Crown Graphic or Speed Graphic?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by brian steinberger, Jul 6, 2008.

  1. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    As always, I'm looking for new ways to photograph the world. I've been looking on ebay at both Crown and Speed Graphics. I've done research, and do know the basics between the two. I have a few questions, and would like to hear some experiences from users of both. What I'm looking to use it for is:

    - hand-holdable 4x5 environmental portraiture and documentary, industrial, landscape... etc.

    - I don't really need many movements. I would like some tilt and or swing though to create a dreamy look.

    - I'm not going to be using a flash.

    - Basically I want a 4x5 point and shoot rangefinder.

    I do have a few questions that I couldn't find answers.

    - I have a Fujinon W 135/5.6 lens. Could I get a graphic and use this lens on it? Advantages? disadvantages?

    - Do either cameras have a revolving back? If so how does the rangefinder adjust from "landscape" to "portrait?"

    - Which camera or model has the best rangefinder?

    - Which one is more suitable for hand-held photography?

    - And lastly, I know the Crown graphic is lighter and doesn't have a focal plane shutter. Would there be advantages to having a focal plane shutter?

    Thanks for the help!
     
  2. JLMoore3rd

    JLMoore3rd Member

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    Brian- I've tried to answer some of your questions below...

    - I have a Fujinon W 135/5.6 lens. Could I get a graphic and use this lens on it? Advantages? disadvantages?

    You could easily sync any 135mm lens to a Speed or Crown Graphic, as long as the camera has the rangefinder parts for a 135mm lens... The top-rangefinder Graphic uses a cam specific to the focal length of the lens, so if it has the 135mm cam installed it would work. The side-rangefinder can be adjusted to the 135mm lens, but it can take a bit more futzing around.

    - Do either cameras have a revolving back? If so how does the rangefinder adjust from "landscape" to "portrait?"

    The only modern Graflex model with a revolving back was the "Super Speed"... I've never used one, so I'll leave this to others more knowledgeable.

    - Which camera or model has the best rangefinder?

    I prefer the top-rangefinder model, mostly because the rangefinder is easier to use (in my opinion). Plus- the ability to change cams for different lenses is quite useful.

    - Which one is more suitable for hand-held photography?

    Either work quite well hand-held.

    - And lastly, I know the Crown graphic is lighter and doesn't have a focal plane shutter. Would there be advantages to having a focal plane shutter?

    The only advantage to having a (correctly adjusted) focal plane shutter is the ability to use barrel lenses.

    I have a couple of Speed Graphics that I keep meaning to put up on the classifieds, so if you're interested- PM me for specs.

    John "Alpha Flying Monkey" Moore
     
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  3. Changeling1

    Changeling1 Member

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    I would choose a Crown over a Speed

    The Speed's FP shutter is notorious for not working too well and adding a considerable amount of (dead) weight to a camera that was mostly hand-held for press photos. The FP shutter was a good idea that didn't work out too well. An FP would allow you to work with barrel lenses thus avoiding the expense of separate shutters for each lens. Of course, a Speed can use lenses with shutters by simply locking the FP shutter open. Setting up the cams for rangefinder shooting was usually done by trained service techs and is no simple feat. Of course, you can always focus the lenses on infinity in order to "point and shoot" at will. Personally, I would only shoot landscapes and portraits with the camera on a tripod unless camera shake would enhance the artistic quality of your project. The old-time press photographers almost always used those super bright flash bulbs to freeze the action of their subjects. Those old bulbs and flashguns are still available on the auction site and create quite a spectacle when used in public! :wink:
     
  4. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    I just researched more about the "super speed graphic" made in the 60s and early 70s after John said it was the only graphic that has a revolving back. Its also the only speed graphic that omits the focal plane shutter. It has more movements which is nice and it has a rangefinder that can be changed by cams for different focal lengths. This seems like a nice sounding camera. Can anyone elaborate anymore on the super speed graphic?
     
  5. robindreyer

    robindreyer Member

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    I wouldn't bother with the Speed if you can find a Crown, which shouldn't be too hard. The focal plane mechanism is complicated and adds weight and bulk to the camera. Best of all is the Super Graphic, which is the a Crown with a revolving back. However, if you are hand holding you might not mind simply rotating the camera. If you are using the Crown or Speed on a tripod, however, you have to move from one screw hole to another when you go from horizontal to vertical and then the movements (which are limited but handy) all work differently. The Super keeps everything the same and you just rotate the back (same as a regular view camera).

