View Full Version : Graflex Suggestions?

Joerg Colberg
29-Jun-2005, 12:25
My apologies to everyone for asking such a silly, simple question. But I figured I'd probably benefit from getting some suggestions before diving into the wonderful and frightening world of LF photography.

I have been thinking about getting into LF - so far, I've only used 35mm, 120, and digital - for a variety of reasons. I like to print big, but, more importantly, I want utterly crisp images, and I also need to be able to control perspective corrections (I'll be doing a lot of architectural photography). I was thinking about getting an older Graflex camera, maybe a Crown Graphic or a Speed Graphic.

I know next to nothing about those cameras (and about LF in general), though, so I was wondering whether anybody had some tips. Are there any special lenses I should aim for? Should I get a Crown or a Speed Graphic? I don't think I want to get a monorail, yet - I think getting started easy would be better for me (I also need to get started developing my own film). Also, are there any good introductions to LF online?

It'd be great if you could email me but I'll also be checking back here. If you don't hear back from me right away: I'll be out of town until 4/7. Thanks a lot in advance for any kind of help!

- Joerg

Joerg Colberg
29-Jun-2005, 12:32
PS: If you think a Graflex would be too limited as far as perspective control is controlled I'd be curious to hear about good (affordable) alternatives.

Oren Grad
29-Jun-2005, 12:37
Joerg -

I don't think a Graphic is ideal for a first camera, especially if you're interested in architecture - the movements are too limited. I would recommend an inexpensive 4x5 wooden field camera, like the Tachihara, which is lightweight, easy to use, and versatile enough to let you try many different things and learn a lot. Unless you have specialized requirements, you many never need another camera.

Good luck...

29-Jun-2005, 12:41
Speed/Crown Graphics are really unsuited for architectural photography, except in a pinch, because the back is fixed in horizontal orientation with little or no lens movements available for perspective control. The Super Graphic or Busch Pressman are both better choices, but frankly I think that you might as well go ahead with a monorail. Graphic View II or Kodak/Calumet are going cheap these days ($150 plus of minus). Perhaps an even better choice is shoot on 120 and make your corrections with PhotoShop.

Kevin Crisp
29-Jun-2005, 12:45
Joerg: A Crown Graphic is not the architectural photographer's tool of choice. (Don't get me wrong, I love my Crown and use it all the time -- but not for that.) A basic folding field camera like a Tachihara or a Shen Ho or a Zone VI might be a better place to start. Used monorails are real bargains, but you say you're not interested in those. They are really well suited to architectural photography. A 135mm to 150mm lens is considered "normal" for the format. Any new or relatively modern lens from any of the big 4 manufacturers is going to be very good. For architectural photography you will certainly want wider lenses, at least one in the 75-90mm range, at a minimum, and a lens like that with an image circle big enough to give you room for movements will be fairly expensive, even used. You might want to get the hang of it with a normal or slightly wider lens, that way you won't waste money buying other lenses which aren't really right for what you want to do. For resources there are many good introductory books, the people I've given "Using the View Camera" (Simmons) to have found it helpful. This website has a great deal of information. If you have questions, ask and people here would be happy to help. The basics you need are: 1. Camera 2. Lens on lensboard, with a cable release 3. Darkcloth or dark t-shirt so you can see the ground glass 4. film 5. meter 6. film holders 7. focussing loupe or powerful reading glasses 8. tripod 9. something to carry your stuff around in.

Joerg Colberg
29-Jun-2005, 12:50
OK, from these responses already I see that a Graflex doesn't seem to be the best choice. That's good to know. So what's the ideal camera for architectural shots?

Mark Sampson
29-Jun-2005, 13:11
Most of the professional architecture shooters use monorail cameras; Sinars, Linhofs, etc. They are best suited for the wide-angle work that is required. But I believe Kirk Gittings, a fine architectural photographer who contributes regularly to this forum, has used both a Tachihara 4x5 and the very basic Calumet CC400-series wide-angle camera. So there are no hard-and-fast rules beyond wide-angle capability and having a camera with back movements... the "normal"lens for architecture is a 90mm; any of the f/8 models from the major lens manufacturers would be a great place to start.

