Home  Camera Articles   FOR SALE    Orders     I Buy / Wants     Repairs     Books   Adapters

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super Graphic!

If you want the most features for the least bucks in a 4x5 Press/Field cameras, the Super Graphic is tough to beat.  With its long list of desirable features,   many  photogs consider the Super Graphic as the best overall Graphic Press Camera.   Toyo liked it so much of it they bought the rights to remanufacture it in the 70's for the Japanese home market.

By comparison, Polaroid 180/195's sell for $400 plus and only take Polaroids. Supers sell for about the same.  Just add a Polaroid back and you have 1000 times the camera!    Introduced in 1958, the "Super Graphic 45"  was Graflex's last 4x5 press camera design.  Unlike most Graphics, the Super was only made in one film format,  4x5.  Graflex  went all out to make it as "Super"  as possible--possibly a little too far when it comes to deciphering its obscure controls.   Notable features include:

FRONT MOVEMENTS on the Super are a bit mysterious, since they are unmarked and difficult to figure out.     The way I see it, whoever designed them must have had a rather dark sense of humor.  I know one photog who had his Super for five years before he found out how to swing the lens---and then it was by accident!   If you are the proud owner of a Super who for years wondered how the front standard works,  this knowledge is worth at least $10,000---but I'll settle for only $100.   Send cash,  I'm waiting.   Here's the lowdown:

From here on out,  you practically have to be an engineering genius to figure it out by yourself.

The Super's advanced Electronic shutter is mostly a footnote today, though the electrical engineers out there  will undoubtedly want to get them working again.     Unfortunately,  the electronic shutter system  has generally not aged well and seldom works today.    Not to worry.  If it's not working, just use a cable release as normal.

Rangefinder cams are another esoteric part of the Super.  Finding  them is the first part of the challenge.     Again, I suspect the camera designer was indulging his sense of humor.  

  1. Get Ready to Change the Cam:  Remove the lens, drop the camera bed, take the lens standard off the focusing tracks, and push the and front standard and bellows into the body of the camera.  You will now have a clear easy view of the secret hidden compartment where the focusing cam resides.   You don't HAVE to take the lens standard off its tracks etc to change the cam, but it will make it easier for you first time cam changers. 
  2. Turn the camera upside down, you read it correctly,   upside down.
  3. Find Waldo, eh  the Cam: Look inside the camera cavity, on the ledge above the now upside down front "Graflex" label. Place your finger on that ledge, in the center, and swing it OUTWARD towards you.  Strangely enough, you will now be looking at the rangefinder cam, seated inside of its mount.  The sad part is that you don't yet know what you are looking for, or how to recognize it.  I told you that the camera designer was out to get you.    NOTE:  If the distance dial on the top of the camera works as you turn the front standard back and forth, there is a cam seated in the rangefinder mechanism.  If the dial on top does not work, it probably means someone else has already removed whatever cam was there and did not replace it.
  4. Take a flashlight out and have a closer look.   In the middle of that upside down ledge you will see a bright piece of metal.   It is about an inch long, about 1/32" thick,  with one end wider than the other, and it will have  two holes in it.  Yep, that's the rangefinder cam.    Look on the inside ledge again.  You will see an outline of the   cam showing how to insert it.   As the lens is focused, the cam slides back and forth inside that spring loaded slot. 
  5. The problem with this picture is that the cams are not always as easy to change as Graphic's literature of the time would have you believe.    To remove it,  place your finger on the cam and pull it out towards the front of the camera, in the direction of the diagram.  Real easy, right?  Not likely.  It usually takes two or more tugs.  It often sticks unless it has been recently removed.  Keep playing with it, it will eventually come out.     
  6. The hard part comes when you try to insert the new cam.  The sucker often doesn't want  to go in.  The smaller end of the cam is inserted first, with the writing on the outside facing down, away from the ledge.    Sometimes you will spend five minutes getting it right, but eventually it will  go on.    Now close the secret door, and you will be on your way.  
  7. REMEMBER for the rangefinder to work properly, the cam must be matched to that focal length  lens.  Otherwise, you might be focusing a 210 lens with a 135 rangefinder cam, and get very out of focus pictures.   Of course the other part of that equation is the lens standard must be locked at the correct infinity stop.   Suppose you have your Super set up for three different lenses with three different sets of infinity stops.  If you get in a hurry and set the lens standard at the wrong set of infinity stops on the focusing track, forget the pics.
  8. After you get used to it, cams can be easily interchanged.   Most people, however, never get over the initial learning curve to become proficient at it.

Super Rangefinder cams are much cheaper than Linhof Technika's cams, usually about $20 Vs $200 to have new cam ground by Linhof.   The bad part  is that Super cams are usually hard to find.  You can make them yourself if you are a bit inventive.  

Remember that there are TWO series of Graflex cams, one for the Super Graphic, and one for the Pacemaker Graphic, popularly called the "Top Mounted Rangefinder" Speed or Crown Graphic.   The Super Graphic cams are larger, and are strangely NOT labeled with  focal length of the lens.    The smaller Pacemaker cams are labeled with the focal length. 

WIDES: Graflex literature is very definite about the Super handling the  65/6.8 Schneider Super Angulon on a flat board.  Unfortunately, it is a very small mid 1950's lens of mediocre performance by today's standards.  Modern 75 and 65 4x5 wides angle lenses are much larger, and won't mount on the Super, but many modern 90's will. 

Recessed Lens Boards:  I have a recessed lens board which fits the Super.  Whether it was actually made for the Super or the previous Pacemaker series I don't know, but it fits.  They are VERY hard to find.    As hard as they are to find now, the best solution seems to make one yourself.  If anyone comes up with a wonderfully brilliant solution, please email me.

Viewfinders: Supers use the standard, detachable Graphic viewfinders of the later  Top Mount RF Pacemaker series.   Parallax is controlled by a distance dial at the back.   Interchangeable masks on the front of the viewfinder change the field of view to fit the lens in use,    although they are hard to find today.

One of the smartest Super modifications is to use the Linhof Technika variable 90-360 viewfinder.  Just replace the Graflex viewfinder mount on the top of the camera with one from a Technika.     It's a BIG improvement over the original.  While Tech viewfinders are not so hard to find used for about $175, the mounting hardware is.   The most practical solution may be having the mounting hardware made at  your local machine shop.

Likewise, if you enjoy  the superb Technika anatomical grip, install a Tech grip mount on your Super.  Then you can use the same grip for either your Technika or your Super.


That's the once over folks.   I hope I've made my point that  the Super Graphic's abundant features and  low price make it a Best Buy in 4x5 Field Cameras!

Home  Camera Articles   FOR SALE    Orders     I Buy / Wants     Repairs     Books   Adapters

Revised: November 26, 2003 Copyright � 2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.