Super Graphic Lens Compatability : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am thinking about making the leap from medium format to large format photography. I am currently using a Yashica Matand have been thinking about going to a larger negative and better optics for a long time. I like to take landscape pictures and require a camera suitable for hiking with. I have been following ebay auctions and the Super Graphic appears to fit my needs and budget ($500 - $1000 for a complete system). My questions are: 1)what is the lens quality like on the 127mm ektar lenses that most of these cameras come with and 2)are the new lenses in the Caltar line compatible with this camera? I would be looking at the 150 mm f/6.3 and the 90 mm f/5.6.

-- Edward Kimball (, March 01, 2001


I would think a lightweight camera would be the way to go, like a used Tachihara. The Super Graphic isn't all that light and it doesn't have the movements of the Tachihara. If you must go with a press camera/metal box, the Busch Pressman is well made and has front rise and front tilt. They are cheaper than the Super Graphic. The Ektar is a sharp lens but wasn't made to cover a 4X5 negative. It barely does so. If you're goin that route get a crown graphic since you wwon't be using the movements of the super anyway. A Used Tachihara with an older Schneider 135 or 150 lens (even back into the 50's they're very good lenses) would be well within your budget.

-- Kevin Crisp (, March 01, 2001.

I disagree almost completely with Keven. The Super Graphic may be the ideal field camera. They're light weight, rugged as hell, and have all the lens movement you'll ever need. They don't seem to age as well as earlier Crown/Speed Graphics, so be sure you get one with return privileges (I've bought two on eBay, and they have both been misrepresented junkers). Midwest Photo seems to usually have them on hand, at competative prices. I do agree that the 127mm lens is not suitable. Get the Rodenstock 135mm f:4.5 that was standard with these cameras (not the f:4.7/135mm).

-- Bill (, March 01, 2001.

Well, I agree 100% with Edward about super graphics on ebay. Mine came missing the levers and springs which hold the graflock back on the camera. Kind of hard to use that way.

-- Kevin Crisp (, March 01, 2001.

Ed, I have owned a Super Graphic, a Busch Pressman, and currently a Tachihara.

The Pressman is of older vintage and may be prone to bellows light leaks not only because of its age but because of the cardboard like material they are constructed of. The bellows taper may not be wide enough to handle a 90mm f5.6 lens rear element or other larger rear elements - worth checking on but I'm not sure. The lensboards are availible, but a little scarce. An extra lensboard may run you around $50. I sold it because of light leaks from the bellows.

The Super served me well. The more I used front tilts, the more I realized that the mechanism used for this was awkward for me to use with any precision. There is alot of "junk" on the Super that most LF shooters would not find much value in. With little mechanical ability you could strip off the rangefinder, the shutter release stuff, and the focus hood, and with a little cosmetic touch up, save about a pound. I sold it to get easier control of the camera movements. For a while I thought about getting a bargain priced Super and making a weekend project of it.

The Tachihara is a quantum leap up in ease of camera movements. I've really enjoyed using it and consider it a better value for the dollar than the Super. The price difference used is probably about $150. or so. If you're really value shopping, some cameras similar to the Tachihara would be the Ikeda or the Nagaoka. These show up on eBay occationally and may be cheaper than the Tachihara by a hundred or so dollars. These are lighter but said to be a little less sturdy. Still a possible improvement over the Super. Though the Super is not all that bad, I wish I would have started out with one of these wooden fields instead.

The press lenses that came on the Pressman (127mm Ektar) and the Super (135mm Optar)were ok in sharpness. With these older lenses the shutter speeds may be unreliable and little sticky at slower speeds. Their coverage allows practically no movements. I found movements to be invaluable and are really one of the main reasons for using LF.

If you are looking for some savings in lenses, the single coated 90mm f8 Super Angulon in a Compur shutter may be found for around $350. I'm not sure how this would compare with the Caltar, but haven't found the f8 to be a hinder to focus (yet).

There are probably a lot of folks who buy a LF and find that it just isn't their cup of tea. If you can afford to get a wood field it may reduce some of the learning frustrations make it a more fun thing to do. The older press cameras are certainly adequiet, but have their quirks that you will have to deal with. I bought one thinking it would be a cheap way to find out if I would like the format. I did.

-- Roger Rouch (, March 01, 2001.

To me there are three different "areas" that have to concern you when you're buying a LF camera for the first time. They are camera body, lens, and infrastructure.

The body just needs to be light tight, rigid and something that will accept most lenses that you'd buy. The Busch Pressman has a small lens board and the opening into the camera is not large enough to accept modern 210 mm lenses for example. At this stage who cares if this camera has all the movements you'll need. At least you are into LF and can start to climb the learning curve.

But the lenses are much more important. Once the "new" has worn off your camera and whatever lens you managed to get with it, and you've decided that you like LF and want to go on; then I would suggest that you put as much money into a good lens as you can. A great lens on a so so body is much better than the other way around. The long term idea is to upgrade your camera at some point, but to keep your good lens.

