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  1. #1
    hoffy's Avatar
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    Using a Speed Graphic hand held - doable?

    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. #2

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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. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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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--


    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.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  4. #4
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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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.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  5. #5

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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!
    Quote Originally Posted by hoffy View Post
    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.

  6. #6
    hoffy's Avatar
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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. #7
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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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.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  8. #8

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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

  9. #9
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    In case that video isn't embedding right--

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hROn0gA9z4
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  10. #10
    hoffy's Avatar
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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)?

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