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Thread: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    Portland, OR.
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    156

    Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    Hey all, lets have a little chat.

    I've decided to get a Graflex SLR, 4x5. I was fairly certain that I wanted an RB Auto Graflex (the one with the full front bed and long bellows and front rise), but I'm starting to wonder if I wouldn't be better off with a Series D (no front bed, standard bellows). One of my concerns was the ability to work with a longer lens. I've got a Bausch & Lomb 5x8 Tessar (about 215mm focal length) f/4.5 that I'd like to use. Will the Series D handle a 215 lens or thereabouts? What about a 240? Mostly what I'll be using this camera and lens for is portrait work (without a flash, so the Super D doesn't matter as an option), so portrait-type distances have to be taken into account to figure if the lens will focus close enough.

    If you were in my position, which camera would you buy? I like the front standard construction of the RB Auto, which is the same as my 1913 Speed Graphic and allows for some front rise. I have no experience with the front standard of a Series D, can anyone tell me how robust the focusing and front standard is on that model? Overall impressions of either are welcomed as well!

    Thanks all!
    -Patrick

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Westminster, MD
    Posts
    1,656

    Re: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    Patrick

    Good questions. Do you want to keep the look and design of the camera faithful to the original design? If not, you can modify the front standard to take pretty much any lens you want. The front standard is made of wood, so with a little work, it can be altered to do the job you want. I've done this with my modest 7 & 8 grade wood shop skills.

    Having the longer bellows helps a lot with the longer glass, but you can make extension lens boards for these lenses to fit the Series D, and thus get the length you need. I usually use a short section of 3" PVC plumbing tubing to make my extensions. Spray paint the interior with a flat black paint. You'll have to play around with different configurations. I don't necessarily have the total solution 'cause I'm still learning how to make these lens boards.

    So far I mounted a Aero-Ektar 178mm lens to the front of an Auto Graflex. Can't focus to infinity do to the mirror in the way of the rear element, but that's not why I'm using this lens on the camera.

    The trick is to not be wedded to the original design of the camera.

    Here's a view of what I did on my web site's blog page: http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Cheers...1BFD94960.html
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Portland, OR.
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    156

    Re: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    Walter,

    All good things to hear. Does you extension board feel secure on the camera? I know the Aero-ektar is quite the heavy beast of a lens, so that should be a good sign. Are there any other comments you have about the overall functionality of the camera? How close can you focus with the 178? I'd like to be able to use my 210 for closer portraits, headshots and close-in nudes and the like (sound like someone famous from the first half of the century? Edward something-or-other, wasn't it? ).
    Maybe some still-lifes and such. Do you think the Series D would be suitable, or should I hold out for the RB Auto?

  4. #4

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    Sep 2003
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    Harbor City, California
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    Re: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    I'd select by condition rather than model. Either one will do what you want.

  5. #5
    multi format
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Posts
    2,920

    Re: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    hi patrick

    i have a series d and the 210 is the main lens that i use.
    it has no problem focusing up close or far away ...
    (its a 21cm tessar ) ...
    the auto graphic seems to have a few more "options"
    like a bit of rise, and tilt and a drop bed if you need it ...

    but either seem to fit your bill ...

    john

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Posts
    9,477

    Re: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    I fooled around with alternative lenses on my Super D but in the end the 190 Ektar with the auto-stop down is a great portrait lens and it would be wise to stick with it. Better to look for one in good condition and with a clean(ed) mirror.

    If you shoot nothing but wide open the the Super D is overkill since you don't need the auto-stop down.

    Just don't discount the "stock" lenses -- they are fine portrait lenses.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Portland, OR.
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    156

    Re: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    The reason I don't need a lens is because I already have a niceB&L 5x8 Tessar, f/4.5, 8.5 inches (215mm) focus. I also can't really afford the bumped-up price that a Super D commands, with or without the 190 Ektar. Lens and Repro quoted me $400-$450 for a good Series D that was in ready-to-go cindition with a Graflex back.

    I know, I know, graflex backs are evil, I've heard it...

    BUT...

    I have 7 12-sheet cut film magazines (which I LOVE) and a roll film holder...all to fit the Graflex back. I can wreak havoc on a 100-sheet ox of film, and once I'm done with that, I can still shoot 6x6!

    So I'm not crazy or foolish for wanting the Graflex back, I'm just anachronistic and somewhat stubborn. I'm also very limited in money. I picked up those cut film mags for less than what I would have spent on 2 nice Grafmatics.

    I'm thinking at this point that I have 3 phone calls to make on Monday morning: 1 to Fred Lustig in Nevada to see is he's got any cameras to sell, Series D or RB Auto, then one to Photo Gizzom in NYC to see if they've got anything, and finally one to Lens and Repro to find out exactly what they've got. By the end of next week I should have something lined up, even if it means waiting around 3 months for just the right RB Auto to come up for sale!

    Thanks all, I'll let you know what happens!
    -Patrick

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
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    Re: Graflex Series D or RB Auto Graflex: which to buy?

    There's nothing wrong with the Graflex back as long as you know what it is and either have the correct holders or are willing to spend some time finding them.

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