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Thread: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

  1. #1

    Question Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    I have been using a pentax 6x7 with a 75mm shift lens with a tripod for a number of years. I now want to move into large format photography.

    Since I live in New York City and do not have a car, I generally bike around the city with my equipment (tripod strapped to my bike rack and camera in my back pack), lock the bike up when I get to my location, take out my camera and tripod and explore.

    Since I'm shooting in a built-up area, the shift lens has been perfect for my needs as I can correct converging lines. A lot of my work is shot at night.

    The Speed Graphic appeals to me due to its portability and its ease of set up. Also as I'm shooting a lot at night, I like that the Speed Graphic does not require a dark cloth. But my question is: Does the Speed Graphic have an equivalent rise to the pentax shift lens that I have been using. I have read that is has limited rise, but what is limited?

    Or is there another 4x5 camera that is portable and would be easily closed and opened up with a good rise on the front? If I had a car I would probably buy a regular field camera, but I don't, I don't want to loose the mobility of my bike.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    now in Tucson, AZ

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    A Linhof Technika would do better- more movements including some on the back. But they are expensive. I'd start with a Crown Graphic (no focal-plane shutter, lighter) and
    a Kodak 135mm Wide Field Ektar lens. The WF lens has room for movements, unlike most of the 127-135mm lenses provided with Graphics. I'd shoot with it for awhile, and see how I liked the whole concept; and change cameras, if needed, after six months or so of shooting.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    Check out the Busch Pressman D, which has lots of rise, shift and tilt.
    Movements on the Speed and Crown Graphics will be inadequate for you (due to the fixed horizontal back, for vertical composition there is only about 1/4" rise/fall, no tilt).
    The Super Graphic has a revolving back and tilt capability.
    If you got back a nice tax refund, look into a used Linhof Technika IV (be sure to check for intact bellows).
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Van Buren, Arkansas

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    I think the Speed Graphic with its focal plane shutter would not be the "best" choice, considering compactness and lightweight. My choice (and I have one) is the Super Graphic. It has a revolving back, and it has front rise, tilt and shift. It also has a drop bed, which is used with limited lens tilt to give you depth of field control. Your choices of lens will be the determining factor regarding the lightness of your kit. The older 90mm lenses, such as a 90mm Angulon (not Super-Angulon), or a 135mm symmar would be good choices and allow some movements. Each of these could be kept on the camera with it folded up for transport. I would avoid the Graflex 90mm Optar, or 90mm Wollensak Raptar if you want to do much shifting, as they have very limited coverage, but if not shifted they are sharp.

    For a new camera, Toyo has a 4x5 field camera similar to the Super Graphic in function that is made of a plastic composite material that might be quite lightweight.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    If you do the arithmetic, it turns out that for a 135mm lens on a 4x5 camera, which corresponds pretty closely to 75mm on 6x7cm, you need a rise capability of about 35mm to correspond to the 20mm you can get with the Pentax 75 shift.

    There are two constraints. First, some field cameras allow as much as 35mm direct front rise, but many don't. In some cases, depending on the design of the camera, you can get additional front rise indirectly with a combination of front and rear tilts. But that's a nuisance.

    Second, if you want to match the field of view of your 75 exactly, is that not every 135mm lens projects an image circle large enough to allow 35mm rise on the horizontal format without vignetting or loss of image quality at the corners or worse. However, if you are willing to work with other focal lengths, there are plenty of longer or shorter lenses that provide ample coverage for movements beyond that. Or, you may be willing to compromise and settle for somewhat less front rise than is possible with the Pentax.

    Mobility may be less of a constraint on camera choice than you think. Your P67 with the 75 shift is big and heavy. There are many good 4x5 field cameras and 135mm view camera lenses that together weigh less than that, sometimes quite a bit less. (My Nagaoka 4x5 together with 135mm Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S weighs less than 4 pounds.) Film holders will add some weight, but one tends to shoot less with the larger format anyway, so the number of holders you need to carry on an outing won't necessarily be that large. And if you're willing to spend more, Kodak and Fuji offer packet-film options that can cut down the weight.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    St. Simons Island, Georgia

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    I use a standard 127mm lens on my Crown Graphic, and the lens will provide as much rise as is available on a Crown. Not much for tilt, though. I don't know the lens you're using, so I don't know how to compare, but the available shift is not a lot. I can keep a two story building straight at 50 feet or so, but not much more than that.

    I do take my Crown out with my bike, though, so you're on the right track there. I use 400 speed film with it, so I can take a lot of shots hand-held.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Minneapolis, MN

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    I like using my Busch Pressman D with the Raptar 135 lens. It sets up fast, the rise, shift and tilt are sufficient (no swing, though), the focus scale is accurate and (since it has an aluminum body) folds up into a near-unbreakable travel unit. I have used the Optar 101mm lens on it with some success (although the corners get fuzzy when the lens is opened up wide). best of all you can get one for about $200 on that auction website.

    If you shoot at night you'll have to use fast film and a tripod, of course. I've had good luck with Trix 320 and Forte 400 with nighttime bulb exposures of several seconds.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Westminster, MD

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    I use a 90mm on a Crown Graphic with OK results, but its movements are limited. Look into a small wood 4x5 field camera since you're shooting from a tripod.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

  9. #9

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    Thanks so much for all the responses, very helpful.
    While weight is partially an issue, one of my main concerns is camera set-up speed, since I'm often shooting in desolate urban areas at night and want the ability to set up the camera (mount to tripod, focus, compose etc) shoot and go.

    For this reason I think a press camera best fits my needs; the Busch Pressman D seems to have the most rise (which is the most important movement to me), 110-135 would be my ideal Lens range, one that would allow for good rise without vignetting and could stay on the camera when it is closed up.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Rondo, Missouri

    Re: Speed Graphic for Urban Landscapes

    If you shoot a lot of verticals, the Speed/Crown Graphics, have about an inch of horizontal shift. When you mount the camera on it's side tripod screw for verticals, it's a bit better. But still not much for architectural work.
    Michael W. Graves
    Michael's Pub

    If it ain't broke....don't fix it!

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