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Monday, June 04, 2007

Push it!

Found myself at an outdoor 'Antique Fair' this past weekend even though a more appropriate name for it would had been 'Junk Fair'. Having said that it was fun to stroll along the tables seeing everything from a framed NSync poster to a rather impressive collection of radios from the 20's-30's. There were also quite a few cameras and lenses to be found and hidden amongst home-knitted pot heaters and grizzly-bear bookends I came upon Rolleicords, Kodak instamatics, Olympus OM's but also the one camera that triggered my interest - the Graphic 35.

Graflex Graphic 35, Photo by Wayne Cornell

The one I handled at the fair was fairly beaten up and had some parts missing but what intrigued me about it was the focusing mechanism - both how it worked internally as well as externally.

The image through the viewfinder is split horizontally. Pushing two buttons located on either side of the lens moves these two images until the two halves are lined up. Pretty much like a rangefinder split image but - different.
See an illustration attempt below for how the view through the viewfinder looks like:

Line up the horizontal slices to focus your photo

Reading up a bit on the introduction of this camera it appears as if I was far from the only one that found this way of focusing rather...unique.. or at least much different to what I have experienced in the past.
Below are some of the ads used to introduce this camera to the public in the mid-to-late 1950's:
The camera was amazing people on planes... well as on trains

And even found its way to underneath the Christmas tree

The Graphic 35 went through a number of updates and the later models had the F/3.5 lens replaced with a faster F/2.8 version and for the collectors out there, if there is anyone for these cameras, the versions produced (many in parallel) were;

F/3.5 (single color band): Feb 1955 - Apr 1956
F/3.5 (double color band): Apr 1956 - May 1957
F/3.5 (universal color band): Apr 1956 - July 1957
F/2.8 (double color band): Nov 1955 - Apr 1956
F/2.8 (universal color band): Apr 1956 - July 1957

But even with a number of updates the camera never really hit it big with the public and was discontinued no more than three years after its introduction in 1955.

Now, I didn't buy the one that I found at the fair but having read up a bit on this somewhat quirky camera I must confess that I'm considering picking one up at some point in the future. If I do I'll be sure to post a more thorough user experience here along with samples of how well (if at all) it works.

eBay prices fluctuates from $20 to $200 depending on condition and accessories.

If you find one in good condition and for a good price it may well be worth getting one just for the 'push focusing' experience :)


Anonymous Nacho said...

never heard of that focusing system. It really intrigues me though, looks like fun!
hope you get one on a good price

June 05, 2007 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just acquired a Graphic 35 and I must say this camera is really unique and well built; truly a work of art. It is a fine example of the robust marriage of mechanics and style prevalent in 1950's products. Yep, those WWII vets came home and created amazing things.

As the see-saw focus buttons are pushed to and fro, a special wheel in a fan-shaped window on the top of the lens assembly, showing the distance markings, twirls around as the focus is changed. The rainbow of color flash markings, the grey leather, the polished chrome and brushed aluminum all make it very attractive. It's quite heavy too. It's ergonomic as all get out...fits perfectly in your hands, and the paddle shutter release is right where your index finger rests naturally. A gentle squeeze and SNAP!

Usually cameras of this vintage have jammed or sluggish shutters, but mine works accurately at all speeds. I haven't developed the roll of B&W I've been shooting yet (with a yellow filter attached), but unless my hand's weren't steady or I didn't guestimate the f stop/shutter speeds correctly, I'm betting they will turn out fine snaps.

July 31, 2007 4:36 PM  

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