can I use most lenses on a speed graphic press cam : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am new to 4x5. I have had great success w/ my 4x5 view cam. but that sucker is heavy and the rail is about 2 feet! I was looking at these old press cameras but they always have the original lens. I was concerned that there might be some unknown (to me) reason. would I be able to use modern lenses on a speed graphic? I assume there could be no real concern but I want to make sure before I actually purchase one. ALSO, why does the price on these cameras seem to vary so much. some sell for $85 and others $300? and I don't see that much of a difference, really I don't mind the exterior scuffs. Please don't tell me it is because of somebody who just wants the flash for a light sabre!


paul schuster

-- paul schuster (, March 01, 2000


Paul: The old press cameras work well. They were designed for and used for professional photography. There were a zillion of them out there and most had 135mm or 150mm lenses. I think in later years the 135 was the most common. Most of the lenses were Tessar formula lenses and didn't have a lot of movements. There just isn't much demand for them now, so they are left on the camera. The price does vary widly, depending on where you buy it and how much the owner or dealer thinks he or she can get away with. The press cameras usually had front movements but not back movements. The technical cameras such as the Linhof have back movements. As far as using different lenses, you will be limited by bellows to lenses from about 90mm to 250 mm. Usually the bellows is 12-14 inches so a 300 will focus at infinity or near infinity only. Sheer size of a 300mm would also be a problem. I don't know if the bellows will collapse enough for a 75mm wide angle. The bed drops on most press cameras to allow wideangle use without the bed showing on the negative. The rangefinder will only couple to one focal length without different cams or internal adjustments fo the rangefinder. The lenses can be focused by using the ground glass. Actually, the press cameras make good backpacking cameras. Some great photographs have been made with press cameras. Modern lenses work fine with them, but make sure the rear element will fit inside the front of the bellows. Hope this helps, Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (, March 01, 2000.

If you can get it on a lens board and have enough bellows to focus you can use just about anything on a Speed Graphic, because it has the back shutter. The bellows draw is about 12 1/4" so that places a limit on how long a lens you can use.

The only catch is that you will have to readjust or install a proper cam for the rangefinder depending on which make you have.

-- Tony Brent (, March 02, 2000.

Try the Graflex site for lots of info on these cameras. I use a SG and like it a lot. well made and rugged.

-- Ron Shaw (, March 02, 2000.

Partly the difference in cost depends on the factors already mentioned. Also, some Graphics are a lot older than others. Also Some are in much better condition than others.

I recently got a Super Graphic. It is a later model and was in 9++ condition, so cost a little more (but it also came with a huge case, which was also full of bits and pieces+the lens it came with was spotless). My Toyo 45 is a direct descendant of this camera (Toyo bought up the Super Graphic after Graflex went under, or whatever, and made their own version).

It is sturdy, lots of good movement for a compact field camera. I have tried my couple of modern lenses on it no problem. I mainly bought it so I could use it handheld with the rangefinder, but it works great using the GG as well.

The other Graphics are mainly pretty good too - it's just some are getting really old now and may have been well used. I got a good price on mine on EBay. Prices vary quite a bit there, but if it is as described and goes for less than the dealers list, it's a bargain. There have been some in really good condition recently.

More on the Super Graphic at (as well as the Graflex site):

Tim A

-- Tim Atherton (, March 02, 2000.


If you are looking to save weight, be sure to get the Crown Graphic or another model that does not have the rear focal plane shutter. On the other hand, if you get the focal plane shutter you will be able to use barrel lenses which will save you a pile of money, which you can spend on film and backpacking adventures with your new (heavy) camera.

Price also reflects the style of back. The modern grafloc backs fetch more money because they are tougher and you can use roll film backs with them. If you don't care about roll film backs you can save another pile of money by getting the older spring back variety.

The movements are limited to front rise and tilt. Which is what most people tend to use the most of anyway.

Good shooting.

-- Erik Ryberg (, March 02, 2000.

Go for it Paul...the old press cameras are a blast!!! After a bit of practice, you gain confidence in the camera, and it "almost" becomes as natural as the smaller format photography.

-- Dave Richhart (, March 03, 2000.

A bit off the topic, but I once landed a nice little bit of freelance work because I happened to be carrying my Speed Graphic in the right place at the right time. See my article in Odds and Ends in the parent site for this forum.

-- Tony Brent (, March 07, 2000.

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