A Graphic Testimonial

Jon Browning, Charleston, WV

Several years ago I completed a course in Basic Photography at Bob Jones University in their Cinema Dept.  The course introduces students to photography by starting them out with the Crown and Speed models of the Graphic.  Though most students, being used to motor driven, auto focus cameras shunned the Graphic for its antiquity, I loved it.  It was the first Large Format Camera I had any experience with and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  As the class finished I found myself checking out the same camera and buying film to shoot and process.  Later on I found a nearly mint condition Speed Graphic with a Lens Cap!  Something I have never found since.  It was in an old beat up case along with its original filters, flashgun, film pack, and dark cloth for about $200. The leather inside and out is as shiny, crisp, and new as well as the rest of the camera just as if it had been teleported from the past.  I shopped around some more and found some film holders and a Grafmatic holder that I use the most.

From that time on I have shot portraits, commercial product objects, architectural subjects, scenery, and still life photos.  I have a monorail 4x5 camera with all the swings, shifts, tilts, etc.  But I still use my Graphic the most and to be honest---sit down for this---value it more than my Hasselblad 501 CM!
Having said that I would like to share with you 10 Reasons For Using The Graphic
  1.  Because of its Rangefinder or Ground glass focusing (my favorite) it makes one slow down from his/her motor drive shooting mentality which allows one to better "focus" on the real "subject" at hand--the photograph!
  2. When one uses a Speed Graphic, he/she has two shutter options.  I am not completely sure, but I haven't seen any of newer model field cameras offer this feature.  You have speeds available from T to 1/400 (on the Graphex 135mm lens) and the rear curtain goes from T to 1/1000!  Let's see one lens do that!
  3.  Like the Bell & Howell Filmo 70HR (my favorite cine camera) a Graphic is extremely sturdy and durable.
  4. A Graphic does well hand held as well as on a tripod.  
  5. Although I do not personally recommend prolonged exposure to harsh elements for ANY camera, the Graphic holds up well in snow and icy rain conditions.
  6. With the proper lens boards (available from many used camera dealers) different view lenses can be fitted to the Graphic allowing many focal length possibilities including wide angle.
  7. Unless marred by ill handling, later model Graphex lenses have good coatings on the optics for good negative contrast.  (I fooled a professional photographer who didn't think much of Graphex optics by showing him two identical prints, one made with an Schneider 135mm and the other made by my Graphex 135mm lens.)
  8. If one chooses, the Graphic allows Flash Synchronization for both electronic strobe and flashbulbs.
  9. Using the Graphic series of cameras allows the photographer to use the very same models (in some instances the very same cameras) that captured some of the world's most historic photos.
  10.  The Graphic camera is really an American Icon of Press and Industrial photography that has been tried and tested true from the early 20th century up to the time that you are reading this.

One word more....

Like most other photographers I enjoy all the advantages digital cameras and Adobe Photoshop has to offer and I would not want to be without these items either.  However, I believe it is good for a photographer to take his time and concentrate on his/her image through Large Format photography also gaining (pardon me is I sound fanatical) a good bonding moment with the past under the dark cloth of a Graphic.
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