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Thread: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

  1. #1
    Jeff D. Welker
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    Sep 2006
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    Mesa, Arizona
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    Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    A little over a year ago I was in the process of starting an Aero Ektar Speed Graphic build when my wife experienced some life-threatening health problems. As a result, my "project" was derailed for a period of time. Things are back to a more normal status and I'm interested in getting my "project" going again. One of the positives that came from this delay was that I became aware of the opportunity a Speed Graphic gives me to use a variety of old lenses in addition to the Aero Ektar (i.e. Petzval, Gasc & Charconnet, etc). Before I start looking for old lenses, I want/need to acquire a Pacemaker Speed Graphic to serve as the foundation. BTW, I intend to use the resulting camera/lens platform like any 4x5 LF view camera. Accordingly, I anticipate shooting from a tripod 99.9% of the time. I understand that a Speed Graphic does not provide all the movements of most modern view cameras and I'm OK with those limitations. Lastly, to avoid complicating the discussion, I'll avoid any "lens" questions at this stage.

    I apologize for all that background and palavering. Here is my question. What should I be looking for in purchasing a solid Pacemaker Speed Graphic?

    Any comments, suggestions or recommendations you can provide would be sincerely appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2001
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    4,590

    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    The later ones (top rangefinder) are less likely to have dried-up focal plane shutter cloth. Also, they all have Fresnel screens,which were missing on many of the early Pacemakers. Ektar and Xenar lenses are a definite bonus, but the Raptars are no slouches.
    Otherwise, it's strictly condition -- some (like mine) are virtually unused, while many were beaters.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  3. #3

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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    Hi Jeff, welcome back to shooting, I hope it will be a wonderful journey!

    Make sure you get the 4x5, they also made a 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 that looks a lot the same, if you aren't careful. I have found most of them that look clean outside, work well inside. One clue is that if it's in a case, with accessories, you have a better chance that the shutter is good. If it's sitting on a shelf in an antique store, alone, and looking dry and ratty, it probably is. You can look at the shutter from the front, by taking the lensboard off.

    I like the side rangefinder ones, personally. Most I've seen from the mid 1940s on have good shutter curtains. Whatever they used, Leica should have learned a lesson!

    There is a good forum on Graflex.org, that will answer more for you. Good luck.

  4. #4

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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post
    Whatever they used, Leica should have learned a lesson!
    Actually, Leica DID learn a lesson. The original Leica A had only one problem throughout it's lifetime -- the shutter cloth. In the late 1920s they began buying their cloth from Graflex for several years, until their German Scientists could reverse-engineer how to make it.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  5. #5
    Bill Kostelec
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    Oct 2013
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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    I've never come across a Pacemaker with a bad bellows or a bad focal plane shutter. One thing to look out for are damaged rear rails. I've seen plenty of those, from someone trying to close the lid without the front standard being racked all the way back. Something to be aware of when you start using one.

  6. #6

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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    I too prefer the side-mounted kalart rangefinder versions. I have a SG/AE combo, and it's a fun rig. The upside of the kalart-equipped versions are you can fairly easily calibrate the rangefinder to the AE, and use it for handheld focusing and shooting or even for focusing while on a tripod. It's faster and at least as (if not more) accurate than ground-glass focusing, esp. while shooting moving subjects like portraits. The top-mount rangefinder models use a cam which is not easily made or calibrated to the AE178 lens.

  7. #7
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    Function of focal plane shutter of course.... Good bellows.

    I like the Anniversary and Pre-anniversary cameras for two reasons. 1. They have a 4" square wooden lensboard which is bigger than later cameras (holds the AE easier) that I can make myself with a table saw. If you want to play with old lenses, mounting them has to be easy and thin plywood is comparatively easy to work with. 2. The shutter has speeds from 1/10 and faster; pacemakers start at 1/30.

    A pacemaker might be chosen for a graflok back and more movements. If you want to use instant film, the bigger capacity of the graflok back lets you slide in the instant film back. The front standard can be reversed so as to provide tilt for scheimpflug as well.

    I've got both. Since I usually use old barrel lenses, I tend to use my pre-anniversary the most.

  8. #8

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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    I agree with Bill_1856, later Pacemakers do have a better chance of having a good usable focal plane shutter, but earlier ones
    may be just as good and may have had the shutters replaced at one time.

    Even though you don't want to get into lenses yet, here's a good point to ponder, some of the lenses that you
    list that you would like to use may not fit the Pacemaker lens board unless you can find smaller versions.
    The Achilles Heel of Pacemakers are that they use stamped aluminum lens boards that are 3 5/8" x 3 11/16" (actual)
    with a rebated edge so that limits you to a degree.
    Anniversary Graphics on the other hand use a flat 4x4 board with one edge beveled so larger lenses could be accommodated.

  9. #9
    Moderator
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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    Quote Originally Posted by jp View Post
    I like the Anniversary and Pre-anniversary cameras for two reasons. 1. They have a 4" square wooden lensboard which is bigger than later cameras (holds the AE easier)...
    And if you want to splurge a little bit, you can have an iris clamp mounted on one of these, which makes it easy to swap at least the smaller barrel-mount lenses.

  10. #10

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    Re: Pacemaker Speed Graphic - My Quest Begins Again

    Quote Originally Posted by EdSawyer View Post
    I too prefer the side-mounted kalart rangefinder versions. I have a SG/AE combo, and it's a fun rig. The upside of the kalart-equipped versions are you can fairly easily calibrate the rangefinder to the AE, and use it for handheld focusing and shooting or even for focusing while on a tripod. It's faster and at least as (if not more) accurate than ground-glass focusing, esp. while shooting moving subjects like portraits. The top-mount rangefinder models use a cam which is not easily made or calibrated to the AE178 lens.
    What is AE (means auto-exposure to me).
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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