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.
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.
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
have fun !
If you plan to use flash, a leaf shutter lens is an advantage, because it syncs at any speed.
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!).
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I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
Its no different than any other camera, just a bit heavier.
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.
Last edited by graywolf; 05-27-2012 at 11:45 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
Originally Posted by hoffy
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.