Monday, August 30, 2010

Graflex Speed Graphic

Graflex Speed Graphic (2)

The Graflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic is a press camera, fruit of the evolution of the press cameras made by Graflex at Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A.
The main difference to the older models is the introduction of a focal plane shutter, allowing the use of barrel lenses, without shutter. The consequent disadvantage is the limit of 65mm in the use of wide angle lenses.   
This model was built between 1947 and 1970. This example is of the later, recognizable by the integrated viewfinder range finder mounted on the top, earlier models had a Kalart rangefinder mounted on the right side and the viewfinder on top.
It's a camera with a limited range of movements on the front standard.

  • Graflex Optar, made by Wollensak to Graflex, 135mm 1:4.7 lens
  • Front Shutter - Graphex leaf shutter, full synchromatic also made by Wollensak to Graflex.
  • Shutter speeds 1" - 1/400", B, T and Open
  • Back shutter - Focal plane shutter 
  • Shutter speeds 1/30" - 1/1000", T and O (open)
  • Sports finder, telescopic wire frame in the front standard and retractable peep hole, with parallax correction.
  • Optical viewfinder with auto parallax correction and interchangeable masks, for different lenses.
  • Coupled range finder.
  • Coupled Rangelite
  • Graflock back with integrated ground glass and removable folding metal shade.
  • 4x5" exposures on sheet film in sheet film holders.
  • Body shutter release - controlling both shutters independently. 
  • Focusing, by double knurled knobs, on rails with folding infinity stops and focus lock.
  • Movements of the front standard: Tilt 20º / Bed drop 20º / Rise 26mm / Shift 19mm, 8,5mm each way from zero position.
  • Double tripod mount: Bottom for landscape and side, behind the leather strap, for portrait.
  • Dimensions:                        Height           Depth            Width
         Closed                              210mm         116mm          210mm

         Open using ground             210mm         370mm          210mm     
         glass with shades

         The same with                   230mm         360mm          210mm
          bed dropped 
  • weight: 2.6kg, with 2 AA batteries, don't laugh I'll tell you later what the batteries are for.

Graflex Speed Graphic (4)

Here on the right side of the camera are the shutter controls:
  • On top the winder/selector for the focal plane shutter
  • Right under it, the window displaying the chosen shutter speed
  • Under it, the shutter selector, Back, front and trip, used to reset the shutter
  • To the right and bellow the shutter release, almost on the same level, on the back, the flash connector
  • On the bottom that small lever changes the tension of the shutter to allow doubling or halving the shutter speed
We can see also the front standard with it's movement controls, the focusing knob and rails and the focus lock lever, close to the right focusing knob.
On top is visible the range finder with integrated viewfinder
On the left the Graflock back

Graflex Speed Graphic (5)

On the left side:

On top and also integrated on the range finder that red button activates the Rangelite, a device coupled to the range finder that emits two light beams, that when coincide on the subject guarantees accurate focusing in low light conditions. Now you know what the batteries are for.

The leather strap, under it and not visible the side tripod attachment.

Close to and on the left focusing rail, near to the left focusing knob is the focusing scale.

Graflex Speed Graphic (6)
This picture displays the dropped bed, compensated by the tilt of the front standard.

Graflex Speed Graphic (7)
This one displays the extreme extension of the bellows, this permits obtaining 1:1 macro shots.

Graflex Speed Graphic (1)

The front view:

On top: The combination viewfinder with 135mm mask, range finder and Rangelite.

The magnificent Graflex Optar 135mm 1:4.7 lens on the Graphex shutter both made by Wollensak to Graflex.

Down on the left panel the shutter release with the remote release attachment hole.

Under the lens in the middle that big key is the front standard lock.

Graflex Speed Graphic (3)

In this back view:

The ground glass with opened metal folding shades.

The sports finder with the parallax correction scale on the peep hole support.

To the right of the peep hole support, the range finder viewer and the optic viewfinder.

Laying behind the camera a sheet film holder.