    Your lens will work fine and probably has a 1/500 shutter. The Speed Graphic focal plane shutter tops out at 1/1000, I think. You can set up the rangefinder to work with that focal length if the camera you get is set up for a different length, but you may have change the cam. This is a fussy operation but not too complicated. There's lots of information on all this at graflex.org.
     
  6. robindreyer

    robindreyer Member

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    No, the Crown Graphic also eliminated the focal plane shutter. And I'm pretty sure that all of them allow you to change cams for different focal lengths. 135 was one of the standard lengths for that camera, so you might be able to find one that's already set up for that length--if the person selling it has that information. If you are planning to use the rangefinder, make sure the seller can assure you that it still works. When they work, they work well, but it's a mechanism, so you never know.

    The Super is an excellent camera, very robust, simple. It won't do everything a view camera will do, but it's small, portable, affordable, and a pleasure to use within its limitations.
     
  7. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    "- hand-holdable 4x5 environmental portraiture and documentary, industrial, landscape... etc."

    Don't overestimate what you can shoot hand held with these. You can do a whole lot, but remember the one over focal length guide and remember D of F at these FLs. One over FL guide can be cheated a little due to the leaf shutter.

    "- I don't really need many movements. I would like some tilt and or swing though to create a dreamy look."

    No swing on either unless you are shooting a vertical. I don't get the "dreamy" comment. Does the plane of focus tilt in your dreams? BTW that word was banned from use by the teacher from one of my portfolio classes.

    "- Basically I want a 4x5 point and shoot rangefinder."

    Either will have a rangefinder, and both are about as far from "point and shoot" as you can get.

    "- I have a Fujinon W 135/5.6 lens. Could I get a graphic and use this lens on it? Advantages? disadvantages?"

    Certainly. You can use pretty much any lens as long as you can rig it to be tripped by the shutter release. If not, you can use a cable release or with a Speed use the in-body shutter. 135 is a nice and easy to use FL on these cameras.

    "- Do either cameras have a revolving back? If so how does the rangefinder adjust from "landscape" to "portrait?""

    No. The Graflex Revolving Back is what you would need for that. Why would turning from horizontal to vertical affect focus with the RF?

    "- Which camera or model has the best rangefinder?"

    Neither.

    "- Which one is more suitable for hand-held photography?"

    Neither. Some will say the Crown due to weight. I would say to grow some muscles, and that the difference is small and the FP shutter can help a lot when shooting hand held.

    "- And lastly, I know the Crown graphic is lighter and doesn't have a focal plane shutter. Would there be advantages to having a focal plane shutter?"

    Having a focal plane shutter is the advantage! Read a basic photography book to learn the advantages! It's an in-body shutter capable of more "Speed" than the "Crown". In-body means you save LOTS of $$$ on lenses and can use certain lenses that are never found in a shutter, or use lenses with inoperable shutters, etc., and that you only have to have one shutter serviced.

    Given these questions *after* you have supposedly "done research, and do know the basics between the two", I would say that you did not do enough research! These cameras require brains and hard work and practice. You need to hold one in your hands and fiddle with it a bit before you decide you want one
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 6, 2008
  8. epatsellis

    epatsellis Member

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    The Burke and James Press has a revolving back as well, and they usually go dirt cheap.
     
  9. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Get the Crown Graphic.

    I own both the Crown & the Speed. For hand holding the Crown is simpler and lighter to use.
     
  10. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I have both.

    I agree that the crown is lighter, but I used the Speed to take the aerial shots in my gallery, so I can get by with both. They are both good cameras. I had one of my people experience a focal plane shutter rip on a job and he just switched to his other shutter. Great to be able to do that.

    PE
     
  11. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Changeling1 wrote "The Speed's FP shutter is notorious for not working too well <snip>"

    My 2x3 Pacemaker Speed disagrees strongly with you.

    The same person also wrote "Setting up the cams for rangefinder shooting was usually done by trained service techs and is no simple feat. "

    Eh? Are you sure? I hate to do it, but the process is pretty straighforward.

