View Full Version : 1st, 2d, or 3rd click on tension spring for an early 5x7 Press Graflex?

25-Apr-2019, 10:36
I picked up an early model 5x7 press graflex in amazing condition recently, but it has an oddity I didn't expect. When setting the spring tension there seem to be three clicks for each number on the tensioner. Which one is the correct one? When winding tighter is it the first, second, or third?

I have a feeling I need to pull the spring off and reset the tension correctly anyway, if anyone has any advice on what shutter/tension combo to set for that, as I have a feeling "+" and "1" would be too weak.

Mark Crabtree
25-Apr-2019, 17:30
It is nice to see some Graflex interest here again. I've been learning about Graflex lately and getting a few good results on 4x5 and 3x4.

I've never had the Press, but was interested in those since that is what Lewis Hine used extensively early in his career. I was researching some pictures he did later in my area and came to the conclusion he must have gotten a Home Portrait at some point. Both of those have slightly different shutters than most of the Graflexes. The Press goes to 1/1500 of a second and I believe has a somewhat more complex spring mechanism.
Still, I would think the setting would be the same.

My cameras only have 1 clcik where the number shows in the window, then another click with no number showing before the next number comes up. Yours obviously has one more click. You say early, so I suppose yours might have the ratchet mechanism for the tension. Either way, I assume the first click is what is intended for use with the speed chart. The tension can get weak, especially if stored with it cranked up, but also it can be surprising how lazy it is on #1. If it closes reliably on the drop shutter setting, then it is probably not far off. Drop shutter is setting the curtain to open "O" and the tension to 1. That is the least tension you'll have of any setting and gives about 1/5 second. If it does not close reliably then you could just go up a click if you don't want to adjust the tension.

I have not had to increase tension on any of the 3 I've owned over the years. They may well run a bit slow, but I sure don't need any less exposure, so have not been tempted to make them move faster.

Good luck. Show us some pictures from the beast soon.

28-Apr-2019, 07:27
I've got a few 4x5 Graflex (2 Speeds of different eras and 3 Crowns of more recent times) but this was my first 5x7. You're right in that it can get to 1500 in theory. The spring mechanism isn't too bad. It's a coil spring attached to a gear mechanism. Both the spring tension knob and the curtain shutter tighten the same spring, just different amounts. I can't quite get it to the 1500 speed anymore, and I have to use a pair of pliers to get it as high as it will go (2 clicks before the full 1500.) It appears to be a 1907 model, so I can't complain, given the age.

All my Graflex cameras the spring tension has 1 number per click. Each rotation either shows a blank plate (keep turning) or a number. But this Press Graflex I can get three clicks on the tension spring with it staying on the same number, and it doesn't appear to be broken. Going by clicks it's something like 3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, -, -, -, 9, etc. Each of the three is definitely on a different tension so now I'm wondering which of the three is the "correct" position to take a shot from.

Mark Crabtree
28-Apr-2019, 09:23
This is an early camera and they were still sorting stuff out. I wouldn't be surprised if this confusion is why they went to blanks appearing between. It really isn't any different beyond an extra click, and seems obvious that the first click is what was intended at the factory. There was always some imprecision in this tension system; all these years later I sure don't assume I'll get the speeds marked on the chart. I also woulnd't consider cranking the tension and slit way up on something that old, but other people might well do that. I'm always at the other end anyway. 1/10, and the unmarked drop shutter 1/5 setting yesterday.

Did you try the drop shutter setting I mentioned? I think that is a good indicator whether your mechanism is working near normal, and is a direct answer to your question about what click to use. Tension at the lowest click, and curtain open "O", then trip. The mirror goes up, then the curtain goes down. If the curtain doesn't close you either need a bit of clean and lube, additional tension, or both. This is a documented speed from Graflex, just not on the chart. It is mentioned in the ads for you camera. It is also the open flash sync speed on the Super D. If the shutter doesn't close well, then try up a click or two on tension. If that fixes it you can probably treat that click as the normal #1, or clean and adjust to deal with it. Mine works fine but is just a bit draggy on my 4x5, so I sometimes go up a click or two if I'm not trying to get the max photons to the film. I would test any of these drop shutter settings with film before counting on them.

Oren Grad
28-Apr-2019, 10:20
I have my 5x7 Press Graflex in hand. It requires varying numbers of clicks to move between the different tension settings, but I've always assumed that the correct number of clicks is the number required to first bring the next tension number into view. There's no ambiguity about that, as the number snaps clearly into place. But I've never had the shutter tested to calibrate the actual achieved speed against the number of clicks.

EDIT: looking at various Graflex instruction manuals available online, they generally say something like "turn the knob until the required tension appears".

29-Apr-2019, 13:08
Thanks all. I was under the impression it was the first, but since none of mine give accurate timing I figured I'd ask. Especially since if you're hitting the release the number comes up first from the higher tension direction, so you would actually need to hit the release 2 more times, which makes the instructions a little more ambiguous.

As for the drop shutter with the mirror, I don't think that works with the press graflex. As the plate says, if you have the spring too low then it won't pull the curtain. At the lowest spring tension it doesn't even move the curtain through T/O settings. I would have to do timings at higher tensions.

I tend to be at lower speeds (using the lens cover as the shutter) when shooting on glass, but if I want to put sheet film in there with the f/4.5 lens it has I'm going to need the higher speeds.

Oren Grad
29-Apr-2019, 14:19
Especially since if you're hitting the release the number comes up first from the higher tension direction, so you would actually need to hit the release 2 more times, which makes the instructions a little more ambiguous.

Good point!