View Full Version : Looking at getting a Speed Graphic

14-Dec-2016, 19:28
I have been kicking around the idea of getting a Speed Graphic camera and possibly shooting Polaroid with it to start. I am fairly new to Large Format although I have started shooting wet plate. I have always been interested in the older cameras and the Speed Graphic is such an iconic camera. I figured it would be a good place to start.

I have searched the forums here and found tid bits of info here and there but thought I'd ask specifically if there were certain things to look for and/or things to stay away from?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated.



14-Dec-2016, 19:44
Familiarize yourself with what a complete camera is, and make sure you buy a complete one. Quite a few on Ebay are missing pieces..... sometimes critical pieces. Missing backs are very common.

14-Dec-2016, 19:45
Polaroid is discontined and the cost of the cult fanatic material is high.
Fuji made instant film for similar purposes and it too has been discontinued.
New55 makes some B&W film that works in polaroid holders but is chosen for it's own charm, not for all purpose photography.

Get some regular film holders and film and start shooting and developing yourself. It's easy. Could be as simple as a few cheap trays, midrange would be one of several daylight inversion tanks for several sheets at once, higher end would be a jobo.

I use a speed graphic most of the time for LF. It's main strength is the focal plane shutter. Super speeds and crown graphics don't have it and are just affordable iconic cameras. A camera with a working focal plane shutter lets you shoot up to 1/1000 sec which you don't get with other LF lenses, and you can use lenses without shutters such as vintage brass or soft focus options, projector lenses, magnifying glasses with spaghetti measure or cardboard irises, aerial lenses, and of course normal shuttered lenses. Anniversary and Preanniversary options use a normal square wood lensboard which is easy to make. Pacemaker models use a stamped metal lensboard which is widely available used and new, or new in carbon fiber. It will have more adjustment options for movements which many LF people like. You may need to purchase more than one to get a properly working one as they are old and few people know how to adjust the simple shutters or replace damaged curtains.

Dan Fromm
14-Dec-2016, 19:52
visit www.graflex.org and read the First Time Visitors and Speed Graphic FAQ.

I take jp's points but nearly all of the lenses I use on my Graphics are in shutter or mounted in front of shutters. For me, if not for him, the focal plane shutters' advantages are more theoretical than real. And I say this even though I have 4"/2 Taylor Hobson lens that covers 2x3, which is what I shoot. Fine lens and all that, but at the apertures I normally use (f/8 and smaller) other smaller, lighter lenses in shutter are just as good and much easier on my, um, strong right arm.

Oh, yeah, I have Pacemaker Graphics, Speed, Crown and Century. The ones without focal plane shutter (Pacemaker Crown, Century for 2x3 only) are much better for use with short lenses. If you like w/a lenses keep these measurements in mind: 4x5 Crown Graphic, minimum extension 52.4 mm; 4x5 Pacemaker Speed Graphic, 66.7 mm.

14-Dec-2016, 20:12
Thanks. All good points. I'm still doing my research before I purchase. Large format in general is new to me but I have enjoyed what little I have eased into. I will check out the graflex.org site also. Thanks for that link.

I didn't realize that FP100 has been canned.

I need to look more into developing myself I suppose.

Jim Jones
15-Dec-2016, 07:41
Graphic Graflex Photography by Morgan & Lester (or Morgan & Morgan in later editions) is a treasure of information on the Speed Graphic system. Up through the 7th edition cover only the Anniversary model. The 8th edition and up cover the side rangefinder Pacemaker series. The 11th edition covers the top rangefinder Pacemaker series and the early Super Graphic model. This book is available from many online booksellers. I consider the Speed Graphic as the most practical of American press cameras. Build quality was high, and accessories abound. Some less common makers provided a few improved features. The later Burke & James press cameras had a revolving back for both vertical and horizontal formats and better front movements than the SG. The Busch also had a revolving back, but was limited in its small proprietary lens board. The scarce Meridian and the British MPP were a little heavier to accommodate rear movements like the expensive German Linhof. This makes them more of a technical camera than a press camera.

15-Dec-2016, 12:27
Fp100c is still widely available, even from B&H where the price has calmed down to about $17/box (only about double what it was before discontinuance). So, get some now if you want any, as it won't be any cheaper in the future. Current stuff is good for at least 5+ years if stored right.

Speed Graphic is a good choice, I am partial to the Pacemaker with Kalart since it can be calibrated to most any lens in the 90-200+mm range.

15-Dec-2016, 18:19
Thanks for all the pointers guys.

