4x5 was at one time considered medium format. Today it is considered more Large Format.
The Graphic 4x5 view camera became very popular almost immediately. It's monorail design, as opposed to dual rail view cameras, was designed with the rack and pinion under the rail and out of sight.
Okay, I have taken quite a hiatus from posting about old cameras. That's because I stalled out in the liquidation of my once very large vintge camera collection. I still have a lot of cameras left and I am still planning to liquidate them. So, now I am back, sort of. I'll ease back into this with no promise of finishing the project anytime soon, but I truly do hope to, as the cameras are doing no-one any good at the moment, unused, un-viewed, essentially in storage. I have a few more medium format cameras, TLR Twin Lens Reflex and SLR Single Lens Reflex Cameras as well as several old folding models. I may even have a Crown Graphic or two in whole or in parts, before I move on to a fairly vast number of 35 mm cameras.
This phone grab is not the best image, but I included it because I am trying to get back up and running with posts on the remaining vintage cameras before I sell them, and this was what I had on hand. What may here appear to be a flaw in the lens is a reflection of one of the shutter blades. The lens is actually quite clear. The lens-board, used to mount the lens to the front standard, is cosmetically not the greatest craftsmanship. Whomever undertook this job was obviously looking for mere utility. The mount works just fine, but the hacksaw cuts are a bit rugged, and the home-made adapter sort of thingy used to make it tight is, well, homemade. But it works just fine. I give them a A for effort and ingenuity. This was probably done pre-Dremmel Tool.
But I for sure have one good 4x5 Graflex Graphic View Camera which sets as a user albeit mostly unused on a sturdy old Bogen tripod. 4x5 was at one time considered medium format. Today it is considered more Large Format. At the time, greater film size equated to greater image quality. This is still true, but film emulsions, to say nothing of digital image sensors. offer much better quality with smaller formats. This Graphic is one of several million cameras produced and marketed by Graflex during the war-torn decade of the nineteen-forties. At the time, large format view cameras were the standard for studio and product work. They still hold a place for much of the latter. Most sources say 1940-1949 was the production period for this camera. When the updated version of this camera came out in 1949 as the Graphic II it was largely what we would call today a relaunch. The new model was not much different but for being designed from the onset to accommodate several accessories including the Graflok roll-film back. The bellows was a bit longer.
This little camera originally sold for less than a hundred-bucks, which was a significant capital equipment investment in the early 1940's. [I looked this up and the buying power at the time was a little over 10x what it is now, so the investment would have been about like a thousand dollars now. This does not tell the entire story, however. At the time, money was harder to come by. There was a lower percentage of people who had access to money. There was less money in the money supply, even given the higher value of the money then, and there was much less inclination of and sources for getting money to invest, so, however you cut it, this was not a casual expense for a photographer, but it was much less expensive than many competing cameras that offered feature for feature.] Still, it was relatively inexpensive for the day. It was by no means a pricey camera. This little camera is not little by todays standards, but it was lighter than most, while still offering all the movements required of a view camera.
Most sources say 1940-1949 was the production period for this camera.
The Graphic 4x5 was intended to take the photography world by storm as a mass-produced, all-metal framed view camera suitable for studio work, and with the optional carrying case. [I actually have been unable to determine if this useful case was an option or was standard with each camera. I have read some sources that insist that it was standard, which makes good sense, because the camera is very unwieldy without a case.
The Graphic 4x5 was intended to take the photography world by storm as a mass-produced, all-metal framed view camera suitable for studio work, and with the optional carrying case.On the other hand, photographers were always looking for ways to save a few bucks. If the camera was to be used exclusively in the studio, a case would have been an unnecessary additional expense. I just dunno this for sure. I have never had a case with any of mine, which were all acquired secondhand.] The case was said to be light and portable enough for location work for architecture or product photography or even scenics. I have actually never seen one, but I believe that the case started out being made of wood, and was therefore quite heavy, it was later made of a synthetic material, maybe Vulcanite. One source cited below says that the case was made from Vulcanite. Vulcanite is a material that was patented by Goodyear in 1946. It is made from rubber and sulphur combined at high heat. It was often used as a artificial replacement for a mineral of the hard coal family that occurs naturally called Jet, from whence the term Jet-Black comes from. Vulcanite and Bakelite were two of the castable materials that were being used for camera body coverings and cases during this time. The earliest Graphic View camera cases were made from wood, as was usual at the time, sometimes covered with leather. Vulcanite was a much lighter and much less expensive material and it makes sense that this case would have been made out of it, at least after 1946 or even earlier as produced on a Patent Pending basis.
