Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The primary test camera in the lab

Once in a while I get asked what cameras we have, so here is a shot of the venerable and trusty Speed Graphic that I use the most.  This is the Pacemaker Speed Graphic, and it has a focal plane shutter, a Kalart rangefinder, a modified tilt-swing front standard, a graflok type back, and various lenses. The one shown is a Schneider Xenotar 150mm f2.8 mounted in a Copal No. 3 shutter.  Yes, this is a big bright eye.

One of the great things about the Speed Graphic is the focal plane shutter. This allows you to mount any lens with or without a shutter and make a picture with it. Or, you can put a pinhole on it.  There are hundreds of lenses that you can get for free that will produce Holga-like images using a camera like this.  Many of the followers of this blog already know about Speed Graphics, but some might not have yet.

Speed Graphics are very versatile and inexpensive. You can mount various Polaroid and Fuji backs, rollfilm backs, and even sheet film! That was a joke.  The famous Polaroid 545 back is the one that takes Type 55 and has built in rollers to burst and spread the reagent pod. That back fits in these cameras.

There are thousands of spare parts for it in every country. You can focus on the ground glass. Or, you can use the rangefinder and one of two viewfinders. The bellows extends far enough for closeups, and the bed tilts down for wide angle lenses and for some tilt.  With a smaller standard lens, it all folds up into one solid box and strap handle that you could fight your way out of a mod riot with.  People always look and smile at it, and it reminds them of old movies.  It looks complicated but you can fix virtually anything on it yourself.  In the old days, people converted it to an enlarger.  Today, new uses for testing reclaimable Fuji negatives are being explored with it.

If I was only allowed one camera forever, if I had to choose, the Speed Graphic would be it.

It had a huge influence on the design of Polaroid cameras like this converted 110a (left) that now accepts Type 100 Packfilm. These are everywhere and many are still in use. Notice the exposed rangefinder on the Polaroid camera which is a lot like the Kalart on the Speed. The original 110 Polaroid actually used a Kalart rangefinder.

Yesterday I was musing about the possibility of chopping a Fuji Instax camera which is finally available cheap to fit on the back, and be able to shoot integral film with a big lens.


wm.wragg said...

There already is an instax back made for lomography cameras, one for the Diana+ and one for the L-CA+ which you could probably use instead of chopping a camera. Can't seem to paste a link, but you should be able to find them on the lomography website.

Bob Crowley said...


Does it take the wide format Instax? If so, and you find it, please send me a link because I will certainly buy it. Thanks!

wm.wragg said...


I'm afraid it's the instax mini the link is http://microsites.lomography.com/lca+/products/instant-back

Bob Crowley said...

Hmmmm interesting nonetheless! Perhaps this could be used on a 6 X 4.5?

wm.wragg said...

With an image area of 46(W) x 62(H) mm it's a close fit, almost made for it. I thought I might get one, and turn it into a pinhole camera. My current pinhole camera is a Zeroimage 4x5 which I use the Fuji 100B and 3000 pack film in.

wm.wragg said...

You might find this link useful as well, Instax without Instax:


Bob Crowley said...

I'm sold. Now on order.

Max said...


think I might have to try this with my duaflex!

Anonymous said...

fastastic posts !
cheers !

i too would choose a speed w/ aero ektar combo !
cheers !

Bob Crowley said...

All of the New55 FILM examples in the slide show were shot with this camera, and lens.

Anonymous said...

This project is amazing and so is this blog which is even more interesting than your microphone blog, and that's saying somethin!. You apparently invent for a living, write, take good photos, and have fine taste in cameras.