View Full Version : Need advice for ground glass on old RB Auto Graflex

4-May-2013, 00:31

I just picked up an old 3x4 RB Auto Graflex. Looking down through the chimney, the image on the ground glass is somewhat dim and very low in contrast. The mirror appears to be in good condition and the lens that came with the camera is also in good shape. I have mounted several lenses on the camera, but the viewfinder is still low in contrast and somewhat dim.

I think that my camera was made somewhere between 1917 and 1925. I was wondering if I could improve the viewing conditions if I replaced the old ground ground glass with a new modern ground glass, like those made by Steve Hopf. Except for the dim viewfinder, the camera is in good working condition, and I'm itching to start using it. I'll probably use a page magnifier on top of old screen for now, but I was wondering if I could expect to see any improvement in the viewfinder with new ground glass.

Any advice would be welcome.


Mike Sullivan

Tin Can
4-May-2013, 00:53
In the last year I have replaced 6 GG. The first 3 were cheap eBay. The last 3 were Steve Hopf. 2 were borosilicate and 1 soda-lime. I vastly prefer Steve Hopf's GG. I started comparing the whole pile by simply looking at the same light bulb through them all. Obvious differences. I recommend Mr Hopf.

Jim C.
4-May-2013, 06:31
Try cleaning the GG and mirror first , it's amazing how much muck the GG can accumulate,
I'm working on a 5 x 7 and cleaning the GG made a huge difference. Soak it with windex or equivalent
and then rinse it off in running water. Use caution cleaning the mirror, I'm not sure what is OEM with
the Graflex SLR's, my 40's Graflex has a front surface mirror, the 5 x 7's all had regular mirrors.

4-May-2013, 08:25
Thanks guys. I'll remove the ground glass and soak it like Jim says to start. The mirror is definitely a front surface mirror. Is there a way to clean the mirror without wrecking it? I know that front surface mirrors are fragile.


Jim C.
4-May-2013, 13:43
Your milage may vary with this but if your bold enough you can take the mirror out and clean it with a alcohol
based lens cleaner, or in place if you can reach it easily.
If the mirror goes kaput on you the up side is replacement FS mirrors are relatively cheap
on the bay, but you'll have to cut it down to size.

Tracy Storer
4-May-2013, 14:54
Hi Mike !
+1 on trying to clean the GG first. I usually just pop 'em in the kitchen sink and scrub with dishwashing detergent. The old ones can be really grungy and dark. YMMV

Vincent Pidone
4-May-2013, 15:12
I read somewhere in old literature from Graflex (no, I don't remember where) that the preferred method for cleaning the front surface mirrors was plain water on a cotton ball (applied gently). I expect that distilled water would be best.

Ian Grant posted some time ago that he has a good inexpensive UK source for re-silvering front surface mirrors.

Jim C.
4-May-2013, 16:16
Yep, distilled water is what amateur astronomy sites recommend for telescope mirrors
won't leave mineral deposits when it dries.

4-May-2013, 21:46
Thanks again guys. I've decided that gleaning the GG with either Windex or a drop or two of Lemon Joy dish detergent in water is what I'll try first. For the mirror, I'll try the distilled water on a cotton ball method after I give it a good dusting with a camel hair brush. I really want to get the old girl up and running. Shutter seems fine, nice and smooth running, sounds like the lubricants are still working. I appreciate the help given here.

Hi Tracy,

I still need to get the old Elwood up and running. Should have done it a while back, but life seems to have an annoying way of messing up one's plans. She's safely put away though, waiting for me to reconfigure the darkroom. I found a couple of nice clean Kodak Ektanons to use on it, a 7.5 inch and a 10 inch. One of them even came to me on an Elwood board.