Toronto. Have you ever seen an authentic wet-plate camera in fine condition? No? Brass lenses from the wet-plate period abound at fairs like ours, but few cameras exist and even fewer unrestored ones in top condition. And there is good reason.
Wet-plate photography was the time of large wooden view cameras, contact prints, and mainly studio bound photography. To be effective, the wet-plate media had to be applied to a glass-plate, exposed, and developed – all before the plate dried and its sensitivity plummeted.
The complexity of the process limited its use to the few professionals and advanced amateurs of the period resulting in a smaller number of cameras made and sold. While a wet-plate holder often had a trough at the bottom to collect the drips, and cameras were often made extra sturdy, that dripping goop used to sensitize the plate, hit the wooden parts, staining them black. Worse, over time, the goop rotted the wood rendering a well-used camera junk. Keep the lens; toss the camera; good-bye history; good-bye.
Check out this page for “Trends in General Construction of Field Cameras“, part of the Pierce Vaubel web site. You can read mare about the collodion process used in Wet-Plate photography here.