2×3 cameras? [Archive] — Rangefinderforum.com

How much lighter is the Crown vs. the Speed? [Archive]

{amp}amp;COPY; 2004 by David
C. Karp
for largeformatphotography.info


Pacemaker Crown Graphic


In its heyday, the Graflex Pacemaker Crown
Graphic 4×5 was one of the world’s premier press cameras. Although
the market for press cameras disappeared long ago, countless Crown
Graphics live on today. Crown Graphics are plentiful on the used
market, often at very reasonable prices. They are quite lightweight,
a very desirable quality in a 4×5 camera designed for hand-held
use. These qualities, along with the camera’s wide-angle friendly
construction make the Crown Graphic an excellent option as a low
cost field camera, or perhaps as a backup 4×5. Downsides to the
Crown Graphic as a field camera stem from its original design
as a press camera. These include: lack of many front movements
customarily used by landscape photographers, no back movements,
and a non-reversible back that is permanently fixed in the horizontal
position. Depending on your needs as a photographer, or your budget,
these downsides may or may not deter you from pressing a Crown
into use as a field camera.

A few years ago, a friend gave me a 4×5
Crown Graphic press camera (sans rangefinder) in very good condition.
He had never used the camera. Knowing of my interest in photography,
he asked me if I could put it to good use. He asked the right
man — I knew just what to do with it. I have a monorail camera
for most of my 4×5 photography, but the Crown Graphic seemed to
be a fine option for times when it is impractical to pack a monorail.

This review is limited to the Crown Graphic
as a field camera. I have not used it for hand held photography,
given my camera’s lack of a rangefinder, but many photographers
still use it this way. There is a vast amount of information available
on the Crown
and other Graflex cameras at www.graflex.org.
Another good source is the article «The Graflex Lives»
by Michael McBroom in the March/April 1991 issue of View
Camera Magazine


The camera is durable and well made. This
is not surprising, given the Crown Graphic’s intended use as a
hard-working hand held press camera.

The body is made of wood and seems quite
strong. It is covered with black pebble grained leather. The hardware
is stainless steel. Some parts, including the Graflok back, are
aluminum. The back is a non-reversing international standard Graflok
type with a pop open cover that protects the glass and serves
as a viewing hood. I am not sure exactly what the bellows is made
of. It appears to be a synthetic material, not leather. The groundglass
is combined with a Fresnel lens.



Unlike a wooden folder, the Crown Graphic
does not collapse on itself in a series of movements. Instead,
the front standard slides back into the camera body, which is,
essentially, a protective box. The bed then folds up to form a
cover for the body. This makes it quick and easy to open the camera
and set it up.

A great advantage of the Crown Graphic and
other press camera designs is that they can close with a compact
lens mounted on the camera. To give you an idea of what might
fit in a closed Crown Graphic, I have been able to close mine
with the following lenses installed: 125mm f/5.6 Fujinon W (a
great option for a «normal» lens on this camera), 135mm
f/4.5 Graflex Optar (the lens that came with the camera), 210mm
f/6.8 Caltar II-E, and even a 300mm f/9.0 Nikkor-M (closing the
camera with this lens mounted is a little tight). Many other lenses
would fit just as well.

My camera has two ¼-20 tripod sockets.
One is where you would expect it, on the bottom of the camera.
The other is on the left side. The bottom socket is for horizontal
photographs. The side socket is used to make vertical photographs
without having to flip the tripod head on its side. The side socket
is located under the leather hand strap, so you have to make sure
that the strap is loose enough to fit over your tripod head. I
attached two quick release plates to my camera, so it easily and
quickly snaps into place on my tripod head regardless of the orientation
I select to compose a photograph.


Camera Mounted on Side
Socket for Vertical Composition

To open the cover/camera bed, find a raised
bump under the leatherette on the top of the camera’s left side.
Pressing the button releases the bed. Although the button is hard
to find initially, once you know where it is, it is easy to locate
by feel. When the bed is released, push it down until it locks
into place. You will know it is locked when it snaps into place
with a loud click. To extend the front standard, loosen the locking
lever at the standard’s base by rotating it until it points directly
away from the back of the camera. Then pull the lever (and thus
the standard) forward. To lock the standard in place, just move
the locking lever to either side until it can move no further.



Closed Camera Back


Open Camera Back

To access the groundglass, press on the
silver tab at the bottom center of the Graflok back. The all-metal
protective cover pops open to form a viewing hood. The Crown Graphic
has a nice groundglass/Fresnel lens combination. The glass is
evenly illuminated and focusing is fairly easy, even when using
an extreme wide angle lens like the 75mm f/4.5 Grandagon-N. The
groundglass does not include a grid, or indicators for smaller
formats, such as 6×7, 6×9, etc.

