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Thread: New to LF - Recently Acquired Graflex Century Master Studio

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Brooklyn, NY

    New to LF - Recently Acquired Graflex Century Master Studio

    Hello all, and thanks for taking an interest!

    I am brand new to large format photography, and I'm itching to get started. The fact that this forum exists is wonderful. I can only hope to absorb some knowledge in order to begin properly using this camera.

    Here are a few photos of my Century:

    Height - 20 1/4"
    Width - 24 1/2"
    Back Opening - 9 3/4" x 9 3/4"
    Front Opening - 6 1/4" x 6 1/4"
    Shutter Radius - 5"

    All of the knobs are in working order. The shutter is intact. All of the hardware seems to be there.

    Again, I'm starting from the ground up - my questions may even be misguided.

    Is this camera ready to accept a lens plate? I'd like some instructions on what I'll need as far as a lens and lens plate, and where I might look for such items.

    It appears that someone in the course of the camera's life modified the shutter for electricity. I'm not sure how that factors into its use.

    What exactly do I need to set up ground glass/film holder?

    I'd like to work with wet plate collodion. Is that even a viable option a far as a beginner is concerned?

    How do I adjust shutter speed?

    If someone would graciously provide me with step by step information detailing what I need to get this camera back on its feet, it would please me to no end. I'm banking on the experts to show compassion for the beginner!

  2. #2
    lenser's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Tim from Missouri

    Re: New to LF - Recently Acquired Graflex Century Master Studio

    Two suggestions.

    First, in a darkened room, shove a lamp inside the completely stretched out bellows and examine it thoroughly for light leaks along all four lines of corners. Little pin holes will cause few problems if you just toss your focusing cloth over the bellows while shooting. More major leaks will have to be addressed with repair or replacement.

    Secondly, you appear to have a Packard shutter which is still being manufactured and for which there is a web site full of information. There are also tutorials about its use that can be found by simple web searches. What you refer to as someone having electrified the shutter is actually a sync cable to enable the shutter to be used with a studio flash system. Some of the Packards have that (desirable) while others are strictly for available or hot light use. This simply guarantees that the flash fires when the shutter is fully open, thus exposing the entire sheet of film. By the way, this can be used for available light as well as with a studio flash system.

    Packard is also a source for replacement bulb and air hoses if yours is brittle.

    The lens boards are probably available through ebay or by posting a WTB request on the buy/sell portion of this site, but I am blessed with a great friend who is both a carpenter/cabinet maker and a large format enthusiast. He made a few for me for my Century and they work beautifully, so; simply finding a local cabinet maker may be the quickest way to get those done. It's also the safest in a way since newly made ones will not be drilled for a lens and therefore you won't find that you've bought a lens but have a board with too large an opening to mount it. This way you can have it bored to perfection no matter the mount diameter.

    Choice of lenses will depend on use and there are numerous threads on this site about focal length in relation to subject for various film sizes as well as sharp versus soft focus.

    As to the back, typically these came fitted with either a 5x7 sliding carriage (see attached photo for an example) or an 8x10 back which also could be a sliding back. The purpose in either case was to be able to do side by side exposures on the same sheet of film (or a single full frame exposure). For mine, while I had a sliding 5x7, I also wanted a single 8x10 so I bought a complete back from a salvaged Kodak 2D 8x10, removed the brass uprights and had the same friend create a mounting plate that wedded the 2D back to the Century body. It can be removed at any time so that I can use the 5x7 back in it's place if I choose.

    Finally, while it isn't one of the elegant focusing screens that can be bought at high prices (and well worth it) I was impatient and went to the local glass shop for a simple piece of frosted glass cut to size and with the corners clipped to allow for verification that the lens was covering the entire surface. That was over a year ago and I haven't seen the need to order a different focusing screen yet.

    Enjoy your camera, These are wonderful tools.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails DSC_6413.jpg  
    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    Re: New to LF - Recently Acquired Graflex Century Master Studio

    I believe that this camera has, or had an Ilexpo shutter...Ilex's more or less copy of a Packard. If it has instantaneious setting, that's about 1/25th of a second. The bulb exposures and time are regulated by the bulb. Usually, you use these cameras at f16-f64 to get more depth of field. So high speed shutters are usually not needed. I have a Packard on my 8X10. It's plenty fast enough for 100 speed film, stopped down. I used Ilford Multi-Grade paper (actually Resin Coated, rated at ASA 2, to learn the apertures and movements, as film. They contact print fine. As always; YMMV.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Re: New to LF - Recently Acquired Graflex Century Master Studio

    There are lots and lots of threads - especialy about rennovation - don't use "master" in your search, as these are a minority version.

    This is what a typical 8x10" back looks like. This is a version that can take many photos on a single 8x10 glass plate (alternative process these days) or sheet film.

    The ilexpo shutter can easily be taken out if you need to use the bigger lens board size. But 16x16cm should be big enough for most lenses and flanges.
    Studio stands and the missing back are available.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails studiodemo.jpg  

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2006

    Re: New to LF - Recently Acquired Graflex Century Master Studio

    One man's Mede is another man's Persian.

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