Help understanding how to use my speed graphic flash

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by 10986431, Jan 13, 2021.

  1. Hi all

    I have a beautiful speed graphic that I am still new with but love. I am about to experiment with using the flash system that came with my camera and wondered if anyone could help me understand how to use it, I'm wondering if a piece is missing that charges it?

    The flash makes use of what seems one-off use bulbs and I have a few of these. Along with this I have the flash mount you attach these bulbs to in the corcular mirrored holder and a pole which attaches to the side of the cameras that has a few inputs running along it. My issue is I have no idea how it gets triggered or charged. I might not have those pieces to do this. Please see the photos below to illustrate what I do have:



    Any advice on how to connect this to the camera, a guide maybe and also what these settings are on the back would be hugely helpful.

    Sorry if these questions are super stupid
  2. Oh, I also have an adapter plug that allows the bulb to be screwed into the pole
  3. I'd think the easiest way to learn this stuff is at the Graflex forum- :: View Forum - Flash Help

    In hindsight, flash with bulbs was surprisingly involved compared to electronic and modern flash!
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  4. You need a lens board solenoid to trip the shutter. The flash to solenoid wire can be a pain to find. Check out Flash units usually slide on the rangefinder.
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  5. You unscrew the cap on the bottom of the flashgun, then put in some D-cell batteries. Then insert whatever flashbulb you wanna use (if you hold the bulb with a cloth you won't have to worry about burning your fingers if you accidentally set it off).

    To fire the bulb you just press the red button on the back. After flashing the bulb is trash. It'll be plenty hot right after firing so be careful handling it. A lot of people will recommend using a shield in front of the flash bulb just in case it shatters.

    The standard way to use one of these is to clip the flashgun to the side of the camera. You need a cable that plugs into the flashgun; probably one of those outlets is labeled "shutter." The other end of the cable attaches to a solenoid which is typically mounted on the lens board. Then whenever you press the red button on the flashgun it will also fire the solenoid ("fire" means that it makes a "click" sound as the internal part pulls in). The solenoid should move the little trip lever on the shutter - the one that you would otherwise trip with your finger. So the operation is: you manually cock the shutter, then trip it by pressing the button on the flashgun.

    If you want to use a flashbulb to take a picture, same basic operation. Put in a flashbulb and cock the shutter. When ready to shoot, just press the red button on the flashgun. This will simultaneously fire the flashbulb and trigger the solenoid. The way they synchronize is that the flashbulb has a certain "burn time," and this covers the mechanical delay time for the solenoid/shutter operation.

    You mentioned that you have a Speed Graphic, where the "speed" part normally means that it also has a built-in focal plane shutter. The method I described is only for the front shutter.

    If you're not familiar with it, piles of info are available at Graflex.Org: Speed Graphics, Large Format Photography, and More
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  6. This is amazing, thanks so much for all your help. I never knew about until this very moment so thats very helpful and totally get how the flash can be triggered. I am going to try and find a lead, sounds like ti might be tricky but try I shall.

    Thanks so much Bill C, christopher_ward and conrad_hoffman!
  7. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Takes me back a long time! Was using the old Candlestick bulb flash on Dad's Leica M 3 in High School. Sport coat, handkerchief in the chest pocket, good bulbs in the right pocket, used in the left - handkerchief folded for installation and removal. I'll never forget the smell of the bulbs when fired. Of course your bulbs are different than the 6 FP bulbs I recall, so the drill may need to be different. I still have a couple dozen bulbs. Will have to see if I have a bulb flash they still make a battery for - will always have Dad's M3. Good luck and have Fun!
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  8. You're quite welcome.

    Regarding cords, Paramount cords is a name often bandied about. I don't have any experience with them, but it appears that they would be able to supply just about anything.

