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Speed Graphic

Speed Graphic

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Produced by Graflex
Graflex was a manufacturer, a brand name and several models of cameras. William F. Folmer, an inventor, built the first Graflex camera in 1898, when his company was called The Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company, founded originally in New York as a gas lamp company...

 in Rochester, New York, the Speed Graphic is commonly called the most famous press camera
Press camera
A press camera is a medium or large format camera suitable for use by press photographers.Press cameras were widely used from the 1900s through the early 1960s and commonly had the following features:* collapsibility into strong, compact boxes...

. Although the first Speed Graphic cameras were produced in 1912, production of later versions continued until 1973; with the most significant improvements occurring in 1947 with the introduction of the Pacemaker Speed Graphic (and Pacemaker Crown Graphic, which is one pound lighter but lacks the focal plane shutter). It was standard equipment for many American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 press photographers until the mid-1960s.


Despite the common appellation
An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well...

 of Speed Graphic, various Graphic models were produced between 1912 and 1973. The authentic Speed Graphic has a focal plane shutter that the Crown Graphic and Century Graphic models lack. The Speed Graphic was available in 2¼ x 3¼ inch- 3¼ x 4¼ inch and the famous 4 x 5 inch. Because of the focal plane shutter (backshutter), the Speed Graphic can also use barrel lenses.

The Speed Graphic was a slow camera. Each exposure required the photographer to change the film sheet
Sheet film
Sheet film is large format and medium format photographic film supplied on individual sheets of acetate or polyester film base rather than rolls. Sheet film was initially supplied as an alternative to glass plates...

, focus
Focus (optics)
In geometrical optics, a focus, also called an image point, is the point where light rays originating from a point on the object converge. Although the focus is conceptually a point, physically the focus has a spatial extent, called the blur circle. This non-ideal focusing may be caused by...

 the camera, cock the shutter, and press the shutter. Faster shooting can be achieved with the Grafmatic film holder, which is a six sheet film "changer" that holds each sheet in a septum
In anatomy, a septum is a wall, dividing a cavity or structure into smaller ones.-In human anatomy:...

. Photographers had to be conservative and anticipate when the action was about to take place to take the right picture. The cry, "Just one more!" if a shot was missed was common. President Harry Truman introduced the White House photographers as the "Just One More Club."

Famous users

Perhaps the most famous Speed Graphic user was NYC press photographer Arthur "Weegee
Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig , a photographer and photojournalist, known for his stark black and white street photography....

" Fellig, who covered New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 in the 1930s & '40's. Today the New York City based street-photographer Louis Mendes
Louis Mendes
Louis Mendes is a photographer from New York City who is known for his signature press camera, portraits and street photography....

 may be the longest user – actively using the Speed Graphic for over forty years. Louis Mendes is recognized by noted and award-winning journalists, authors, and sources, including the New York Times.

The 1942-1954 Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

s for photography were taken with Speed Graphic cameras. A few winning photographs after 1954 were taken with Rolleiflex
Rolleiflex is the name of a long-running and diverse line of high-end cameras originally made by the German company Franke & Heidecke, and later Rollei-Werk. The "Rolleiflex" name is most commonly used to refer to Rollei's premier line of medium format twin lens reflex cameras...

 or Kodak cameras
Eastman Kodak
Eastman Kodak Company is a multinational imaging and photographic equipment, materials and services company headquarted in Rochester, New York, United States. It was founded by George Eastman in 1892....

. 1961 was the last Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph with a Speed Graphic, which taken by Yasushi Nagao
Yasushi Nagao
was a Pulitzer Prize-winning press photographer.Nagao took a photograph of Otoya Yamaguchi killing Inejiro Asanuma. At the time Nagao was a cameraman working for Mainichi Shimbun; Hisatake Abo, Nagao's picture editor, told Nagao to cover a debate at Hibiya Hall...

 showing Otoya Yamaguchi
Otoya Yamaguchi
was a Japanese ultranationalist, a member of a right-wing Uyoku dantai group, who assassinated Inejiro Asanuma by wakizashi on October 12, 1960 at Tokyo's Hibiya Hall during a political debate in advance of parliamentary elections...

 assassinating Inejiro Asanuma
Inejiro Asanuma
Inejiro Asanuma was a Japanese politician, and head of the Japanese Socialist Party. Asanuma was noted for speaking publicly about Socialism and economic and cultural opportunities...

 on stage.

