Crown Graphic, anyone?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Rich Ullsmith, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. Rich Ullsmith

    Rich Ullsmith Subscriber

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    Been looking to get into LF for a while, and I think I have settled on the Crown Graphic. Problem is, I don't know much about them operationally, and I can't find anybody local to show me around one.

    I've done some searches, but the information I'm looking for is pretty mundane. Basically, what should I be looking for? I know I want the Schneider lens, because I already have a couple and they are outstanding. But what about film backs? Are these serviceable cameras? Is it absolutely necessary for the rangefinder to be functional? Or the electronics? Any accessories that should come with it? Film holders?

    I was hoping that before I throw myself at the mercy of the bay, somebody could talk to me a little about it, or maybe direct me to a site where I could get a primer. Thanks everybody, I will check back in the P.M.
     
  2. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Have the electronics checked very carefully. Electronic repair people for a Crown Graphic are in short supply.

    tim in san jose
     
  3. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Ok, Ok...

    A Crown is a well designed light tight box. Nothing more, nothing less. You add the front of the box (a lens board with your choice of lens), a back (a focussing glass that is either replced by a roll film back or a film holder that slides in under the spring back). The range finder has to be calibrated to the lens. Is it neccessary? Not if you are focussing on the groundglass and using sheet film holders. It's just like a view camera. If you want speed and convenience of a roll film holder, the range finder is needed. I don't use one on any of my speeds or crowns.

    You should also look into the view finders. There are a number of masks for the viewfinder depending on what roll film format and lens you are using.

    Things to looks for? Broken tracks on the sliding rails. Holes in the bellows corners. Wrong ground glass spacing because someone added or took off the fresnel lens.

    That's about it.

    tim in san jose

    P.S. there are no electronics.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2008
  4. KWhitmore

    KWhitmore Member

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    you nearly had me going there...LOL
     
  5. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    WWW.graflex.org is a good place to start, if you haven't found it yet.

    Most Graphics won't come with a Scheider lens, but fitting one isn't a problem if you want. A functioning rangefinder is not essential if you are ok with ground glass focusing. As LF work goes, rangefinders are the exception rather than the rule, so you might as well get used to working from a GG anyway. The main advantage of a rangefinder is that you can work handheld, and you don't have to rely on zone focusing/estimating distance.

    There are no electronics with Crown Graphics unless you count the flash and solenoid for tripping the shutter as electronic. Strictly speaking, I suppose they are, but not in the 2008 sense.

    Some will come with film holders many do not. For cameras that are rescued from someone's grandfather's closet, the film holders probably aren't worth it anyway. Buy some recent Fidelty holders or similar from someone who can vouch for their integrity.
    a complete camera will have an optical viewfinder, the rangefinders were optional, but nearly all have it, a focusing hood on the back, and a lens. Accessories might include a flash, case, holders of various sorts, and cords for the flash.
     
  6. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    Yeah, I don't think there are any electronics repair people who service CGs.

     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    No, but there might be some that use them :D

    My 2nd Speed Graphic did have electric circuitry, unfortunately the rear shutter was AOL so all that was left was the flash synch wiring.

    Ian
     
  8. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

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    What are the batteries for in the crown's rangefinder?

    I sold a nice clean one on ebay recently. The buyer was bitching about the battery corrosion in the rangefinder. I ended up giving him $100 of the sale price back, and am still a little bitter about it. I didn't even know the darn thing had any batteries.
     
  9. sly

    sly Subscriber

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    I have a CG, and use it alot. I took the range finder off, as I never used it. It also fitted better into a camera bag I had without the rangefinder.
    My favorite filmholders are my oldest ones. I've got 18 obtained 2nd hand and only one was unusable. I find the newer looking ones harder to load, while the ones that look most beat-up load easily (maybe it's just about brands - I've never looked at them for brand names.) I'd suggest not turning down any old film holders, just test them with photopaper to see if they leak light.
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I've done some searches, but the information I'm looking for is pretty mundane. Basically, what should I be looking for? I know I want the Schneider lens, because I already have a couple and they are outstanding. But what about film backs? Are these serviceable cameras? Is it absolutely necessary for the rangefinder to be functional? Or the electronics? Any accessories that should come with it? Film holders?

