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Thread: Educate me on Graphics please

  1. #1
    Seattle photographer Photomax's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    Educate me on Graphics please

    I have a full Sinar system with three lenses, film holders and Polaroid back.

    I am thinking I want to try out an older Crown/ Speed Graphic but know nothing about these cameras.

    So, I am looking for information on which model to look for, what they cost, and other accessories I need. I am not looking for a collectors item, rather I am looking for a good user with a budget around $300 or so.

    Any ideas would be most welcome!



  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jun 2004

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    Hi Max,

    The best source of information on the various cameras is

    Tons of information on just about anything you could want to know.


  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Westminster, MD

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    Also, simply follow the Speed / Crown Graphics on sale on eBay to see the various pricings and qualities.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    Get a plain 4x5 Crown Graphic with 135mm f:4.7 lens (Xenar or Raptar). They were made in two versions, one with a side Kalart rangefinder, and one with a built-in rangefinder on top. This version is only better if you're going to use different lenses and want them coupled to the rangefinder, and personally I'd pick the Kalart model.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    Most people want the Pacemaker Crown Graphic made after WW2 with the Graflock back. All the ones I have seen come with a decent Ektalite fresnel. They are light, durable, cheap, and very usable.

    If you want a focal-plane shutter to use with barrel lenses, then get a Speed Grahic. If you want a metal rangfinder camera get the 1970s-era Super Speed Graphic.

    The Kalhart Side rangefinder on the older post WW2 to 1960s models is the one to get for using "other" lenses. It can be adjusted to work with your moderate-normal lenses.

    If you stick with the stock Optar or Xenar 135mm that was sold with the Crown Graphics, then the later 60s-early 70s top rangefinder (which uses replacable cams) is often more convenient and easier to put your eye up to. But the cam must match the lens, and finding odd cams can be hard.

    Of course if you don't care about the rangefinder and are a ground glass focuser, then you can find a real bargain. The synthetic bellows on these cameras are very durable and the mechanics are simple, so there isn't much to wear out.

    Price usually depends on the seller/buyer. I've gotten perfect Crowns and lenses for $150 but I see some people expect (hope) to get near $500 for a camera and lens in similar condition. I wouldn't pay over $250 for one, and I would only pay $250 for one from a reliable seller. Many sellers don't know what they are selling so it is a crap shoot as to whether the RF is still OK, etc. so those are the "bargains" you get for $100 because they are a risk.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Gulfport, MS, USA

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    I'd look for a Super...more movements than some of the older ones, compact size, metal construction (built like a tank) and a usable rangefinder (with the standard 135mm lens) that can accept cams for other focal lengths if you don't want to use the ground glass. I've been happy with one for several years as a field camera when I don't require the extremes in movements possible on my Cambo.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    If you get one, make sure to send it over to Fred Lustig for CLA.
    I suggest a Super Speed Graphic. I have 2. Love 'em.

  8. #8
    Seattle photographer Photomax's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    All of these posts have some great info. Thank you. I will do some digging around and go from there. I really enjoyed reading this story from the SportsShooter board:


  9. #9
    Ted Harris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    New Hampshire

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    You've gotten a lot of good information bu no one asked ... why do you want to try out an older graphic? I ask because, as many know, I am not usually a fan of Graphics, and, depending on your answer their may be better equipment solutions to your needs. If you just want one to see how they work, etc, then that's different.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    Re: Educate me on Graphics please

    Hi, Max,

    It looks as if you have been referred to some good info and your education on Graffie ways is well underway.

    Nevertheless, I take the liberty of presenting here a summary of this fabulous camera line that some have found helpful.


    The Speed Graphic and its cousins

    Caveat: many details of the "except of course for .." type have been glossed over for conciseness.

    The Speed Graphic camera is a press camera (actually categorized taxonomically as View Camera:Field Camera:Press Camera). It folds into a compact closed package for transport. (Bet you never saw a folded-up one in the movies!)

    The camera provided focusing and composition on a ground glass screen at the film plane. Almost all models also had a "telescope-like" viewfinder, and (except for the earliest models) an open frame ("sports") viewfinder as well. Most of the more modern models included a coupled superimposed-image rangefinder for focusing.

    All Speed Graphic cameras (with the exception of the Super Speed Graphic; see below) included a focal plane shutter of the multi-slot, single-curtain type. (Many were of course equipped with lenses having shutters as well.) The shutter afforded speeds (in the "focal plane" way, of course) of up to 1/1000 sec. The term "Speed" in the name celebrated that.

    Speed Graphic cameras were made in several successive design series', listed here. Most series' included format sizes of 2x3, 3x4, and 4x5 (exceptions are noted). The exact range of dates in a series varies slightly by format size.

    - What we today call the "top handle" series: 1912-1927 [also included 5x7 format]
    - What we today call the "pre-Anniversary" series: 1928-1939 [4x5 only]
    - Miniature Speed Graphic [2x3 only] 1938-1946
    - Anniversary series: 1940-1946 [3x4 and 4x5 only]
    - Pacemaker series: 1947-1970 (significant design change in 1955) (Crown Graphic cousin made through 1973.)

    The true series designations "Anniversary" and "Pacemaker" appeared in advertising, manuals, and the like. Series designations did not appear on the cameras themselves.

    Late in the era of the "Pre-Anniversary" series, a coupled rangefinder (side mounted, generally made by Kalart - sometimes a Hugo Meyer rangefinder was used) became available (in later series' on this became standard), and the telescope viewfinder finder changed from an open type (with two flip-up lenses) to an enclosed ("tubular") type.

    In the Pacemaker series, after 1955 the side-mounted Kalart rangefinder was replaced by a top-mounted rangefinder made by Graflex.

    The Crown Graphic

    The Crown Graphic, made only as part of the Pacemaker series, differed from the Pacemaker Speed Graphic only in that it had no focal plane shutter (and accordingly, the depth of the case was somewhat reduced). It was offered in format sizes of 2x3, 3x4, and 4x5, just as for the Pacemaker Speed Graphic. It was made from 1947 through 1973. (The Speed Graphic itself was discontinued in 1970.)

    The 1955 design change affected the Crown Graphic as well as the Speed Graphic.

    The Century Graphic

    The Century Graphic had essentially the features of the Crown Graphic, but had a molded phenolic case (rather than the mahogany case found in all other models). It was only offered in the 2x3 format size.

    The Super Graphic and Super Speed Graphic

    Considered a part of the Pacemaker series, the Super Graphic had a metal case and a number of other design innovations. It did not include a focal plane shutter. It was only available in the 4x5 format size. It was made from 1958-1973.

    The Super Speed Graphic was essentially the same camera except that it was equipped with a shutter offering speeds up to 1/1000 sec. It was made from 1961-1970.


    The Speed Graphic was made from its introduction in 1912 through 1916 by the Folmer & Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak Company (an organization acquired by George Eastman in 1904 and absorbed into Eastman Kodak Company in 1907). From 1916 through 1926, this unit was called the Folmer & Schwing Department, Folmer-Century Division, Eastman Kodak Company. (The camera was not sold under the "Kodak" trademark.)

    From 1927 on, the camera line was made (and sold) by The Folmer Graflex Corporation (no longer part of Eastman Kodak). That company changed its name to Graflex, Inc. in 1945. In 1956 it was bought by General Precision Equipment Corporation, becoming its Graflex Division. In 1968, the Graflex Division was bought by Singer Corporation.

    The Graflex Division of Singer Corporation ceased operation and was dissolved in 1973.

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