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  1. #1
    djgeorgie's Avatar
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    The Graflex XL. Anybody else have one?

    Just got mine in the mail today. Came with a Graflex RH-50 70mm back with exposed film. Can't wait to develop it and see what surprises are in store.

    I did a little research on the inventory sticker that some one put on the camera's body. Turned out it was used in police work for the Managua City Police Department in Nicaragua.
    http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADW988.pdf

    Anyways, does anyone use this camera? Since I already have a 70mm back, I'm going to use the special 4-post frame that comes attached to it (I'll call it the GraflokXL adapter). The official 4x5 back is extremely rare so I'm going to attach the graflokXL onto a regular graflok 4x5 back. It sucks that the standardized, international, graflok adapter wasn't used in this camera. Such a weird design. It's a medium format camera that wants to be a 4x5 format camera. The frame size is 3"x3.75". Here's a review of the official 4x5 back. Personally I like the black borders it produces.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    You can see how the filmback connects to the camera.


    It sucks this graflex camera wasn't very popular. It's exactly like a Mamiya Press but bigger. It wants to be a 4x5 but is stuck using medium format backs. But the film backs fit on 4x5 cameras and not your typical medium format camera. If this camera could have used both 4x5 backs and Mamiya RB67/Universal backs from the get-go, it would have been a huge hit.

    I got this camera so I can use up some of my unperforated 70mm film. The RB67 70mm film back doesn't accept unperffed film.

    It's just weird. Why did make this camera in the first place?
    http://filmphotog.blogspot.com/ my blog

    Please visit my film photography youtube channel and subscribe:


  2. #2

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    i have one that i don't use a lot, but have a variety of lenses for including the sonnar telephoto lens...nice outfit but a bit unweildy to haul around, but pretty quick to use for a medium format and the lenses are first rate, if not more so. Sadly, graflex came out with this the same time the nikons were going great guns. Military contracts kept the camera alive for a long time during vietnam,but the photographers who had to use them would rather have had nikons...

  3. #3
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    It was my understanding from an old pro who used to use them in the military that the big reason for their downfall was twofold: one, they were ridiculously expensive in part because of the Zeiss lenses, and two, they were not as robust as they were supposed to be because they were over engineered. His words, not mine...

  4. #4

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    I used them occasionally in the military, my recollection is that everybody liked to complain about them, but they got the job done. They are heavy, and a little slow to use because shutter cocking and film advance are not linked. A lot of folks claimed the rangefinders were prone to getting out of adjusment, but I never saw any direct evidence of that. OTH they have great optics and are relatively simple which are attributes with great value.
    Later in the USAF, they were replaced by Koni Omegas, not much lighter, but much faster handling, which was nice.

  5. #5

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    I have one and have been using it for a couple of years. It"s now the only camera I use and I love it. Sure, it has it's quirks (which camera doesn't?) but I think it is as versatile as any other system out there and the lenses are as good as I'll ever need; superb, really. For me, a major issue was "setting it up" well as you would a guitar or violin. As it came from the factory it is an ungainly thing. Roger Hicks charitably calls it's shape "awkward". First thing I did was to loosen up the focus ring with a little judicious sanding and some lube. Now it's smooth as silk. Next thing was to make a more compact right handed grip for it. The camera just does not carry easily either on a strap or in a bag because the factory grip seems to double it's size. Shrinking the grip makes it much more packable and it now handles very much like a 35mm slr. Grip with the right hand, focus with the left, right index finger shutter release. Next thing I did was to make a reflex viewer for it. It has a parallax correcting rangefinder/viewfinder that, with one of the several 80mm lenses, is about as nice as it gets. Which is good for me because I shoot an 80mm most of the time anyway, like the 35mm on my M2. But as with all rangefinders, the longer lenses are more difficult to use. To get the images a medium format camera is capable of I'm frequently on a tripod which, with a nice bright reflex finder, is as nice and accurate to use as any Hasselblad (imho) and what you see is what you get. So it's a neat combination of portable, hand-holdable rangefinder with an on-tripod reflex viewing capability for critical composition when you want it. Where else can you find that? Perhaps the best thing in the end are the 6x7 negs that are so nice to have when printing. Yeah, I'm a big fan.

  6. #6
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Welcome to APUG, mandoloid
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  7. #7
    PDH
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdial View Post
    I used them occasionally in the military, my recollection is that everybody liked to complain about them, but they got the job done. They are heavy, and a little slow to use because shutter cocking and film advance are not linked. A lot of folks claimed the rangefinders were prone to getting out of adjusment, but I never saw any direct evidence of that. OTH they have great optics and are relatively simple which are attributes with great value.
    Later in the USAF, they were replaced by Koni Omegas, not much lighter, but much faster handling, which was nice.
    My experiance was similair, foke lore was that in the late 60 and early 70s there was a federal law that gave perferance to US made equipment, which is why the Navy bought Topcon which for time was tagged Bessler and at least the Air Force bought Graflex although the lens were German, I dont recall if the body was made in the US or not. I liked the Koni Omega much better although I recall a time I needed to cover a funeral and the Koni was not as quite when winding the film as the XL and the Chaplin gave a talking to afterwards. I think Graflex was out of busniess by 72 and our repair center had a hard time keeping them service.

  8. #8

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    Had one for a while a number of years back. Used for aerial photography with a150mm. As I recall, I used the same graflex roll film backs that fit the graflex 2x3 cameras. I would think they predate the RB.

    The XL's Achilles heal are the focusing tabs that break.
    "Far more critical than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know." - Eric Hoffer

  9. #9
    djgeorgie's Avatar
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    You need the graflok back adapter to use 2x3 grafloks. Theres one on ebay for $150. No thanks. I'll make a 4x5 adapter instead. I have a Mamiya Press Model G for 2x3 work.

    The focussing tabs are notorious for breaking. I contacted SK Grimes, in anticipation, as he makes replacement focussing rings. $250! Eeek. Just going to be extremely careful with my XL
    http://filmphotog.blogspot.com/ my blog

    Please visit my film photography youtube channel and subscribe:


  10. #10

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    i read somewhere that those tabs were designed to break if you dropped it and could be easily replaced, but that was when the factory was making them, of course. Now? So don't drop it.

    I did have to sand the inside of the focusing ring so it rotated more easily around the lenses, it tends to shrink in the cold and, I think, with age.

    I really need to use mine more. Amazing cameras

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