View Full Version : Graphic View II

21-Sep-2004, 21:35
Hi everyone. Sorry to keep bugging you all with questions, I just want to make the right decision when it comes to buying my first 4x5 camera.

A few days ago I asked about the Crown Graphic. Thank you all for your feedback. As I have actually used a 4x5 camera extensively in a studio environment (3 years of a Bachelor degree), I'm thinking that perhaps the Crown maybe a little basic for my needs. While on that topic, I better clearly state my needs! I'm after a 4x5 camera that I can use mostly in the field, and perhaps a small amount of studio work. Landscapes are my main priority, with the intention to shoot 6x17 eventually. I read Kerry's article in View Camera Magazine, and think I would like to try the Shen-Hao 6x17 back. It appeals because of the price (I have a limited budget to set myself up) and I like the fact that it can be used with any 4x5 camera with a Grifloc back.

As a photographer, I fully understand the importance of a good lens. It seems as though the 90mm/F8 Schneider Super Angulon is the best choice for my price range at the wide end of the spectrum, and it will apparently also work well with the 6x17 back, as it has good coverage and is reasonably sharp towards the edges and has average light drop-off. I'm not sure how you go when it comes to finding filters for this lens yet, such as a pola, centre ND, etc. Still have to research that part. Can anyone help??

I have found a Graphic View II camera with a Grafloc back and the above mentioned lens for sale as a package, so it all seems to fit the bill. Does anyone know much about this camera? Such as the widest lens (non-6x17 use) it will take, availability of lens boards, can you remove the bellows for a wide angle bag bellows etc.? Also, it seems to come with a sort of tripod head that clamps onto the monorail. How is this head attached to a tripod??

I know that a monorail system is not as user-friendly in the field, but I believe this is quite a compact system as far as monorail cameras go. It also has far greater movements than the Crown of course.

Would appreciate anyone's views.

Thanks, Travis.

Jim Ewins
21-Sep-2004, 22:55
Don't get too hung up making the "right decision". Mistakes are for learning. Your needs and interests will change and so will your "ideal" camera (s). You may have observed that there are usually several orders of magnitude more answers than those giving them. Jim

Dave Moeller
21-Sep-2004, 23:08
If you have not already done so, you should look at this article:


There are a couple of pictures on the page that make it obvious how the tripod adapter attaches to the monorail. I'm sure the bottom of the head has a tripod adapter built into it; you simply screw the tripod adapter onto the top of your tripod. The article also mentions that the shortest bellows extension is 3.5 inches.

I've never seen the camera personally, but it seems to use plain, square lensboards. These can be easily made out of hobby plywood, available at hobby and art supply shops. I am far from mechanically inclined...if I can figure out how to make a lensboard for a Cambo SC out of hobby plywood, I think almost anyone can figure out how to make a lensboard for almost any camera. (I haven't purchased a lensboard in quite a while; it takes me anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to knock out a wooden lensboard for my Shen-Hao, Cambo SC, or Calumet C1 cameras. Flat-black spray paint works well for finishing. The Dremel tool set I use cost about the same as one lensboard for either of my 8x10 cameras, and has more than paid for itself in savings on lensboards.)

Jon Shiu
21-Sep-2004, 23:48
Hi, I have used the Graphic View (prior version of same camera) and can say it is not very good for use with a 90mm lens. The bellows are too stiff for good movements when they are compressed all the way and not removable. The clamp mount just screws into the tripod head in the normal way. Of course then you have a redundant, heavy tilt handle.

Darin Cozine
22-Sep-2004, 03:02
Travis, I handled a graphic view ii in a camera store, and I was not impressed. You may want to look at an older cambo, which have removeable bellows and many accesories available. But really look at lightweight field camera like a tachihara or shen hao would not be too much more expensive.

Ernest Purdum
22-Sep-2004, 04:53
An important cosideration with the Graphic View II is the condition of the rather delicate focusing parts. Many will not focus smoothly over the full range. Sometimes the problem is correctible, sometimes new parts, probably unobtainable, would be required.

The tripod head atttaches to a tripod by a 1/4" - 20 screw.