    You want to look for top rangefinder that can fitted with differnt cams for differnt lens, there is a webb site for graphics with templates to make differnt cams. Changing the cams is not a easy but can be done in the feild. Most late model crowns have graphlock backs that will take roll film backs as well as 4X5 backs. The standard rangefinder will couple with 135mm or sometimes a 127mm lens. If you have the right cams you can also couple a 150 and I think a 240, (may be wrong about the 240) and a 90mm. Most came with either a Kodak Ektar or a Wollensake 135. Make sure you have the linkage that couples the shutter release on the body to the shutter release on the lens. Some folks remove the rangefinder and use the crown as a feild camera. I really like the rangefinder, beging able to shoot hand held is very useful. Sometimes on Ebay a kit comes up, Crown or Speed in a fitted case, filters, filter adptors and a bulb flash with roll backs. You will of course need a meter.
     
  11. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Try Buzz Meeks in L.A. Confidential.:D He was ready to service the Graphic in the police cell scene when his eventual mate took a photo as evidence to stop the beating of the guys who were set up.

    Mind you Buzz could service almost anything!

    Great film.

    pentaxuser
     
  12. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Where are you? I'd be happy to give you a thirty minute introduction to LF with the Crown Graphic. The fellow from whom I bought my first Crown did this for me...right in the Maxtor Corporate HQ parking lot! I'd be happy to "pay it forward".

    Jason Brunner has also published some videos on you-tube concerning the Speed Graphic - which is kinda the same but different.
     
  13. Fotoguy20d

    Fotoguy20d Subscriber

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    My thoughts - the Graflok back is nice to have (although ebay prices have gone nuts on any Graflex model it seems and maybe more so on the Graflok ones) and you should stay away from the top rangefinder model due to repairability issues (not to mention that they go for a premium as well). I actually only use my Graphics on a tripod with GG focusing anyway so condition of the Kalart rangefinder and adjustment of the infinity stops never matters to me. Also, you'll discover that parts cost a fortune - a lensboard will run you $30+ on ebay, so try to get one that won't require work. And, we won't even get into the cost of a ground glass focus panel with hood.

    If you're in the NJ/NYC area, I could show you around one (I have a 2x3 crown and a 4x5 pacemaker speed, which is similar enough)

    Dan
     
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  15. rwyoung

    rwyoung Member

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    There is a small light bulb up there. Press the red button and two images are projected out the front two "windows" of the range finder. When you have the focus set, the two faint images of the bulb filament will coincide.

    A slick trick for focusing in a dim room without putting the camera up to your eye. Assumes you have the correct cam installed of course.
     
  16. Rich Ullsmith

    Rich Ullsmith Subscriber

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    Okay, this is all good stuff, thanks. And thanks for the offer, Brad, but I'm up here in the great NW.

    So am I right in my understanding of the back of the box? You can have a Graflok back which sounds like an adapter for either roll film holders (I understand they are expensive and hard to find) or 4X5 backs. But what if you just have the ground glass, then you need film holders designed specifically for this camera?

    The thing is, if I could just find one to fiddle around with, I'm sure the answers to these questions would be self-evident. And I do plan on using it more like a field camera. That's actually what I was initially looking into, but they are out of my price range for good used stuff.
     
  17. sly

    sly Subscriber

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    A 4x5 film holder should fit in any 4x5 camera is my understanding. I've got a heavy studio Calumet and the holders are good there and in the CG.
     
  18. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Just a word on "electronics": The very last model, the Super Graphic (very rare and expensive):
    http://www.cameraquest.com/supergrp.htm
    had an electronic shutter and a flash computer.

    Other than that, the main electrical component you will find is a solenoid on lens boards. The function of this is to switch very heavy currents of the kind you would need to fire 40 flashbulbs all at once. Unless you want to do this, the solenoid is ornamental. you connect the flash directly to the shutter.

    I know of no reason to avoid the later Crown Graphic with the top rangefinder - I have one and it's been very reliable. It has a battery door that tends to fall off - I have secured mine with a piece of insulating tape - I think you can buy repro replacements.

    The saying "One man's meat is another man's poison" is illustrated by the statement that CG lens boards cost "a fortune" - to me, $30 is dirt cheap. You can double that for Sinar and triple it for Linhof! With Pacemaker Graphics (Crown and Speed), you have the rare privilege of being able to buy brand new lens boards for a 50-year-old camera.

    Graphics are rugged and lightweight - they offer comparatively few camera movements, but they are my favorite choice for a 4x5" field camera. It's too bad about the prices - I bought a very nice top rangefinder Pacemaker Crown Graphic about 4 years ago for $180 - sadly, they seem to have gone up since!

    Regards,

    David
     
  19. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Isn't the purpose of the solenoid to trip the shutter, using the button on the flash handle?
     
