Graphic Features

The features described below are common to most of the models of Speed, Crown, and Century Graphic, and across the Pre-Anniversary, Anniversary, and Pacemaker series. Where there are differences, they are noted. The Super Graphic has a different set of  features, and is best described on the Super Graphic page. For the most precise information about the features for a particular camera, see the links on the Graphic Models page.

[Movements] [Focal Plane Shutter] [Graflok Back] [Graphic Back] [Graflex Back]
[Focusing Panel] [Infinity Stops] [Focusing Scales] [Viewfinders] [Rangefinders


The Speed Graphic is not really a view camera: you can't tie it up into a pretzel. Depending on the sort of photography you are interested in, this may or may not be limiting.

The rigidity of the Graphics make them very useful for high-speed, wide-aperture shooting (the sort of shot where extreme depth of field is not important). If you are interested in a 4x5" to pursue photography suitable for 35mm or 2-1/4" equipment, the motions are an extra, not an essential.

There are other large format photographers who disagree, and feel that their personal vision requires the use of considerable amounts of perspective control.

To make use of movements, the photographer must use a lens that has ample reserve covering power. In the classic lens field, the 135mm WF Ektar, the 120mm Angulon, or the longish 203mm f/7.7 Ektar are possibilities.

There are limited movements available on the Speed Graphic. All are front movements. On Anniversary, Pacemaker, Century, and Super Graphics, Bed Drop can be used to suppliment the other movements and obtain results available on view cameras but not on earlier pre-Anniversary models.

See the illustration of the Anniversary Speed Graphic or the Pacemaker Speed Graphic for part labels.

Front Rise
The front standard may be raised by unscrewing the rising front lock nuts on both sides. For front fall, see Bed Drop.
Front Tilt (Backward)
The front standard may be tilted backward by loosening the tilt lock nuts. For forward front tilt, see Bed Drop.
Front Shift
The front standard may be shifted slightly left and right by first releasing the front standard lock, and then depressing the tab mounted immediately below, while pressing the front standard to the left or to the right.
Bed Drop (Anniversary and later)
The bed may be dropped by the following procedure:
  • Return the front standard and focus rack to the rear of the camera, as if you were preparing to close the camera.
  • Simultaneously depress the thumb press area of both bed braces.
  • Lower the front bed.
Note that the front standard has now been lowered and tilted forward.

Using Bed Drop, the following movements can be obtained:

Front Fall
Drop the bed and correct for the forward tilt by using backward tilt. Use front rise to subtract from the maximum fall obtained by the bed drop.
Front Tilt (Forward)
Drop the bed and correct for the front fall by using front rise. Use front tilt backward to compensate for the maximum tilt obtained by the bed drop.

Focal Plane Shutter (Speed Graphic Only)

The name "Speed" in Speed Graphic comes from the 1/1000s shutter speed offered by its focal-plane shutter. The Graflex focal-plane shutter is the essence of simplicity -- a single long curtain of rubberized fabric with a number of slits.

The Anniversary and Pre-Anniversary models are have a somewhat confusing control system, but in the Pacemaker series, there is only a high/low switch, and the speeds read out directly in a window.

The high/low speed control on the Pacemakers engage a very simple and reliable governor. There are four slits in the curtain, one for 1/1000 & 1/500 sec, another for 1/250 & 1/125, another for 1/60 & 1/30 sec and a final one for TIME. The curtain is tensioned by what is essentially a window blind type spring.... and the tension is easy to adjust without much disassembly. They can be easily adjusted to within 1/4 stop.

The Crown Graphic, Century Graphic, Super Graphic, and Super Speed Graphic models all lack the focal plane shutter (though the Super Speed Graphic does have a 1/1000s between-the-lens shutter.) In a genuine Speed Graphic the focal plane shutter is the only part that might be trouble, but it is reliable and there are shops dedicated to fixing them. At worst, you can disregard a non-functional rear shutter on a Speed Graphic. It doesn't cost you anything but a slightly thicker case and a little weight.

The Speed Graphic is slightly heavier and thicker than the similar Crown Graphic. The 2 3/8" minimum film-to-flange distance required by the focal plane shutter on a Speed Graphic precludes the use of 65mm and wider-angle lenses, whereas a Crown Graphic is able to use a 47mm WA lens. Many modern wide-angle lenses in the 47mm-65mm range can cover 4x5", but classic lenses this wide were designed to cover 2-1/4 x 3-1/4, so they should be used with the 2x3" Graphics or with appropriate roll-film backs on 4x5" Graphics.