In 2004, American photojournalist David Burnett used his Speed Graphic with a 178mm f/2.5 Aero-Ektar lens removed from a K-24 aerial camera to cover John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

's presidential campaign
John Kerry presidential campaign, 2004
The Presidential Campaign of John Kerry, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and the nominee of the Democratic Party challenged Republican incumbent President George W. Bush in the U.S. presidential election on November 2, 2004. Ultimately, Kerry conceded defeat in the race in a telephone call to Bush...


Graflex manufacturing history

The company name changed several times over the years as it was absorbed and then released by the Kodak empire, finally becoming a division of the Singer Corporation
Singer Corporation
Singer Corporation is a manufacturer of sewing machines, first established as I.M. Singer & Co. in 1851 by Isaac Merritt Singer with New York lawyer Edward Clark. Best known for its sewing machines, it was renamed Singer Manufacturing Company in 1865, then The Singer Company in 1963. It is...

 and then dissolved
Dissolution (law)
In law, dissolution has multiple meanings.Dissolution is the last stage of liquidation, the process by which a company is brought to an end, and the assets and property of the company redistributed....

 in 1973. The award winning Graflex
Graflex was a manufacturer, a brand name and several models of cameras. William F. Folmer, an inventor, built the first Graflex camera in 1898, when his company was called The Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company, founded originally in New York as a gas lamp company...

 plant in suburban Pittsford, New York is still standing and is home to the MOSCOM Corporation.
Years Manufacturer
1887-1904 Folmer & Schwing Manufacturing Co., NY, NY
1905-1927 Folmer & Schwing Div., Eastman Kodak Co. Rochester, NY
1928-1946 Folmer Graflex Corp., Rochester, NY
1946-1955 Graflex Inc., Rochester, NY
1956-1968 Graflex Inc., Div. General Precision Equipment, Rochester, NY
1968-1973 Graflex Inc., Div. SINGER CORPORATION
1973 Tooling bought by Toyo Co.

Graflex model history

Post 1940 Graphic style cameras may be considered usable cameras,
rather than antique or collectible cameras. The Speed Graphic was
manufactured in a number of sizes, 4x5" being the most common, but
also in 2.25x3.25" 3.25x4.25" and 5x7".
Years produced Model name and description |Notes
1958-1973 Super Graphic Same features as the Super Speed Graphic, but without the Graflex-1000 1/1000 front shutter.
1961-1970 Super Speed Graphic Graflex-1000 1/1000 front shutter, All metal body, including flash computer, electric shutter release, front standard had swing capability, & featured revolving back. (NO focal plane shutter !)
1947-1973 Pacemaker Crown Graphics (4x5, 3.25x4.25, 2.25x3.25)
1947-1970 Pacemaker Speed Graphics (4x5, 3.25x4.25, 2.25x3.25)
1949-1970 Century Graphic (2.25x3.25) Post-war brought coated lens and lenses in shutters, body release, folding infinity stops. The plastic bodied 'Century Graphic' and mahogany/metal 'Crown Graphic' were without focal plane shutters. Imported 2.25" cameras led to the design of the roll film holders, and the Graflok back (1949). Flat bar viewfinder, followed by flexible wire viewfinder. Side mounted rangefinder replaced by top rangefinder on 4x5" Graphics in 1955. Trim on face of Pacemaker bodies is found on top, sides, and bottom.
1940-1946 Anniversary Speed Graphic (3.25x4.25 and 4x5") No grey metal exposed, satin black with chrome trim. Wartime model: no chrome. Bed and Body track rails linked, allowing focusing of wide angle lens within body. Solid wire frame viewfinder. Trim on face of body is found only on top and sides.
1939-1946 Miniature Speed Graphic (1st small 2.25x3.25" model) wire hoop viewfinder has curved top. Early Kalart rangefinder. Focal plane shutter.
1928-1939 Pre-Anniversary Speed Graphic (3.25x4.25, 4x5, 5x7) 4x5 - wire hoop viewfinder has curved top. There is no trim on the front of the body, unlike later models. Early Pre-Anniversary models retained the "flip-up" optical viewfinder, but later ones were produced with the tubular viewfinder. These tubular viewfinders were also available as an after-market accessory, and many early Pre-Anniversary models carry tubular viewfinders as replacements for original flip-up viewfinders.
1912-1927 Top Handle Speed Graphic 3.25x4.25, 4x5, 3.25x5.5, 5x7

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