35mm Camera conversion to glass plate

A support tray to expose emulsion-coated glass microscope slides in a 35mm camera

Inside a 35mm film camera, raised rails 24mm apart support the film between guide rails which in turn support the sprung pressure plate which when the camera back is closed hold the film flat while allowing just enough space for it to be wound on between exposures.

I have ten glass microscope slides that were coated with SE1 Emulsion left-over from large format glass plate preparation last July. The 1mm thick slides measure 75mm x 25mm and I decided to make an adapter that would enable me to expose them in a 35mm camera.

There were two main problems to overcome: the 25mm wide slides would have to be held centrally above the 24mm wide film-support rails without slipping out of position, and there would have to be a way of locating the slides in position in the dark. My solution was to make a tray from mountboard and stiff card using screws protruding from the camera as locating pins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe microscope slides have at one end an opaque matt surface for writing on. It provides a textured area that enables identification by touch of which side is which. I have coated the textured side with emulsion and so this side will be placed down, i.e. facing towards the camera lens.

The mountboard was cut to the width of the film chamber and with rebates to locate the protruding screw-heads at the ends of the film transport guide rails. A hole to accommodate the glass slide was cut such that the emulsioned area of the slide would be located directly above the shutter mask. A piece of card cut to fit between the film guide rails and with an aperture just longer and wider than the shutter mask was fixed to the underside of the mountboard with double-sided adhesive tape.

The camera I have used is an Olympus OM1. I have other cameras but the layout in the back differs from one to another so my support tray will only fit the OM1. The reason for using the OM1 was that it takes the full length of the slide in position without placing it under undue stress and so reduces the risk of breaking the glass when the back is closed.


Silver emulsion on glass rediscovered

A forgotten stash of glass plates leads to some pinhole and vintage playtime.

When I prepared a batch of SE1 Emulsion coated dry glass plates back in June/July last year I also had a small supply of microscope slide glass that I coated with the left-over emulsion.

Without a definite plan for how I would expose the coated slides I wrapped them up and put them in the back of a drawer. Meantime I spent the summer exposing the batch of 4×5 and 3×5 plates, experimenting with exposures and development regimes as I went. Some of the results have been the subject of earlier blogs.

Thinking that all I had left of that batch of plates was the bundle of microscope slides and with thoughts to expose them in a regular 35mm camera, I went to the drawer and was surprised to find I still had a couple of 3×5 plates and four 1/16th plates cut from larger microscope slides all wrapped up too.

I decided to put the microscope slides in a 35mm camera to one side for another blog and another time. Instead I would expose the 3×5 plates in the home-made pinhole they were prepared for and the 1/16th plates in The Countess that they were cut for.

First, the pinhole plates:

Monday. Quayside. Low tide. Calm.


Friday. Harbour wall. High tide. Stormy.

Then at the weekend Murphy the dog and I took The Countess up the hill for a walk in the snow for some handheld shots:

Looking south.
The top in sight.
Setting sun.
South again.

There’s a fair mix of imperfections from the presure marks left by the baking paper used to separate the plates when they were packed away (perhaps I could have dried them more thoroughly to avoid this), to frilling due to poor adhesion of the emulsion to the glass and uneven development due to varying coating thicknesses. There are also dark spot-like marks which I suspect are due to deterioration of the gelatin and possibly to poor original cleaning of the glass. But from the outset of my dry glass plate journey I have always maintained that imperfections are to be enjoyed and celebrated as a part of the imag. My view on that has not changed.

Of the images here I think ‘Setting sun’ is my favourite … at least for now.

So I have just nine or ten glass slides left to expose. They are 25mm wide and the guide rails to transport film through a 35mm camera are 24mm apart. I have an idea to create a holder that will fit into the back of the camera to hold one slide securely and aid loading and unloading in a dark bag. More on that and how I get on with them, in another blog!