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Thread: Crown Graphic advice

  1. #1

    Question Crown Graphic advice

    Howdy folks. First time poster, so go easy on me.

    The Wife and I (well, mostly The Wife) were recently presented with a Crown Graphic for Christmas by my brother who discovered it in a forgotten attic where it'd sat for at least 40 years. This one has the basic Ektar 127mm lens and top-mounted rangefinder. He could not find a back or flashgun, however. Despite that, it's in remarkably good shape. The glass is clear, no rust or decay, and even the shutter mechanics seem crisp and accurate (which is more than I can say for a nice little Zeiss Ikonta we picked up a year or so back). Even the rangelite worked, albiet briefly, once we put in a new battery.

    The Wife's a professional photographer whose background is in photojournalism. She learned in a darkroom, but now uses full frame Canon digital. She mostly shoots weddings, but has some personal projects on the side. I'm more of a hobbiest/second shooter for her. I've some modest darkroom experience but am most familiar with digital. Since this Crown Graphic is in such great shape, we'd like to learn to shoot with it.

    So, considering our utter inexperience with this camera and format, what back would be good for us to start with? I'm assuming something like a 120 roll back would be the simplest option? Are Polaroid backs even worth messing with these days, given the limited availability of Polaroid/Impossible Project film? What lenses would complement the Ektar 127? The online consensus seems to be that Ektar 203mm are a good alternative to higher-quality 210mm lenses.

    As you can tell, we're just getting our feet wet. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
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    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    Visit www.graflex.org and read the FAQs. Read the FAQs here too.

    You mentioned that the camera has no back. This sounds ominous. Y'r treasure (no sarcasm intended) probably has a Graflok back, which will accept most roll holders that fit a 4x5 Graflok (also called international back). Fine, wonderful, but does treasure have a focusing panel. After you've read the FAQs at www.graflex.org you'll know how to answer. If it has a focusing panel with no ground glass, not a big problem. If it has no focusing panel, problem 'cos focusing panels to fit the camera are a little hard to find.

    If it has a focusing panel, that's great, put the camera on a tripod, open both shutters and try to focus at known distances. Check whether the rangefinder and ground glass agree. If not, problems 'cos cams for the top RF are hard to find. They can be made, look around on www.graflex.org's forums for directions for cutting cams. Treasure probably (= you'd better check) has the right cam for the 127 Ektar on it. This is the wrong cam for all other lenses ... You'll also need infinity stops for y'r projected other lenses, if a lens isn't at the right point on the rails the RF, even with the right cam for the lens, will give bad advice. There's a fairly recent discussion about infinity stops on this board, look for it.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Dan

  3. #3

    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    Dan, thanks for the comments. To show you how green I am, I don't really know what a focusing panel is, but the entire rear of the camera is empty, no glass, nothing. So yeah, I looks like I'll need to get that, assuming focusing panels are a separate animal from backs...

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2009
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    15

    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    You should post a good photo of the back of your camera so we can see exactly what is missing. I assume it's the entire back; focus panel, frame, everything. You need to buy a back and you have two choices: spring back or graflock. The graflock would be the back that came with your camera and will be much more expensive than a spring back. Spring backs are cheap as they end up on ebay after graflex owners have swapped them out for graflok backs. Safe to assume your camera was a graflock donor.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Oct 2007
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    755

    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    Here is a link to an eBay listing for a complete back from the wood out. You can watch this, but you may be surprised (or possibly pleased) at how high this one bids up to.

    It contains all the pieces and occasionally shows up this complete. Otherwise, there are good pics here and at the bottom you can see the various pieces that may show up individually... They consist of the frame with Graflok slides, the Ground Glass frame, and the lens hood/panels for focus. Another option would be a less desirable spring back, with less flexibility on film holders that can be used.

    This is a good listing to get info for all the pieces that may have been on your camera at one time. Don't be fooled by one other listing which appears complete and has the graflok sliders but is for the smaller film 2X3 camera. It's already listed for $150, which would not surprise me if the listing I am forwarding here rises to:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/4X5-GRAFLOK-...item460b4f658d

  6. #6

    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    Here is the rear of the Crown Graphic we've got. Didn't see image guidelines in the posting FAQ, so I hope it's not too big. Apologies for the quality.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7

    Join Date
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    755

    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    Quote Originally Posted by jblaschke View Post
    Here is the rear of the Crown Graphic we've got. Didn't see image guidelines in the posting FAQ, so I hope it's not too big. Apologies for the quality.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	CrownRear.jpg 
Views:	75 
Size:	80.1 KB 
ID:	86041
    OK, if you look at the eBay post I listed, you only need two of the parts in that listing. You need the Ground glass frame in the middle of the three pics, and If you want the door and blinds that form a hood for focusing, You need the third part. However, a lot of people find the door/hood more a matter of protection rather than a useful function of the computer. Using a loupe on the ground glass is a bit tricky trying to work inside the metal panels of the door/hood.

    The part you actually need, with the ground glass occasionally comes up on eBay, if someone doesn't offer one on the site.

  8. #8
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    You can browse www.graflex.org, this site, and other sites to piece together a good understanding of the Crown Graphic. You can get much of this information in just one book, Graphic Graflex Photography by Morgan & Morgan, 11th edition of 1958 or later to cover your model of Graphic. It is usually available from online book sellers.

    Since you may want an extra set of infinity stops, consider shopping for a beat-up Speed or Crown Graphic that has them and the Graflok ground glass frame that Kuzano identified. As he mentioned, the focusing hood can get in the way, but does protect the ground glass when folded. It is easy to remove. If the second camera comes with a lens board, that can be an asset.

  9. #9

    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    Thanks Kuzano. I'm watching that Ebay auction and will see how it goes. I appreciate everyone's assistance!

  10. #10

    Re: Crown Graphic advice

    Thanks Jim. Thanks for the clarification on the book's edition--I've been looking at one, but it's an earlier run, so you've saved me some hassle. Already prowling the Graflex site. I've also found some old user manuals online that I've downloaded the PDF for, so that's helping. It's a pretty steep learning curve!

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