    Or if you wanted to, and are a bit handy, you could probably rig your own. I don't recall what the solenoid connection is like, but the flashgun should take a standard two-prong lamp plug. If you've got a junk lamp laying around you might be able to cut off the plug with a foot or so of the cord and rig that to the solenoid. Maybe... I dunno for sure. Best of luck with it.
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  9. Thanks Sandy! If you find some you should certainly take a few shots. An M3 wow! I'll post back here once I have a lead and batteries and taken a few shots.
  10. Thanks so much Bill C. I'm going to try and get a lead if possible and then I'll DIY if necessary but that sounds like it could work. I'll be posting back here. I am really excited to try this. I've seen these cameras used in older movies and theres always seemingly a close-up of the bulb going off, always wanted to try this
  11. AJG


    I've used a number of Paramount cords and sync cord repair tools over the years and found them to be of excellent quality--better than most PC cords from anybody else that i've used.
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  12. Ok everyone so I have purchased a lead and its on its way so I am excited to try this. I did have a question and maybe this is the most newbie question ever so forgive me.

    I get the flash and set it up. I've been using a light meter and getting that right now which is great (or much better at least). I just had a thought. How on earth do I know what to set the camera to for a flash? I have never thought about this but what would I do? Its amazing I never consideted this before.
  13. (Not a post yet)
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
  14. Well, first you get a "guide number" for the flash. There should be a table on your package of flash bulbs. It'll depend on 1) the shutter speed, 2) type of flash reflector used, and 3) the "ASA" speed of the film. (These should all be covered on the table.)

    To get the f-number setting you divide the guide number by distance to subject. (The shutter speed will be the one you used when looking up the guide number.) This should give you a reasonably close exposure if you ignore ambient light.

    To get a correct exposure WITH ambient light, I would suggest to find which exposure would predominate - ambient light or flash. If they are roughly equal then this means that the combined exposures would be roughly twice what you need - in this case you should close down the lens by one f-stop. Otherwise it's probably ok to just use the exposure that predominates, at least with a negative film - these have a lot of latitude for exposure. Of course you can fine-tune the exposure a little better if you want, but if the stronger light source is more than an f-stop brighter then the exposure error is fairly small.

    It might be helpful to calculate a handful of flash exposures ahead of time and tape a note on your camera. Say, for example, distances of 8 ft, 11 ft, and 16 ft (note that these distances are each one f-stop apart, and you may have noticed that they are also the same as the standard f-stop settings). Anyway, once you work with this a bit it'll get much easier. Just decide ahead of time what standard distances you're gonna use and then work to those. Best of luck.
    Ps, do an exposure test first, before any serious work.
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  15. Just as an aside, your Graflex flash is in shockingly clean mint condition: can't remember the last time I saw one with zero oxidation, tarnish, corrosion, grime, scratches, socket labels not rubbed, etc. Intact flashes in this condition are rare these days due to all the Star Wars dolts who tore them apart to make replica light sabers over the past few decades. Quite valuable: use it as a flash, then add it to your retirement fund.
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  16. Bill C this is amazing and yes I see the guide on the flash bulb packet! Ok I’m very excited to try this once the leads here. I’ll let you know how this goes but seriously thanks for taking the time on this and explain it so clearly.

    orsetto thanks! Yeah so I actually picked this up from a photo assistant who was given this camera by Mark Seliger. Apparently, and it’s hard to know of this is true, but a number of famous photos he took used this camera. Regardless of this it’s in excellent condition and lives inside the metal box it comes in which is built perfectly for it. Its really wonderful. I have no idea it might actually be worth anything honestly but I’m just really enjoying being able to use it to I doubt it’s going to a new home ever haha. That’s so funny they were used for Star Wars haha!
  17. Just be careful, flashbulbs have exploded when fired. That’s why covers were made for the reflectors.
  18. 10986431, any results yet? I have just found this thread and am also keen to see your results. I love using old flashes with bulbs, the look on people faces when the bulb fires is one of astonishment. Even the smaller bulbs put a fair bit of light out so you should get some good results.

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