Turning a Crown Graphic into a Field camera

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mfobrien

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Last night, I decided that all of the "bells and whistles" on my 4x5 crown graphic were not needed for its use as a fild camera... so I spent a considerable amount of time removing all of the pieces needed for the Kalart Rangefinder (complex!), and the external flash bracket, as well as the little quick sight on the back and the body-mounted shutter release. I decided to cover the holes for now, at least with black gaffer tape. Now I have a camera that no longer has strange protrusions and fits in a bag a lot easier. I know it lacks a lot of movements, but for landscapes, I think it will be ok, esp. since the camera was a freebie. It has an Ektar 152mm lens on it. Now I have a very simple camera that I think has been pared down to the minimun needed. Has anyone else done this? I know some Graflex afficianodes might be horrified, but I'm not worried about the value of the camera.
 

doughowk

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I never use the rangefinder on my Crown Graphic. I do use rangefinder on Century Graphic especially with roll film back, which points up possible problem if you ever wanted to add a roll film back to your camera. The Graphic cameras were frequently used hand-held ( see threads on reporter who still uses Speed Graphic hand held); but as field camera all the focusing aids other than ground glass are superfluous.
 
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mfobrien

mfobrien

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Yeah, I thought about the rollfilm back, but then I realized that the one I have is 6x7, so if I'm going to shoot that, I may as well use my Pentax 6x7, anyway. I think the camera that really shines with the rollfilm back is the mini-graphic 2x3.
 

Bob Wagner

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I did a similar thing to very old 4x5 speed graphic. I stripped all the leather off, removed all the metal parts, which had considerable oxidation and completely refinished the wood and brass. It's actually kind of pretty. I've used it in the woods a time or two, isn't too heavy though it is a little bit limited in movements and such. I tried to overcome some of that by adding a cabinet hinge arrangement for control of the drop bed. It is a little bit cumbersome and so is still a work in progress, but I have a soft spot for old fashioned and do-it-yourself stuff. My wife even said "that's about the last thing I would have thought a person would do to make better pictures but it looks kind of neat" - an overwhleming compliment considering the source. I dare say you can't get into large format any cheaper, except for the old Calumet I bought off Ebay for $45
 

Bob Wagner

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BTW: I removed the focal plane shutter too, it worked but not consistently and I decided not to put it back in when I rebuilt it. I was very impressed by the elegently simple design
 

jbj

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Hi. Yes, I also have a crown graphic and removed as much as possible to pare it down in both size and weight. It is a nice camera for the price and landscape/field work. For me the movements are adequate: front shift, rise, and pseudo-front tilt (drop the bed, raise the lens and then can get a small amount of forward tilt). Mine has the Xenar 135mm lens and it is very sharp.
No intentions of hand-holding mine nor using the rangefinder so I'm pleased with the results.
 

wfwhitaker

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jbj said:
For me the movements are adequate: front shift, rise, and pseudo-front tilt (drop the bed, raise the lens and then can get a small amount of forward tilt).

Did I read somewhere of turning the front standard hardware around so that the front standard tilts forward instead of backward? I've never owned a Graphic (rather surprising, actually...), so have never had the opportunity of testing that idea. But forward tilt would be much more useful in a field camera application.

-Will
 

Dave Parker

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Hi Will,

Yes it is a pretty simple thing to change the front standard to have forward tilt.

I have done on many Crowns with great results.

Dave Parker
Ground Glass Specialties
 

jbj

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wfwhitaker said:
Did I read somewhere of turning the front standard hardware around so that the front standard tilts forward instead of backward? I've never owned a Graphic (rather surprising, actually...), so have never had the opportunity of testing that idea. But forward tilt would be much more useful in a field camera application.

-Will

Yes, I've heard of people doing this modification:

http://www.lonelycamera.com/graphictilt.html

But an easier way, in my opinion is to drop the bed and then use the limited movements that it has already. In effect using drop bed and back tilt and rise to achieve front tilt, it takes longer to explain that to do...here are some illustrations:

http://www.largeformatphotography.info/cameras/pacemaker/

http://www.graflex.org/speed-graphic/features.html
 

brimc76

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I have a later model Crown Graphic Special with the 135 Xenar lens, which is what the camera was cammed for when I bought it. It has the top rangefinder which is less bulky than the Kalart models, so I have left it on. I picked up a 6x9 rollfilm back for it and just put a few marks on the ground glass to give me a reference for the 6x9 format, and it works fine. I looked at the Graflex website to see how to make cams for other lenses but I find that using the ground glass for focusing is just fine for my purposes. The nice thing about the whole package is that it fits into an old LowePro bag with a few film holders, extra lenses, and a meter, which I find is a great travel package.
 

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MikeK

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I made the front tilt modification to by BabyGraphic. I have a piccy of the beauty and the modification at Dead Link Removed

I think the "Baby" is really underrated and now that sheet film is available (thanks J&C) a few holders a roll film back you have a great camera.

- Mike
 

darinwc

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stripping a press camera

I stripped the rangefinder off of my Busch Pressman. It really made it compact.

Dead Link Removed

I have since stripped the viewfinder and wire frame as well.

