Period style Cameras

This posting is really meant as an addendum to my posting about our black arts Camera, which is designed based upon a common 1860’s era camera, the majority of the cameras looked very similar. Some of those cameras were a little more elaborate than others.

This is a slight challenge, based upon people’s perception from what they’ve seen in Hollywood, plus the overall age of the cameras. if the camera was a true wet-plate camera, that was heavily used its chances of survival for 150+ years are radically diminished, just from the silver eating away the wood.

this along with the sheer cost of an actual wet-plate camera causes a great number of modern wet-plate photographers to use 20th-century cameras with custom plate holders. or custom crafted cameras. additionally, most 1860’s era cameras are cumbersome, with limited movements.

recently, I found on eBay 1930’s – 1950’s era Agfa/Ansco with a customized wet-plate holder & back crafted by what looks like a star camera, the camera was also mounted with, what the seller is saying is a Darlot Petzval lens.


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let me state, while this is a nice camera. We have a couple of them, the camera is what’s called their Univeral model, and came in a few different sizes. We at present have a 4 x 5 and a 8 x 10.   It is long ways off from 1860’s period correct camera. To me, it would be like taking a World War II cannon to a civil war reenactment, then saying it was Civil War period cannon. There are so many things wrong that it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Yet, Sadly, the majority of people, including reenactors have no idea about the difference between a contemporary camera and an 1860’s era camera.

This was basically my choice something like the above camera, that I could have found on eBay anywhere from about $500.00 on up to about $2000.00, with the likelihood of requiring me to craft some sort of plate holder. and possibly recondition the camera.  a few years ago, I was offered one of these, with a custom plate holder, etc and I believe the seller wanted close to $2500.00

this particular camera is presently listed on eBay as a wet-plate camera with the seller asking a  buy-it-now price of 1,495.00 plus $100.00 shipping.

A period correct style camera typically have the same sized front standard as they do the rear standard, they are commonly fixed to a frame, that includes rails allowing the rear standard, which is the focal plane the ability to move back & forth allowing the photographer the ability to focus the camera. it’s very rare that they’ll have tilt & twist movements on the standards, they may have a rise and fall, or horizontal slide on the front lens board. The style is commonly called a tailboard camera.

To show, the radical cost difference, there is also an eBay listing for an 1860- 1870’s Ross wet-plate camera.  this camera is considered a tailboard camera, it uses wings to help stabilize the tailboard, allowing for more stability without having to use a sled or platform tripod. The buy it now price is  $6,550.00 +$131.00 shipping.


With the listing, the seller also includes some drawings from an 1870’s era magazine, of a photographer taking using a similar style camera.  I’ve used the same images for inspiration for my dark box.



As much as I would love to have and use the camera listed on eBay, It’s an out of our price range. However like before if you have such a camera that you would like to donate to us, please contact us, or perhaps donate the funds so that we can purchase the camera, please click on the donate button.


here’s an interesting note on the horizontal slide setup of the front standards, one of the neat aspects of this, is that it allows the photographer to take stereo views with a single lens.


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