Why did press cameras have a shutter in the body?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by invisibleflash, Jan 1, 2022.

  1. I thought all sheet film camera lenses had shutters. Was it for lenses that didn't have a shutter? Or something else?
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

  3. AJG


    If you planned to use multiple lenses on a camera it is cheaper to have the shutter in the camera rather than buying a shutter with each lens. And before electronic flash became common synchronization wasn't as much of an issue as it became later. The advantages of leaf shutters over large focal plane shutters were much more important when electronic flash became common.
    invisibleflash and Jochen like this.
  4. Maybe for the speed advantage as large leaf shutters might not go faster than 1/250 sec, maybe less. Or, maybe just so you could get oval shaped wheels on race cars!
  5. Hmm. Some press cameras have focal plane shutters. Others don't.

    Why? My best guess is historical accident. Folmer & Schwing made Graflex SLRs with focal plane shutters before they started making Speed Graphic press camera with focal plane shutters. The press cameras had shutters first used in the SLRs.
  6. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    AFAIK Focal plane was generally superseded when Flash attachments were added to press cameras.
  7. Fast lenses would be slowed down severely, when limited to leaf shutter sizes.
    Why should you approach "making a camera system" differently, just because your film format changed? Smaller systems had FP shutters too. And fast shutter speeds were surely a marketable feature?
  8. I don't think Arthur Fellig, AKA Weegee, would agree with you. Neither would the many other photographers who used flash bulbs with Graphics.
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    the Graflex Speed Graphic FAQ
    The older Graflex SLR with its patented focal plane shutter and reflex focusing had been so successful as a press camera that the Graflex company set out to design a camera specifically for the emerging ``press'' photographer. The result was the original Speed Graphic of 1912.

    The concept of having two separate shutters was a new idea. The focal plane shutter was the same as used in the Graflex, the front in-lens shutter provided extra versatility. Because both shutters cannot be used at the same time, there is possibility of confusion. Experienced Speed Graphic users find selection of shutters second nature.

    In 1940, Graflex announced the Anniversary Speed Graphic with Kodak Anastigmat (or the then all-new Ektar) lens. The new features included the coupled rangefinder and flash solenoid to use the then popular flashbulb. The bed would drop past horizontal, allowing the use of the new wide angle lenses.
    invisibleflash likes this.
  10. Flashbulbs used to come in an FP version too, which could be used with focal plane shutters at any speed. The relatively late (compared to when press cameras first surfaced), short burst electronic flash was the thing that restricted focal plane shutters to slow synch speeds. So flash and focal plane shutters lived happily together.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2022
  11. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, the #6 - I often used them with the M3 and the old candlestick Leica flash. If I could get a battery for the flash, I think I still have a dozen,which I'd expend just for fun. Also have a sleeve or two of #5..
  12. But do you have any #40 flashbulbs? I got some from Goodwill, though didn't find a use for them yet.

    I have a Kodak box camera that uses 116 film that my grandfather modified for flash in about the 1930's.

    It has two ordinary electrical outlets on the front, wired to the rotary shutter. It seems that you
    put some voltage into one (between 3 and 120V), and plug a table lamp into the other.
    The #40 flashbulb screws into an ordinary light socket.

    I also have some 5R flashbulbs, also from Goodwill, that I haven't tried yet.
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Haven't had one of those in over 50 years. They threw considerable light - used the last for a prank that in retrospect was singularly unfunny. Hadn't remembered the number.
  14. I shot a little bit of press work on film a lot of years ago. It was all 35mm, but I learned quick, fast and in a hurry to have backup plans for when something went wrong - film would jam in the camera and couldn't be fixed in the field, a back would jam open, a lens would have a problem, and so on. Always had lots of fresh film, another lens, one or more extra bodies, etc. If I'd been shooting LF for press work, would have only been able to tote one body, maybe 2 or 3 lenses. LF shutters built onto the lenses were generally reliable, but they were clockwork [like] with springs and tiny moving parts. Not easily repaired in the field. When you use gear from the pool you may be accepting a camera that wasn't treated well or hadn't been repaired properly.

    Now the important bit: events don't wait for the press! Having that second shutter might make the difference between f/8 and be there and waiting for the next call out. And waiting. And waiting....
  15. A common press camera with a focal plane shutter was know as a "Speed Graphic," as opposed to the same camera without as a "Graphic or Crown Graphic" camera. The advantage was a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 sec, compared to 1/250 for a lens shutter. Kodak actually produced a lens shutter with 1/800 sec speed, in which the blades rotated in a complete circle rather than reversing direction on closure. The transit time of the Speed Graphic shutter is incredibly long, leading to bizarre rolling shutter effects on moving subjects.

    The focal plane shutter had 4 slots of different widths and two speeds. You wound the shutter to the appropriate position, taking care to keep the the dark slide in place, and set the spring tension for speed. The correct settings were engraved on the body.
    glen_h likes this.

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