The Graflex Graphic is today among the best bargains in vintage view cameras for those wanting to learn View Camera techniques and gain the advantages of image quality aforded by 4x5 film as ell as the movements which can correct visual distortions more efficiently than can even the most advanced post-camera computer software. They are highly sought today by photography students and both amateur and professional photographers because there are still a lot of them to be had, and they are not prone to deterioration if they have not been abused or damaged by the elements. Because the large numbers still in supply against the fairly steady demand, these cameras were then and are today more than ever one of the mainstay go-to view cameras. This is because they were then and are now good cameras.
The Graphic 4x5 view camera became very popular almost immediately. It's monorail design, as opposed to dual rail view cameras, was designed with the rack and pinion under the rail and out of sight. The T-design, or V-Notch as it is often referred to, provided rail sturdiness and great flexibility of movement, both essential for a good view camera. Aluminum was still fairly novel in manufacturing. Owing mostly to aircraft production, aluminum had begun to come into its own during the first part of the 19th Century.
The aluminum base that connects the camera securely to the tripod head was precisioned machined using pre-modern production techniques that were then leading-edge methods. The base is an integral and necessary part of the camera. Although this base is propriatary, there is some evidence that other bases were used as on-hand from photograpers' other existing cameras and that some tripods of the period included bases that were compatable with the Graphics. One fact that may support this is that the cameras could be purchased without the base. I can think of no other reason for this as the cameras were too big and unwieldy to have been hand-held. We must always bear in mind too that photographers of this era had to be self-sufficient and inventive. Just as with parallel technologies that were developing during this time, such as radio and othe remerging electronics, most improvements and developements originated in the field. It was not uncommon for photogaphers to make their own cameras dring this time. Since View Cameras were among the first camera designs ever, proliferating during the nearly one-hundred years leading up to this time, photographers had a lot of old carcasses to scrounge parts from. Photographers, and people in general, often made things for themselves.
Wooden view camera frames were the norm prior to this time. In fact, great pride of workmanship made pre-WWII cameras things of beauty. Subtle or ornate wood grains were coupled with shiney brass hardware and black or earthtone bellows in every-bit as much the fashion statements from camera makers. This camera was a departure from these beautiful old cameras. The distinct aluminum frame and polished stainless hardware was paired with the red bellows marked a new era in good-enough mass production. These were and are pretty cameras, but they were intended to say new, new, new, buy me! You can afford me! Don't be old-fashioned.
Since View Cameras were among the first camera designs ever, proliferating during the nearly one-hundred years leading up to this time, photographers had a lot of old carcasses to scrounge parts from. Photographers, and people in general, often made things for themselves.
These metal cameras have out-worn wooden cameras. It is interesting to note that one non-metal part of this camera, a not so important one, was the handle grip made on my camera at least of bakelight. Bakelight was a pre-plastic plastic that was being widely used for a lot of things during this period made from a castable concoction of carbolic acid and formaldahyde that would harden. I call Bakelite a pre-plastic plastic dependent upon how you define plastics, which is not a universal thing. It was widely used during the first half of the last century prior to the development of Nylon 66 and other petroleum-based plastic plastics. In one since, I suppose that Bakelite could be considered the first plastic widely used. Bakelite was used for all manner of electrical knobs and fixtures. It was even used to make camera bodies for inexpensive cameras. As it turns our, Bakelite wore pretty well. But it weakens over time and eventually becomes brittle and cracks and crumbles. This happened to the handle grip on this particular camera. Why they did not use a wooden or metal part for this is understandable, but it is a flaw.
This imge shows the newly homemade handle replacement grip.
[I could not leave this alone. After writing about this, I went to the shop and made a quick handle from a piece of wooden dowel. It is larger than life. I have not tried it while taking pcitures, but if you want it smaller or more original, it can be made smaller or removed with a hacksaw. Personally, I think it is an improvement over the dinky little original Bakeight handle grip, as you must turn it to tighten or loosen the movement of the mount. The bigger wooden grip makes this much easier. It will certianly be an improvement over the missing handle grip.
