Vintage Plate Camera

Darkroom was recently contacted by local resident Alan Morris, who had been given an old plate camera that he is interested in learning how to use. Apparently the previous owner had inherited it from a relative who had bought it to take on an Antarctic expedition at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The first thing to establish was whether it still worked, so we suggested bringing it round for a quick check-up.


Opening up the custom-made wooden case revealed a beautiful hand-crafted walnut 7.5 x 9 inch plate camera, complete with three amazingly intricate wooden double-dark slides. The beautiful carpentry was augmented with precision-made brass fittings that locked the lens and rear-panel standards in place, and rack and pinion gearing for focussing.

The leather bellows showed no signs of wear or pin-holing, and once we had mastered the fiddly process of slotting the front into the lens panel, images began to appear magically on the ground-glass viewing screen. The Goerz 240mm lens needs a bit of clean and the shutter is sticking, but both can hopefully be sorted affordably.


Not having any 9 x 7.5 film to hand, we loaded some black and white photographic paper into one of the walnut dark slides, did a few tests to get the exposure right and bingo…

Not quiet Niepce, but perhaps the first photographs taken by this exquisitely crafted camera in a hundred years!

There is no manufacturers’ identification anywhere on the camera or case, so we’re wondering who made it. Any ideas?