View Full Version : Buying a Crown Graphic

14-Jun-2012, 21:33
I'm new to this forum, but have been interested in large format photography for some time. Finally, I've decided to get a camera and from what I gather it looks like Crown Graphic is a good choice.

My question is about the back - should I go for the Graflok or will the Graphic back do? I'm planning to use 4x5 holders; roll back compatibility is not essential.
This is the camera I'm looking at, the seller doesn't know much about it, but from the pictures it looks like it is not a Graflok back.

Thanks for any help!

Wayne Aho
14-Jun-2012, 21:46
This is definitely a spring back. If you are going to shoot sheet film, it will work fine, but you will not be able to mount roll film holders (there are some that will slide in, but not as easy to use). Most buyers want the graflock back to mount other accessories. I also like the speed graphic with the focal plane shutter, so I can use barrel lenses (without a shutter). I have several lenses that do not have a shutter, like old brass, and aero ektar. It is heavier and more bulky. Check the bellows in a dark room, and a bright light inside the camera. The graphics bellows do last a long time, but its pricey to replace them. Remember, there are a lot of these available, so wait for a good one.
If you haven't already found it on the web, this is a great starting point:



Frank Petronio
14-Jun-2012, 22:09
Looks like a good basic Crown, the rangefinder is likely dirty, if not out of whack, so you will be focusing on the ground glass (which is a good idea in general anyway). Do you know how to fire the shutter and open up the lens for focusing? The ground glass should be clean and it may or may not have a fresnel.

Depending on the lens, I would expect it to be a $100 to $200 camera. You could always put a newer lens with a Copal 0 shutter (most 135-150/5.6 major manufacturer lenses >1970 will be in Copal 0 shutters) onto the same lens board to replace a nasty old lens. But if the lens and shutter are good there is no need to get anything newer, most of them were quite excellent and hold their own even today.

Most of these cameras work fine, they were either barely used or used professionally and well maintained. Usually if things are bent or wacky, other parts of the camera will be bad too, so cosmetics do count. Don't confuse that with normal attic dust though.

14-Jun-2012, 22:38
Thanks for your replies - tons of info.

The lens looks to be a Kodak Ektar f/4.7 127mm which is not bad from what I understand (apart from some limited coverage on a 4x5 maybe?). He's selling it for $300 with a flash pack but from what you're saying, Frank, that sounds a little steep.

One more thing - can a speed graphic be modified in the same manner as the crown to allow forward tilt and front swing?

Frank Petronio
15-Jun-2012, 05:04
Yes but it is most often the kind of camera you use without regard to movements, think of it as a box camera mostly. I wouldn't take the trouble to modify it. If I were buying that camera I might strip the rangefinder off to make it less bulky and patch the holes with putty or a piece of thin plywood, not worrying about cosmetics. Again it is not worth $300 although outside the USA prices are higher.

If you step up and spend closer to $500 you can find a mint later one with a good top-mounted rangefinder and a better Schneider Xenar lens made in the 1960s or early 70s. Sometimes people sell them on this forum and most are honest with their descriptions. Frankly it probably makes sense to get a nicer one because it will be easier to sell if you want to later.

Jim Jones
15-Jun-2012, 05:17
Functional Crowns and Speed Graphics are available to a patient shopper for less than $300. A good Ektar 127mm is a fine starter lens. you can always add a lens with different coverage later. A more comprehensive source of information than graflex.org on these cameras is Graphic Graflex Photography by Willard D. Morgan and Henry M. Lester. You'll need at least the 8th edition to cover the side rangefinder Pacemaker series.

15-Jun-2012, 11:14
That is a very old Crown Graphic. Pay accordingly.

Joseph Dickerson
15-Jun-2012, 14:21
The flash unit is at least 40 years old...so no parts/repair possible and it is most surely DOA! So it adds absolutely 0 to the value of the outfit (unless you really need another door stop!).

