Which speed graphic

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I am interested in purchasing a 4x5 speed graphic. I want it for primarily shooting landscapes with chrome film. Which model and lens would be the most appropriate. I am bewildered by all the types out there. Chris

-- Chris Hansen (Chris_Hansen@mcoe.k12.ca.us), January 22, 1998


Chris, I recomend that you check out the Graphlex web site www.graphlex.org, they have answers to most any graphlex question. This said, however, my personal favorite 4x5 press camera of the Graflex era is the "Busch Pressman, Model D". The camera is made of nicely finished aircraft aluminium. The finish is much cleaner than the Graphic's,and the Busch tends to be more rugged that the wooden Graphic (late Model Speed Graphics are also metal, for a price!) Calumet has several used Busch Pressman for under $200.00. The both Graphic and Busch usually come with 135mm Optar lens (OK quality) that is linked to the Kalart rangefinder. Personally I would replace this lens with a more recent optical design, especally if you are shooting chromes! I also remove the side mounted rangefinder so that the camera fits easily into my Domke camera bag. I prefer a lens a little wider (135mm)than what is considered normal in 4x5 (210mm) when shooting landscapes. The 135mm gives me just a little more sweep at the horizon, without looking forced as with a 90mm or a 65mm.

Good Luck!

-- Britt Leckman (bleckman@gmu.edu), January 23, 1998.

Sorry Chris, I ment to say that KEH has several Busch cameras under $200.00

-- Britt Leckman (bleckman@gmu.edu), January 23, 1998.

Another big advantage to the metal Super Speed Graphic is the rotating back. If I recall, ages ago I had a B&J Watson that also had a rotating back but no Graflok back.


-- Wayne Firth (wfirth@aoc.gov), January 30, 1998.

You might consider a B&J 4 X 5 press camera. It has all the features of the Graphics except focal plane shutter and it has lots of movements that the Graphics haven't got. These cameras are all aluminum and are quite rugged. They also have a revolving back and about a fourteen inch bellows that will accomodate a pretty long lens. If you want to stick with the Speed Graphic, for ease of use I would get a Pacemaker. It has enhanced movements over the earlier models such as front tilt and shift and the focal plane shutter controls were much simplified. It also has a shutter trip built into the side of the body that switches from tripping the focal plane shutter to a link cable that will trip a front shutter. Even though it is wood, it too is pretty rugged. I have gotten them at shows for as little as $20, and for one that was ready to use with lens as little as $50. You might have to look a while, but you can find a good deal and the pacemaker is a little cheaper than the later models, particularly if the pacemaker is the pre-top rangfinder model. They seem to be in demand now.

-- Mick Ridout (m.ridout@worldnet.att.net), February 25, 1998.

You also might want to check on a Crown Graphic. It is the same as the Speed Graphic, without the focal plane shutter(crappy), and is a bit lighter because of that. I use a late 40's vintage Speed Graphic, and I love it. Its very rugged and well made. Also, dont be afraid to try the older uncoated lenses with chromes. I have a 162mm Optar (made by Wollensak), which is uncoated, but Im able to get well saturated chromes with it. It suffers in contrast in backlit situations, so its not the best choice there, but it serves well for many shots. It has enough coverage to use the full rise (19mm) of the Speed Graphic with no problems. I think these lenses are underated, frankly.

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), February 25, 1998.

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