22-Sep-2004, 05:15
hi travis

i had and used a red-bellows graphic view II for close to 12 years, and really liked the camera. it is rugged, sometimes they come with a fiber box if the one you are looking at has one, you should have no problems lugging it around ( if it doesn't, they are pretty easy to come by). mine was from the army signal corps and had compartments for 12 film holders; cutouts for filters in the top-foam; and a compartment ( that snapped shut ) for 2 lenses on lensboards. the camera went upside down and the rail rested in v-cuts in the center. it was very well designed, and i wish someone made something like that box today, i would rather use IT than the tenba case i currently use.

one thing to think about is that the widest lens you will be able to use with the graphic view II is a 90mm lens. you will need to find a recessed lensboard ( or make one yourself ) if you go the buy-one-route, they can be hard to find, or command more than $50 for one used. the bellows are fixed, so you won't be able to use a bag-bellows with this camera if you wanted to use a wider lens. with the 90mm and recessed board, you are pretty squished, but you will still be able to get movements without too much of a problem. i used a 90mm raptar, a wollensak 3" "EXWA" and a 90mm super angulon and was able to get enough movement document a quarry ( from 300 feet up atop its rim - looking down ). the camera was able to use a 210/370 symmar with enough extension.

from what i remember the problem that often happened with my camera was the standards' lock-down sometimes did not allow them to slide freely on the rail. you can either loosen the knobs and push/pull the standards on the rail, or you could pull the knob out ( there is a spring in there ), and it released the standard to move back/forth. sometimes the metal sleeve would move a little bit without the rest of the mechanism.

the compendium is pretty hard to find - i looked for years and eventually gave up.

its a nice camera, and if you don't see yourself needing something new/modern that can use a super-wide angle lens ( read: something wider than 90mm ), or a loner lens ... you'll probably be happy with it.

Larry Gebhardt
22-Sep-2004, 05:56
I have a Graphic View II that has been in it's case for at least the last 12 months. I really liked the camera and it has some nice features such as axial tilt. The only thing I really use it for now is macro type work in the studio (actually my kitchen). The camera is too bulky to realy hike with. I did it for over a year, but it was not fun. I think this would be the same for any monorail. I had no major problems using the Super Angulon 90mm on the camera, but the bellows does get really bunched up. I have a couple of recessed lensboards for the camera that I never got a chance to use because my SA came with a 00 shutter (something you should check). The tripod head the camera comes with is worthless in my opinion. I bought a machined aluminum clamp online (pacnet?) and it made the whole setup solid. Since I bought my Shen-Hao I have not really found much use for the GV.

Matt Miller
22-Sep-2004, 06:46
If landscapes are your priority then I would advise against the GVII. My first 4x5 camera was a GVII. It is a nice solid camera, but a real pain to hike around with. It really doesn't detach from the rail & fit in a backpack like other monorails. You'll have to carry it around in the enormous case or, like I did, attached to the tripod & slung over your shoulder. For studio work, or working close to your car it would be great.

Gem Singer
22-Sep-2004, 06:51
Hi Travis,

Since you mention that you would like to try the Shen Hao 6X17 roll film back, eventually. Why not purchase a new 4X5 Shen Hao to begin with? You can always add the 6X17 back when you are ready, and you can rest assured, knowing that the camera and the back will be compatible.

Jim, at Midwest Photo Exchange has The 4X5 Shen Hao in stock, as well as a large selection of new, and previously owned lenses. I'm certain that he will be able to offer you a package deal on a camera and lens combination that will fit your budget (jim@mpex.com).

22-Sep-2004, 08:44
just to add onto what i said before -

the camera and case make it easy to *lug* around, but that doesn't actually mean that it is a pleasure to lug around :) . when i documented the quarry, i had to hike, and climb rocks with both the GVII and a second case containing a speed graphic ( its fiber case was strapped to my back ). the guy that was with me brought the tripod, the cooler of film holders and his archaeology-field notes. while it was a major PIA sometimes, i don't really think if i had something more portable ( folding field camera --- more compact / pulled apart view camera ) it would have made my life any easier. in the end i guess it really depends on how much film, how many lenses you want to bring, and whatever else you need to bring too AND how far away you want to trek. granted i am not one of those people that has a backpack with a few expensive and small lenses, a handful of film holders and a camera all easy to transport.

good luck!

Don Wallace
22-Sep-2004, 09:02
I used a GVII with a 90mm f/8 Super Angulon and found that it was not really useable with the bellows compressed. Too tight for movements. I got the Graphic recessed lensboard and the lens simply did not fit. The shutter (Compur) was too big.

steve simmons
22-Sep-2004, 09:33
Before you buy any camera may I suggest reading

Getting Started in Large Format that is a free article on our web site


and then go to the Free Articles section

Also, one of these books would be helpful

User's Gude to the View Camera by Jim Stone


Using the View Camera that I wrote

IMHO the camera you are conidering is very crude by today's standards.

