Using a Speed Graphic hand held - doable?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by hoffy, May 27, 2012.

  1. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Howdy,

    Maybe I had too much time on my hands on a Lazy Sunday, maybe it was the Mexican I had for dinner, but I can feel some GAS coming on.

    Now, since I have had some fun of late going to retro car shows and Rock'n'Roll festivals, I was thinking a Speed Graphic might be a good way to get into Large Format, as well as being a bit of fun at such shows.

    OK, so we are all well aware that Speed Graphics were the Press cameras of choice back in the day. What I want to know is how hand holdable is using one of these cameras (assuming that the said camera is range finder equipped)? Or would I be better off sticking with something like my Koni-Omega and keeping the Large Format on the tripod?

    Cheers.
     
  2. TimmyMac

    TimmyMac Subscriber

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    As long as you've got lots of light, no problem. Use 400-speed film or a flash. I took a Busch Pressman out yesterday and shot 8 or 10 sheets handheld.

    Use the ground glass to check that the rangefinder is spot on!
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've used my 4x5" Technika handheld quite a bit, usually with a fast lens at TXP at EI640 in Acufine, like so--

    [​IMG]
    Self-portrait, Chicago Navy Pier, 2007 by David A. Goldfarb, on Flickr

    sometimes with flash, as in this set--

    http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo/halloween/index.htm

    Obviously, shooting handheld isn't going to give you the sharpness you would get on a tripod, which is true of any format, and you aren't going to be using camera movements handheld, but you will get the rich tonality and DOF characteristics of 4x5", and you will be able to photograph more dynamic subjects that would be harder to get with a tripod. Ignore those who will say it's not worth it.

    If you don't need the focal plane shutter (say for barrel lenses), you might prefer a lighter weight Crown to a Speed for handheld use.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For rangefinder shooting, I recommend getting some Grafmatic filmholders that hold six sheets each in the space of about two regular filmholders. You may also look for Kinematic holders, that hold 10 sheets, to carry a lot of film compactly. The Kinematics aren't as reliable as Grafmatics, and are a bit fiddlier to use at first, not to mention harder to find, but they do let you carry a lot of film quite compactly.
     
  5. premortho

    premortho Member

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    You are kidding, right?

    Back in the day, we did 90% of our shots hand held. Spot news usually didn't allow for such niceties as a tripod. We used tripods more for feature stories. Between the advent of flashbulbs and highspeed film, we didn't need to use tripods as much as before 1940. Our newspaper used Ansco Super Panchro-Press, and combined with a Sylvania Press 25 flashbulb, I usually set the focus at 10 feet, and f32-1/50th, and Used the advantage of the depth of field allowed by this combination. If you can get 3 1/4 by 4 1/4 film in Australia, the Speed Graphics in this size are somewhat smaller smaller and a little lighter than 4 by 5's. And a little cheaper as well. It's a very easy camera to use, once you get used to it. Good luck, and have fun!:munch:
     
  6. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    OK, thanks for that. Now, i am a bit of a large format beginner (OK, a Lot!), so what kinds of shutter speeds could I expect with a regular run of the mill lens? What would be the standard focal length lens to use? 135mm?

    CHeers
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    135mm or 150mm would be typical. Shutter speed is what it is with any format at a given ISO, aperture, and lighting conditions. If you've got a fairly accurate rangefinder, you can work at f:8, and if you've got a very accurate rangefinder and use it carefully, you can shoot wide open or close to it--say f:4 or 5.6. I have a 135/3.5 Planar, and do use it wide open, but it sharpens up nicely at f:4-5.6. A more basic 4x5" lens would be a 150/4.5 Xenar or comparable Tessar-type. If you're relying on a leaf shutter, your top speed could be 1/200-1/500 in general. If you have a focal plane shutter, you may have 1/1000 sec. at the high end. So on a bright sunny day, you've got f:16 at 1/ISO. Indoors with average room light at ISO 640, you're more likely to be around 1/10 -1/15 sec. at f:3.5, 1/5 sec. at f:4.5.

    With a leaf-shutter lens, a big camera, and good technique, it's not so outrageous to handhold 1/5 sec with a normal lens.
     
  8. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    135 is more or less the "normal" focal length, equivalent to a 50 on a 35. Most of these are f/3.5 or f4 lenses. Top speeds for the lens mounted shutters are typically 1/400 or 1/500 second. The focal plane shutters on the later Speed Graphics can go up to 1/1000 as I recall.

    Here's a video that might give you some ideas using them hand held, hopefully it doesn't scare you off:smile:
    [video=youtube;-hROn0gA9z4]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hROn0gA9z4[/video]
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  10. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    Cheers for that. So, in reality, not having the focal plane shutter on the crown, is not too much of a disadvantage (as long as we are using a leaf shutter lens)?
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a 5x7" Press Graflex SLR with a focal plane shutter that goes up to 1/1500 sec. I might use the high speeds occasionally outdoors on a sunny day, if I want particularly short DOF, but I could live without them easily.
     
  12. asokolow

    asokolow Member

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    It's very doable under the right conditions. When I was still in school, many moons ago, I shoot sporting events such as basketball and football with a Crown Graphic. Indoor shots needed a flash, and outdoor needed good light. All settings had to be pre-set, of course. But still, the results were good enough to sell to the local newspaper for their sports section.
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi hoffy

    the 1# you lose from not having the focal plane shutter on the crown graphic is offset
    by the fact that with a crown you have to use a shuttered lens. focal plane shutters are not
    hard to fiddle around with both on a graflex slr + speed graphic. i use my slr handheld 99.9% of the time
    and for a long while the speed i have hand held for about 75% of the time.
    no flash needed just a lens and the camera.
    barrel lenses can be found cheap still ( harvested off of folders if you like weird glass ) enlarger lenses
    as well as inexpensive underdog wollensak /ilex bl &c lenses.
    using a 4x5 handheld is lot of fun, and i am sure you will get a kick out of shooting your vintage-stuff with a period camera :smile:

    have fun !
    john
     
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  15. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you plan to use flash, a leaf shutter lens is an advantage, because it syncs at any speed.
     