The viewing hood limits the type of loupe
you can use because it does not allow you to place your eye close
enough to use a standard loupe. A loupe with a long barrel, like
the Toyo 3.6X loupe works well.

Focusing is easy. There are two knurled
focusing knobs on both sides of the far end of the bed, and a
locking lever on the front right end of the bed. You focus by
rotating the knobs back and forth until you are satisfied that
the image is sharp. Use the locking lever to make sure that you
do not knock the image out of focus.


Crown Graphics are flexible enough to use
a wide range of lenses appropriate for landscape photography.
The bellows has plenty of extension, approximately 12.5 inches,
to accommodate any non-telephoto lens up to 300mm.

The best lens candidates for use with a
Crown Graphic are small and light, like the classic press camera
lenses. Good examples are: The Kodak Ektars, Graflex Optars, Wollensack
Raptars, and Schneider Xenar lenses originally sold for use with
these cameras, modern Tessar-type designs like the Nikkor M series
and Schneider Xenars, triplets like the Rodenstock Geronar or
Caltar II-E series, process-type lenses like the Schneider G-Claron,
Fujinon A series and Rodenstock APO-Ronar, Schneider Symmar convertible
lenses, and classic wide field designs like the Schneider Angulons,
Wide Field Congos and Wide Field Ektars.

Reportedly, you can use lenses as wide as
65mm with a Crown Graphic and a flat lens board. I have not confirmed
this, but believe that it is true, given that the focusing rails
extend inside the camera body, and the bellows compresses very
tightly. I have used my Crown with a lens nearly that wide, a
75mm f/4.5 Rodenstock Grandagon-N, and found it a good combination.
The 75mm lens requires you to use the drop bed feature (see below).
A 125mm does not. I think that a small 90mm, such as an old Schneider
Angulon or a Wide Field Congo would be a good wide-angle option
with this camera. A Kodak 100mm Wide Field Ektar is another excellent


Crown Graphic with
Rodenstock 75mm f/4.5 Grandagon-N and drop bed

The big wide angles with big image circles
are not necessarily good fits with the Crown Graphic. My 90mm
f/4.5 Grandagon-N is too big and heavy for this camera. The rear
element barely fits inside the lensboard opening, and it makes
the camera fairly front heavy. If you want to buy a modern wide
angle lens for this camera, the lighter, smaller, and less expensive
versions of the current Rodenstock Grandagon-N, Schneider Super
Angulon, Fujinon SW, and Nikkor SW lines are better-sized for
use on a Crown Graphic. The camera does not allow much in the
way of movements with lenses this wide. For example, very little
movement is possible with my 75mm lens because the front standard
has to be set so far back on the focusing rails that the bed supports
and the camera body interfere with most movements, including front

Wide-angle lenses require use of the drop
bed feature, which drops the bed downward so that it will not
intrude in the lens’s field of view. To use the drop bed, press
down on the two bed supports while also applying downward pressure
on the bed. The bed drops into place. (This is much easier to
do than to describe.) Once the bed is in place, you apply a corrective
back tilt to the front standard to bring the lens into alignment
with the camera back (see below), and possibly some front rise
as well.


Drop Bed and Front
Tilt Backward


The Crown Graphic is a press camera. It
does not feature extensive movements.

Front Rise:
The easiest and most intuitive of the movements to use is the
front rise — Just loosen the two knobs on either side of the front
standard, raise the standard, and tighten the knobs.

Front Tilt:
The front standard does not tilt forward. It does, however, tilt
backward. This might seem odd, but is easily explainable. The
back tilt works in conjunction with the drop bed (see above).
After the bed is dropped, the formerly vertical front standard
will point downward. In effect, this is a severe front tilt combined
with a front fall. To correct this situation, apply the full amount
of back tilt, which brings the front standard into alignment with
the camera back. Application of some front rise might also be
appropriate at this point.

Even though the front standard does not
tilt forward, it is possible to achieve a front tilt by combining
two movements. First, apply the drop bed. Next, apply the back
tilt, but not all the way back. Stop tilting back when your lens
achieves the desired amount of forward tilt.

Front Fall:
Similarly, it is possible to apply front fall by dropping the
bed, applying front tilt backward to align the front standard
with the back (thereby applying the maximum amount of front fall),
and raising the front standard until you reach the desired amount
of front «fall.»

Front Shift:
There is a small amount of front shift. To shift, release the
locking lever that you use to extend the front lensboard from
inside the camera body. Press down on the small tab just below
the lever. Then slide the standard to the left or the right. The
amount of front shift is even more limited than normal when using
short focal length lenses. This is because the bed supports interfere
with the full range of shift movements. With longer focal length
lenses and more extension, there is no interference, and more
shift is available. In use, having to unlock the front standard
to apply a shift often causes the front standard to move backward
or forward a bit, throwing the image out of focus and requiring
you to refocus the image.