Drew Bedo
16-Dec-2016, 09:05
Back in the realy 2Ks (2002?) View Camera magazine ran two articles on modifying these cameras for fromt swing and tilt. The magazine folded earlier this year so this info may be lost unless someone has those issuers.


16-Dec-2016, 10:36
adding swing is a well-known mod, the info exists online. Tilt is easy too, you can reverse the front standard (though this interferes with the Kalart.)

19-Dec-2016, 07:11
Fp100c is still widely available, even from B&H where the price has calmed down to about $17/box (only about double what it was before discontinuance). So, get some now if you want any, as it won't be any cheaper in the future. Current stuff is good for at least 5+ years if stored right.

It dropped to $15 over the weekend. I paid $29 per box in July thinking that was the end.

19-Dec-2016, 07:52
wow, that's a deal (relatively speaking). I bought in at $19.99 and I think $27.99 also. makes me want to stock up even more, even though I have 50 boxes already...

29-Dec-2016, 20:11
Don't ignore some of the other press cameras. I ended up buying a Burke & James since it has (1) 2 more inches of bellow draw than a Graflex, (2) significant front rise and fall (3) front tilt and (4) front shift. Since it has a drop bed, it can also simulate rear tilt. Finally, it uses standard 4" x 4" lens boards. It is also the camera that was used by the legendary Weegee.

Check YouTube for a video series comparing the Graflex, Burke and James and Busch Pressman. Burke & James fairs quite well. I stripped mine to make it more of a field camera. It has treated me well and, being less popular than Graflex, prices are good.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

John Kasaian
30-Dec-2016, 10:13
Speeders are fun!:)

30-Dec-2016, 12:24
MODS, please remove if not allowed. There's a seller called nsliner on the big auction site who specializes in Graflex cameras. His offerings are in tip-top condition with very detailed descriptions. I'd 'follow' him to see what comes up.

30-Dec-2016, 19:52
Why a Speed?

You're adding a lot of weight, bulk, and complexity, and gaining nothing in return.

All the LF lenses I've ever encountered (except ancient barrel lenses) have been in-shutter.

Speed Graphics that I've worked on have invariably had FP shutter problems.

- Leigh

2-Jan-2017, 17:27
Many people use the term "Speed Graphic" as a generic one for a Graflex press camera, so... let's assume that you've not yet decided on a Crown or Speed. Difference? Focal plane shutter (Speed) versus no focal plane shutter (Crown). Both can use the lenses with built in leaf shutters. The Speed adds the focal plane shutter at the expense of not being able to use wode angle lenses as well (thicker body), as well as being heavier. Advice? Buy the one you find in the best condition and make sure it has a Graflok back so you can play with rollfilm backs etc. They are wonderful cameras, both for field and studio. 4x5 is the classic, but the smaller 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 ones are also superb and really shine with a rollfilm back.

I've written up a pretty comprehensive comparison and review of these, if the Mods want to take a look and perhaps keep it as a sticky article, they can send a PM and I can send a beta-copy for review.

First post here, but with 40+ years of using both Crown and Speedies, as well as the Graflex Graphic-View view camera (a gem), I thought I'd say hi and offer encouragement.



5-Jan-2017, 18:02
Very happy with my 1952 Crown Graphic. Yes it is heavier than some.. but my wife thought my Nikon F-tn was a beast. I like negative space... or is that area?

5-Jan-2017, 18:37
I like negative space... or is that area?
It all depends...

If your subject is tall, like a tree or a statue, it's negative height.

If your subject is wide, like a landscape, it's negative width.

But if your subject is fat...

- Leigh

John Kasaian
5-Jan-2017, 22:24
I think hand held LF photography is fun and worthy of the effort. IMHO that is where a press camera like the Speeder really shines. Of course you can use a tripod but hey, there aren't a lot of LF cameras you can shoot hand held---why not take advantage of it?

13-Jan-2017, 10:51
Thanks for all the pointers guys.I like the Anniversary Speeders best. Much more flexible FP speed vs slit combos. I actually prefer early ones that have external synchronisers hanging on the lensboard. The synchro is triggered off of the flash gun. This metheod of firing the front shutter is far superior to the internal cable release on Pacemakers. I use the FP shutter with barrel lenses, and simple magnifying glass lenses I make myself. Very versatile camera. GG focusing is why it is superior to many smaller cameras. Composing your picture on the ground glass is light years better than view finders. With view finders, you get to see what the view finder sees. With GG, you get to see what the camera sees. In my newspaper days, I used the viewfinder a lot, as most news pictures are basically grab shots. I have always preffered the "drawing" of the 6 or 7 inch lens over the 5 inch job.