Adjusting the Kalart Rangefinder

Before doing any of this, make sure you have a Kalart rangefinder mounted on the side of your Graphic. These instructions will not work for a Hugo Meyer rangefinder. Nor will these instructions work for a top-mounted Graflex Graphic rangefinder on a Pacemaker Speed or Crown Graphic, or a top-mounted rangefinder on a Super Graphic or Super Speed Graphic Graphic; these later cameras have interchangeable cams, but the cams for the Pacemaker series and the Super series are different. Finally, some older Speed Graphics are found with a very early version of the Kalart rangefinder which requires a somewhat different adjustment procedure than the later models.

Your rangefinder is probably already adjusted properly for the normal lens with which the camera was shipped. It should have a distance scale which corresponds to that lens mounted on the focus bed, next to one of the focus rails.

Before you adjust your rangefinder for a new lens, consider the following instead: Leave the camera set up as is, but add a second distance scale to the focusing rail. View through the rangefinder, and read the distance on the existing scale, which corresponds to the rangefinder setting. Then, refocus until the same distance is read off on the second scale.

If you really need or want to adjust your Kalart Rangefinder, follow the instructions below. For reference, you may also want to consult the online version of the Kalart adjustment manual; however, beware that it may take some time to transfer and display on your screen.

  1. Check focus of lens at infinity - if necessary re-adjust infinity stops
  2. Set Rangefinder for infinity
  3. Adjust Rangefinder for 15ft
  4. Adjust Rangefinder for 4ft.


  1. Checking Focus of Lens at infinity
    The 1st step in synchronizing the RF is to establish the correct infinity position for the lens - if necessary relocating the camera infinity stops.

    Use a tall building, chimney, etc. at least 1/2 mile away as a target.

    Note: on Pacemaker Graphic (including Century) cameras - the track must be racked forwards to bring the image into focus at infinity.

  2. Setting RF for infinity
    1st remove the cover over the RF, exposing the innards. In the event the RF is out of adjustment re-set it as follows: the infinity adjustment is made by turning the eccentric screw attacked to the rear of the right runner of the camera track. (this is where the long lever from the RF on the inside of the bed contacts the focusing track). You can use a dime to turn this screw. (The screw becomes visible when the track is racked very far forwards).

  3. Adjusting 15ft
    Set up ona tripid and focus the camera on a target 15ft away. The target should be contrasty and taped to a well, parallel to the film plane and at the same height as the camera lens. Use a tape measure for accuracy. Use a magnifier to make absolutely certain of the sharpness of the image. To adjust, adjust the rear scale. Loosen screw which protrudes through a slot immediately above the words ``to loosen <--.'' This is a left-hand thread. Move the indicator on the rear scale, then tighten.

    Repeat the infinity check! This may take several iterations.

  4. Adjusting 4ft
    Focus the camera to 4 ft. to adjust loosen the two screws which hold the indexed slider on the front of the rangefinder and slide the indicator to adjust. retighten screws.

Repeat the infinity check and 15ft check.

Approximate points of adjustment
CAMERA LENS Long Scale (Rear) Short Scale (Front)
101mm Optar 9.5 2
105mm Tessar 10.5 2
4 3/8" 13.0 2
105mm f/3.7 Ektar 13.5 2
127mm Ektar 13.0 3
135mm Tessar 15.0 3.5
152mm Ektar 17.0 5

Possible option: The ``15 foot'' scale has a setting for the various focal length lenses. It might be the case that you should start by setting the scale to the suggested setting, and then bring the rangefinder to infinity by setting the eccentric cam on the bed.

                     | \     |
                     |  \    |
                     |  o \  |  <- 1/2 silvered mirror, screw to adjust align
                     |       |       coincidence
                     : o     |  <- screw to loosen rear scale
 Rear scale pointer  # to    1  <- front scale numbers
                     : loosen2  
                     :       #  <- front scale slider
                     |       o  <- screw to loosen front slider
                     |       #
                     |       o  <- screw to loosen front slider
                     | \-    #
                     |  \|   |  <- prism

Fine Points and Advice

There are three infinity adjustments for setting up a Kalart. The first is the position of the actuating arm at the infinity position of the lens. If the rangefinder is installed correctly this can be adjusted with the eccentric cam on the camera standard (the thing the actuating arm rests on).

After this position is established, the camera is set for 15 feet with the internal slider, then for 4 feet and then the infinity position checked again. Usually takes a few repetitions.

If the rangefinder cannot be made to track, then you need to check the second (undocumented) infinity adjustment, which is the screw under the prism. Presumably, this was set at the factory for coinsidence of the image at infinity when the actuating arm is at the correct minimum position, which is almost but not quite all the way to the point where it stops moving the prism.

The third adjustment is for lateral coinsidence, that is the one on the front of the housing.

If you encounter problems, be sure the rangefinder is placed right on the camera body before starting.

Another tip is to make the 4 foot adjustment on a target directly in front of the rangefinder, not the lens. That is, focus the camera on a target that is in front of the lens and adjust the rangefinder for a target on the same plane directly in front of the rangefinder. Otherwise the parallax will cause an error which will throw off the tracking at the other distances.

In use, the camera is pointed at the object being focused on first through the rangefinder and the lateral coincidence will make you point the rangefinder straight, the camera is focused and then aimed using the optical or wire finders. By doing this, the parallax is eliminated and the focssing becomes accurate.

Following this procedure you can expect your Speed Graphic to focus to 4 feet accurately with the RF. These rangefinders are pretty accurate once they are adjusted properly, which is saying something for such a fundamentaly crude device.