Watch a 100-year-old camera get restored by Austrian wet-plate photographer

large format camera
The original camera and bellow (Image credit: Markus Hofstätter / YouTube)

In the last few years, analog photography has seen a resurgence. Despite film and development costs increasing, people still have a soft spot for old-school photography, and that is no less true for Austrian photographer Markus Hofstätter who has just finished restoring a 100-year-old Century No. 2 8x10 large format camera.

Like with most old things, repairing them isn’t a simple process of dropping them off at a local repair center. Often items from the past need a lot more love and attention and spare parts can't be bought off the shelf. Instead, Hofstätter did it all himself (well, with a little help from a friend). He had a custom bellow made especially, he carefully removed the old parts, preserving as many of the original parts as possible, and then put it all back together.

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The incredibly time-consuming process has been condensed into an engaging, 9-minute video showing each stage of the restoration from removing the old bellow to separating the wooden front; "who’d have thought that tools for modern smartphones would come in handy for fixing a 100-year old camera" Hofstätter jokes.

Part-way through the video, Hofstätter shares some beautiful drone footage captured during his road trip to a friend who would help with the carpentry side of things. Together they mounted the new custom-made bellow using the original screws and nails, glued the material into place and cut away any surplus fabric. While the wooden front panel fitted perfectly, nailing the back section of the bellow together was a four-hand job that required patience, persistence and a very steady hand. 

With the bellow mounted, Hofstätter applied the finishing touches which included painting over any red seams inside the bellow using a mixture of black screen paint and cold fix, he removed scratches using varnish and once completely finished, he mounted it to the camera plate and attached the lens ready to shoot.

Markus Hofstätter

(Image credit: Markus Hofstätter)

The process took a lot longer than Hofstätter had imagined but the history of the camera was so important to him it was worth it. Hofstätter hopes that his meticulous renovation will ensure the future of the camera long after he stops using it but until then, he is very excited to create some large format, wet-plate portraits using his beautiful antique camera.

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.