Crown Graphic Lens and Flash Questions : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

While not new to large format on a tripod, I have been intrigued by going handheld in 4x5 for some time. When I asked some time ago about experiences with the Gran View 4x5, most of the folks here talked me out of that and suggested going with a Speed or Crown Graphic instead.

And so I have. I just picked up a very nice late production Crown Graphic Special with Graflok back, top-mounted rangefinder, and 135mm/f4.7 Schneider Xenar in a Copal #0 shutter. It's what I hoped for and I'm grateful for the recommendation.

Now I'm trying to figure out some things that will allow me to do the things I want with this setup. I've been all through the posts here and the entire site (which is very helpful and a great resource), but I haven't yet found the answers to several questions. I hope you can help.

1. I would like to use one of my shoe-mount electronic flash units with the camera. Is there a good way to mount a cold-shoe bracket on the body somehow? I've got some spare cold shoes from Stroboframe brackets, but I haven't puzzled out how or where to attach one. The right-hand flash bracket still is attached to my camera (without flash gun attachment, of course). It's got some different size holes on the "outer bracket", some on the "inner bracket", and of course the holes into the body from the inner bracket. I'm just hoping there's a time-tested approach that Graphic users have already figured out.

2. While I know from the site how short and long a lens I can use on the body, I'd like to find a list of modern lenses in the 75mm-210mm range that are both narrow enough and shallow enough to fit inside the focusing rails and allow the body to close with the lens mounted. I can test any that I would buy locally, of course. And I can figure out which ones are pretty good candidates based on published specs about filter size, etc. (small lenses like Schneider G-Clarons, Fuji-A 180mm, or the 200mm Nikkor-M, for example, seem like they might work). But is there a definitive list of modern lenses that fit so that I won't be mailing one back in disappointment? I'm most interested in a 75mm, like a Rodenstock Grandagon f6.8, and something longer in the 200-210mm range like the Nikkor 200mm or G-Claron 210mm.

3. For purposes of calibrating the cams that my top-RF takes, is one particular focal length lens the same as any other lens of the same focal length? In other words, if I were to substitute a new Rodenstock Sironar 135mm lens for the 135mm Xenar now on the camera, would the rangefinder still be set up properly or would it need adjustment for accurate focusing? While they are both the same focal length, I wondered whether lens design differences would lead to a different focus point.

Thanks for all your help for my Graphic newbie questions.

-- Greg Lawhon (, December 02, 2000


Greg: The top mounted rangefinder may make it a bit difficult to attach a flash mount on the top unless you can put it on one corner. A couple of countersunk screws should suffice if you have room. I think the Crown is a wood body covered with leather. The other option would be to build a bracket to fit the rails of the original flash bracket. If you can find one of the original flash guns, mount the flash on top of it. You used to be able to get a rubber mount that slid over the top of the flash gun body that you could mount an electronic flash on. I can't help you with the choice of lens. As to the rangefinder matching up to the same focal length lens, the answer is probably. You may have to adjust the new lens for infinity focus, then everything should focus correctly. To align the rangefinder to a particular lens, open the back and put the shutter on T, then focus the rangefinder on infinity. Then loosen the bed stops on the rail and slide the lensboard back and forth until the ground glass is sharp. The rangefinder and film plane will then agree. There shouldn't be any difference at other focus distances. The ol' Crown Graphics are great cameras.

-- Doug Paramore (, December 02, 2000.

The two approaches I use are:

Use a modern grip with a bracket which attaches to the tripod socket (I use an old Vivitar) with a cold shoe mounted on the grip. This also lets you use a trigger-mount cable release.

Mount a cold shoe on top of a piece of closet rod, and attach it using the original flash clamps.

-- John Lehman (, December 02, 2000.

For the flash mount question, there is an elegent solution. First, get a battery flash handle for your camera. Cheap. Attaches easily to the right side built-in brackets. Next, get a rubber battery case adapter from Midwest Photo. This attaches to the top of the battery case [obviously no flashbulb reflector is used here]. The adapter has a 1/4" bolt coming up through it. Attach either your flash directly to the bolt [if it has a tripod hole in the bottom], or indirectly by attaching a shoe to the bolt, and the flash to the shoe. Works great. Looks great. Doesn't degrade the value of your camera. Allows you to quickly remove the flash for handheld use.

Read the items on the helpboard. This has been covered there before.

-- Alec (, December 02, 2000.


Thanks for the description of the elegant solution. I'll give it a try. Sorry I missed that over at the Graflex site. In addition to looking at all the regular articles on that site, I had scrolled down through all the threads listed on the helpboard, but didn't see any headings that looked like it covered the specific flash issue I was asking about.

In any event, yesterday I also discovered a less elegant and interim solution. At one of the local camera stores I found a cheapie Coastar Flash Bracket (number B-48 in case you want to look for one). It is an 8 inch x 1 inch piece of sturdy aluminum with a cold shoe mounted on one end (It's actually mounted on the the right side of the bracket, because the shoe has a tab in the front to keep your flash from sliding too far to the front when you mount it. That requires you to mount the flash to the right as the bracket comes configured in the package). There is a slot about 5-1/2 inches long to the left of the shoe through which a tripod mounting screw and knob intersect the bracket. The top of the bracket is covered with ridged rubber to better grip the bottom of the camera when you screw the bracket in to the Graphic's tripod socket. This setup allows the flash to be mounted off to the right side of the camera body, with the shoe ending up about 3-1/2 inches outside the right of my Crown Graphic when extended the maximum amount the slot will allow.

A couple of drawbacks with this quickie solution are:

1. The flash head on my Metz 40-MZ3 (or on any shoe mount flash for that matter, like a Vivitar 283 or 285) ends up about even with the lens. I'd like to raise it higher, as Alec's solution would allow.

2. The setup interferes a bit with the body shutter release, although it wasn't too hard to reach it around the flash. It's possible to turn the bracket around and mount the flash on the left side of the camera, with a little work. The bracket will easily clear the strap on the left, but would require some modification to the bracket. As I mentioned above, the cold shoe is constructed with a metal tab on the front of the shoe as a "stop" when you slide the flash in. You'd have to bend it down out of the way so that you could mount the flash from the former "front" of the shoe, and rely on the screw or clamp on your flash alone to hold the unit steady. The shoe is mounted to the bracket with 3 screws, so you can't just unscrew the whole shoe from the bracket and turn it around as the holes will not line up. It would require drilling new holes in the bracket, so I think it would simply be easier to bend down the tab to allow the flash to slide in from the former front of the shoe.

Thanks again for your help.

-- Greg Lawhon (, December 03, 2000.

By the way, I forgot to mention that the Coastar bracket cost $12.

-- Greg Lawhon (, December 03, 2000.

HiGreg, On my corwn graphis I have the original flash bracket on it, SO i took a sunpack 555 flash, modified a pair of graphic clamps to fit the flash and use the original mount where the battery case mounts.

good luck, bill

-- Bill Jefferson (, December 04, 2000.


Have you given any thought about using what the old press photographers used, "bulb" flash in an old graflex gun flash? I own a Speed and use it with the bulb sure gives alot of light and with the bulb a different look. It not real fast, bulb burns your hands. I shoot at about F16-22 with 400 speed film. Just an idea.

-- John Miller (, December 04, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