View Full Version : Educate me on Graphics please

13-Feb-2007, 18:46
I have a full Sinar system with three lenses, film holders and Polaroid back.

I am thinking I want to try out an older Crown/ Speed Graphic but know nothing about these cameras.

So, I am looking for information on which model to look for, what they cost, and other accessories I need. I am not looking for a collectors item, rather I am looking for a good user with a budget around $300 or so.

Any ideas would be most welcome!



Dave Parker
13-Feb-2007, 18:55
Hi Max,

The best source of information on the various cameras is


Tons of information on just about anything you could want to know.


Walter Calahan
13-Feb-2007, 19:19
Also, simply follow the Speed / Crown Graphics on sale on eBay to see the various pricings and qualities.

13-Feb-2007, 19:43
Get a plain 4x5 Crown Graphic with 135mm f:4.7 lens (Xenar or Raptar). They were made in two versions, one with a side Kalart rangefinder, and one with a built-in rangefinder on top. This version is only better if you're going to use different lenses and want them coupled to the rangefinder, and personally I'd pick the Kalart model.

Frank Petronio
13-Feb-2007, 20:21
Most people want the Pacemaker Crown Graphic made after WW2 with the Graflock back. All the ones I have seen come with a decent Ektalite fresnel. They are light, durable, cheap, and very usable.

If you want a focal-plane shutter to use with barrel lenses, then get a Speed Grahic. If you want a metal rangfinder camera get the 1970s-era Super Speed Graphic.

The Kalhart Side rangefinder on the older post WW2 to 1960s models is the one to get for using "other" lenses. It can be adjusted to work with your moderate-normal lenses.

If you stick with the stock Optar or Xenar 135mm that was sold with the Crown Graphics, then the later 60s-early 70s top rangefinder (which uses replacable cams) is often more convenient and easier to put your eye up to. But the cam must match the lens, and finding odd cams can be hard.

Of course if you don't care about the rangefinder and are a ground glass focuser, then you can find a real bargain. The synthetic bellows on these cameras are very durable and the mechanics are simple, so there isn't much to wear out.

Price usually depends on the seller/buyer. I've gotten perfect Crowns and lenses for $150 but I see some people expect (hope) to get near $500 for a camera and lens in similar condition. I wouldn't pay over $250 for one, and I would only pay $250 for one from a reliable seller. Many sellers don't know what they are selling so it is a crap shoot as to whether the RF is still OK, etc. so those are the "bargains" you get for $100 because they are a risk.

Vick Vickery
13-Feb-2007, 20:39
I'd look for a Super...more movements than some of the older ones, compact size, metal construction (built like a tank) and a usable rangefinder (with the standard 135mm lens) that can accept cams for other focal lengths if you don't want to use the ground glass. I've been happy with one for several years as a field camera when I don't require the extremes in movements possible on my Cambo.

13-Feb-2007, 22:01
If you get one, make sure to send it over to Fred Lustig for CLA.
I suggest a Super Speed Graphic. I have 2. Love 'em.

13-Feb-2007, 23:26
All of these posts have some great info. Thank you. I will do some digging around and go from there. I really enjoyed reading this story from the SportsShooter board:



Ted Harris
14-Feb-2007, 07:26
You've gotten a lot of good information bu no one asked ... why do you want to try out an older graphic? I ask because, as many know, I am not usually a fan of Graphics, and, depending on your answer their may be better equipment solutions to your needs. If you just want one to see how they work, etc, then that's different.

Doug Kerr
14-Feb-2007, 07:36
Hi, Max,

It looks as if you have been referred to some good info and your education on Graffie ways is well underway.

Nevertheless, I take the liberty of presenting here a summary of this fabulous camera line that some have found helpful.


The Speed Graphic and its cousins

Caveat: many details of the "except of course for .." type have been glossed over for conciseness.

The Speed Graphic camera is a press camera (actually categorized taxonomically as View Camera:Field Camera:Press Camera). It folds into a compact closed package for transport. (Bet you never saw a folded-up one in the movies!)

The camera provided focusing and composition on a ground glass screen at the film plane. Almost all models also had a "telescope-like" viewfinder, and (except for the earliest models) an open frame ("sports") viewfinder as well. Most of the more modern models included a coupled superimposed-image rangefinder for focusing.

All Speed Graphic cameras (with the exception of the Super Speed Graphic; see below) included a focal plane shutter of the multi-slot, single-curtain type. (Many were of course equipped with lenses having shutters as well.) The shutter afforded speeds (in the "focal plane" way, of course) of up to 1/1000 sec. The term "Speed" in the name celebrated that.