There is also a lens comparison chart on the sitein the Free section that might help you decide which focal lengths you might want to start with.

steve simmons

22-Sep-2004, 10:18
I agree that the GVII is the best starter view camera, especially for the money involved. Reports that a 90mm lens requires recessed lensboard is based on those lenses (Angulon, Wide Field Ektar) which were available when the GVII was new. Later lenses (Super Angulon, etc) work much better, and with less bellows restrictions.

steve simmons
22-Sep-2004, 10:48
I disagree about the GVII. By today's standards it is a crude instrument. The reading I've suggested will help clarify what features are important - movements belows extension, etc.

steve simmons

22-Sep-2004, 11:04
I suppose the day would have to come when I had to disagree with Steve... ;-)

The GVII is a solid "workhorse" camera that sustained the professional industry and military for decades.

It offers full front/rear tilt-swing-shift and front rise-fall. All movements positively lock down tight, including the focusing. 3 to 19 inch bellows. People say it has trouble with a 90mm, but they don't USE a GVII. With a recessed lens board, the camera easily uses a 90 with movements. I have a 75mm mounted for mine and can use it _with movements_ and still keep the tripod mount in-between the standards! I haven't tried it yet, but I believe a 65mm would work just fine too! And besides all that, it's one of the best looking cameras ever made (as far as metal rail models anyway).

Many people knock the GVII because it's not a $5000 or better new/black/sleek super view. These same people tell you that you have to buy $5000 lenses or it isn't worth your time...

The GVII is not the best camera out there. But give it the credit it is due! It's one heck of a fine camera and well worth the cost. And if taken care of, it will outlast us all!

And, if you want to know about Graflex cameras, try http://www.graflex.org

Don Wallace
22-Sep-2004, 11:49
Rich, I couldn't agree with you more about the GVII (sorry Steve) except for one point. You say

"People say it has trouble with a 90mm, but they don't USE a GVII. With a recessed lens board, the camera easily uses a 90 with movements. "

I don't have a lot of experience but one experience I DO have is using a GVII with an f/8 Super Angulon in a Compur mounted on the Graphic View recessed board. It doesn't fit. Period. Now there may well be lots of other 90mm lens that work just fine, or better recessed boards, but that combo doesn't work.

I used the GVII in combination with a Super Graphic and I had the handy little adaptor that allowed me to use the same lenses on both cameras. It was a great combo.

John Kasaian
22-Sep-2004, 12:13

FWIW I think the GV2 is indeed a workable option for the price. As far as performance with the 90mm f/8 and recessed lensboard go, I'll have to let others who have used this combination duke out the pros and cons. As john nanian says, you'll be carrying this camera in a case, not a backpack so as far as the portability issue goes I think that depends on how far away from the car do you intend to lug your camera. If you're looking for a monorail you can back pack consider the Gowland pocket model---about the same as a Toho at a fraction of the cost, they break down into manageable components, plus they are available used(Peter made some up for Calumet a while back that show up on eBay every so often for about what a GV2 would go for) Being ultra light wieght they do have their quirks compared to other monorails, but thats the trade off you pay for portability. As far as using a 90mm SA on one, you can call Peter Gowland up yourself and ask him how it will work out. Very nice guy. Check out his site at www.petergowland.com.

Another option to consider is a Linhof Technika III, a lot like a Graphic only a lot more moves. The prices for these seem to have dropped to where they are approaching what mint GV2s and Super Speeds are bringing. I've never owned a 90mm but I'm sure there are some here who can tell you how one would perform on the III.

If I were shooting 4x5 I'd be happy owning any of these cameras.

Good luck!

22-Sep-2004, 12:24

Thanks. I love to hear about people using the GVII's.

I just checked my 75. It's in a Copal 0. It's tight, but works fine.

My 90 is a Raptar Wide Angle, mounted in a Signal Corps Wollensak Optical Co. shutter (looks the same as the small Graphic shutter). There's plenty of room for this, except for the bi-post flash terminals. I use a home made cord for that with alligator clips at one end ;-)

I never said all 90's would fit and sorry if I implied that. I just get annoyed when people state facts such as you can't go shorter than 90 on the GVII's and Speeds. And we hear it all the time.

Of course it doesn't help with the wide lenses, but that board adapter is just a wonderful item. I can use lenses mounted for my Speed on my GVII's, all the way up to my Century Universal with a home made 4 to 6 inch adapter board. Although few of those "4x5" lenses work well on 8x10 ;-)

After all this, it would be nice to find a more modern 90 that fits the GVII recessed board. I'll have to ask around... There must be some 90 that mounts in a Copal 0?

Jerry Thirsty
22-Sep-2004, 14:24
A remark about the recessed lens board and the 90mm Super Angulon:

I milled my own recessed lens board for my GVII based on the dimensions of the opening in the front standard. Obviously I made the cavity in the board as large as I could. The Super Angulon just fits. But when I went to mount the lens board for the first time, I realized that there is another plate behind the front standard which has a smaller opening than the standard. This plate is used to clamp the front end of the bellows to the back of the front standard. I thought I would just unscrew the plate, cut the hole larger, and re-install it. No Dice. The bellows is glued on hard with something, and it became clear as I was trying to separate the bellows from the plate that I was going to end up tearing it before the plate would come free. So finally I very carefully cut out the opening with a Dremel tool and filed it smooth with the bellows still hanging on. It was a PITA, and of course brass filings clung to the inside of the bellows and were difficult to remove. Now it's done, and everything fits, but it's not something I would ever want to do again.

