View Full Version : Strobe-type press camera flash

EuGene Smith
27-Apr-2008, 15:06
A fellow I knew about 15 years ago had a nice collection of press cameras, and one thing he had that intrigued me was a retro-style flash unit that looked just like the big old fashioned press camera flash. It was made to purposely look like the old flash while eliminating the necessity for the photographer to have to buy scarce (& expensive) flash bulbs. It used flashlight batteries in a silver tube below the flash reflector, just like the old Speed Graphic flash.

Does anyone here know the name of the maker of those strobe-type press camera flash units? If they are still being made, who might be a vendor for them?


David A. Goldfarb
27-Apr-2008, 15:11
Are you sure it wasn't a custom adaptation? I've seen things like a Norman LH-2 strobe head, disassembled and stuffed into a Graflex flash handle. That would have a separate battery pack, but maybe there's a way of setting up something like that with batteries in the handle.

EuGene Smith
27-Apr-2008, 15:53
Gosh, David, I just don't remember much about that flash. The guy had 2 or 3 of them and told me the brand name and who sold them (might have been a small custom fabricator?). I had asked him because I had an old Speed Graphic and a B&J Watson and wanted to be able to use them with a strobe flash unit that maintained the original appearance.

I have some old style Compur shutters that have a strobe setting, so I can use strobe flash without the bulb delay. I have a fabricated bracket to hold my Minolta Auto flash, but it just doesn't look right on an old press camera.

27-Apr-2008, 16:04
I'd love to do the same on my Speed Graphic! The old style chrome flash with a strob that doesn't require new a bulb for each shot!

EuGene Smith
27-Apr-2008, 16:26
Yeah, Daniel, I suspect that everyone who wants to shoot, rather than just display, their old press monsters would jump at a chance to buy a strobe with that authentic old bulb flash appearence . . . if they aren't hugely expensive, that is. Even if whoever made those strobe flashes doesn't make them any more, there might be a number of them floating around the used equipment market, camera show flea market, press camera owners club (I assume there is one). I'll keep looking and asking around.


Jim Jones
28-Apr-2008, 06:22
The heads of my ancient Sylvania Wabash strobes are the same diameter as a Graphic flash and about 11 inches long, so it mounts and looks much like a Graphic flash on Viagra. However, it is tied to a heavy AC power pack. The power supply is the typical brute force transformer and vacuum tube rectifier circuit of 50 or 60 years ago. The capacitors are oil filled instead of the much less durable electrolytics of today, so one unit was still working when last used a year ago. These units (if still working) should be used with care: flash tube operating voltage is about 2000 volts, and insulation can deteriorate with age. Trigger voltage is quite high.

EuGene Smith
28-Apr-2008, 08:25
Jim, I suppose a person could take one of those old beasts that is non-working and use the flash gun and a modern hot shoe flash unit to come up with a DIY "Graflex strobe unit". I suspect cannibalizing a Sylvania Wabash (probably not particularly collectable, and not worth the cost of repairs anyway) would be better than ruining a Graflex flash unit.

I'm mulling over just making a strobe that simulates the old style press flash unit. I would like to read any articles that have been written about making such a strobe flash.