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Big, Better, Best...Sometimes Smaller is Better

Richard's 45 x 107 mm format become the most popular stereo glass plate standard, and his Verascope camera with plate changing backs set the standard for camera design. There were, of course, other contenders. Prior to the Verascope, 8.5 x 17 and 6 x 13 were common formats. But while 6 x 13 remained popular, the highly portable nature of 45 x 107 cameras and plates spelled doom for the 8.5 x 17 as an amateur format.

I don't (yet) have examples of cameras and viewers in every format. In a rare failure for Richard, his 7 x 13 format never really caught on. My guess is it was too close to the already well established 6 x 13. Similarly, the 5 x 12 format has faded into obscurity. Whether established before or after 45 x 107 I don't know, but the success of Richard's cameras probably doomed this format.

In order to gain a sense of scale, here are some sample cameras, viewer magazines and plates in various sizes from 8.5 x 17 to 45 x 107.

 

Stereo Camera Stereo Photo


Stereo Photo Glass Plates

 

These image samples were chosen not for quality but because they fell readily to hand. The image details on the right are not representative of the achievable quality with each format. As has ever been the case, given comparable equipment, the biggest original will always be best simply because it contains the most data. In the real world, the smallest won out because of its practicality as part of an overall system. The cameras were small and light, the viewing equipment was small and light, it took less space to store all the stuff, etc. On a more subtle note, it should be said the larger formats were severely limited by their viewing equipment, Whether in a hand held viewer, a No 2 Taxiphote, or anything in between, viewer focal lengths were always too short, This was an issue even with 45 x 107, but the big plates were never able to stretch their legs. The actual viewing experience with a bigger plate was not particularly better. With proper viewing equipment, 8.5 x 17 could have blown the others away. Using modern optics, today one can enjoy a distinctly better viewing experience with medium format slides vs 35 mm.

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