View cameras can be said to be simple cameras, but they are also very sophisticated. This ain't no Brownie box camera. Some knowledge of operation and skill are required in order to produce basic photographs, but a skilled photographer can do so much more than basic photography. The view camera design is among the earliest camera designs, but they are still very much in use today. Two rectangle frame parts called Standards in the front and in the back of the camera, are connected in a light-tight fashion using flexible bellows, which can be tilted and turned on both horizontal and vertical axises in combination in such a manner as to creatively distort the image which is projected from the lens in the front onto the frosted ground glass at the back film plane where it is observed and carefully manipulated and focused.
A flip-up groundglass cover and hood may provide enough darkness for simple subject composition and focus. For finer focus a dark-cloth is used to drape over a user's head and the glass to provide a darker environment for focusing images. Once focused and set, a piece of cut film held in, of all things, a film holder, is then inserted and held in place while the exposure is made. Roll-film backs were just becoming more popular during the Graphic was being produced. Although some roll-film backs were available, even from Graflex, they were not immediately incluuded as an option. Inventive photograpahers have always home-made adaptations. I have seen various such devices used for rollfilm and smaller cut-film sizes.
Without getting into an entire desertation about the operation and use of View Cameras, may I merely say that there are many useful features that are unavailable on other kinds of cameras by using view camera movements in such a way to distort the image--which effectively corrects the lines that our eyes would otherwise interpret as distortion. Our brains normally interpret the whomper-jawed lines that otherwise objectively hit the film; such distortions--which actually become corrections--are made visually as compose on the frosted glass. Our eyes and brains want to see an image in two-demiensions that as nearly replicate what our eyes see in corrected 3-D, or we become unsettled. A view camera's movements can be used to make these lines straighter and uniformly spaced as we view images in 2-D.
Note a couple of other embelishments visible in the pictures. There is a level on top of the back standard. On top of the front standarda screw is evident. This is the accessory accomodation. It is for mounting a flash, which though awkward in appearance since the flash mounts siedways, it works fine that way. It could also be used to mount anoher level, or a reflector or a flat lens shade. Speaking of lens shades, you could lso buy an optional one for the lens or to mount on this accessory attaching screw, although photographers often used a hand or a hat for this.
Lenses could be bought with the Graphic body. However, there is nothing exotic about the lens-board mount. Mounts for lenses had become very standard by this time in camera history. Lenses were widely available, and although optically superior coatings designed to deliver better color renditions were being developed during this time, black and white photography was still the standard. Color film emulsions were available, but color photography was still in relative infancy. By the time I was born in the early fifties and a few years later observing my dad make color transparencies in the darkroom--Dad was a very advanced amateur photographer. Color photography then only represented a very small percentage of even professionally produced photographs. The big color boom was a decade or more away during the production years of the Graflex Graphic. My point is that a lot of extraordinarily good glass lenses were available by the time the Graphic came to be that could and were used on the camera body.
When choosing a view camera lens, several factors need to be considered as with any camera that can accommodate interchangeable lenses. Focal length as used for any given type of photography is the foremost consideration in my estimation. Once this is established, the optical quality is certainly the primary concern. If you plan to use the lens with electronic flash, which you most probably will if it is used in a studio, you will want to have a lens that is X-Synchronized, meaning that the shutter is completely open at the time the flash fires. Otherwise you may get no image or only a partial image. This was not a consideration prior to the electronic flash, although similar considerations were. Flash bulbs fired at much slower speed. Shutters were designed to be open when the flash bulb had reached its peak illumination. You will see vintage lenses that have no Sync at all, those with M or B Sync, and those with a combination of choices such as B, M, and X that are lever adjustable. There are other variants on this theme.
View cameras can be said to be simple cameras, but they are also very sophisticated. This ain't no Brownie box camera. Some knowledge of operation and skill are required
The B that is often regarded as being synonymous with time exposures as activated by pushing and holding town the shutter release for a time as determined off-camera and then closed when the exposure is finished, actually was intended to be used with early flashbulbs--thus the B designation. The idea was to make the studio completely dark, open the shutter, fire the flashbulb, and then while still in the dark, close the shutter. In this way, the only light that reached the film was that created by the flashbulb. The shutter and the bulb were effectively placed in sync in a primitive way. This technique still has some useful and unique applications such as using a method of lighting large objects, such as airplanes at night, called light-painting.
