The Graflex View Cameras
By Gerald Pierce for the Large Format Page
Graflex produced only three cameras which may be considered as true view cameras. It was best known for its press cameras and the big Graflex SLR's. There were also these three view cameras, the Crown View (1938-42), the Graphic View (1941-49) and the Graphic View II (1949-67). The Graphic View and View II cameras were produced and sold in volume. A pristine example of either can be purchased for the price of a modern roll film back, and it probably will come with a usable lens. The cameras may be dismissed today by some as unworthy because they are so inexpensive, but the low price is a result of the fact that so many were made. So many were made because photographers wanted them. They wanted them because they were (and are) fine cameras. These view cameras were well made and remain a viable option for the large format photographer.
The Crown View camera was manufactured by the Folmer Graflex Corporation from 1938 to 1942. It is a classic folding wooden view camera in the tradition of the Korona. It has twin rails which provided geared movement to allow focusing with either standard. Minimum extension is 3 9/16. An extension-rails attachment was included, and allowed 19 inches of bellows extension. The Crown View is a pretty camera, with its reddish brown bellows and well-finished wood. The wood is accented with a choice of satin brass or satin chrome hardware. Apparently the brass version was more popular; the chrome version was slightly more expensive ($57.50 vs $63.00 in 1939) and ended production in 1941, while the brass version continued production into the following year.
The lens board is the same as the 4"x4" board used by the pre-Pacemaker
Speed Graphic 4x5 cameras (and others, including the Meridian 45B).
In fact, the Graphic View and View II later used the same board. A recessed
lens board (5/8) is often seen on the used market, but it apparently was
made for the View and View II cameras. It works perfectly on the Crown,
and provides a little more room when photographing with that Graflex or
Wollensak 3 ½ lens.
The back of the Crown View was reversible, i.e., you changed from vertical to horizontal orientation by taking the back off, turning it, and reinstalling it. The mechanism involves two little clips on the body and two pins on the back. The arrangement worked so well that Graflex used it with the Graphic View and View II. The backs are not interchangeable between the Crown View and the later cameras, but the backs on the Graphic View interchange with the View II. The backs for the camera were available in any combination of Graphic or Graflex, 4x5" or 3-1/4 x 4 1/4".
The pretty little Crown View was doomed from the start. It was new production
of old technology, and was quickly eclipsed by its new stable mate, the
Graphic View. The Folmer Graflex Corporation began production of
the Graphic View in 1941 (maybe '40, depending on authority). Its modern
engineering and appearance consigned the poor Crown View to oblivion after
a short production run. Actually, it is unfair to compare these two cameras.
The Crown View was less flexible but much more portable. For whatever reasons,
Folmer Graflex did not want to manufacture both of them. It would have
been competing with itself, and the Crown View already had some other contemporary competitors. This new Graphic View had no real competition, and Graflex
was able to sell it for $97.50 in 1941. While it does not have the classic
beauty of the wooden view camera, the Graphic View is very attractive itself,
in an art deco way. The red bellows and the inverted-V rail are distinctive.
The camera sold and sold well.
Focus is by moving either standard with two knobs that are connected to the rack and pinion mechanism hidden under the V. Focus lock was by a lever under each knob, but collars that are tightened to lock the knobs soon replaced the original levers. The top of the front standard has an accessory attachment point for a bellows lens hood, shown below on a Graphic View II. The lens hood is hard to find now and can cost half as much as an entire camera. It is really pretty for display, but a hat held in your non-release hand is much less trouble, very effective, less expensive and easier to carry. The accessory mount on top of the front standard can also hold an accessory bracket for a Graflite flash. The flash is held sideways. The attachment point is essentially a screw and its hole. The screw is often missing in used cameras. Unless you want to mount an accessory or find the empty screw hole objectionable, the loss of the screw is not too serious.
Graphic View camera has base tilts on both standards. The front standard
has rise and fall (3 5/8") by operation of a locking rack and pinion mechanism.
Both standards shift 5/8" either way, and tilt 26 degrees either way. Both
standards also swing 12 degrees.
The Graphic View was never available with a Graflok back, even though the Graflok back was introduced on Pacemaker cameras before production of the Graphic View ceased. Nonetheless, you often find Graphic View cameras with retrofitted Graflok backs. You cannot distinguish Graphic View and Graphic View II cameras by looking at the back. Both cameras were available with either Graflex or Graphic backs. The backs can be mixed and matched.
At first, the Graphic View II was
available with the same array of Graflex and Graphic backs and reducing
backs. In the early 1950's, Graflex would make a Graflok back by special
order. After 1955, the Graflok back was the only back available. One very
useful accessory is an adapter that allows use of 4x5 Pacemaker lens boards
on either camera. The adapter attaches to the camera, and any number of
Pacemaker lens boards may be used with one adapter.A clever person might
consider buying a Super Graphic camera and a Graphic View or View II. This
person could spend money on the best lenses that he/she can afford and
an adapter so the mounted lenses could be mounted on Pacemaker boards and used
on both of these fine cameras. That combination would cover most situations
unless extension of more than 16 inches is needed. Another 3 inches of
extension would be available with a Crown view, which could be bought for
a couple hundred bucks. Well, maybe that is carrying this Graflex thing
too far. The author, for one, does not think so.
Rise and Tilt