For hiking, I carry it in a large Kelty Redwing backpack. I run both standards all the way down to one end of the rail (so it forms an "L"), remove the tripod mount, and put it in the pack on it's side. My soft cooler with holders fits in the corner of the L, and a couple of tupperware containers with lenses fits along the back of the L. It's not great fun to hike with, but I can take it several miles without any real strain.

L.V. Smith
22-Sep-2004, 14:44
I agree with Rich SBV, and others who like the Graphic View ll. I have the Camera and case for it with all the compartments. You can get a very good pack frame, (I have one for packing out Elk), and hike anywhere you want with a nice tripod. The cameras are not expensive. The lens and the person operating it take the picture. In my opinion you are better off with a good lens, and a not so fancy camera, then a fancy camera and a medicore or cheap lens, especially when you start out. The camera has enough movements, and is rather easy to use, and set up. It even has a leveling bubble. I like mine, and probably won't buy another one. Best regards

22-Sep-2004, 16:16
Thank you all for your replies. As usual (and expected) the field seems to be divided on this one.

The camera does come with the case, as well as a few 4x5 dark slides and 545 polaroid back. I'm unsure what shutter the SA lens is fitted with, but can see by the serial number that it was manufactured in approx. 1957. It's the older chrome barrel model. The lens is shown fixed to the camera on a normal lens board, not a recessed board...which raises a few questions considering the feedback I received. Is it possible the lens will work without the recessed board on this camera?? It would seem so if it is being sold as a package.

The camera kit and be viewed on ebay at:


I would appreciate anyone having a look and commenting. I think I might bid up to a certain amount and if it sells for more than I'm prepared to spend I'll just keep looking.

Thanks, Travis.

Ernest Purdum
22-Sep-2004, 17:11
I looked. Selling a lens along with a view camera is not a good strategy for the seller, but can be a good deal for the buyer, even if he just wants to turn around and resell the camera of the lens. By contrast, your strategy of letting it go by if it passes a certain figure is very sensible. It looks like a very attractive package if it doesn't go up too much.

Alex Hawley
22-Sep-2004, 18:53
I took a look at it and I would take it in a heartbeat for a first camera. I settled on a GVI for my first and still have it. One thing to remember - both cameras are 1940's designs so they naturally don't have some of the more refined bells and whistles that the current cameras have. I never felt cheated. It still rises/falls/swings/tilts and focuses.

No, you can't interchange the bellows without near complete dissassembly (one of the modern whistles). Wouldn't do any good anyway because at 90mm (3-1/2") both standards are near hard-up against the tripod head clamp on the rail (another modern whistle). A 135mm lens lets the bellows extend nicely for easy use of all the movement.

Yes, you can make home-brew lensboards out of wood. Not a problem.

The 90mm SA is a fine lens and you won't go wrong with it. In this case, the camera itself is the limitation. Keep the SA and pick up another longer lens if you need the movements.

Finally, its not conducive to backpacking. Given its known limitations, its a good choice.

Jim Galli
22-Sep-2004, 19:07
Travis, Here's (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3839453525) a link to a GVI that I sold just a week ago for reference. Yes the 90 is more desireable. You can see what the original compendium looks like for these. That SA seems to be in an early Prontor shutter. They're OK but plan on a service for it. Good luck and have fun. I'm also a fan of the GV's. "crude instrument" seems a little rough. I suppose a 1955 Chevy is a crude instrument by todays standards. We seem to have forgotten that a car is to get you to town and a camera is for making pictures.

Don Wallace
23-Sep-2004, 07:30
I used my GVII with a 90mm Super Angulon. It just had no movements when the bellows was compressed. The SA regularly sells for around 500-600 bucks in good condition and is a great lens.

My final bit of advice is that if you plan to do serious trekking, the GVII will wear you out. It doesn't pack up easily. Taking it on and off the rail is huge pain, believe me, and if you don't, it is an odd shape to lug around. However, if you are like me and subscribe to the philosophy that anything more than 50 metres from the car is simply not photogenic, it is a good choice. Another relatively inexpensive choice is the Super Graphic. It really is a field camera, packing up very compactly, and has a good range of front movements (no back movements, unfortunately). However, I think they are getting pricey to the point where you might as well get a more modern field camera.