There are sophisticated methods of testing lens/flash synchronization. The easiest and most reliable is to take a series of test pictures and the process the film to see if they were indeed in sync. I they are not, it will be evident. I have always felt that a quick test could be done in the field and ont he fly, by holding a lens up at a distance from your eye where you can clearly focus while simultaneously blocking out extraneous light and clicking the shutter while an electronic flash is attached. If the lens is in proper sync you will see the image and the after image of the flash in a complete circle. I am told that this is not an accurate measure, but it has not failed me in half a century. It's a good trick to know when fooling with vintage cameras.
The lens that I have on my old Graphic View camera is a very optically high quality lens that was designed to be used with one of the original professional quality Polaroid Land Cameras. It is Prontar lens of 127 mm focal length. Polaroid Land Cameras were the earliest examples of instant image cameras which created quite a stir in the days when instant images such as we commonly see in digital cameras was unheard of. The images were not even instant at that, and were not so good in every case. They were also restricted to black and white images at that time. There is nothing also-ran about this lens, however. It is a Rodenstock glass lens--from the late fifties or early sixties, I am guessing. Rodenstock was and still is a highy respected name in optics, particularly cameras. Although as with virtually every other corporate entity, the original Rodenstock is not the same company of superior german optics makers as it once was--it was at the time this lens was produced. Rodenstock was long the maker of the finest optics available.
So the lens works very well on this view camera. I did not do the adapting, but someone did. Other than the lens attachment to the lens board looking a little homemade in the cutting of the metal, it performs flawlessly with the camera. I am not sure that I know exactly how the 127 mm focal length of this lens translates to normal for 4x5, but it seems to be slightly wider than what is regarded as normal for 4x5 View Cameras.
The lens that I have on my old Graphic View camera is a very optically high quality lens that was designed to be used with one of the original professional quality Polaroid Land Cameras.
Of course any lens designed or adapted for the purpose can be used with this camera. The aperture on this lens goes from f/4.7 to f/45. While this is not astonishingly fast by today's standards, it is quite fast for the size of this lens. By fast, I mean in its light-gathering power at its widest opening. The shutter speeds range from B to 300. An EV or Exposure Value scale is also graduated on the lens. EV was a popular method of reckoning and changing exposures quickly during this time period. Many old lenses have this graduation, notably Hasselblad, Ziess, and Rodenstock lenses.
I apologize for the shaky phone pictures above. But the one on the left in particular was added as an afterthought to show the mechanism used to keep the lens aperture open while focusing the ground glass. you must push this lever first in and then to one or the other position to hold the lens open. This feature is necessary on a view camera to facilitate focusing as the image is projected from the lens, through the bellows, onto the frosted back ground glass. After the focus is made, but before the film is readied for exposure, the aperture is closed. Then the shutter is once again cocked. The film holder slide is removed and the shutter release is tripped. I recommend a shutter cable-release be used with this or any view camera, as it allows more mobility between the front and the back of the camera.
Interestingly, even though Rodenstock is now a massive world-wide supplier of quality optics still headquartered in Germany, the web-site reeks with poor translations into English. It is either computer generated or done by a translator heavily stilted with typical Japanese-English proclivities. Judging also from the misspellings found there--I don't think it is computer-generated. Oh well, I guess when you are such a well-known optics company, you can employee the CEO's grandson's girlfriend (or someone like unto) to translate web pages. Who cares??? ? Only OCD old camera buffs with marketing backgrounds I suppose. Unbelievable.
I replaced the age-crumbled Bakelite handle grip with one made of wooden dowel. Here is an IPhone Picture of it after this was done. While I was at it, I included a couple of images showing what a dark-cloth looks like. The photographer places this over his head at the viewing ending of the camera to provide enough darkness and contrast to easily see the image the lens projects onto the frosted ground glass for precision focus and composition. There is a pop-up viewing shade that is used for quick view without the dark-cloth.Showing in one image are two 4x5 cut0film holders. A piece of film is loaded in the dark into each side of a film holder. A dark-slide keeps the film from being exposed until the holder is in place in the camera back and the slide removed. The exposure is then made and the slide is replaced before the holder is turned to the other side or taken into the darkroom for processing. The image of a photographer with his head under the dark cloth standing behind the camera was the stereotypical portrayal of a photographer for nearly a hundred years. I don't see it used much anymore, and for good reason; modern digital cameras do not use this method much anymore, so the meaning would be lost on younger generations. I have sometimes wished for just such a cloth while using digital cameras with a LCD display.
Graflex: the View Cameras
The Graphic View By Gerald Pierce