  20. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Well spotted! I just expermented with my "office ornament" Crown Graphic and indeed firing the shutter does not trip the solenoid (I have never used the solenoid, but I thought it did). Even so, as the shutter has regular flash contacts (bipost type) as well, I can see no reason to use the solenoid unless the flash firing current is too high for the shutter.

    Regards,

    David
     
  21. Fotoguy20d

    Fotoguy20d Subscriber

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    Anytime you see the word "rare" in ebay with regards to something Graflex, you can probably ignore it as advertising hype. Roll backs are plentiful, and if you don't jump at the first one you see, they aren't expensive. I picked up a RH-10 for my 4x5 for around $45 minus a darkslide, which I canibalized out of an old Film Pack Holder (those are useless since the film is no longer available). As long as your graphic has a GG panel, you'll have no problem fitting any standard 4x5 holder under it. To use the roll film holder, you unclip the GG panel by pressing down on the two silver bars on the panel while sliding it to the right (make sure the body has two intact hooks - GG panel is useless otherwise). You put the roll film holder up against the back and slide the two silver bars on the camera down and up against the holder, locking it in place.
     
  22. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    David, with all due respect... the solenoid has nothing to do with flash firing current. One does not connect a flash to the solenoid. The solenoid trips the shutter and provides a mechanism for controlling the delay required for flash bulb use. The benefit is to trip the shutter and flash "simultaneously" using the red button on a Graflite flash handle.
     
  23. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Brian, my "office ornament" is a side-rangefinder Pacemaker Crown Graphic with a 3-cell Graflex flashgun. I freely admit I've never fired it, but the flashgun has 5 pairs of sockets, each of which takes a US household-style plug. These are labeled "Extension", "Shutter", "Battery", "Remote" and "Solenoid". Cables were (in fact still are) available with a household plug on one end and a bipost male, bipost female, household or 3 mm PC connector on the other. The solenoid on the lens panel has a hook on the end of its plunger which wraps around the firing lever of the shutter, while at the bottom of the solenoid is a female bipost socket. I assume that connecting from "Solenoid" on the flashgun to the base of the solenoid will cause this to fire the shutter when the red button at the rear of the flashgun is pressed. I also assume another alternative would be to use the body release on the camera, which pushes down on the shutter firing lever, and hook up the flash from the "Shutter" socket on the flashgun to the bipost terminals on the shutter. My conclusion is that the solenoid essentially provides a means of synchronising a non-synchronised leaf shutter and therefore became redundant when synchronised shutters became available, except that. as I said, you could potentially be using a very heavy firing current with dozens of bulbs and the solenoid would isolate the shutter from this.

    Regards,

    David
     
  24. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Yes. this is correct.

    This gave me pause...but I think I understand what you're saying. The problem is you come to the point so quickly that at first it seems incorrect. It is largely a matter of point of view. Let us assume that you have a large number of flash bulbs to fire and that this would require a large current (I'm not entirely convinced of this but, let us assume it is the case for now).

    I think what you're saying is that one could try to connect all of these to the flash synch terminals on the shutter itself and that, due to the large current involved, this might be a problem to be avoided.

    In this case one could trigger both the shutter solenoid and the flash bulbs with some external switch and in this manner "isolate" the flash current from the shutter...correct? I think "isolate" is the wrong word here but, that is a nit. A transistor connected to the shutter's flash synch switch would isolate the shutter from the flash current. The solenoid is just completely avoiding the shutter's flash synch switch altogether.
     
  25. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    I can vouch for using the Crown Graphic as a field camera. My old Crown didn't have a rangefinder, so I got into 4x5 focusing on the GG - it was a good habit to get into as I moved up to a Shen Hao field cam. You likely won't be using it for candids or street photography, etc. anyway.

    I also used regular Fidelity-type film holders, which also work nicely with other field cams...Crowns or Speeds are a great way to get into LF photography.
     
  26. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    This may turn into "More than anyone ever wanted to know about Graflex flashguns" :wink: but as far as I can see the red button on the flashgun, the bottom of the solenoid, the flashbulb, any extension flashguns and any extension power pack (which could be, and often was, a 90V radio battery) are all in the same circuit. This is what I meant when I said the solenoid isolates the camera shutter from a heavy current. In fact you are right - a solenoid usually acts as an isolator by having a small energising current on one side and a heavy switching current on the other which are not electrically connected (and are therefore isolated). In the case of the Graphic solenoid, it of course has a current only on one side, the other side is not electrical at all but is a mechanical link to the shutter. Someday I must got out and try to take some shots like O. Winston Link and put all these ideas to a practical test!

    Regards,

    David