    And did you mean cam as in CAM or cam as in camera? I ask because only to RF Graphics have cams. Graphics with side RFs, usually Kalarts, can be adjusted for a wide range of focal lengths but the RFs don't have cams, so must be adjusted (takes me 20-30 minutes, fiddly iterative process) every time the lens is changed.
     
  12. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Brian, since no one has mentioned it, you really need one of each. A Speed for long lenses -- it has more extension -- and lenses in barrel, to be used with the FPS. A Crown for short lenses -- it has a considerably shorter minimum flange-to-film distance -- and for situations where it will do and the added weight/bulk of a Speed isn't needed.

    Since you want to use a 135 that's in shutter, you'd do better to start with a Crown.

    Oh, yeah, I have 2x3 Speed and Century, also a Crown, use the Speed and Century appropriately as mentioned above and stacked end to end to shoot with surprisingly long lenses. The tandem's limit is around 500 mm.

    Good luck, have fun, and ignore people who allege that the cameras are problematic,

    Dan
     
  13. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    Well, I have and use both. The Speed is an early Pacemaker model and the Crown is a very late Pacemaker model. The Speed has a Kalart rangefinder which allows you to calibrate it to a wide range of focal lengths. It's squinty (to me) but works very well when you calibrate it correctly.

    The Crown is a top-rangefinder and is very very comfortable to use. You need a cam for each lens. Cams are difficult to locate. I've given up on the idea of ever using mine with anything other than a 135mm lens.

    I use both handheld but usually go with a tripod. Neither are uncomfortably heavy and I am a small guy. The focal plane shutter is great and I use it mostly with barrel lenses on a tripod. Enlarging lenses, projection lenses, pinholes, zone plates.. You can do it all. It's easy to maintain. It's somewhat easy to repair. I get consistent results.

    I think I get the most flexibility from the Speed with kalart rangefinder, but the Crown with top-rf is most comfortable to use handheld for me. If you want light, a spring-back will work just as well as a Graflok and save you some weight. My crown with spring back weigh just about as much as a hasselblad 500 with 80mm planar C. Sorry for the ramble, it's just my opinion. Good luck though! Can't go wrong with either as long as it's in good working complete shape.
     
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  15. Whatadame

    Whatadame Member

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    There are some cams on eBay right now. I've been shopping for a Graphic for a while.
     
  16. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Brian, there were nominally two models of the Super Graphic, a metal-bodied press camera with revolving back. Plain Super Graphic and Super Speed Graphic. The Super Speed Graphic came with a normal lens in a rather fragile Wollensak leaf shutter whose top speed, when it worked, was 1/1000. Hence the designaton Speed.

    Otherwise, with two key differences, the Super Graphic is more or less a metal-bodied top RF Crown. The difference that matters is that the Crown's inner and outer bed rails are linked and the Super's aren't. This makes focusing short lenses, that make infinity "inside the box," easy with the Crown and hard with the Super. The difference that hardly matters at all is that the Super's RF cams (that word again; please, people, refer to cams as cams and cameras as cameras) are supposed to be easier to change. And yes, the Super has a bit more movements than the Crown.

    Now stop asking questions here and go to www.graflex.org and read the FAQs.
     
  17. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    There was an article in View Camera magazine not long ago about modifying a Crown Graphic to allow swing movements. The problem hand held is that the focus will not stay where your rangefinder indicates when you apply swing. So in order to use swing on a hand held large format, you would need to compose using the ground glass instead.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography
     
  18. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    - hand-holdable 4x5 environmental portraiture and documentary, industrial, landscape... etc.

    - I don't really need many movements. I would like some tilt and or swing though to create a dreamy look.

    - I'm not going to be using a flash.

    - Basically I want a 4x5 point and shoot rangefinder.

    - I have a Fujinon W 135/5.6 lens. Could I get a graphic and use this lens on it? Advantages? disadvantages?

    - Do either cameras have a revolving back? If so how does the rangefinder adjust from "landscape" to "portrait?"

    - Which camera or model has the best rangefinder?

    - Which one is more suitable for hand-held photography?

    - And lastly, I know the Crown graphic is lighter and doesn't have a focal plane shutter. Would there be advantages to having a focal plane shutter?

