View camera

Speed Graphic
Nikon F50, 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor
Kodak Max 400

A longtime camera collector and professional photographer retired several years ago and sent me a box of cameras from his collection that he no longer wanted. Some of them were broken in some way while others worked, either fully or well enough to test. I’ve shot several of them now, and their reviews are up on this site.

This one is a Miniature Speed Graphic, manufactured somewhere between 1939 and 1946, and it takes 2×3 sheet film. I’m sure that if I invested the time to figure it out, I could get wonderful photographs from it. I have decided to let it look glorious on my fireplace mantel instead. SLRs and TLRs have captured my heart.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.


13 responses to “single frame: Speed Graphic”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Still looks in good shape! These smaller Graphics were usually used by wedding shooters rather than photo journalism pros or commercial people. They’re as “tough” to use as the 4X5, with a much smaller negative. The replacement for these was usually a Rolliflex twin lens.

    People don’t really understand this, but the weak link of sheet film cameras is the wear on film holders. Film can be a little “loose” in them, and have a little movement. This can make the results a little less than optimal, and this seems to be acerbated in the smaller sizes; the large the film, the less noticeable, due to smaller “blow-up”. When precision 120 and 620 roll film cameras came along (like the Kodak Medalist 620), they really bit into these cameras market with much higher results due to more exact film plane, sharper focus control, and thinner film.

    I openly admit to barely passing up a pristine 3.25 X 4.25 Graphic one time that had been used by a “stringer” photo-journalist to pick up a few assignments back in the 50’s. It seems so much less bulky than the full 4X5!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’d rather shoot a TLR than this anyday!

  2. Marc Beebe Avatar

    I’ve used one of these as well as its “big brother” and quite a few “relatives” from the family, including the grandpa Graflex. Hauling around these -really- large format cameras was a chore even for the young. Now imagine Ansel lugging his 8 x 10 everywhere! And these were the favourite of the press photographers.
    Yes digital has some distinct advantages. Even my 1Ds doesn’t tip the scales like a Graphic.
    They do take great pictures though.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Part of me thinks I should pass this camera on to someone who will use it.

  3. Christopher May Avatar
    Christopher May

    If you ever change your mind and would like some sheet film holders, let me know. I’ve got a bunch in this size but I tend to use my roll film back for my Busch Pressman C (a competitor press camera). I actually like these little press cameras. They fold up pretty compactly, offer some modest movements, can swap lenses, can shoot limited sheet film or widely available medium format film and offer a variety of focusing and composition options. Having a speed graphic with a focal plane shutter makes it even that much more versatile.

    I love shooting my Rolleiflex, too, though, so I understand the appeal of TLRs!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Christopher! For now, this is a rabbit hole I’m not going down. I’m having too much fun shooting my SLRs! I think I was born to shoot them.

    2. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      I passed up a few Busch press cameras back in the early 90’s, altho I thought they were superior to the Graphic!

  4. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    It looks lovely – I have one the same but with the Xenar lens, unfortunately the ground glass needs replacing and I have no film holders so I probably will not get to try it….shame because I am sure it would make beautiful images!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds like you know what you’re doing with one?

      1. Steve Mitchell Avatar

        no, I would be a learner too….but it looks good on the shelf :)

  5. Ian Hunter Avatar
    Ian Hunter

    Please try to use it at least once! I have a Thornton Pickard half frame and made inserts to take 5×4 sheet film. I got really nice results from it, worth the hassle of film loading, developing and printing. I had to source a 5×4 enlarger but twenty years ago they were cheap second hand. I used an MPP too, similar in some respects to a Speed Graphic. I haven’t used them in twenty years but I keep them all polished and looking good. BTW, ground glass is easily made from picture glass, carborundum and water, there must be a U tube video. I have made quite a few.

    1. Andy Umbo Avatar
      Andy Umbo

      Plus one for the MPP! The British Empire “Graphic”. Had a chance to look at one in the U.S. and it’s another camera, like the Busch, I thought had some nicer features than the Graphic. I see them in all the “vintage” British shows on PBS, usually being used by the police department crime scene photographers.

      Since I made my living in commercial/advertising photography, and the majority of that in sheet film. I still have a lot of view camera stuff laying around, including a full Deardorff 8X10 with reduction backs for 5X7 and 4X5 (unfortunately with torn bellows, a common problem with the D). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about divesting myself of all film equipment, even my Hasselblads, to just keep and use a 4X5 sheet film camera as my only “film” camera. In the early 2000’s, I worked on the curation of a photo collection of a semi-pro photographer, and was highly impressed by the sheet film photos in his collection, vs. the roll film and then 35mm that seemed to not have the level of artistic input.

  6. Ian Hunter Avatar
    Ian Hunter

    My MPP belonged to the Norfolk constabulary SOC dept. I bought it about forty years ago when they had gone over to 35mm. It is a very versatile camera and came with a leather hard kit case with five DDSs and 150mm and 90mm lenses.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: