[Crown View,
Graphic View, and Graphic View II]

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.


Crown View]

The Crown View

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.

[Crown View Extended]The movements provided in the Crown View are typical for this type of camera. It had front rise (1”) and fall (13/16”). Front shift (1 3/16”) and tilt (12 degrees) completed the movements. There were no front swings. The rear standard had only swing and tilt (both 12 degrees). These meager movements may make the Crown View camera more of a nice display piece today. It probably would fill the needs of many modern photographers, but other cameras in the same used price range provide more movements. It’s better to have it and not need it, you know.


[recessed lensboards]            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".
[Crown Back Landscape]
[Crown Portrait]

[The Graphic View]

The Graphic View

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.

            The Graphic View is a monorail design. The inverted-V monorail is made of an aluminum alloy, with a rack and pinion focusing mechanism hidden under the rail. The camera attaches to a tripod with a Graflex-made tripod head. In fact, without that tripod head, the camera is useless. A machinist can make an adapter that fits the rail, but it may be less expensive just to find and buy a complete beater camera to get its tripod head. That means that when you are looking for a Graphic View (or View II, since it uses the same setup), you should be sure that the tripod head is included. The tripod head apparently was sold as an accessory at first. Were they hand-holding the camera?!? Later, the tripod head was included with each Graphic View and View II.

[Graphic View Head]

The Graphic View and View II came with a really useful carrying case. It was made from a mysterious material called "Vulcanoid." The camera is securely held inverted in the case along with just about anything you may need for a shoot. It is useful for that purpose today. If you are shooting within easy walking distance of your car, the View or View II can be carried to the location in the secure, protective Vulcanoid case. You can easily carry the movements of a true view camera to the location. The Graphic View has more movements than the average field camera at a fraction of the cost. Save that little field camera for situations when you really need portability at the cost of flexibility. As you know, all the camera does is connect the lens with the film holder. The ubiquitous Graphic View cameras do a fine job of connecting.

            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 Tilts]The 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.

[Graphic View Bellows]Maximum bellows extension is 12". Minimum extension is 3 1/2" which may be reduced by using that recessed lens board. The movements have a centering notch. With tilt and swing, the standards are parallel when at the extremes of their movement. The rear standard has a spirit level and clips for a dark cloth. As with the Crown View, the landscape/portrait orientation is easily changed by removing the back and reattaching it in the proper orientation. The camera came with either a Graflex or Graphic back, and 3 1/4" x 4 1/4" reducing backs were available in either Graphic or Graflex configuration.

        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.

[Graphic View Glass]
Graphic View Ground Glass
[Graphic View Clips]
Graphic View Clips
View II Movements]

The Graphic View II

The Graphic View II, seen in the above photo (left), was introduced by Graflex, Inc., in 1949.  The photo above shows the View II and the Graphic View with both standards adjusted to maximum tilt and swing. The newer version has a slightly different finish, but you have to look hard to see it. The Graphic View has a satin gray finish on painted metal surfaces. The same parts on the View II are painted with a silver paint that has a slightly mottled look to it. The measurements for the Graphic View II's movements are the same as the original Graphic View's measurements. The Graphic View II has a four-inch longer monorail and a correspondingly longer bellows extension of 16 inches. The tilts were changed  to axis tilts from the Graphic View's base tilts. With the axis tilts, adjustments of the tilt pivot at the optical axis, and thus affect focus less than the base tilts do. 

       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.
[Graphic View II Rise/Tilt]
Rise and Tilt
[Graphic View II Back]
Graflok back
[Graphic View II with back in portrait orientation]
[Graphic View II with back rotated to landscape orientation]

More information

graflex.org: dedicated to all graflex cameras.

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