The camera looks rather beat, you can certainly do better if you take a little time. There are a bunch of good used large format cameras out there. This is not one of them.


15-Jun-2012, 15:54
$125 -- tops.

Alan Gales
15-Jun-2012, 16:07
I also agree that $300.00 is too high for this particular camera. I have been watching for a steal on Ebay. There are a ton of Speeds and Crowns out there so don't get in a hurry. I have never shot one of these cameras but I would like to. I'm trying to trade my friend out of his Super Speed Graphic. He has it sitting in a display case!

I'm by no means an expert on these cameras but I'll tell you what I heard.

Speed Graphic: This camera has a focal plane shutter so you can use lenses without a shutter with it. Of course you also have the choice of using the leaf shutter that the lens is mounted in.

Super Speed Graphic: This was the last of the Speed Graphics. Made of metal instead of wood and has no focal plane shutter but has a revolving back.

Crown Graphic: Wood, no focal plane shutter or revolving back but is lighter than both Speed Graphics. Also the last of these type cameras made. If this is what you want then I would look for one of the last models with the Schneider lens.

If any of my information is wrong then someone please enlighten me. :)

Frank Petronio
15-Jun-2012, 16:28
The other popular lens that were bundled with them were actually considered better than the Schneider Xenar back in the day - the Kodak Ektar had the best reputation, the Optar was no slouch at all. For all practical purposes they are the same quality, so you'd want to get one in the nicest shape and with a properly working shutter. Chances are that any shutter that has been sitting in an attic for 40-plus years is gummy and any rangefinder will be dirty, so getting things cleaned up and running right could cost as much as the camera. That's why it is usually best to buy the prettiest one even if you don't care about cosmetics (it may well be gummed up too but it takes less to get it running again). I guess the absolute best one to buy is one from another photographer who was using it (and is honest, haha).

17-Jun-2012, 04:43
Crowns can go a little higher price than speeds for perhaps being a tiny bit lighter. In order to get $300, this one's lens shutter should operate properly at all speeds, which isn't common, and it should have a graflok back.

If you ever want to shoot instant film, a graflok back is needed for the bigger film holder. Or roll film, it makes senses too, since it easily unhooks to change backs. If you just want so shoot normal 4x5 film, the graflok isn't important. The metal hood like this has is very nice though compared to some of the ones with cloth sides like on a pre-war graflex. WWII and after speeds have or can have the metal hood.

I like speed graphics so I can have the focal plane shutter for more lens options.

The camera pictured or a pacemaker speed graphic have the same front standard, which is modifiable to front tilt the other opposite way.

Jim Jones
17-Jun-2012, 05:57
The Speed Graphic wasn't the only press camera made in America. The Burke & James had a metal body instead of the leather covered wood of most Graphics, and had a rotating back like the Super Graphic. None of the B&Js had a focal plane shutter or the extensive range of accessories of the Graphics. Build quality was better in the Speed Graphic. The Busch was another metal body press camera. Options for lenses was limited by its rather small lens board that, unlike old Anniversary Speed Graphics, is rare and somewhat difficult to fabricate. Then there were the MPP camera made in England, the Linhof from Germany, and a few from Japan. They can be expensive. Any of these cameras are a good introduction into large format photography. The Graphic is probably the best choice in America.

Ivan J. Eberle
17-Jun-2012, 07:29
I had a Super Graphic for a time, which has more numerous and more extensive moves than a Crown, yet is somewhat limited by it's handling of wide angle lenses (the inner track is not linked to the focusing on the bed, as is the Crown). Other than that one thing I found it to be a much more feature laden camera (Graflok, cammed RF that's accurate, rotating back, swings, shifts, tilt front and back). But personally, I never really warmed up to it as I had another folder I like better (Meridian 45B). Super Graphics sell for sub-$300 on eBay sometimes.

17-Jun-2012, 18:55
Thanks for all the replies!

This beauty is in the mail.

Frank Petronio
17-Jun-2012, 19:25
Nice one!