Speed Graphic cameras were made in several successive design series', listed here. Most series' included format sizes of 2x3, 3x4, and 4x5 (exceptions are noted). The exact range of dates in a series varies slightly by format size.

- What we today call the "top handle" series: 1912-1927 [also included 5x7 format]
- What we today call the "pre-Anniversary" series: 1928-1939 [4x5 only]
- Miniature Speed Graphic [2x3 only] 1938-1946
- Anniversary series: 1940-1946 [3x4 and 4x5 only]
- Pacemaker series: 1947-1970 (significant design change in 1955) (Crown Graphic cousin made through 1973.)

The true series designations "Anniversary" and "Pacemaker" appeared in advertising, manuals, and the like. Series designations did not appear on the cameras themselves.

Late in the era of the "Pre-Anniversary" series, a coupled rangefinder (side mounted, generally made by Kalart - sometimes a Hugo Meyer rangefinder was used) became available (in later series' on this became standard), and the telescope viewfinder finder changed from an open type (with two flip-up lenses) to an enclosed ("tubular") type.

In the Pacemaker series, after 1955 the side-mounted Kalart rangefinder was replaced by a top-mounted rangefinder made by Graflex.

The Crown Graphic

The Crown Graphic, made only as part of the Pacemaker series, differed from the Pacemaker Speed Graphic only in that it had no focal plane shutter (and accordingly, the depth of the case was somewhat reduced). It was offered in format sizes of 2x3, 3x4, and 4x5, just as for the Pacemaker Speed Graphic. It was made from 1947 through 1973. (The Speed Graphic itself was discontinued in 1970.)

The 1955 design change affected the Crown Graphic as well as the Speed Graphic.

The Century Graphic

The Century Graphic had essentially the features of the Crown Graphic, but had a molded phenolic case (rather than the mahogany case found in all other models). It was only offered in the 2x3 format size.

The Super Graphic and Super Speed Graphic

Considered a part of the Pacemaker series, the Super Graphic had a metal case and a number of other design innovations. It did not include a focal plane shutter. It was only available in the 4x5 format size. It was made from 1958-1973.

The Super Speed Graphic was essentially the same camera except that it was equipped with a shutter offering speeds up to 1/1000 sec. It was made from 1961-1970.


The Speed Graphic was made from its introduction in 1912 through 1916 by the Folmer & Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak Company (an organization acquired by George Eastman in 1904 and absorbed into Eastman Kodak Company in 1907). From 1916 through 1926, this unit was called the Folmer & Schwing Department, Folmer-Century Division, Eastman Kodak Company. (The camera was not sold under the "Kodak" trademark.)

From 1927 on, the camera line was made (and sold) by The Folmer Graflex Corporation (no longer part of Eastman Kodak). That company changed its name to Graflex, Inc. in 1945. In 1956 it was bought by General Precision Equipment Corporation, becoming its Graflex Division. In 1968, the Graflex Division was bought by Singer Corporation.

The Graflex Division of Singer Corporation ceased operation and was dissolved in 1973.

steve simmons
14-Feb-2007, 07:58
View Camera magazine did a series on these cameras about 3 years ago and we have done articles since then on modifying them to be more usefull for today's photographers.
stev simmons

Jim Jones
14-Feb-2007, 08:23
The bible for Graphic users is Graphic Graflex Photography by Willard Morgan and Henry Lester. The 8th edition of 1947 and later editions cover the Pacemaker line. Copies are sometimes available on ebay and from online booksellers.

John Kasaian
14-Feb-2007, 08:50
You've gotten lots of great info here---all that I can add is that they are FUN! :)

14-Feb-2007, 10:18
Thanks to all.

I will keep my eyes open. There are a couple of local stores to check out. I don't see anything great on eBay right now. I did view the previously sold items and it does look they come through eBay quite regularly.

Why do I want one of these? Short answer is that I like messing around with cameras. It would be great to have a cheap capable 4x5 "folder"... I know there are more capable field cameras out there but I just want to play and not spend a ton of cash. Its good to get away from the routine photography that pays the mortgage etc...

I have a Sinar 4x5, Gaoersi 6x17, Bronica GS1 6x7, Agfa MF folder, Pentax LX w/ 40mm "pancake" lens, Leica IIIF, and a ton of Canon digital/film/glass...

Robert Hughes
14-Feb-2007, 10:19
If you are willing to look at other manufacturers, I'd recommend the Busch Pressman D. I'm very happy with the one I bought on eBay; it's got a metal frame, some front lensboard movement not found on older Graphics, and is easy to use. Doesn't have a Graflock back, though, so won't take some 6x9 backs, but is fine with standard press sheet film holders.