Front Swing:
There is no front swing.

Back Movements:
The Crown Graphic was designed without any back movements. However,
it is also possible to achieve a sort of back tilt by combining
some of the front movements with an adjustment of your tripod
head. First, tilt your tripod head back slightly. The degree that
you tilt the head back will be based on your experience, because
you won’t be able to see the effect of your movements for a little
while. Next, drop the bed. Then, apply any necessary front rise.
Finally, tilt the front standard backward until it is where you
want it. Once you have completed all of these movements, you will
be able to see the results of your «back tilt» and can
make any fine adjustments.

Of course, all of the movements described
above assume that the camera is mounted on the tripod for a horizontal
composition. The available movements are severely impacted when
you turn the camera on its side to make a vertical photograph:
Back tilt becomes left swing. The drop bed becomes a sort of right
swing, or a right shift if it is combined with back tilt. The
rise becomes a left shift. Front rise and fall are minimal in
this orientation, because the meager shift movement is now in
the vertical orientation. This is a significant drawback if you
are accustomed to using front movements in the field.

A number of creative photgaphers have devised
methods to augment the front movements on a Crown Graphic. Here
are two examples: Example
, Example
. (These examples call for physical modifications to allow
for front and back tilt, or partial disassembly of the camera
to reverse the front standard so that it tilts forward instead
of backward. Of course, the latter option limits you to lenses
that do not require use of the drop bed because you will no longer
be able to correct the front tilt.) Another similar source is
the article «Make Your Press Camera Behave Like a Field Camera»
by Bertram W. Miller in Photo
Techniques Magazine
, Vol. 17, No. 4 (1996).


Crown Graphics use dedicated lensboards
that also fit on the Speed Graphic, Super Graphic, and Super Speed
Graphic. They are available used from a variety of sources. In
addition, Midwest
Photo Exchange
manufactures these lensboards new from the
original dies. The store inventories lensboards with holes predrilled
for Copal No. 0 and Copal No. 1 shutters, or with a pilot hole
that allows you to drill the board to any size you desire.

The lens mounts by placing it onto the front
standard and moving two slide locks, one on the top, the other
on the bottom, to hold the board in place.


As noted above, the camera back is not reversible.
This is a major inconvenience in the field but, on the bright
side, it does eliminate one source of dust entering the camera.

The back is a removable international standard
Graflok style back. It should accept all roll film backs designed
to the international standard. It also accepts standard two-sided
sheet film holders and Grafmatic holders. My camera accepts my
Polaroid 545 holder, Calumet C2 roll film holder, and sheet film
holders without any problems.


The Crown Graphic is light and easy to carry.
It weighs only 4.8 pounds, including a 135mm Graflex Optar lens
(but excluding the rangefinder). It is very quick to set up. Opening
the bed, locking it into place, extending the front standard,
and popping open the groundglass cover takes just a few seconds.
The camera is quickly ready to compose a photograph. I use the
Crown Graphic in conjunction with a Manfrotto3030
head and 3021
tripod legs. This common combination is a good fit with the Crown.
A tripod head with built-in levels would be useful, since neither
the body, nor the front standard feature bubble levels. It would
also be a simple matter to add levels to the camera body.

Using movements with the Crown Graphic is
cumbersome, as is readily apparent from the discussion above.
For me, the camera’s most useful movement is the front rise (for
horizontal compositions). There is such a minimal amount of front
shift that I don’t try to use that feature any more. Similarly,
I do not like to use the drop bed/backward tilt combination to
accomplish front tilt. The drop bed works great with wide-angle

The lack of movements is both troubling
and liberating. If you are used to working with a monorail camera
that allows full movements on the front and back standards, most
of the movements you regularly employ are either not available
on the Crown, or difficult to implement. This is a real disadvantage
of the Crown Graphic when used as a field camera. Some photos
are hard, and at times impossible, to make without these movements.
For example, landscape photographers may want to apply some back
tilt to emphasize an object in the foreground. Or, they may want
to use significant front rise in a vertical composition that includes
trees. These are tasks that the Crown Graphic was not designed
to handle.

On the other hand, it is refreshing to set
up the camera, compose, and make a photograph with a minimum of
fuss and concern about image controls. If you are an experienced
large format photographer accustomed to using a variety of movements,
once you become accustomed to this manner of 4×5 photography,
it can be quite enjoyable. The Crown is ready to go on a moment’s
notice, and is so easy to use. After all, isn’t this is the essence
of the Crown Graphic and its ilk, even when using the camera on
a tripod instead of handheld? For those photographers who have
not yet used a camera with extensive movements, they will not
miss them. Instead they can concentrate on all of the Crown’s
fine attributes. If they find that they want a camera with more
movements, there seems to be a ready market for used Crown Graphics.

