Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Graflex 4x5 Super Graphic and Super Speed Graphic

by William E. Inman, Sr.

Graflex introduced the 4x5 Super Graphic in February 1958. It was heralded by Graflex as “the greatest advance in press cameras in years, and is sure to catch the imagination of every advanced amateur and professional photographer. The Super Graphic is new in every way...completely new design and appearance …. new features for greater-than-ever versatility.

The Super Graphic is smaller than its predecessor, the famous Pacemaker Speed Graphic. It's styled in two-tone gray and black with aluminum trim.” A modern dream camera in every way. We need to back up to 1956, when the president of Graflex, Inc., Gaylord C. Whitaker, enlisted the services of industrial design consultant Peter Muller-Munk, who, along with the Graflex engineering staff, began the redesign of the 4x5 Graphic camera. Drawing heavily on Graflex research, they checked “human engineering” all the way from typical handholds to the mechanics of the shutter tripping. To give this camera the strength of the mahogany box of the Pacemaker, they chose an aluminum body for strength as well as lightweight properties. They went to Alcoa Aluminum for production parts, while assembly of the camera took place at the Graflex plant in Rochester, New York.

Human Engineering Features:
The Super Graphic is designed for convenience in handling. All locks and releases are readily accessible for adjustments and are large enough and properly shaped for foolproof operation.  The front lens standard swings, tilts and shifts have “click-stop” neutral positions.  The electronic shutter and flash tripping button can be used without changing hand position. The automatic focusing scale is on top of the camera for ease of
reading. All the flash shutter connections are internally wired to minimize dangling cords and prevent misfires from partially disconnected plugs.  A removable long optical viewfinder is supplied as an accessory.

Construction Features:
For maximum strength, resilience, precision, production cost savings and minimum weight, the Super Graphic uses an extruded strip bent to shape, and butt welded at the bottom joint. Integral beads on the edges add rigidity and serve as trim strips for the leather-grained covering. For parts requiring light absorption, black
anodizing replaces paint, which ends chipping and scratching.  Other precision parts are die-cast aluminum or magnesium to further minimize weight.

New Features:

1. Automatic flash setting calculator operates as part of the focusing scale on the top of the camera for determining the correct f stop.
2. Horizontal swing and forward tilt movements of the lensboard are standard, along with rising, shifting, and backward tilting movements.  The horizontal shift is usable even with short lenses.
3. A spring loaded focusing track was added for stability. An improved yoke is now “V” guide, running entire length of each side of the bed.
4. A revolving back that locks in the horizontal or vertical position. The rotation works in either direction accommodating a left-handed user, if necessary.
5. A removable focusing hood for quiet, one-handed operation was added.
6. A dark slide holding clip, on the focusing hood, runs the full length on the back of the hood and is made of “phosphorus bronze.”
7. Larger, easier-to-handle rangefinder cams and a simplified mechanism for easiest changing of cams was added.
8. Rangefinder focusing from 90mm wide-angle lenses to telephoto lenses is standard.
9. Interchangeable, internally wired, lensboard assemblies for either flashbulbs or electronic flash provide connection through the camera body.
10. A double cam action slide lock on the Graflok back provides positive positioning of the Grafmatic, Film Pack, Roll Holder and Polaroid film holders.
11. A built-in electrical socket on the lower right side accepts a polarized three-prong pin cord for the Graflite and the Stroboflash, providing internal shutter synchronization and eliminates cords dangling from the shutter.

12. A Presslock Tripod Mount accessory for instant and solid attachment or removal of the camera when fitted to a tripod.

13. A new type bed lock arrangement, rotation of either focusing knob, locks or unlocks the bed, which eliminates accidental releasing.
14. The Super has a high-precision builtin rangefinder. The rangefinder cam operates the focusing scale indicator on the stop of the camera, so that the scale always matches the lens used. Shown below is the Pacemaker rangefinder, which is the same system used in the Super Graphic, with a few changes.
15. An electronic shutter and flash tripping release button are located conveniently for left -hand operation. The BC circuit is powered by two 22.5-volt Eveready batteries (number 412) for tripping the solenoid in the base of the front lens standard.
The same circuit can also be tripped from the Graflite two-cell flash unit red button with the addition of the Y cord (Catalog number 2808) for flash bulb firing.
When introduced in 1958, the Super “outfit” sold for $416, while the 4x5 Pacemaker Crown Graphic outfit with the same shutter sold for $340. The Super Graphic remained in the Graflex line through 1973,
when camera sales were discontinued. In that year, the Super outfit sold for $641 and a 4x5 Pacemaker Crown outfit for $543. 
The 4x5 Super Speed Graphic
The Super Speed Graphic was introduced in 1959 and last sold in 1969, when Graflex stopped production of the Graflex 1000 shutter.  The only difference between the Super Graphic and the Super Speed Graphic was the introduction of the Graflex 1/1000 leaf shutter. The bodies are the same.  Up to that time, the fastest leaf shutter was 1/500. The Graflex 1/1000 shutter was a revolutionary design. For further information, see my article in the GHQ Volume 5, Number 1, titled “The Dream Shutter.”

If your camera needs to be repaired, I highly recommend Fred Lustig.  Mr. Lustig has provided quality Graflex service for many years and has a good supply of parts for the 1000 shutter and the Super Graphic.
He can be reached by mail at 4790 Caughlin Parkway, No. 433, Reno, NV 89509, or by phone at (775) 746-0111.

References:
Graflex Trade Notes, February 1958.
Graflex Super Graphic/Super Speed Graphic Instruction Manual.
Alcoa Aluminum Newsletter, October 1959, Peter Muller-Munk Association publication.

Special thanks to Mr. William E. Inman, Sr. and the Graflex Historic Quarterly for their kind permission to reprint this outstanding and informative article.

3 comments:

Jim McHugh said...

I use these cameras all the time. Really a dream.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-retro-20100613,0,2619172.story

Jim McHugh

Tom Henneman said...

I just bought one of these on Ebay-can't wait to get it! This is my dream camera. I can't wait to get a large format camera that is affordable. I purchased this model because of the the expanded movement's the Speed Graphic offers.

gaker said...

I first used a Super Graphic in the mid 60's. Shot Texas-Oklahoma football game and other events. Sold the camera. Thirty years later, bought one perfect condition and have been using it the last ten years. I have many 4x5 camreras. Except for shooting architecture, I use it for everything, and it's a favorite camera. Brilliant engineering. Fast to use and a pleasure to hold.