The focal plane shutters operate as a curtain with different sized openings, and can be set to two speeds with three different openings, producing speeds of 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, and 1/1000. (As for lenses with internal shutters, most will have speeds up to 1/400 or 1/500, while the Graflex-1000 goes to 1/1000 seconds, there are some some older ones only go as high as 1/200.)

Be careful to keep track of whether the curtain is open or closed, as mis-use of the focal plane shutter will keep film from being exposed (if you're using a lens shutter), and leaving the curtain open (such as for focusing) will fog film.

An advantage of having a focal plane shutter is that you can also use barrel lenses (lenses mounted without shutters). A 15" (380mm) Graflex Optar Telephoto, in a barrel mount is much less expensive (~$90) than the equivalent in a shutter, which seem to go for $250-300. Also, many vintage (1920-30's) soft focus portrait lenses are only available in barrel.

Use of a slow speed focal plane shutter should produce noticeable "lean" when you pan to follow moving objects.

Are the large focal plane shutters accurate? I checked mine out. 1/1000 sec is dead on. Your average modern SLR it is probably no more accurate.

Graflok Back [c. 1949-1951 and later]

The "Graflok Back" is a desirable, relatively late enhancement to the Graphic line of camera. The Graflok has a removable focus panel, a Fresnel screen, and and features locks to hold various filmbacks. [Sliding off the Graflok Back Ground Glass Holder]

The Graflok back is the standard for 4x5" view cameras today, and appears on some 2x3" cameras as well. The Graflok back accepts sheet film holders, "Grafmatic" 4x5 sheet film magazines, 120 roll film adaptors, Polaroid backs, the Kodak ReadyLoad and Fuji QuickLoad backs, and the now-obsolete film pack.

Graflok backs became standard on all sizes (except 5x7) of Graphics by about 1951, but made their first appearance on the 2-1/4x3-1/4 miniature Graphic about a year earlier. A good many earlier cameras, both Anniversary and Pacemaker series cameras have been modified with the Graflok back. [Removing the Ground Glass holder from the Graflok back]

Kodak Ektalite Fresnel screens became standard shortly after Graflex switched to Graflok backs. In a Graflok back, the position of the Fresnel screen is taken into account in the construction of the back, so removing the lens or trading its position with the ground glass will cause focusing errors. The proper position for a fresnel screen on a Graflok back is between the ground glass and the lens. The grooves of the fresnel should be in contact with the frosted surface of the ground glass. The frosted surface of the ground glass should be toward the front of the camera.

A Graphic or Graflex back with a Fresnel screen is a sign of a user-modified camera, and unless the ground glass holder has been modified specifically to alter the plane of focus, the correct position for the screen is between the photographer and the ground glass. Perform focus tests with your camera before undertaking any modifications to determine whether the correct position of a user-added Fresnel screen for Graphic or Graflex backs. 

Graphic Back

The Graphic, or Spring back preceeded the Graflok back. [Graphic Back]

While a Graflok back is very good to have, it is not essential. The Cambo/Calumet 6x7cm roll film back will slip under a Graphic spring back, as will a Polaroid sheet film holder, a ready load holder and a Grafmatic. Of the common sorts of things, only a Graflex/Horseman type roll film holder or a Pack film Polaroid holder (405 or 550) requires the Graflok frame to be removed.

In the case of a 2x3 Graphic, the Graflok really is essential since 2x3" sheet film is available (but obsolescent and tedious to work with) and the roll back can take either Graflex or Mamiya RB67 roll film holders. (The Mamiya RB67 has a 2x3" Graflok back). Avoid 2x3" Speed/Crown Graphics with Graphic backs. However, if you do buy one, you might want to read about Graphic back conversions.

The later Rochester-made Graphic roll film backs (with the lever wind, usually marked Singer-Graflex) hold the film flatter than the Cambo/Calumet backs; if you like to use wide apertures you might find this significant. 

Graflex Back

[Graflex Back]The Graflex Back was offered on some Pacemaker models as an option, but is usually found on the "Graflex" SLR cameras.  It features separate removable focusing panel, as in the Graflok back, but is not a desirable feature on a Graphic. Graflex back cut film holders and Grafmatic backs are a larger size than Graphic and Graflex back items, and are often difficult to obtain.

