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Failed Experiment: Shooting Wet Plate with a Mamiya 645 and Polaroid Film Back


Photographer Markus Hofstätter is known for pushing the art of wet plate photography in new and exciting ways, but… of course… it doesn’t always work out. That’s what happened in this video, where Hofstätter tries (and fails) to shoot wet plate photography with autofocus by putting a plate inside a Mamiya 645 AF AFD Polaroid Film Back.

This isn’t the first time Markus has shot hand-held wet plate photography, but it is his first attempt at autofocus wet plate photography.

Typically, Markus shoots his wet plate portraits using large format field cameras that are definitely not “hand-holdable” and do not come with any sort of autofocus system. So in order to capture a wet plate photo with autofocus, Markus loaded a plate into his Mamiya 645 AF AFD Polaroid Film Back HP402, slapped the back onto his Mamiya 645 AFDII medium format camera, and set about capturing studio portraits of his model Jasmin.

Here’s what that setup looked like:

Unfortunately, that’s where everything kind of went off the rails. “So… the results are kind of over-exposed images that are not sharp […] not even sharp at all,” he explains, laughing, in the video.

After making a few measurements, he figured out why. The HP402 Polaroid Film Back was actually holding the film plane (or wet plate, in this case) 1.2mm further away than it was supposed to be. And since Markus was shooting at f/1.9. f/2.8 and f/3.5, there simply wasn’t enough depth of field to overcome this misalignment.

You can see the results for yourself below:

Markus is still not 100% sure why things worked out this way, but he’s trying to puzzle it out and is asking for help from anyone who can explain what he’s doing wrong. In the meantime, he’ll try to figure it out himself, and plans to come back soon with a “fix” and his first proper autofocus wet plate photo shoot very soon.

Image credits: All photos by Markus Hofstätter and used with permission.