Supposing the size of camera has been definitely settled, let us now consider the points to be noted in selecting one. It should be strongly built and able to stand a certain amount of knocking about—which it is sure to receive sooner or later and what is known as the square pattern for preference, as the front is more likely to be rigid. The bellows should be capable of extending to at least twice the focus of the lens to be used. This is necessary because, if an object is to be photographed full size, the lens must be double the distance from the plate it view were being taken. For exam camera of twelve inches would be necessary in order to obtain a photograph of any object its true size. The camera should possess a rising and falling front; also a swing-back, which will be found exceedingly useful at times. If it will permit of focussing being done either from the front or the back, this will be found a great convenience, although not absolutely necessary. Most of the usual patterns of 1/2-plate or 1/2-plate cameras on the market are provided with a reversing back, an arrangement enabling a vertical or horizontal picture to be taken without shifting the camera on the tripod. This, while convenient, adds to the bulk of the camera, and in the case of the post card size is usually omitted on that account. It is really just as easy to turn the camera on its side and screw to the tripod in this position, when a vertical picture is required, and this arrangement will save a good deal in size and weight. A level should be permanently fixed to the swing-back, and if objects likely to move are being photographed—for example, young birds on a branch—a finder of some sort will be necessary in order to be sure the subjects remain in the field of view. For a stand camera, one of the direct view patterns will be most suitable, as camera its tripod and placed too high for the photographer to use one of the reflecting type.
If it has the movements mentioned above, the simple otherwise, the better, as it will be more likely to enab user to make the necessary adjustments automatically may as brass-binding, will depend the price paid, and must be left to the individual judgment of the purchaser.
If the would-be photographer has no knowledge of apparatus his best course will be to obtain the services of a friend who has, and act on his advice. There are so many forms of cameras on the market, all equally good of their kind, that it is almost impossible to mention one in preference to another; as a matter of fact, the outlay proposed would have to decide, to a great extent, the particular instrument chosen.
Perhaps it will be as well again to remark that a camera must be selected which can be used on a stand, as in the majority of cases—with the beginner at least—time exposures will be required, and it is impossible to give these unless the camera is on a firm support. A very good type of camera is one which may be used in the hand or on a stand, and in which the base-board folds up over the lens, thus serving to protect it from injury. Several well-known makers have cameras of this type, and if the photographer is limited to one instrument it is a very useful pattern to select.
So far I have said nothing about the Reflex type of camera, because it is a very expensive instrument, and although necessary for the advanced worker who wishes to take moving objects, is unnecessary for the beginner, who will be wise during the first two or three seasons of his experience to devote himself to obtaining photographs of objects such as birds' nests, flowers, and other things of a more or less stationary character. He will find in this plenty of scope for careful arrangement and composition, without the necessity of undue haste, which would probably result in some defects, discovered only after the negatives had been developed, and when it was too late to rectify them.
To give again my own experience, let me say that, for a period of about six years after I first took up the study of Nature Photography, a stand camera proved sufficient for my requirements. The beginner will, therefore, be wise to gain some experience before investing in the Reflex type of camera. One reason of the expense of the latter is that it requires great care in construction; many of its parts have to be hand made, and consequently cost a good deal more than machine-made articles. On the other hand, one that is not well made is worthless from a practical standpoint, and the photographer who desires to invest in a reliable instrument of this type must be prepared to lay out a comparatively large amount upon it. If he is willing and able to do this, then by all means let him get one, as work can be done with it which is not possible with any other type of camera. An additional reason why he should not be in a hurry to invest in one is that the type is being greatly improved in many points, and every season sees a reduction in its size and weight. It is really astonishing how vastly improved many forms on the market are now to what they were a few years ago.
As stated previously, I used a stand camera for some years before I invested in a Reflex, but it is equally certain that when the beginner becomes more proficient and wishes to tackle rapidly-moving objects, then a camera of the Reflex type is almost a sine qua non.
The next point for consideration is the kind of holders to be used for carrying the sensitive plates or films.\ Usually these take the form of what are known as double dark slides, and carry two plates each. Three double dark slides are generally sold with the camera and enable the photographer to carry six plates. But this number, although sufficient at home, where the dark room can be resorted to for a change of plates, is not sufficient to carry out for a day's excursion. When no changing is possible twelve plates should be the minimum number carried, and as I cannot recommend the use of a changing bag, which is the only way of meeting the difficulty in places like woods, fields, or lanes, when only three slides are carried, some other method must be adopted, unless a sufficient number of extra dark slides are purchased to carry the larger supply of plates needed. There are several objections to this course. Well made double dark slides are expensive ; they are also heavy and take up a good deal of space. I have, therefore, given them up for general outdoor work in favour of an arrangement known as the " Reicka " plate and film adapter, which is sold by several dealers under different names. This useful piece of apparatus is no larger than the usual double dark slide, and contains a focussing screen, which is always in correct register. I have used it for some time and have found it quite satisfactory. The envelopes are made of stout paper and cost very little, and as far as my experience goes are quite light-tight, and a dozen or two may easily be carried. Being, when filled, very little thicker than the plates themselves, and very light in weight, they are, in my opinion, a great improvement on the usual double dark slides. Envelopes are also made to carry films, and these may be used and exposed jointly with plates in the same adapter, which is a great convenience. Although films cost more than plates, at times their advantage in weight amply repays for the extra expense involved in their use. They have another advantage in being unbreakable. Another point, worthy of consideration, is that, as each envelope contains only one plate or film, there should be no danger of exposing the same one twice over, which sometimes occurs in using double dark slides, even to the most careful and experienced operator.
A point of great practical importance is that a method such as the above allows of an unlimited number of plates or films being carried. This saves the risk always attached to changing one's plates out of doors, or in a strange dark room, which might possibly spoil results obtained only after hours of watching and waiting.