    I have used both a speed and crown for 40 years and it seems to me that a Crown will best fit your bill, but the other option is a Bushman which has a revolving back and all metal. Bessler marketed a press camera at one time, might have been Bushman, has build in cams, revloving back, I have only seen 1 or 2 over the years, very heavy. Both the Crown and Speed use the same rangefinder, early models have the rangfinder on the side, later models on the top. Most Crowns and Speeds were camed for a 135mm or 127mm. Your Fuji is a modern lens and may perform bettern than either the Kodak or Wallensacks that were standard. I use a 135mm Ektar which is very sharp for the day, but of late I have been thinking about getting newer lens: Nikon or Fuji. A focal plan shutter that is properly working will give a top speed of 1/1000 or is it 1/1200 of a second while most leaf shutters top out at 1/400 or 1/500th of a second and allows for barrel lens. As already noted the speed has a longer bellows. I hand hold my speed or use on a monpod, some times a little rise but not much. A graphlock back is a nice feature if you want to use roll film, but you need to mask down the viewfinder.
     
  19. DBP

    DBP Member

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    I'm not sure why the rotating back is an advantage for handheld use, seems easier to rotate the camera. These cameras were designed for handheld photography. I think Roger Hicks noted some time back that you can shoot at slower handheld speeds with a 4x5 camera because of both the inertia of the heavier camera and the size of the negative. (I hope I didn't misattribute that).

    I've adjusted a Kalart rangefinder before and agree that it really just takes some patience (plus a tripod and a space where you can focus on close and far objects).

    The B&J Press and the Busch Pressman both have a bit more movement than the Graphics and rotating backs, though the B&J is not as well made (haven't used a Busch). While I have a B&J and it is lighter and in some ways more versatile, I tend to use the Speed because I like having the second shutter as a backup to my ancient leaf shutters and because it is tougher.
     
  20. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    The spring back on the Crown allows me to use a FUJI 4x5 pack holder; the back on my Speed does not.
     
  21. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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  22. goamules

    goamules Member

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    On Graflex reliability, I'm very happy with my 60 year old Speed. It's FP shutter works fine, as do many other's I've looked at. I can't say the same for a lot of 1950s 35mm cloth shutter material. The Kalart RF works fine and is adjustable by the user. Everything about the cameras seems to last.

    They don't have a lot of features, but are good for basic 4x5 work. I think you would be fine with a Crown, with a kalart, and use shutter lenses.

    Graflex cameras were robust and popular with the press in the 20s-60s, and now with photogs in the next century. If they were not good, they wouldn't remain so popular through the generations.
     
  23. Daniel_Buck

    Daniel_Buck Member

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    I enjoy having the focal plane shutter (which was the reason I picked up the camera to begin with!) It seems reasonably accurate, I've used it from 1/15th all the way to 1/1000th, and the negatives appear to be what I would expect them to be. I use the speed for barrel lenses, and other lens experiments, I love it! Wish I could get something like that on my 8x10 :D haha!

    I've thought about making a frankenstein, taking the back of a speed graphic, remove the ground glass, and secure it just behind the front standard of an 8x10, and then I'd have an adjustable shutter for any lens on the 8x10! I'm not sure how my exposures would be though, I'd probably need to figure out a new graph of shutter tension and shutter widths.
     
  24. Samuel West Hiser

    Samuel West Hiser Member

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    Start with the Crown: it's important to get started with every advantage (it's much lighter). Then you'll be getting a Speed too so you can play around with funky barrel lenses (like Xenotars or Aero Ektars or pawn shop stuff from the Civil War ...). Then you'll be getting a roll-back ...
     
  25. premo

    premo Member

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    I have used speed graphics for over 60 years, and have never had a problem with the shutters other than loose screws. Like every other hand held camera, you have to get used to it. I think the speed is faster to use for "grab shots" than my b&j speed press, but the b&j has much more front standard movements. The speed graphic view finder works just as well vertically as horizontally. In the newspaper game, we called verticals "elbow shots", an easy technique to learn once you get the camera and play with it a little.
     
  26. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Not so. Many models of the Graflexes have rotating backs: RB Auto Graflex, Model B, Model C and Model D.

    Steve