Svedovsky 8x10 Camera Review

Daniel Finchum

I had never shot large format camera before let alone wet plate collodion.  So when it came time to shop for a camera I came across a review stating that the Svedovsky camera was a “real workhorse”.  I immediately looked it up and noticed that when compared to comparable cameras, the price was much closer to what I wanted to spend. I didn’t know if this camera or any other for that matter would be something I would really be successful at since I was such a novice in this type of photography. 
Piotr over at Svedovsky Cameras in Poland was immediately helpful in my correspondence with him and we detailed what I wanted in the camera.  He helped me step through the options and made it as easy for me as possible.  It took about two months to get my camera as it was still being built.  I also had to have a wet plate holder made with inserts.  I also ordered extra lens plates for the lenses I was beginning to collect.
Upon receiving my camera in the mail I was excited to see it was packaged well with no damage. After tinkering with everything for a while I noticed that some of the lens plates weren’t fitting very well and that one of the wet plate inserts was too large for a 5×7 inch plate. A simple metric/standard measurement miscommunication on my part.   I notified Piotr and he immediately corrected the problem by sending me new lens plates correctly measured and also a new plate insert at no cost to me.  But he also included a 4×5 and 5×7 plexi-glass inserts which not only fit perfectly but are so much easier to clean than the wooden ones.  I shoot wet plate and these inserts are wonderful and fit beautifully into the wet plate holder which also is a work of art, lightproof, and so easy to use.
It was several months before I could actually start shooting wet plate because I live in Hawaii and sourcing out chemicals and specialized supplies were difficult and expensive.  I finally started shooting and immediately noticed that the camera was perfectly light proof and the focal plane between glass and focus was spot on. What I saw through the ground glass was what I got in the finished result.  All the movements work well however, if you have a heavy lens the front movement tends to creep down.  Piotr will provide some longer knobs which can lock the front movement and then there is no more creep with heavier lenses.  It is solid!
Having a ¼-20 mount up front makes it convenient to put on a lens support arm.  The levels are conveniently located and the fine tune focus crank is super nice to have when trying to get focus perfect. The camera quickly sets up and folds back up for storage. The optional travel case is built like a tank but yet not too heavy.  A nice addition is the cloth cover for the front movement and uprights.  This helps to protect the wood finish when storing the camera.  
The tripod mount has two inserts so that I was able to mount a “Really Right Stuff” two hole mounting plate for my quick release tripod.  They also sent two ground glass, one without 4×5 and 5×7 guidelines and one with.  I always use the one with guidelines as I often shoot the smaller plates.  These lines seem accurately located so that when composing the picture, the image shows up on the glass where it is supposed to. 
Overall, I am very happy with my Svedovsky 8×10 large format camera.  It is the perfect camera for a starting photographer in this format, but I think it may be my only camera even as a pro.  Why change anything if everything is working great! I have had early success with my work and I can give much of that credit to Svedovsky Cameras.  These folks are very reliable and very responsive to any requests you have weather it’s a question or a response to a problem you might be having with your current set up -they are there for you.
Thank you Piotr and the folks at Svedovsky Camera for the overall great experience.  I hope you make an 11×14 camera when I am ready to go big.   :)
Quick Update:   I am now almost five months into shooting with my Svedovsky and I can’t imagine using any other large format camera.  It is wonderful and my portfolio has grown sizeable and beautiful as a result.   It also gets a lot of attention due to its beautiful rich wood tones and classic design. Thanks again to my Polish friends at Svedovsky!  Aloha!

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