One simple modification will simplify f/stop
selection for depth of field purposes — The addition of a millimeter
scale to the bed. This will be especially helpful given the camera’s
restricted front movements.


This is one of the great features of the
Crown Graphic: There are plenty of them available at very reasonable
prices. They go up for auction regularly on EBay, and are commonly
available in good shape with a lens for under $400.00 from used
camera dealers. At auction, they can go for much lower. If you
buy carefully, it is very possible to obtain a camera that you
can sell for just about what you paid for it if you decide that
either a Crown Graphic or large format photography is not for


There is much to like about the Crown Graphic
as a field camera:

  • Low price
  • Light weight
  • Easy to set up and take down
  • Durable
  • Compact size when folded
  • Easy to store in a backpack
  • Solid all metal protective groundglass
  • Good groundglass and Fresnel lens combination
  • Can be used with a wide range of lenses
  • International standard Graflok back

There are also some significant drawbacks
to the Crown Graphic as a field camera:

  • Lack of critical movements
  • Some of the available movements are quite
  • Lack of a reversible or rotating back
  • Loss of front rise when in vertical orientation

The Crown was not designed as a field camera,
so it can hardly be faulted for its lack of some field camera
features. Therefore, this review should not be interpreted as
strong criticism of the Crown. It is not. The Crown Graphic is
not a field camera, yet I am forcing it to be one. I can hardly
complain that some of its attributes are not ideal for this task.
Nevertheless, the camera’s disadvantages as a field camera must
be discussed so potential users are aware of them and recognize
them in advance.


Crown Graphics are not the only press cameras
available at low prices that can be used as field cameras. A good
alternative is the Speed
, which has slightly more bellows extension than the
Crown, and includes a built-in focal plane shutter with speeds
up to 1/1000 second. The Speed Graphic has a slightly bigger wooden
body, and is reputedly not quite as wide-angle friendly as the
Crown. The Speed’s integral focal plane shutter makes it possible
to use barrel lenses, which are readily available on the used
market at lower prices than lenses mounted on shutters. Another
excellent candidate is the Super
, which features a 360 degree revolving back, plus
extensive front movements, including front tilt forward and front
swing. The closely related Super
Speed Graphic
features a revolving back, and a 135mm f/4.5
Graflex Optar lens (manufactured by Rodenstock) mounted on a Graflex
1000 shutter. This was a between-the-lens shutter with a 1/1000
second top speed! (The Super and the Super Speed Graphics both
have metal bodies.) Other good press camera candidates for field
use include the Busch
, Meridian 45A, Meridian
, and the MPP.


If you don’t own a field camera and want
to add one to your collection at very low cost, the Crown Graphic
is a viable alternative. However, you pay for that low cost in
the loss of some of the very useful field camera movements that
do so much to distinguish large format cameras from their smaller
brethren. The good news here is that having the full range of
movements is less important for landscape photography, the traditional
fair of the field camera, than it is in other aspects of photography
(like architectural photography, where movements are indispensable).

What you get with a Crown Graphic is a robust
camera that is easy to pack, light in weight, very quick to set
up and put into action, and fun to use.

All photographs for this article are
{amp}amp;COPY; 2004
David C. Karp. They were taken hand held with an
Olympus C-900 Zoom 1.3 megapixel digital point and shoot camera.

I have both the Pacemaker Speed Graphic and the Crown Graphic, both from the early 50’s with the side-mounted Kalart rangefinder.

On my kitchen scale, the Speed Graphic weighs almost 7 lbs (3.17 kg) while the Crown Graphic weighs about 6 lbs (2.72 kg). Bottom line, the Speed Graphic weighs 16% more than the Crown.

My Domke F-5xb loaded with a ZI RF 3-lens f2 kit with table-tripod and small flash also weighs 6 lbs.

Of course, the Graphic would also need at least a couple of loaded Grafmatics, maybe a RH-10 back for portraits, plus a Sunpak 383 flash. (Since the leaf shutter can sync at any shutter speed who needs f2!{amp}lt;g{amp}gt;)

However, you might want to consider something I’m toying with these days, if you don’t think it strays to close to tripod territory.

Specifically, I’m talking about a Manfrotto 685B monopod, the one that telescopes open. Michael Reichmann talked about it a while ago on his Luminous Landscape site with a low speed, compact digital, but I’m finding it really nifty with a Graphic. (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/accessories/monopod.shtml)

The monopod is substantial enough for a Graphic and very quick to use. With the bed open, I can have the camera rest on my shoulder as I move about. And working the camera is easier since I’m just steadying it or turning it and not lifting it.

I don’t use a tripod head with the monopod since I think flopping a Graphic 90 degrees for portrait orientation is a bit much to expect from a compact head. However, a Linhof with a revolving back, might be given new life.

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