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  1. #1
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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    Crown Graphic or Speed Graphic?

    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. #2
    JLMoore3rd's Avatar
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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
    Last edited by JLMoore3rd; 07-06-2008 at 06:09 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Forgot something?

  3. #3

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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!
    "A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea." Man Ray

  4. #4
    brian steinberger's Avatar
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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. #5

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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. #6

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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. #7

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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 2F/2F; 07-06-2008 at 07:48 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

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  8. #8

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

  9. #9

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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.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  10. #10
    Photo Engineer's Avatar
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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

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