14-Feb-2007, 10:35
Looking at ebay, the prices range from $200 (poor condition) to $600 (mint condition) for just the camera and one lens. Todd's kit, which has been referenced earlier, has two lenses, the original hard case, and a whole bunch of other stuff. It's also in mint condition. I spend a good deal of time and money on item and have researched the pricing for him. $599 plus shipping is not a ridiculous price.

Ernest Purdum
14-Feb-2007, 11:22
Many of these cameras will have an original lens included, a 127mm or 135mm f4.5 or f4.7. These were favorites of press photographers, but offer no use of movements. if you don't care about this they are great for handheld use and the Graphics have little movement capability anyway. If you do care, maybe a lens you already have will be better for you and a camera body by itself a better purchase.

Paul Ewins
14-Feb-2007, 16:18
I'll just throw in a few more pros and cons. I've got four Speed Graphics and a Super Graphic, all of them bought cheaply. I use mine with flash bulbs for people pictures at events. For this a working rangefinder is invaluable as I have limited DOF.

point 1: If buying on eBay make sure the graflok back is still there. The graflok back sells for $100 or so by itself and other bits are readily saleable, so you will see scruffy Speed Graphics that have been scrapped for bits, or others where just the back is missing. One of my Speeds was in perfect working order and good cosmetic condition but had the back missing. I paid $50 for it.

point 2: The top range finder on the later models uses cams like a Linhof. These are rare in any other focal length than 135mm. The Super Graphic also uses cams, but they are different again and almost impossible to find in anything other than 135mm. With luck you might find someone who can make a copy of the one you need. The top rangefinder system has weak point which is a flexible metal tongue that fits between the fold out bed and the body of the camera. This jams or gets a crease and wont move properly or breaks. Always test the rangefinder before you buy the camera if that feature is important to you.

point 3: The side rangefinder can only be adjusted to one lens at a time. Sixty years on the semi silvered mirror may be very dim. I have bought a replacement on eBay and succesfully fitted it and then recalibrated the whole system. It took me three or four hours but when finished was accurate from three feet to infinity and usable in dim lighting.

Personally, I'd go for a Crown Graphic with a side mounted Kalart RF and set it up for just one lens, somewhere between 135 and 210, and use it handheld. If you want to play with old barrel lenses then get a Speed Graphic. The shutters seem pretty reliable for something fifty to sixty years old, so if it works when you buy it chances are it will keep going if you treat it gently.

As noted before, Fred Lustig is THE Graflex guy, but it is only really the focal plane shutters that would require his expertise.

Jim Jones
14-Feb-2007, 20:37
Another thing to look for when buying a Pacemakder series Graphic is the infinity stops. If they are missing, replacements might cost $15 or $20 USD per pair. Extra sets are handy when using extra lenses. Another consideration is lens boards. My workhorse Graphic is an Anniversary model updated with some of the Pacemaker improvements. This lets me use simple 4 inch lens boards that are easy to make. If you use only one lens, the Pacemaker lens boards do fine.

Be patient when shopping for a Graphic on ebay. I let a fairly nice looking one with lens slip by for about $65 a few months ago. The seller knew little about it, which may have helped. However, even if you get a lemon, there's little on a Speed Graphic that can't be fixed. Meridian, Busch, and others made cameras similar to the Graphic. Some models of Busch had a revolving back, great for vertical shots with tilting front. Older Buschs use the common 4 inch lens board. Some later ones use a smaller board that's a little harder to make or buy.

Doug Kerr
15-Feb-2007, 07:08
Another thing to look for when buying a Pacemakder series Graphic is the infinity stops. If they are missing, replacements might cost $15 or $20 USD per pair.

Do be careful when shopping in that the infinity stops used on Pacemaker series cameras are not interchangeable with those used on, for example, Anniversary series cameras.

The difference is not just that the normal Pacemaker stops are "retractable" (certainly a nice feature, and necessary if one is to have several pairs mounted on the rails) and the normal Anniversary ones not, but rather that the rails on the different series' are of different cross-section.

Best regards,


15-Feb-2007, 08:42
(First post)

Super Graphic and Super Speed Graphic....

One of these had a reliability issue, from what I hear. Can someone say more about these two models?
I like the rotating back, so they interest me.

Dan Fromm
15-Feb-2007, 08:57
Complete LF Noob, the reliability problem is in the leaf shutter supplied with, IIRC, two lenses for Super Speed Graphic. Top speed 1/1000. The cameras themselves are pretty robust.