I am going to add a standard accesory shoe soon so I can use acessory viewfinders, flashes, etc.

I also have a century graphic (2x3) which I have kept the rangefinder on it. I have used the century hand-held a few times, but I prefer to use it with a monopod. The century is a kick-ass system. I have the 80mm Xenotar and a 47mm Super Angulon. The rangefinder is calibrated to the 80mm and the distance scales are set for the 47mm, which I just use at the hyperfocal.

www.cozinephoto.com
 
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I actually like the rangefinder.

Then again, right now, I am rigging one up with a laser pointer so I can focus without looking through it. A neat feature if you want to shoot "snaps" with it.
 

kwmullet

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I guess I understand why folks do this, but it just makes me sad. Graflex cameras will never be made again, and with each passing year, the number of serviceable cameras grows smaller and smaller. Each Graflex could potentially have many owners before it goes to that great repository in the sky or is canabalized so that others might live. I consider myself a mere custodian of my Crown Graphic. Stripping it down or modifying it seems to me like buying a fine victorian home and making massive changes to the floor plan, covering the outside with vinyl siding and putting astroturf on the lawn.

I guess I'm sort of an extremist about this. Maybe one day I'll change my mind, but not anytime soon. I don't even like folks cutting barrel lenses in half to put shutters in. I look forward to the day when there are contemporary film holders like the graphmatic that hold 10-12 sheets but have a built-in focal plane shutter so extremists like me can use barrel lenses on their Crown (if they don't want to get a Speed, that is).

-KwM-
 

Dave Parker

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Hey kw I own a few hundred of the graphic cameras, and have the opportunity to purchase quite a few each month, I think the original inventors of these cameras would be very happy to see they keep going on and on and are still very usuable cameras..

They are great and lend themselves to so many different variations.

Dave Parker
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Satin Snow(TM) Ground Glass
 

rakuhito

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i too have stripped everything off my crowngraphic (except the sports finder - i find it a quick and handy way to figure where to set things up) and it works fantastically. using the 127mm ektar - though i'd like to get another lens or two.
 
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mfobrien

mfobrien

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Thanks for all the great replies! It is fun seeing what others have done to their graphics to turn them into field cameras. I was ata camera swap yesterday, looking for a lensboard with a smaller hole (to mount a Kodak anastaigmat lens) for my graphic. A guy had a box filled with them - all used, of course. $20 each. At that point I told him no wonder he has a box full...no thanks.
 

Gonzo

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Two important questions:

1. What kind of flash bracket?

2. Is it for sale?
 

darinwc

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KW: I understand your grief about people hacking fine cameras, but understand 2 things:

1: the kalart rangefinders are often in poor condition, and are rarely used by for critical LF work. The leatherette on many old cameras has deteriorated. The graflex cameras (except the century 23) have a mohagony body that is absolutely gorgeous when sanded and laquered. So often times stripping a graflex really brings it back to life.

2: Their is a ton of graflexes around. I dont know if the demand of photographers will ever exceed the supply.
 

kwmullet

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Yeah, I understand the rationale. I'm not going to go so far as saying one way is "right" and the other is "wrong", but it still feels for me like taking a big beautiful 1950's V8 automobile, replacing the engine with a contemporary four cylinder engine, replacing the body with a fiberglass one with lots of sparkles in the paint job and replacing the wood and chrome analog console with a computerized, heads-up display.

The number of serviceable Graflexes is self-diminishing. I was very pleasantly surprised when I had the top rangefinder of my Crown cleaned. It works wonderfully now. I'm still working through what might be light-leak (or operator error) issues with my Graphmatics, and I'm giving serious consideration to getting a Speed with a Kalart so I can use barrel lenses, shoot with the focal plane shutter, and adjust the Kalart to use lenses for which no top rangefinder cams are made.

I still wonder, though, at how many owners each of these modified cameras might have had after their current owner -- how many happy decades of use and appreciation might those Graflexes have seen, and how much value those cameras will have in ten or twenty years when the current fashionable mods are neither current nor fashionable.

Sure, I'll bet Charles Dickens might appreciate it if I took a first edition Oliver Twist, cut the spine off, laminated the covers in plastic, spiral-bound it and circulated it amoung thousands of contemporary readers, but that would mean there's one less first edition Oliver Twist in the world, and what in the world is wrong with just getting a contemporary edition for those purposes? For me, the depth of enjoyment out of an Old Original, especially one that's in serviceable condition, cannot be improved by adding bells and whistles.
 

rakuhito

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hey - i'm an idiot, i.e. i don't know a thing about "stripping the leather" as the common parlance goes.

but the leather on my crown graphic is a bit mildewed in spots and coming up in others. i've seen beautiful pictures of beautiful naked graphics and would really like to dive in... but i worry... well... how?

do i just simply pull the leather off? and then what? in the process of making something better, i don't want to make it worse.

really. i'm serious. i failed woodshop. i don't fix cars. i don't even drive a car.

please advise.
 

jbj

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I don't think of stripping a rangefinder and other parts from a Crown/Speed as good or bad. To me the camera is only a tool. The perfect tool in my mind has only what one needs and nothing more; streamlined.
 
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