Speed Graphic age, lens and flash questions.

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by johndc, Aug 8, 2004.

  1. Hi everyone.

    Today I went to a camera show and bought myself a 4x5 Speed Graphic
    camera. I'm trying to figure out just how old it is. It has a Graflok
    back, which I've come to understand means that it's newer than 1949.
    It also has the Kalart Rangefinder on the side, which apparently means
    it's older than 1955. My question is: is there any way to tell the
    exact date? The lens is a Wollensak Raptar 135/4.7 in a Rapax shutter,
    if that helps.

    My second question is about the shutter and the flash connection. When
    I bought the camera I also got a Graflite flash gun with a 5"
    reflector. How do I connect the flashgun to the camera? As I
    understand it, there is a cord that runs from the flashgun to a
    solenoid, which actuates the shutter. In various pictures on the web,
    I've seen flash guns with a red plastic button on the column. I don't
    have one of these buttons? Is this part of the cord that connects to
    the solenoid?

    Finally, the shutter has two "terminals" protruding at about 4 o'clock
    (if the "p" in "Rapax" is 12). Am I correct in guessing these serve
    the same function as a PC socket on a modern shutter? When using the
    flash gun, do I have to connect these terminals to something as well?

    Sorry to ask so many questions, but I've looked on the net and all I
    can find are bits and pieces, but nothing solid. Thanks for your help!
  2. If your Speed has two shutters, one at the lens and one in the body - called a rear curtain shutter (which it should have if of the vintage you say) you will need a cable that connects both to the flash - if of course you intend to use both. If not, just connect to the shutter you will use. On the side of the body behind the Kalart there should be two prongs like the two prongs (which you describe as terminals) on the lens shutter. These take a bipole plug like that used on shavers. You can in fact make a cable out of a shaver cord, or you can buy one from a place like www.paramountcords.com. The cool thing about Paramount is that you can select all the required tips and get a Y shaped cable that will connect to both bipole outlets on the camera (lens shutter and rear curtain shutter) will allow you to use a modern flash if you get the appropriate plug at the other end - pc or whatever. Or you can use it with the Graflite flash gun and some flash bulbs - just make sure the third plug is the one you need for the flash, which I think is called a household plug (right?)

    If you have a solenoid on the front lens board, this requires a male bipole plug I think, but I could be wrong. I have removed mine and just use the bipole on the lens shutter with a modern flash. The solenoid, as I recall, is specifically for use with flash bulbs, but how and why I couldn't tell you precisely - has to do with firing speed and sync. Maybe. I think.

    How I get any photos that are actually representational of something I can't tell you.

    Someone else will have to help you on a source for flash bulbs, or you can check the Graflex pages, which while difficult to search through sometimes, generally contain everything Graflex - www.graflex.org. Or here on Photo.net.

    Terrifically fun camera. Get a Polaroid 545 back and shoot a lot of Type 55 P/N film. Then when you run low on money, get a Combi-Plan tank and shoot your favorite black & white, develop and print in your bathroom. Buy a fedora. Smoke a cigar. Complain about the Roosevelt administration.
  3. Graflok back caame out after WW2; but were often retrofitted to older cameras.<BR><BR>The 4x5 speed camera out in 1912. It was owned by several camera makers; even Kodak once.<BR><BR>Serial numbers for the body of the camera helps date it from 1915 to 1947. The number is on the inside; under the top or left on many 1940's models.<BR><BR>The solenoid first fires the flashbulb; then the shutter. The shutter is delayed; so the bulb will fully burn. The flashgun often clicks into a gizmo bracket by the side rangefinder. Dont close the camera case; unless the lens rails are in the proper position. The failure mode is breaking the moveable rails. This often happens when letting another handle ones dear camera. <BR><BR>"Newer" speed's have a two position tension switch; and a wind knob. Here there are two shutter tensions. On older speeds; there is a matrix of (curtain width A,B,C,D) and 6 tensions to give the shutter speed. The highest speed of 1/1000 second is with the tension the most; and with the smallest curtain width.
  4. Yes my camera has the high/low settings on the focal plane shutter (as opposed to the 24-speed matrix thing). The winding key for the rear shutter is giving me a callous on my finger, but I suppose that's part of the charm. :)

    I should correct my original post. Where I wrote "I don't have one of these buttons?" -- I meant it as a statement, not a question. Sorry if anyone found it confusing.