I find amazing the versatility of this camera viewfinder and focusing wise. It has:
  • An optical viewfinder with auto parallax correction and interchangeable masks for different lenses.
  • A sports finder with parallax correction and auto adaptable to all lenses, except extreme long lenses. Auto adaptable because when we change the lens the distance between the lens and film changes in the same amount of the wire frame to the peep hole.
  • The priceless ground glass, both for composing and focusing.
  • Coupled range finder.
  • Coupled Rangelite.
  • Scale focusing.

    My first experiments with it were very conventional:

    Graflex - Porto
    Graflex - Porto by RaúlM.

    Graflex Speed Graphic - Porto
    Graflex - Porto by RaúlM.

    Just the sheer size of the negatives is amazing.

    Speed Graphic tiltedUsing the tilt feature the camera looks like this:

    Using this feature, that compresses the dof to a narrow band, I got this, model look alike, pictures:
    Honey I shrunk the bridge
    Honey I shrunk the bridge by RaúlM.

    My "model" town
    My "model" town by RaúlM.

    Rabelo "model"
    Rabelo "model" by RaúlM.

    Now all I want is pick this big baby, load the holders, take along a sturdy tripod and shrink my home town.

    I couldn't finish without my reflected self portrait:

    Me and Graflex Speed Graphic

    This is part of my project "I, me and my cameras"

    I'll be back to this camera. I have it for two years but I only scratched it's surface. I have to learn a lot about what I can do with it.

    Stay tuned (o; 



    1. fantástica!
      agora só falta mesmo é o cavalinho de pau e ir fazer uns cobre pelas rumarias! :)

    2. awesome! I just ordered on myself. Cant wait to use it!

    3. @Makeba: I only hope that you have so much fun with it as I do.

    4. I've played with my smaller Busch Pressman quite a bit, so the Crown Graphic I just acquired is going to be interesting. I love your tilt shift shots! I gotta play with that on both of my cameras more ;-)

    5. Hi Kathy,
      These are great toys. have fun with them.

    6. Skies of Bitan 碧潭的天空February 4, 2011 at 3:17 AM

      I just lost a bid on a beautiful Crown Graphic that sold for only US$205. That would have been an amazing bargain, but I'll keep looking.

      I love your site, despite it being dangerous for camera freaks like me!

    7. Foi a melhor maneira de começar o dia hoje... sonhar com uma beleza destas... fabulosa... estou mesmo a ver nós com isto montado e a miudagem toda aos pulos a querer ver a imagem...

    8. @ Skies of Bitan 碧潭的天空:
      That would have been a great deal this one of mine costed almost three times that amount.

      Sorry but we feed each other GAS (o;

      @Raul PC:
      Obrigado Raúl, "só falta mesmo o cavalinho", como disse o António Bandeira.

    9. Hi Raul
      i find your blog by chance and it s great.i really love your work and your " camera addiction"
      i have the opportunity to buy a graflex and i m not very familiar with these camera
      i have two option on speed graphic or crown graphic and i can t find the difference
      my idea is to use with a polaroid back and play with the tilt and shift
      i we can meet on Skype it will be great to chat with you
      i m in france leaving around biarritz area
      hope to get some news from you
      my Skype name is narbouille

    10. @Brainshots:
      Thank you for your nice comment.
      The main difference between the Crown and the Speed Graphic is the absence of focal plane shutter on the Crown.
      The advantage of the focal plane shutter is the possibility of using shutterless lenses.
      Sorry I don't use Skype but you can ask any question by email (raulsadantas at

    11. Hi Raul,

      inspired by your blog (and by many other excellent reviews on the camera), I have recently acquired a Graflex Crown Special (my very first LF camera). I would really need your advice as I am stuck on some of the operations though I have looked at the site and around the web but could not find an answer.

      The camera seems in very good shape but I still can't figure out how to focus from the ground glass. I understand that (once opened the focus hood) one should push the body release on the left side of the camera (looking at the camera from the front). This should lock and open the lens so to allow for the focusing. I also understand that the same button can be used to fire the shutter release.

      However, when I push the body release the movement gets transmitted to a level near the lens. This level lowers but the shutter does not fire.

      I do not understand if the camera does not work or if I am doing something wrong. If it does not work I have to send it back asap.

      Your help would be greatly appreciated.