Focusing Panel

The pop-open focusing back can usually be removed from the holder by two clips on the side. This exposes the ground glass retaining clips. The preferable set-up is to have a fresnel lens, since without it the image will get darker as you view from the center out to the corners. [Graphic Back, with view hood popped off]

Also remember to switch from preview to shutter mode, and stop down the lens as necessary before pulling the dark slide.

Depending on lighting, you may find a magnifier and dark cloth or light coat handy (to block out light while focusing on the screen).

Always remember to watch the corners!

If you have a fresnel lens (circular grid on the glass), and the corners are darker than the center, then you may have adjusted the camera in such a way that the lens is not covering the area of the film plane. Many of the standard 'Graflex' lenses cover the area of a 4"x5" sheet, but not much more. Wide angle and wide field lenses should be clearly marked with WA or WF, indicating they have a greater coverage area than the diameter of the lens. 

Infinity Stops

Infinity stops are small tabs are located within the rails, held in place by two extremely small screws. The Pacemaker Series introduced folding infinity stops: by folding over the tabs, the lens can pass by the infinity stop, which allows one to use one stop for each different focal length lens.

With the rails adjusted to the rear of the bed, and the lens focused on infinity, you may set the infinity stops for each particular lens.

Focusing Scales

Focusing Scales are attached to a moving portion of the sliding rails, and to a fixed portion of the bed, in front of the lens. The scales, depending on the lens, will generally have alignment marks for intervals from 6 to 25 feet, as well as 50, 100 and Infinity.

There are two varieties: vernier and semi-vernier. The vernier scales have two sides which indicate distances by having the same number align on both sides. The semi-vernier scales have a fixed pointer for most distances, but indicate long distances (such as 100' and infinity) by alignment. 


Optical Tube Viewfinder
Parallax adjustable, with various masks for different lenses and film formats.
Sports Finder (Hoop Viewfinder)
Parallax adjustable with a vertical movement on either the hoop or the eyepiece, depending on model. Allows viewing of the subject while taking pictures. Automatically adjusts for most different lenses, because the hoop of the finder is the same size as the image being formed, and is at about the same distance from your eye as it is from the film, except for telephoto lenses, which are not placed their focal length away from the image plane.
Kalart Rangefinder
Kalart side-mounted (steel) rangefinder, connected to the moving rails. Optional or standard equipment, depending on model.
Graflex Rangefinder
Graflex Top-mounted (plastic) rangefinder, connected to the moving rails. Standard equipment on later Pacemaker models.
Hugo Meyer Rangefinder
Similar to the Kalart rangefinder. Present as optional or standard equipment on Anniversary models.

Kalart Side Mounted Range Finder [Up to 1955]

Operation: The two images in the Kalart are the same color. The split portion shows up as a center spot. This may become more apparent if you place a colored piece of gel in front of one of the openings to the Kalart. [If the half silver mirror is abraised or otherwise lost silvering, this image may be very faint.] In general bring the split image into alignment, and if the camera is in focus through-out the scale, then the rangefinder is cammed or adjusted to the lens.

Side mounted Kalart rangefinders (which do not feature interchangeable cams) can be adjusted for a particular lens, if the proper procedure is followed.

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.

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. Although you may have trouble locating a distance scale tailor-made for your lens, you can easily make one out of a piece of aluminum or plastic.

Kalart Focuspot

The Kalart Focuspot is an illuminated focusing aid that is powered off the 2v or 3v flash batteries. An advertisement from Kalart explains its features.

Kalart FocusScope

A magnifying telescope for the Kalart RangeFinder. An advertisement from Kalart explains its features.

Graflex Top Mounted Range Finder [1955 and later]

The Graflex top-mounted rangefinder features interchangeable cams and Parallax Correction. It also has a red button on the side which causes the rangefinder to project two beams of light, much like the Kalart FocusSpot.

The cams are tricky to locate and are set up for specific lenses (a caveat if your camera has a mismatched cam). 

Hugo Meyer Side Mounted Range Finder

[Hugo Meyer Rangefinder]The Hugo Meyer is not a bad Rangefinder, but it has a fixed cam, and each model of the Hugo Meyer is made for and dedicated to a specific focal length of lens. You cannot replace the lens with one of a different focal length and adjust the Hugo Meyer RF internally as you can with the Kalart.. You set infinity with a screw under the narrow model number plate which must be removed. They are built on a square tube inside like the Leica screwmount RF, and are very rugged.

You can read about the adjustment procedure for the Hugo Meyer here.

Some advertisements for certain models of Hugo Meyer rangefinders mention interchangeable cams.

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