View Full Version : Speed Graphic Lens Board

Alan Tippett
14-Jul-2004, 13:45
If this is to basic a question please excuse my ignorance. If I should be using a different forum please advise. I am new to Large Format Cameras. I have been using my TLR Rollie for some time however recently I was given a Speed Graphic. I would like to slowly enter the world of 4X5. Any suggestions are welcome. I would assume one of the first things to look at is the lens. My question is are lens board standard or is that something I need to keep in mind? The Speed Graphic came equiped with a Kodak Ektar f/4.7 127mm lens. What should a beginner like myself keep in mind for my first couple of steps. I do only B&W and I am really enjoying these negatives.

tim o'brien
14-Jul-2004, 14:02
Lens boards are not standard. Depends on the model of Speed you have. Anniversary types (pre 1950 or so) have plastic or wooden lens boards on them, later Pacemaker models have stamped metal boards. The former are easy to build, the later are found at Midwest Camera Exchange or other suppliers of ancient photo stuff, or found in auctions on EBay, or deep down in boxes at photo shows.

The 127 lens is generally a very sharp lens. It, of course, depends on how it was treated, cleaned, etc. Get your shutter speeds checked and perhaps the shutter CLA'd. The back shutter may or maynot be accurate, depending on how the unit was stored. The springs do slow after while. I find I use the back shutter very infrequently on my 4x5 but it comes in handy on the 3x4 and 2x3 Speeds with barrel lens.

Your Speed is your friend. Treat it right, and it will treat you to amazing quality of photos.

tim in san jose

neil poulsen
14-Jul-2004, 14:04
The nice thing about Speed Graphic is that the lensboards are reasonably priced. Usually, you can find them for under $20, if not less than $10. I don't think it's too much to worry about, because your lensboard investment will be small. A few view camera manufacturers, like Toyo, make adaptor lensboards that will accept speed graphic pacemaker lens boards like yours. There's also a common adaptor that can be used to mount speed graphic lensboards into cameras needing 4 inch boards. Or, if you decide to move to a different camera, you can sell the Speed Graphic lensboards. In fact, I had a homemade lensboard adaptor for my view camera, and the speed graphic boards I used worked just fine.

If you move to other cameras, like Arca-Swiss, then lensboards become an issue. They're expensive, going for $60 or more per board. That can add up.

14-Jul-2004, 14:12
One thing to notice is the size of the lens hole on the board. Blank boards are easy enough to bore. Boards with holes that are too small I guess can be opened up. But a board for say a #3 shutter will have problems with a #0 shutter.


Go there and read everything.

14-Jul-2004, 14:14
The Speed Graphic is a robust piece of equipment to learn on and use, limited by movements but built like a brick outhouse. See www.graflex.org for more information and to narrow down the model and features that you have. The Ektar is an excellent vintage lens. If you have an Anniversary model, the lensboards are wooden type-C, the stamped metal ones are more common and found on eBay.

If you haven't already done so, give the camera a once over to glue down any loose leatherette, tighten screws, calibrate the rangefinder (if you have a Kalart or Hugo Meyer), set the infinity stops and test for any light leaks on the bellows, joints and focal plane shutter curtain. When focused at infinity with the stock lens, the edges of the negatives are likely a bit soft, so I find it is best to focus at 50ft and let a small aperture do the rest of the work. Cheers,

Rafael Garcia
12-Jun-2007, 08:39
I have an Anniversary Speed Graphic and have your same lens. It is a good combination. I use it for hand-held shots and gives me sharp enough results, depending on how wide I open the diaphragm, but not unlike (mayde a tad softer)what you get with a Rollei TLR. Here's an example taken with the 127mm Ektar, f 8 at 1/240th (curtain shutter) on a very bright, sunshiny day:


As for lensboards, I make mine out of 1/4" plywood, cut to 4"x4" and rout the inside edge 1/8" deep for a lightrap. The hole can be drilled with an adjustable hole bit from Ace Hardware up to 2" diameter, which accomodates most lenses/shutters.

It is a fun camera for general purpose hand-held snapshots. For super-sharp work, a wood field camera/tripod combo is hard to beat, though.