Graflex RB Series D / Super D

Graflex RB Series D

Graflex manufactured a series of single-lens reflex cameras in 2x3, 3x4, 4x5, and 5x7 sizes throughout its history. All models have a similar appearance and similar basic functionality, and are generally referred to as ''Graflex'' cameras, in contrast to the ''Speed Graphic'' or ''Graphic'' models.

This page describes the last models produced, the Graflex R.B. (revolving back) Series D and Super D. The Super D differs from the Series D in providing an automatic diaphragm setting capability in the lens, and a built-in electrical circuit for automatic open-flash photography.  See the Online Manual for the RB and earlier series Graflex reflex cameras.

Photography with the Graflex is built around two simple components. The first is a reflex viewing-focusing optical system that shows on a ground glass an exact, erect image of the schene to be photographed, without parallax, and with the same depth of field as the image on the film.

The second is a focal plane shutter which gives a wide range of exposures up to 1/1000 second. You will also be able to use a wide selection of sensitized materials because of the various types of holders that can be used with the Graflex.

Viewing and Focusing with the Graflex

The camera is normally operated at waist level. The top of the Graflex is pulled up and back to extend the focusing hood.Graflex Parts Labels (Closed)

When the knurled focusing control is turned forward, the carrier and lens are moved into picture-taking position. The front door is automatically released so that it snaps up as the lens moves forward. Light enters the camera through the lens and is reflected upward by the mirror to the ground glass. The visibility of hte image is improved by the focusing hood.

The lens is focused with the control. A large lens opening is usually used for focusing as this gives a bright image on the ground glass. In addition, the shallow depth of field obtained with a large opening makes critical focusing much easier and more precise. In the Series D and earlier models, the diaphragm must be reset before the exposure is made.  Since the ground glass and the film are equi-distant from the lens, sharpness of the image on the ground glass indicates that the image on the film will be sharp.

When the release lever is tripped, the mirror automatically lifts clear just before the focal-plane shutter makes the exposure, tso that light from the lens passes directly to the film.

An automatic diaphragm is provided on the Super D Graflex. This camera can be focused with the lens wide open. The diapgram then automatically resets itself to a preselected lens opening while the mirror is rising before exposure. This feature makes accurate focusing more rapid and certain.

Graflex Parts Labels (Open)

The Shutter of the Graflex

The focal-plane shutter in the Graflex is the same as as that built into the [Anniversary] Speed Graphic.

With the exception of the release lever, all shutter controls are grouped on a panel on the right side of the camera. The controls at the top of the panel are used for the selection of curtain apertures. Curtain apertures in the Graflex focal-plane shutter are indicated on the Shutter Speed Table and in the aperture-setting window of the camera by numbers, instead of by letters as in the Speed Graphic. The numbers represent actual slit widths in inches -- 1/8, 3/8, 3/4, and 1-1/2.

The curtain mechanism is designed so that, while taking snap-shots, it is impossible to set the curtain aperture when the mirror is not in focusing position. When the mirror is set in focusing position, it covers the film aperture completely, and thus prevents accidental fogging of the film.

The controls which are used for the selection of curtain tension are at the bottom of the control panel. The shutter should always be set at the lower tension when the camera is not in use.


A highly corrected f/4.5 anastigmat lens with a focal length of 7-1/2 inches (190mm) iis standard equipment on all 4x5 Graflex cameras used by the Navy. The lens is equipped with an iris diaphragm between the cells.

Film and Accessories

Four types of film holders are available for the Graflex. All are interchangeable and have a simple, positive means of attachment to the camera.
  • The sheet film holder accepts two films. [These holders are for the "Graflex" back, and are not interchangeable with Graphic or Graflok back holders, such as those used on the Speed Graphic or manufactured today for other large format cameras.]
  • The Graflex sheet film magazine accepts twelve sheet films at one loading. [This holder features a leather changing bag, and is like a manual version of the Graflex Grafmatic back. It is often called a "bag mag."]
  • The Graflex Film Pack adapter contains twelve exposures, and can be replaced with a fresh pack in daylight. [Unfortunately, film packs have not been manufactured since the early 1990's.]
  • The plate film holder accepts two plates. [Also presumably obsolete.]
  • The Graflex Roll Holder holds a special six-exposure roll film [presumably obsolete].
  • Graflex Revolving BackWhenever you place the camera on a tripod above waist level, you can use the accessory focusing panel in place of the film-holding accessories.

    The Series D and Super D Graflex cameras are equipped with a revolving back. This arrangement allows you to rotate the film so that its long dimension may be either vertical or horizontal, which means you can obtain a picture of either vertical or horizontal composition without turning the camera on its side.

    Flash Bulb Photography

    The Super D Graflex is equipped with a built-in electrical circuit, switches, and recepticle. These features permit the use of a Graflex Flashing Unit for automatic open-flash work with flash bulbs. The Flashing Unit consists of a battery case, a reflector, a socket to hold a flash bulb, and a connecting cord to connect the battery case with the electrical circuit in the camera.

    Uses of the Camera

    Its reflex viewing-focusing system makes the Graflex particular suitable for photographing action in a limited area. It is equally suited to photographs which must be made hurriedly.

    Do not use the Graflex under lighting conditions which are so poor as to nullify the advantage of the reflex focusing system. The Graflex should never be substituded for a view camera for close-in architectureal work where view camera movements are needed to obtain proper perspective. Do not use the Graflex for photographing near-by action such as aircraft carrier landings. Whwen you are peering into the focusing hood, dangerous activity may come too nera before you detect it.


    The Graflex is best suited for --
  • Action in a limited area.
  • General outdoor views.
  • Informal outdoor portraits.
  • Close-ups during action where natural light may be used.
  • The Graflex may be used for --

  • General action.
  • Outdoor group pictures.
  • Indoor portraits.
  • Copying.
  • Small parts photography.
  • Identification photography.
  • The Graflex is unsuited for --

  • Close-in architecture photography.
  • Action under bad lighting conditions.
  • Carrier landings.

  • The illustrations and text in the preceeding discussion are largely taken from Photography: Naval Training Course, Vol. 1, NAVPERS 10371-A, prepared by Bureau of Navy Personnel, 1951.