That 127 Ektar is not a good lens. It's a press lens and would have a very small image circle (that means very limited movements) and you wouldn't be happy with it in the long run. But it will be a good lens to sell the camera with a couple of years from now, so get it if you can. The Caltar is probably a Schneider made for Calumet. I belive the Caltar II lenses are Rodenstock and either are good lenses.

The final area is infrastructure, and this is the least glamourous of all. It will also suck up money like you wouldn't believe. In this area is all the little things you'll need: focusing cloth, light meter, film holders, magnifying loupe. And if you want to process your own film all the tanks, film hangers and such that you'll need. The cool thing is that once you have these they stay wih you (like a good lens) if you upgrade to a better camera.

So short term the Graflex is a good idea. If you like it and want to stay in LF then you move on with good lenses and your infrastucture. If it turns out you don't like it then you don't have a lot of money invested in it and you should get it all back when you sell.

-- David Grandy (, March 01, 2001.

Thankyou everyone,

Kevin, I appreciated the info on the Ektar 127mm but am a little confused about why you recommended a Crown after saying the the Super didn't have enough movements. If the Super is enough camera for me and the lens that comes with it has inadequate coverage, I am willing to get a more appropriate lens. What is an appropriate lens? The Calter II-E and N 150 mm lenses

-- Edward Kimball (, March 02, 2001.

Sorry about that I posted prematurely.

Thankyou everyone,

Kevin, I appreciated the info on the Ektar 127mm but am a little confused about why you recommended a Crown after saying the the Super didn't have enough movements. If the Super is enough camera for me and the lens that comes with it has inadequate coverage, I am willing to get a more appropriate lens. What is an appropriate lens? The Calter II-E and N 150 mm lenses are resonable prices. Do they offer adequate coverage on the Super? Is there any problem fitting them to lens bords for the Super?

-- Edward Kimball (, March 02, 2001.

Edward, I've used a Super Graphic with a 150mm Xenar for years and it's served me very well. Movements are obviously limited and not very elegant, but if your looking for a light-weight and robust field camera, you won't be disappointed. I've used it for both personal projects and advertising campaigns and its never failed me. That said, if the funds were available, I would prefer a Linhoff or a Wista. BTW, check Stu's Midwest Photo Exchange. Great prices and helpful sales people.

-- Steve Wiley (, March 02, 2001.

I have a Super Graphic and a Tachihara. I think the Super is a great choice. To answer your specific question on lenses, all the modern lenses will fit (except for longest and shortest bellows limits). Max bellow looks just a bit over 12 inches or 300mm on mine. You can get lens boards for it in standard copal shutter sizes. The other possible limitation is the faster wide angle lenses that have too large a rear element to fit in the front standard. Here's a site with info on the Super Graphic:

The 127mm ektar is a good lens that barely covers 4X5. (It was remarkably better than the 127 Optar that was on my super) You may eventually want a more modern lens but also consider complementing the 127 ektar by adding a 203 f/7.7 ektar. A clean one of these is a superb lens.

Contrasting the Super Graphic and Tachihara cameras, I will say that the Tachihara is my primary camera, but the Super has some nice advantages also. It is much faster to setup. With a lens folded inside and infinity stops set (and rangefinder cam is nice) it can be ready and focused in seconds instead of minutes. I don't know the full list of modern lenses that will or will not fold in the Super, but I have a 150 5.6 sironar s, Fuji 240 f/9 that will. A Nikkor 90mm f/8 will fit but not fold up into the Super. Sometimes when space and time is limited and I still want a 4X5, the Super and one lens (er maybe 2) is what I will take. In busy places, there is no bag of lenses to worry about. Just some holders, a meter, tripod. Many times a dark cloth and loupe can stay in the pack. You can be gone before a crowd develops.

The back is much better suited to a roll film back than the Tachihara. The big limitation on the Super is no rear movements and the front movements, though considerably better than most of the graphics (at least having forward tilt...) are still somewhat course in use. (this would be the front shift and swing) front tilt and rise are just fine. The Super is a super press camera. Another big advantage to the Super over other Graphics is the revolving back. Something I could not live without. The Super weighs around 5lb, The Tach just under 4. But the Graphic is contained in a rugged case while the Tach needs protection in a case. It is a speed vs. flexibility choice: they are both great cameras at a great price. Good luck with yours.

-- Gary Frost (, March 02, 2001.


If you strip out all the garbage, as a previous post alluded to, you will have the lightest revolving back field camera on the market. There is a section devoted to this very thing on my website: Go to the technical information section and find a link called "cheap" at the bottom of the page.

Suffice to say it's not all that hard and has served me well.


-- Bruce Wehman (, March 02, 2001.

What a great thread this is. An honest question by a an intelligent and truly interested poster. Honest answers from experienced users, sometimes conflicting, but never abusive nor abrasive. This is the way the forums should always work. If there were a "Thread of the year," this should be it.

-- Mitch (, March 04, 2001.

I think many wannabe LF landscape photographers cripple themselves by starting out with Graphics.

As press cameras they're great, but the lack of and difficulty of using many movements easily leads to frustration.

I think you can find a clean Tachihara/Calumet Woodfield and a modern lens or two within your budget; it'll be much easier to work with.

-- John Hicks (, March 04, 2001.

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