First, familiarize yourself with the features, the accessories, and the various models.
Take care to note the difference between the 4x5" cameras and the miniature Crown Graphic or Century Graphic camera, which take sheet film in sizes no longer manufactured. 120 roll film backs are available for miniature Graphics with Graflok backs, but not for those with Graphic or Graflex backs. Warning: avoid miniature Graphics without Graflok backs. Sheet film in the small sizes is no longer made in many types, and it is difficult to find a parts camera from which to scavenge a Graflok back and its associated hardware.
The Speed and Crown Graphic cameras of any series are quite similar:
The Crown Graphics and Super Graphics have a thinner chassis than the speed graphics and can be used with a 65mm lens on 4x5. The widest suitable for a Speed is 80-90mm.
The Super Graphics have a wider range of front standard movements.
The earlier Pacemaker speed graphics (side rangefinder) are the most servicable. The top-rfs are finicky when old, and cams are difficult to find. A Kalart rangefinder can be adjusted to most any lens, new or old.
The Speed Graphic has a rear Focal Plane shutter which allows for 1/1000 sec exposures and the use of barrel lenses. Both of these features are very useful.
In 1995, A 15" Tele-Optar costs $65 in barrel and $250+ in shutter. Old portrait lenses, or lenses in questionable shutters may be used as well. The Speed Graphic was unique in offering a rear Focal Plane shutter in a 4x5" press camera.
Graflex parts are relatively common in the US, since Graflex had 90%+ market share in professional circles during 1940-1955. Junked cameras are fairly cheap at photo shows (except for 2x3" Graflok frames, which are expensive).
The W.D. Service collection of parts was recently sold, and the new owner is offering repairs.
The composite chassis "Crown" models are the lightest. The "Speed" models are noticably heavier.
Ok, so you want to compare the Speed Graphic to other kinds of cameras from the same period. Here are some samples. Please feel free to contribute updates to the information below. The Linhof Technika III shown was priced at $1500  with a 90mm Angulon and a 150mm Xenar.
In 1936, Linhof released the Technika II, a sucessor to both the original 1903 teak fixed-back Technika and to the second generation Speed Graphic. The Technika II featured rear movements, covered in the 1934 German patent application No. 639 520, describing a ground glass frame movable in all directions. According to Linhof's 100th anniversary brochure, the swing-and-tilt frame was developed just as the Leica 35mm camera became successful.
While the current production models of Linhof cameras are not comparable in features and price to Graphics, the earlier models are. In fact, in ``Ansel Adams: The Camera,'' the noted photographer and author describes the Technika as a ``press camera.'' The III and IV models are more comparable to a Graphic than present models, since they were made at approximatively the same time, and can be bought only used. They are similar enough to Graphic press cameras that many people ask about the similarities and differences.
The IV, V, and Master are functionally quite similar to one another.
Although both Linhof and Graflex have manufactured a number of different models over the years (and Linhof still does), the table below compares the main advantages and disadvantages of the Linhof Master Technica and the Graflex Super Graphic, the last in the line of the Graflex press cameras.
If you are serious exploring the the Linhof cameras, be sure to read visit Quang-Tuan Luong's comments on Linhof Technikas, at his Large Format Page. There are a number of variations and models of the Linhof cameras, and the uninformed buyer can as easily become confused.
|Feature||Super Graphic||Linhof Master Technika|
|Cost (1996 US$)||$150-$400 for an Anniversary or Pacemaker Speed or Crown Graphic||Technika III $600+, Technica IV $1000+, Technica V $2000+, Technica Master $3000+. Often sold for 30% more.|
|Build||Rugged and well built||A finely-tuned precision machine, but still rugged|
|Movements||Has double extension and adequate movements for many needs||Has more movements (including rear) and more extension|
|Back||Has a revolving back||Has a revolving back|
|Weight||No lightweight, but weights less than the Linhof||Heavier than a Graphic. Anatomical Grip.|
|Rangefinder Cams||Only the Super Graphic has cammed lenses||Old lenses often come with cams|
|Cams for New Lenses?||Cams for new lenses not available yet, but you can adjust rangefinder to any one lens||You can get any lens ``cammed'' by Linhof|
|Support||Supported by a network of suppliers with old and made-to-spec parts||Is still supported by Linhof, from Germany (Parts for the III and the early IV models are no longer available from the factory.)|
|Shutterless Lenses||Can be used with barrel lenses [Speed Graphic only]||Cannot be used with barrel lenses|
The swing back can also be found in various Mamiya press cameras and the American-made Meridian ``Press'' camera from the 1940's. The III and IV have a number of differences in their accessories and operation. Although Linhof is still in business, the III was introduced in 1946 and discontinued in 1956, and a number of parts are no longer available.
There are many examples of classic cameras from German, English, French and American industry, Grand old names such as Voigtlaender, Soho, Kodak, Kalart, and Busch-Pressman. Some of these cameras are still usable today. Unfortunately, we have little information available on them.
If you want an inexpensive press-camera that better doubles as a view camera you might want to snoop around for a Meridian. They were not produced over quite the timespan as the Graflex, but they have bellows draw and rear movements equivalent to the early Linhof Technika.
The 1949 Consumer's reports article on ``Press Cameras'' listed the Meridian 45B as the overall favorite.
Read more about the Meridian 45A in thus User Perspective.
The Wista 45RF is similar to the Graflex Press cameras. It has a rangefinder, and like the Linhof Master Technika and the Super Graphic, it has a revolving back.
The Toyo 45a Field Camera ($1550) and Horseman 45FA Camera ($2700) are also similar.
There are other 4x5 Field Cameras, but they are more of the classic wood box tradition, and are generally not constructed for for hand-held operation.