    Thanks for the info and keep it comin'!
  5. The solenoid was used to fire the shutter after tiggering the flash from a button on the flash synchronizer -- it was used for shutters which were not designed for flash and introduced an adjustable delay (usually 20ms) before tripping the shutter. If your shutter has the bipole connection (or if you use the focal-plane shutter synch), you don't need it. If you have a synchronized shutter, you set it to "M" for most flashbulbs; "X" for electronic flash. Closing the shutter then triggers the flash as on a modern camera.
  6. Hello John,

    First off, congrats on the acquisition and welcome to the wonderful world of Graphics. As Jorne already pointed out, a great source of information is availabe at www.graflex.org and I don't concur that the site is difficult to browse through. The site is very orderly, but there is ALOT of information there to be digested. It took me many hours and sittings to go through it all. There is also a great Help Board there with people who have far more more experience than I do with these cameras. I think I learn something new every time I read the new posts there.

    Unless you are REALLY interested in using flash bulbs with the focal plane shutter and unless you are REALLY ready to bankroll it, I would say to skip that altogether. You see, there were special bulbs made to synchronize with the complete travel time required of the focal plane shutter and today these bulbs (old-stock available only) are VERY expensive. It can be done, though, if cost is no matter.

    I stick to using the front shutter when using flash. I do have and use the same Rapax shutter that you describe with #5 and #25 bulbs and the flash sync is dead-on, both with the internal contacts and when using the solenoid set up for 20-millisecond delay. If you look just under the 2 prongs in the 4 o'clock position you should see a switch that says "M-M-X/F-Off." This is the flash sync selector switch. The red "M" should be used with the red shutter speeds on the outer dial, the black "M" should be used with the black shutter speeds on the outer dial. Pretty straightforward. The "X" is zero-delay for use with electronic flash. Select "off" when camera is not being used or if you want to fire bulbs using the solenoid for flash sync or if you are just using the flashgun/solenoid to remotely trip the shutter without bulbs.

    It all may seem confusing (it was to me at first) but with time and use, everything becomes quite logical, well-thought out and fun to play with.
  7. Hmm... well I really had no intention of using a flash with the focal plane shutter. What's the point? I don't even like using my 35mm SLR with a flash.

    I tried to register to use the graflex.org forums -- It will not let you register using a yahoo.com email address. Considering the number of people who use Yahoo! Mail as their primary email, this seems a bit ridiculous to me. I guess they want to protect the forums from spam advertisers, but in my case they're protecting themselves from an enthusiastic forum member.

    In any case, am I now correct in my understanding that all I have to do is connect the prongs on the Rapax to the "shutter" sockets on the flashgun, and set the shutter switch appropriately, and I'll have a working and synchronized flash system?

    Also, is it true that I only need the solenoid if I want to fire the shutter from the flashgun instead of the shutter release on the camera body?

  8. On your behalf I ask this question: http://graflex.org/helpboard/viewtopic.php?topic=2803&forum=16&0

    Go to:http://www.southbristolviews.com/
    click on Graflex manuals in the lower left colum. Download the PDF copy of the factory user manual for the Top RF, Same as side RF except for the RF and is simular enough to the Anniversary to be useful. There is also a Graflite User manual! You might even find the TOP RF Service manual usefull.

    The post at the 4 o'clock position are the BI-POST flash sync contacts, connect to strobes. The Graflite manual will explain things.

    The selonid and Graflite battery handle can be used as a remote shutter triper.

    If you cannot get registered at Graflex.org then post the serial number of your camera here and I'll run it for you. Serial number is on a metal plate rivited to the front inside edge of the bed between the rails (yoke).
  9. Charles: Thanks so much for the link to those manuals! They explained so much!
  10. The serial number is in different places; for different vintages of camera body. <BR><BR>A common mistake in camera buying is assuming a Graphloc back is a 4x5; here I have one in 3x4. Some sellers know the camera is a oddball 3x4 camera; and just mention the graphloc back; Buyers then get excited; and buy the camera with the oddball 3x4 back.

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