I started in this business 40 years ago and the camera of record in those days was the 4x5 Speed Graphic. It was a boxy affair covered in black leather with a front bed that dropped open on metal supports. A lens, usually a 127mm on older models or a 135mm on later ones, was mounted to a board and affixed to a leather bellows that would allow the lens to move back and forth as you focused. It also allowed the whole assembly to retract into the body so that the front bed could be closed. The lens board rode on a set of metal rails that were moved for focusing by a pair of knurled metal knobs on either side of the front bed.

The camera didn't use roll film unless you fitted it with a special adapter. I don't think the adapter was much used in the journalism field. The camera too 4x5 sheet film which you had to load yourself, in a darkroom, of course. The holders were wood or metal and would hold 1 sheet of film on either side. A metal or plastic dark slide was inserted into a track, if front of the film, to shield the film from the light. Naturally, there were 2 of these, one on each side of the film holder. The holder was inserted into a spring loaded back (the springed back held the holder tight against the back of the camera body to keep it in the focal plane and to prevent light leaking in) and the dark slide was removed, allowing the film to be exposed when the shutter opened.

Most Graphics had two shutters: a Compur-type shutter which was part of the lens assembly, and most Graphics also had a focal plane shutter in the rear which would allow for shutter speeds of up to 1,000th of a second. The front shutter only went up to a 400th. If you used the front shutter, you had to make sure that the back shutter was open. Conversely, if you used the rear shutter, you needed to have the front shutter open.

The lenses were usually f/4.5 and stopped down to f/32. The camera was equipped with an optical viewfinder on top of the camera, and a rangefinder on the right side. You had to focus using the rangefinder, which had its own little window, and then switch over to the optical viewfinder to compose and shoot. The camera also had a collapsable wire "sports finder" attached to the lens board and a little metal peep hole on top of the back of the camera that would swing up when you needed it. Most of us used this arrangement since it allowed you to see what was happened around you instead of confining your vision into a little peephole of an optical finder.

Needless to say, this operating system was incredibly slow but it did teach photographers of that era to think about each shot before they fired. You had to insert the film holder in the back of the camera and pull out the dark slide. You had to manually cock the shutter. Then, if you were using flash bulbs, you would insert a bulb the size of a 60 watt household bulb into a large flash gun with a large reflector that was fastened to the side of your camera. Then you had to focus, switch to one of the viewfinders, compose the shot and wait for the peak action or the magic moment or whatever, and fire. You then re-inserted the dark slide, pulled out the film holder and turned it around and stuck it back in. Pull out the dark slide, re-cock the shutter, eject the burnt flash bulb and insert another and if you were fast enough, and luckey enough, you might have a chance to get another shot.

For spot news or action sports, we usually just got off one shot. For general news and features, you could take as many as you wanted, provided you had enough film. The film speeds ran anywhere from about 25 ASA up to 400 ASA and you had a choice of color or black and white. And yes, many news photographers wore press cards in their hats. It was better than today's method of wearing them around your neck on a chain because it was instantly visible