Saturday, January 11, 2014

Wet Plate Collodion Equipment - New or Vintage?

Whole plate dovetail camera from 1800s
Many collodion photographers are using vintage equipment and sticking to original period methodology. Some are using newer cameras with modern coated lenses and flash strobes to make their wet plates. I like to incorporate both vintage and modern equipment and techniques.

Large format cameras, the type with bellows and rear ground glass for focusing, are the kind of cameras most commonly used for wet plate photography, although I have seen Hasselblads, and even 35mm cameras adapted to use wet plates.

Spring backs with ground glass
Wet plates are not very sensitive to light, so they need long exposures to sunlight or natural light.  This forces the subject to stay still for an extended period of time. As you might think, long exposures would prevent you from shooting children or action photos.

8x10 Eastman Kodak No. 2 camera owned by Peter DaSilva
Peter DaSilva told me when he purchased the beautiful vintage Eastman 8x10 camera on the right from me recently "I don't know why wet plate photographers want to stick to old methods?" Peter uses high powered flash strobes to shoot his collodion photos. He is an amazing photographer - click his name to visit his website.

I just started collecting enough flashes and will soon shoot wet plates with studio strobes, although I do like using vintage period lenses and hundred year old cameras.

4x5 Press camera
This hundred year old Eastman Kodak No. 2 above is fitted with a Beseler Petzval lens made in Paris. These lenses give the look that most purists salivate over. Sharp in the center with swirly bokeh around the edges. The picture below shows a monster Wollensak Petzval lens mounted to the same Eastman 8x10. If you click on any of the pictures you'll get a closer look.

Joseph Petzval was a mathematician who managed to create a fast lens that embodied the look of an era, and would be widely imitated and reproduced.

Check out this modern take on the Petzval lens:

Wollensak Vitax Petzval lens. This monster weighs in at almost 6 pounds. Click on picture for larger image.

Check my eBay listings, you might find something you need: