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Why no love for the National Graflex?

 
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National Graflex-decent attempt or total dog?
1) Good camera in its day!
100%
 100%  [ 7 ]
2) Horrendous failure!
0%
 0%  [ 0 ]
Total Votes : 7

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DHF845



Joined: 20 Jul 2008
Posts: 96
Location: Hudson Valley Area, Upstate NY

PostPosted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:16 pm    Post subject: Why no love for the National Graflex? Reply with quote

Just picked up a Nat'l Graflex II (#207354). After a little CLA it's working good. Looked beat-up, but with advice from this website, got leather and hood looking great again! I've had 2 pre-war Exaktas, a Reflex-Korelle, and a Practicaflex; the German SLR's all have broken shutters. All my Graflexes (even my 80+ year old Auto Graflex Jr) still work!
I'm impressed by the National's design, compared to other SLR's of its day. The controls are typical Graflex-they're functional. I like the traditional wooden lens-board and tall Graflex viewing hood. It has that vintage Graflex profile. I wish my 2x3 RB Ser. B had a built-in focusing magnifier! The film-wind set-up like the post-war Graflex/Graphic 120 roll backs. Its variable shutter is like the one in the Autographic Speed Kodak 1-A (a Folmer & Schwing design). The lens-mount "horseshoe clip" is laughable, but it was 1934, it was that or screw mount. A good design, more rugged than the competition, and it takes great pictures! So, why no love for Folmer Graflex's one true 100% home-built, hand-crafted, miniature roll film SLR?
_________________
Got first Speed Graphic at 15 (1976).Other kids were using 35mm SLR's. I ran around with flashbulbs and sheet-film holders, I wanted to be Weegee (#2084).


Last edited by DHF845 on Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:01 am; edited 1 time in total
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bertsaunders



Joined: 20 May 2001
Posts: 577
Location: Bakersfield California

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 3:55 am    Post subject: no love Reply with quote

Dhf,
Dont believe that there is a lack of appreciation for the National Graflex, believe it to be because working models are so scarce of the Series I and the Series II! I have been a EB watcher for many years, and have seen very few of these cameras on their site...it was a very expensive camera in the 30's and 40's, but like the old $1.98 box cameras of the time, it was not treated nicely or cared for, like the hi $75-$85 price would indicate that it should be treated....dont believe to many of them survived! I have bid on 2 or 3 of them, and lost to a higher bidder each time!
Have a nice day.........Bert
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DHF845



Joined: 20 Jul 2008
Posts: 96
Location: Hudson Valley Area, Upstate NY

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 7:49 am    Post subject: Why no Love for National Graflex? Reply with quote

Bert,
I found the camera through a camera dealer listed in Graflex.org. I've had good experiences with camera dealers here. That auction site is a crap shoot. You never know who you're dealing with. The weird descriptions of cameras by non-photographers break me up! There weren't as many Nationals made, compared to the production of Speeds or Series B's and D's. Proportionately fewer survived. For a miniature camera, they're sturdy. When I trip the mirror release, it goes Clunk, Zzzzerap! just like my RB Series B. It's a real Graflex.
Prices of vintage film cameras are low. People are cleaning out their attics this summer. My National cost me less than 2X what it cost in 1934 (I paid more for my RB Series B). I've seen Nationals for $400, but I can't afford prices like that. Graflex and Graphic cameras are fun to collect because they're like the Model A Ford of vintage cameras... fun, available, well-built, and low-priced compared to the Duesenbergs (or Leicas).
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bertsaunders



Joined: 20 May 2001
Posts: 577
Location: Bakersfield California

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:54 am    Post subject: National Graflex Reply with quote

Dhf,
I did repair work on these cameras for over 25 years, only had (1) National come to me for repairs years ago! I was impressed with the camera, it was a typical Graflex, very solid....as I recall, the winding key was jambed, and the owner was afraid to force it to move...I forced it and it was fixed in about 20 seconds...I think I only charged him shipping costs, because it was so easy to fix (took me longer to open the box than it did to fix the camera! haha...did a lot of freebies in those early days!
I have been buying cameras thru EB since Jan of 2000, have only had one problem with a buyer, never had any problems with a seller.....
Before EB I had to go to the east coast via camera stores found in Shutterbug to find cameras or parts.....really was like shooting at a black bear in the dark in those days, could not see anything except a description of what you were buying...so it was like Christmas when the stuff arrived..surprise/suprise/suprise...haha! One good thing that was happening then, the prices of just about everything I purchased, was under $100...on EB today, practically everything on the first page ranged from $300 to $1300.....WOW....to rich for me! Think my buying days are over, will just have to struggle along with the (69) Graphic and Graflex cameras I have! Yea I know you must feel sorry for me, poor guy only has 69 cameras....standing joke around here....naw I cant take any pictures...dont have anything to take a picture with!! haha
Have a nice weekend.........Bert
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Les



Joined: 09 May 2001
Posts: 2682
Location: Detroit, MI

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it was a marketing failure, because it was
A) expensive and
B) marketing to women and it was too complicated for them*.
C) The layout of the controls are awkward for most people
D) The shutter is unreliable

the story goes that Graflex started marketing this camera with it's small silhouette and the line "It's just a hand full" Just before production was to start, the engineers went back to NL Whitaker and said, "we need to make it 1/4" larger." NL said, "We marketed this camera at this size, and this is the size you are going to make it! So they cut corners to make it work, but I think this camera suffers from Ektra-itis, if you get a camera that works, it will work well, but those are hard to find.


*before anybody gets out the flame thrower and calls me a male chauvinist pig, I contend men love mechanical things, and find no problem with setting the tension and curtain aperture and the fstop all before getting a shot. Women are too smart for that nonsense. Given all the complicated controls of a National, or a Folding Kodak of the same size, they'll take the Kodak, or even an Argus A or even a C3 brick. They might not have the high speeds of a National, but they will have gotten the family reunion group shot and be onto eating lunch before I figure out the tension and aperture settings.
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"In order to invent, you need a good imagination and a lot of junk" Thomas Edison
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bertsaunders



Joined: 20 May 2001
Posts: 577
Location: Bakersfield California

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 7:26 pm    Post subject: no love Reply with quote

Les,
About time you chimed in on this one.....dont remember this camera to have been so complicated, but I only worked on the one camera probably 10/12 years ago, and I probably packed it up and returned it the next day!
Seem to remember something about a book you were writing about Graflex....yea....I know your busy....but your knowledge about the history of the Graflex company is amazing.....maybe all you would have to do to finish this book, would be to gather up all the responses you have made on this forum, and slip them in, as the last chapter!!!!
I really do appreciate all the tidbits and the time you spend helping members with problems! Thanks Les
Have a nice day......Bert
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DHF845



Joined: 20 Jul 2008
Posts: 96
Location: Hudson Valley Area, Upstate NY

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:19 pm    Post subject: no love/National Graflex Reply with quote

Les,
(1) I agree, the marketing wasn't good. Graflex was the professional's camera of choice. They should have marketed the National to pros/advanced amateurs.
(2) Ergonomics weren't great, but have you ever used an Exakta or Reflex-Korelle? They're no better.
(3) Re: Women and Graflex: Photographers need to be mechanically proficient. Berenice Abbot, Margaret Bourke-White, Imogen Cunningham and Dorothea Lange probably were.
(4) Guys like gizmos and power tools. I'm also a motor-head, I love working on old cars and trucks. Graflex cameras fit my mind-set.
(5) Corporate managements makes stupid decisions all the time.
(6) I have learned from reading GHQ and this website: The Graflex single-curtain shutter is the most dependable ever made. Fewer moving parts. If the National had a regular Graflex-type shutter, it would've been a better camera.
(7) I waited until I found a working example at a reasonable price. I wish I could afford an Ektra, or a Medalist II that's converted to 120, but I can't. Graflexes fit my budget.
I'm flattered that my post got responses from you and Bert. You guys know more about these cameras than I ever will. A lot of what I know, I've learned from reading your postings and articles. Thanks.


Last edited by DHF845 on Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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David A. Goldfarb



Joined: 03 Sep 2004
Posts: 142
Location: New York City

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After seeing this thread, I looked it up. I'd never seen a picture of one before. What a lovely little camera! If Minox and Graflex collaborated on a camera...
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DHF845



Joined: 20 Jul 2008
Posts: 96
Location: Hudson Valley Area, Upstate NY

PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject: no love/National Graflex Reply with quote

David,
It's a hefty little brick of cast aluminum alloy, heavy brass stampings, mahogany, and leather. Its stretched-octagonal body, with tall chimney hood and retracting lens standard, resembles a cross between a traditional Graflex and the (1959) Nikon F... another clunky, heavy, SLR that I can't live without (my first 35 mm SLR, I was about 13, was a beat-up early F with a meterless prism).
-DHF
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