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  1. #1

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    LF Newbie, help me choose a Speed Graphic

    As part of my effort to improve the tonal quality of my portrait images, I have decided that LF is the way to go. Most of my prints will be contact printed.

    Taking advise from here and also speaking with friends, I think the Speed Graphic offers the best value for money.

    As all Speed Graphic is older than me, are there specific things to look out for on this camera? Are there different versions? Something that is easy to break? Or upgrade that really makes a difference (at reasonable cost)?

    Lenses, are there some lenses that is worth looking for? Ideally good value for money, and perhaps suitable for 8x10 also.

  2. #2
    Whiteymorange's Avatar
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    The Graflock back is key. If you buy an older one with a spring back (or the even older version which I think is called the Graflex back) you will be unable to use roll backs or Fuji instant film without modification. Since you are speaking of portraits. I don't think the limited movements available in the later Pacemaker Speed are really worth the money, but more experienced folks may disagree.

    One of the nice things about working with a Speed is the availability of barrel lenses that can come your way for small change. I personally like Tessar lenses for people, and there are a lot of them out there. A 10" Ektar is an old favorite, but there are cheaper versions around that will give you very similar results. I also prefer uncoated lenses for portraits, but then, maybe I like these things because they're cheap :-/ You cant go too long with the bellows on a Speed, so 12" is about the limit of your practical FL for lenses. Again, other minds may have other opinions.

    Have fun. The Speed is my favorite camera.

  3. #3

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    I like the Graflex as a good starter for 4x5, particularly if you aren't looking for a lot of movements. Why a Speed instead of a Crown? Do you need the focal plane shutter? Many LF lenses come in a shutter (although old ones can be iffy, particularly, I find, the Graphex shutters). The Crown is lighter, thinner and simpler than the Speed (and less expensive). Because of the shallower body, it can use wider lenses.

    If you want to be able to remove the ground glass, such as to use a MF roll film holder, you will need a Graflok back instead of a Graphic (spring) back. Avoid (like the plague) a Graflex back. You probably want a Pacemaker (1947 and later) model rather than the anniversary - the anny has even less movement than the Pacemaker.

    The two most often damaged things in a Crown or Speed are the rear rails and the bellows. If you aren't careful to rack the rails back properly before trying to stow the bed, you can strip out the rails - happens a lot. Graflex bellows are pretty sturdy but many are 50+ years old and can crack in the corners. Accuracy of the Speed's FP shutter is probably iffy but as long as it runs through the entire range you can live with it. Kalart rangefinders are usually out of alignment but are an easy fix - they are sometimes dim, which requires replacing the mirror or the entire unit.

    The basic lenses for a Speed are the 127mm Kodak Ektar (no movements with it but a nice lens), 135mm Optar (a good lens) and the 135mm Xenar on the later models (also a nice lens). A Kodak Ektar 20mm is another nice lens and will cover up to 5x7. I don't think you'll find much in the way of lenses for a 4x5 that will cover 8x10, although a 380mm tele-optar will sort of cover.

    Dan

  4. #4
    Barry S's Avatar
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    If you're already planning on mostly contact printing, I'd skip over 4x5 and go directly to 5x7 or 8x10. Sometimes I make 4x5 alt-process contacts and while I enjoy the prints--they're really small for display. A 5x7 contact print starts to look pretty good on a wall. A 5x7 or 8x10 Kodak 2D, Century, Korona or similar camera won't cost a lot more than a Speed Graphic and will give you a much nicer negative for contact printing.

  5. #5

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    Fotoguy said.........."A Kodak Ektar 20mm is another nice lens and will cover up to 5x7."

    I've yet to see a 20mm lens that will cover 5x7

    The originator doesn't mention if he intends to use flash as synch could be a problem with the focal plane shutter?

    Cheers Dave

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Dawson View Post
    Fotoguy said.........."A Kodak Ektar 20mm is another nice lens and will cover up to 5x7."

    I've yet to see a 20mm lens that will cover 5x7

    The originator doesn't mention if he intends to use flash as synch could be a problem with the focal plane shutter?

    Cheers Dave
    Oops. Make that a 203mm Ektar (or the Kodak 203mm Anastigmat). The Pacemaker has bipost flash sync on the body - I've never tried it on my own Speed though but I'll assume it fires with the rear shutter.
    Last edited by Fotoguy20d; 01-26-2010 at 11:28 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry S View Post
    A 5x7 contact print starts to look pretty good on a wall. A 5x7 or 8x10 Kodak 2D, Century, Korona or similar camera won't cost a lot more than a Speed Graphic and will give you a much nicer negative for contact printing.
    I find 5x7 doesn't suit my needs. I can't enlarge it (my bigger enlarger is a D-2) and I think they're too small as a contact print. I will second the Eastman 2D as a nice, affordable 8x10 camera (albeit with very minimal movements), but, lenses for 8x10 are another story. Where a 135mm Optar won't cost more than about $50 in excellent condition, finding an 8x10 lens in shutter for under $100 seems impossible in any condition except wretched.

    Dan

  8. #8

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    The problem with limiting yourself to one particular make/type of camera is then finding one...It's best to draw up a 'short list' of a few to increase your chances of getting a good deal....A Sinar F with a Copal shutter are now quite cheap (I spotted two Sinar F's at a camera fair last Sunday for £175 and £195 with no takers and an early Sinar shutter with cable release for £60) then you can barrel mount any old lens on the front.

    For portrait's you would probably need a 12" for 5x4, 18" for 5x7 and 24" for 10x8 lens.

    Cheers Dave

  9. #9
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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    Dave finding Speed Graphis isn't a problem, getting one at a good price is. Best solution is a wanted advert on this site.

    The British MPP MicroPress is also a Speed Graphic albeit with very slight modification, the MPP Micro Technical cameras are based on the pre-War 1939 Linhof.

    Ian

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Grant View Post
    Dave finding Speed Graphis isn't a problem, getting one at a good price is. Best solution is a wanted advert on this site.

    The British MPP MicroPress is also a Speed Graphic albeit with very slight modification, the MPP Micro Technical cameras are based on the pre-War 1939 Linhof.

    Ian
    and geuss who has a MK VII MPP

    Cheers Dave

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