Articles FOR SALE
I Buy / Wants Repairs
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
- Rugged All Metal Body
- Electronic shutter release. So far as I
know, this is the first electronic shutter release built into a large format camera.
More on it later.
- Rotating Graflok back capable of easily taking back
accessories such as Polaroid backs, 6x7 or 6x9 120 film Roll Film Backs, and
Graflarger enlarger attachment. This is a BIG plus.
- Interchangeable rangefinder cams for lenses from 90
to 380, stored neatly on the back of the lens board when not in use.
- Movable focusing track infinity stops. This is a
really nice feature which the Technika IV and later Techs have, but not the Technika
- Automatic Focusing Scale Dial. This is a
really neat feature. Too bad 4x5 Technika's don't have it. As long
as you have the proper cam inserted, the focused distance as well as the suggested F/stop
for a given flash guide number is automatically shown on a dial at the top of the camera.
- Full front movements, more about those later.
- Special 1/1000 shutter option, which turned a
"Super Graphic" into a "Super Speed Graphic." To date this is
the only 1/1000 shutter for large format photography. Believe it or not, to cock it,
you TURN the large outside silver ribbed barrel clockwise.
- Lens boards are interchangeable with the later top
mounted Rangefinder Speed and Crown graphics. Unlatch lens boards by pushing upward on the
two chrome slides on either side of the front standard. Push them all the way
up, watch the four latches retract back into the lens standard edges, and lift out the
lens board. The opposite actions lock the lens and board.
- Presslok Tripod Mount was the Super's own quick
detach tripod system.
- Front drop bed locks up in folded position by
turning the focusing knobs slightly.
- The Focusing Hood is a step backward, a metal
top with leather folded sides. Previous Graphic indestructible focusing hoods were
all metal, which made them easier to open or close
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
- Front Rise is obvious, controlled by the two upper
knobs on either side of the lens standard. Just loosen them and raise the lens.
- Back Tilt is obvious, controlled by the two lower
knobs on either side of the lens standard. Just loosen them and tilt the lens back.
From here on out, you practically have to be
an engineering genius to figure it out by yourself.
- Front Swing is hidden, controlled by, of all
things, the chrome lip in the center of the lower front standard---just below the rather
large locking lever. Depress the chrome lip and then you rotate the front
standard in either direction a rather ample 25 degrees.
- Front Slide is similarly hidden, controlled by the
same chrome lip and operated in the same manner! This time just slide the lens
standard instead of swinging it.
- Front Tilts are ingeniously hidden.
Look at the bottom of the front lens standard, on either side, inside of the knobs which
control the back tilt. You will see what appear to be chrome clips which have
no obvious purpose. After loosening the lower outside knobs, push down on each
of the chrome clips at the same time, and tilt the lens standard forward. Amazingly,
the standard tilts forward, who would have thought it?
- The Super's front movements are quite generous,
more than any other Graphic. Its 25 degree front swing is more than a Technika III, IV, or
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.
- The Electronic Shutter release is that red button
on the rear left hand corner of the camera body.
- The Batteries for the electronic release are hidden
at the back---to the right of the rangefinder viewfinder. If it's not
missing as most of them are, you will see a removable rectangular plate.
Inside is where the two 22 1/2 volt batteries are inserted for the electronic shutter.
Don't be surprised to find beneath the plate two badly corroded batteries,
forgotten for the past forty or so years.
- Three prong holes are on the lower right side
of the camera. They belong to the Super's special flash gun
bracket. The idea was to keep all the connecting wires out of the
- The solenoid for the electronic shutter release is
hidden INSIDE the front standard's framework. Of course, this also means a
connecting wire between the solenoid and the shutter release.
- The Trick for all of this to work is a properly
wired lens board with its activating shutter tripper. I have seen plenty of Supers,
but 40 years after the camera was introduced you will find these specially wired
boards very hard to find. If you have the Super's special high speed
1/1000th shutter, the necessary wires and activating mechanism are already built in.
But for electronic shutter release with other lenses, you need the extra plumbing---if you
can manage to find it. Good luck.
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.
- 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.
- Turn the camera upside down, you read it correctly,
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Articles FOR SALE
I Buy / Wants Repairs
November 26, 2003. Copyright
� 2002 Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved. This means
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