John Kasaian
29-Jun-2005, 13:42

Welcome to LF! While a speed or crown are not be the best tool for shots that demand extensive movements---thats what monorails with bag bellows are for--- they are good for learning LF on a budget as well as handheld LF photography. A crown can certainly handle a 90mm and while It's movements are limited, most 90mms I'm familiar with don't have much of an image circle to accomodate much movements anyway. I think you'd be surprised what one of these cameras can do. Given your needs though, perhaps a monorail or something like a tachi would work out better for you in the long run. Used LF gear is fairly cheap these days. If you can afford to buy new, you might find deals on kits from Calumet, Linhoff, Toyo etc... that will give you a good start. OTOH, If you want something old and funky look for an old Agfa Ansco Universal which will do just about everthing a modern camera will do in addition to looking really, really cool at a fraction of the cost--it will even accept a 5x7 back. My 2-cents.

Dan Jolicoeur
29-Jun-2005, 15:08
I started lf with a speed that i still have hanging around. I then sold my graflex veiw II for a Shen-Hao. The camera does not matter as much as the lens in my opinion. A monorail is a great place to start. The view II was in mint condition, a little bulky on hikes but do able. As I look back I would have been just fine to keep the veiw II and put the money into good glass. Although I have no complaints with the Shen-Hao except the stock ground glass.

Herb Cunningham
29-Jun-2005, 15:41
you can find a good cheap wood folder, or an older monorail. Monorails are not sexy, but they can do anything.

Except for Arca, they are really cheap. Lenses are the thing to spend money on.

good luck.

29-Jun-2005, 18:21
Hello Joerg,

I would suggest that you evaluate your needs carefully before spending any money. So far you have been told to approach large format with the three basic styles of camera, press, field and view. Any lens you buy will most likely fit all three camera designs, but not always, you have to shop wisely.

Press cameras such as the Linhof or Graflex are really designed to be hand held working cameras with a degree of speed. Field cameras are light weight and usually quick to setup on a tripod. View camera are all the essentials without fancy coverings, larger, heavier and are the right choice for architectural photography. Require a tripod a bit heavier than those used on lighter cameras and can do anything because it is the pure essentials Film plane, bellows & lens plane and it is that simple. Yet once you begin to look it can be a bit overwhelming because of so many choices that are out there.

To enter 4x5 you might want to start less expensively with a press camera. Although I have never had the opportunity to use one I think the Linhof cameras offer more movements. However, there are others like the Meridian and the Super Speed that allow more functions than the basic Crown Graphic like I own.

If you plan to mix your shooting this would get you started and allow you to get a couple of lenses, a lube and some cut film holders, all of which you will use with other cameras. View cameras have come down in price within the used market and speaking from my experience I like the Cambo product line.

For my camera recommendation: Get a Tachihara Woodfield and have fun!

Hope this helps, Paul

Vick Vickery
30-Jun-2005, 06:43
Joerg, since you indicate that you will do "...a lot of architectural photography." there is simply no substitute for a full view camera, either a monorail or one of the older folding wooden full-view cameras such as the Burke & James or similar cameras...but it must have full front and back movements. If cost is a factor, my best recomendation price-wise would be a Calumet 400 or similar monorail which can always be bought on eBay for $150 US or less; its back movements often involve tilting the rear after tilting the rail, but they are there nonetheless (you might want to look as illustrations of this camera in Adams' "Camera and Lens" at your library. Anything less than full movements will be severely limiting for architectural photography. While I have and enjoy using a nice Super Graphic, it is basicly a field-camera with very limited movements.

A couple of good but basic lenses of around normal and slightly wide focal lengths (135-160mm and 90mm) will give you flexability to handle most architectural subjects. 135mm Wide-field Ektars and 90mm Wollensak Extreme Wide Angle lenses are often seen at very low prices and, while not necessarily the greatest lenses ever produced, give you alot of value for the amount spent at typical used prices.

Good luck with your future in photography.

Richard Schlesinger
30-Jun-2005, 14:55
Get hold of a copy of Stroebel's book "View Camera Technique". It will answer all your questions plus many more as they arise.

Neal Shields
30-Jun-2005, 15:24
Graflex View II s are almost free on the auction site and you can make lens boards with scrap wood and a pen knife.

However, they are getting old enough that some of the bellows may have light leaks.

Do not get a View I because they don't have a Grafloc back. In fact don't get any camera that doesn't have a Grafloc back.