  16. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    If you can hand hold a medium format camera or a 35mm camera then you can do the same with a Speed Graphic. In the same lighting conditions with the same speed film you can use the same shutter speed and aperture.

    The advantage you have is its bulk. i.e. its inertia means you are less likely to get camera shake (unless you have puny muscles which will shake due to its weight!).


    Steve.
     
  17. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    What he said ^^^
     
  18. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Its no different than any other camera, just a bit heavier.
     
  19. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    I tend to think of myself as somewhat a Press Camera expert http://www.graywolfphoto.com/presscameras/index.html.

    Most press cameras are going to have a 127mm (equiv to 28mm) or a 135mm (equiv to 35mm) lens as news photographers tended to work in close. Contrary to those who grew up with 35mm cameras, they did not often work with the lens opened up much. Pretty much the standard exposure was f/22 @ 1/50 with ASA 100 film. That was, if you check it, pretty much standard for bright sunlight, and with a #5 flash bulb at 6-10 feet. They tended to use flash indoors and out (remember, they were shooting for newsprint and too contrasty an image would not look good on newsprint). If you are going to use strobe instead of flash bulbs you need a hefty one (GN 160-220). That was one of the things that made news photogs want to go to a smaller format after they started using strobes. The early strobes with that kind of power were heavy, usually heavier than the whole rest of the outfit. Later strobes are better, I have a Sunpak 611, and a Honeywell 682S, that I can get by with and they are under 3lbs.

    Hand holding a press camera was the norm. They pretty much only used tripods when they were going to have a long shot at a fixed point. Film was usually 12 exposure film packs of Super XX or Super Pan Press (both rated 100 back then, but 200 by modern --since 1959-- standards), I think most of us would down rate modern 200 speed film to 100 anyway, I do.

    The way they actually worked was to shoot two shots, one for the money and one just in case. The first would be developed, and if it was OK, the second one discarded. It has been a long time since a photographer was sent out expected to come back with only one shot, and that one shot to be publishable. But, back in those days, a wedding was usually 12 B&W 8x10's in an album for $99. They just had the idea that you were suppose to be good enough to get "the shot", if you couldn't they fired you. Newspaper work was insanely competitive back in those days.

    Shooting a press camera with flash bulbs is, to my mind, the most fun type of photography there is. When you do it at a party, everyone wants their picture taken. In the old day they discarded spent flash bulbs in a handy ashtray. Today, of course, those do not exist, so I usually give the spent bulb to the person I just shot as a souvenir. Almost everyone takes it, as almost no one has even seen a flash bulb before and is they have it was a tiny snapshot camera bulb.

    Anyway, using the big press camera as it was intended to be used is the simplest kind of photography. Basically, you pre-set everything and just watch for the moment.

    Have fun!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 27, 2012
  20. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    The reason the focal plane shutter was so important in the old days, WWII & earlier, was because the press camera usually had a self-cocking "Press" shutter that only went to 1/100th of a second (With a press shutter and a film pack taking a series of shots was as simple as "pull the film tab" & "hit the button on the flash battery case". If you could not get 2 shots a second doing that, you were really uncoordinated), so if you need higher shutter speeds you used the focal plane shutter. After the war front shutters with 1/400 or 1/500 second were the norm, so you only needed the focal plane shutter if you were shooting with a long shutterless lens. Basically, that is why Graphex came out with the Crown Graphic in 1947, some people just did not need the focal plane shutter any longer.
     
  21. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Our wedding was shot with a 4x5 Speed Graaphic. Indoor shots were done using flashbulbs and outdoor shots were done using ambient lighting with some fill flash. It was shot entirely on Ektacolor S and some Ektachrome. They are all sharp as a tack up through 11x14 enlargements.

    PE
     
  22. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    There is an old adage about what the slowest speed one can hand hold steadily. It goes: the slowest speed is one that approximates the focal length of your lens in millimeters. In other words, most 4 x 5 graphics have a 135 mm lens. That would mean you can hand hold comfortably at a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second or faster. A 150 mm should be OK at that speed too with care. For 35 mm cameras, a 50 mm lens can be hand held at 1/60. I tell my students that with practice they should be able to drop down at least another speed.
     
  23. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    I was just going to mention artonpaper's tip, above.

    The Crown and Speed Graphics were made for hand holding, and I've done so with mine too. I say, just dive right in and give it a try -- it's a safe assumption that it's easier than you may think beforehand!

    The main point is to make sure your rangefinder is calibrated so you get proper focusing, and to give yourself a bit of leeway through depth-of-field also.
     
  24. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    As others have implied - yes, of course.
     
  25. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    The practical advantage of having a focal plane shutter is the ability to use barrel (non-shuttered) lenses.
     
  26. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    ... and that was further re-iterated later in Graphlex history with the SuperGraphic, where the fast speed was provided only on a version called the SuperSpeed Graphic with the 1000 speed leaf shutter.

    I find the focla plane shutter to be quite worth the weight because of the abiltity to use barrel lenses. Not everyone needs or wants that flexibility... then or now!