreciated.


Hi Gavin,

Measure the ground glass screen at the rear of the camera, that'll tell you the plate size. If its a little bigger than 5x4 its probably half plate.

Would a decent wood glue not set that joint? Is the insert that the screw screws into amongst that big resinous blob?

You can buy metal inserts but they are probably a different thread to the bolt thats on there.


Thanks for getting back to me Tony.

the plate is 6 1/2 x 4 3/4 so I guess thats half plate?

The 'big resinous blob' is part that the screw should screw into which is supposed to be sitting tight in the wood.

I haven't looked at in almost a year but know that I do i think that perhaps hope is not all lost. Perhaps with a touch of wood glue and replacing some of the smaller screws ( it might well sit tightly once again.

Then I just need to get or adapt a darkslide for wetplate.

I took a couple better photos to give an idea. You can see how the wood has completely rotten away on one side.


A bit if wood filler might help. That third image shows the metal insert I mentioned. You might be able to cobble something together.

Is there any sign of a manufacturer? You might get lucky and get a half plate holder to fit although they are made in all shapes and fits. Not standard at all.


No, neither the lens nor the camera has a makers mark, frustratingly. 

I suppose i'll have to keep trying half-plate holders 'til i find one that fits. You're right an MPP one might do the trick.

I suppose you probably have a lot of experience adapting plate holders - do you know of any good websites with hints and tips, etc?

I doubt very much the MPP one will fit. Its pot luck to get a wooden book form holder to fit. I have no half plate ones to send you to try unfortunately.

This is converting a 10x8 but you get the idea. These are a different fit to your camera. Thats why I asked if you had a 5x4 camera.

Gavin I have dozens of plate holders of various sizes you can try. You're welcome to come up and spend a few hours at my Manchester studio. Drop me an email if you're interested. john at

Hi John, thanks for the offer but I ma based in London. If i'm ever up your way i'll give you a shout.




I've missed out on this as i've not been checking on this site for a few weeks, but I live in Guildford, Surrey, easy to get to from London, and have pleanty of plate holders of all sorts of sizes, also might have a suitable camera for you, amongst my collection of wood and brass. As I'm only 35 mins on train from Waterloo, you are welcome anytime. I do have an 1850 Daguerrotype camera, as well as a Dubroni, which might interest you.


Gavin Maitland said:

Hi John, thanks for the offer but I ma based in London. If i'm ever up your way i'll give you a shout.



Hi Jeff.

Thanks for getting in touch, that sounds amazing! I grew up near Guildford so I know the area. I would love to come down and have a look. Perhaps you can give me your email and i'll be in touch or email me on




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