Introducing, the Graflex Crown Graphic

The little press camera that could.

When I first told a client friend that I had started shooting film again, since moving back to the Northwest he said, ‘that’s so Portland of you.’  He’s right!  The last time I shot lots of film was in 2009 , the year before moving to California.

In the three months that I’ve been back in PDX I’ve shot about 20 rolls of medium format, and about 10 rolls of 35mm; I have acquired and set up a complete darkroom in my office; and I’ve made about 20 solid prints on fiber paper.  It is a real joy to be working with chemicals again, and most important to me, the ability to hold a print in my hand that has never been digitally manipulated.

All of this lead up is to bring you around to my latest camera investment, an old Crown Graphic 2-1/4 x 3-1/4 (I also picked up a Speed Graphic 2×3 at the same time, but it is older and much heftier – for the time being I’ll be shooting mostly with the Crown).  This is the mini-graphic meaning that the largest negative you can shoot is 6×9, so I’m still very much in the medium format roll-film world.  This is on purpose, as I don’t have a way to print 4×5 negatives at the moment, and 120 is more affordable.

I was turned on to these cameras when I learned about the Mercury Universal Camera project.  I backed the kickstarter campaign, and after spending a bit of time on eBay I quickly realized that it would be more cost efficient to just buy a complete Graflex with roll back and lens/shutter than purchase those individually and use them with the Mercury body.  So…that’s what I did!  I started browsing around, and came across this one for a good price on eBay and now it’s mine.  I’m excited to see how it all works on the Mercury body, but for now I’m happy as a clam to be using an older medium format press camera.

No, the Graflex isn’t particularly rare, and no medium format isn’t as exotic as 4×5, and no I’m not shooting on a Nikkor W or Schneider lens – but these are some damn big negatives none the less, and the 101mm tessar type lens that is on there is pretty darn good so far.

To put it in perspective the 6×9 (actually closer to 56mmx84mm) negative has a surface area that is roughly 5.5 times that of a piece of 35mm film.  In digital terms, the most common ‘pro’ sensor size is considered full-frame, meaning that the sensor is approximately the same size as a piece of 35mm film.  So, these negatives are 5.5 times the size of a full-frame sensor, and around 22 times the size of an APS-C sensor (you’re common ‘crop-body’ sensor size).  Scanning with an Epson V800 flatbed scanner should give you somewhere in the realm of a 47 megapixel image, which is very solid.  But, scanning isn’t the name of the game for me – rather I’m most interested in using up some of the lovely Kodak Polypro RC paper to make some 16×20″ prints!

Keep an eye out for more film photography goodness, once the darkroom is fully set up and finalized I’ll do an update there.  Also, watch here and my Instagram account for film portraits coming soon!

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