Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 Press Camera

Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 Press Camera

Usage conditions apply
Graflex cameras, made by the Folmer Schwing Company of Rochester, New York (later purchased by Eastman Kodak) were the preferred cameras of photojournalists and wartime correspondents for much of the early to mid-twentieth century. Their sturdy handheld construction adapted well for news and sports photography. The U.S. Department of the Army even commissioned combat-green versions of the Graflex cameras for use by military photographers in World War II and Korea. This popular Pacemaker Speed Graphic 4x5 inch film press camera was produced after 1955.
From its invention in 1839, the camera has evolved to fit many needs, from aerial to underwater photography and everything in between. Cameras allow both amateur and professional photographers to capture the world around us. The Smithsonian’s historic camera collection includes rare and unique examples as well as popular models.
Object Name
Other Terms
camera; Plate/Sheet; Hand; Bellows
date made
after 1955
Graflex, Inc.
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
glass (overall material)
leatherette (overall material)
overall: 36.8 cm x 25 cm x 28 cm; 14 1/2 in x 9 13/16 in x 11 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of John D. Barry
See more items in
Work and Industry: Photographic History
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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It's a great camera.
No mention of the fact that the handles of this camera are used as lightsabers in Star Wars,
I have wanted an old style camera like the Press Camera.What kind of film did these camera use and is the film available?
These cameras use 4" x 5" sheet film, which loads into film holders (2 sheets in each holder). Once the holder is placed into the camera, a slide is removed to allow the camera to expose and image onto the sheet film. The slide is then re-inserted and covers over the film, and the holder can be flipped over to the other side to make a second image. When Kodak was still around, the film was available in most of their standard film formats; Tri-x and Pan-x for black and white, and various colour negative and transparency options. With negatives that were 4 x 5 inch, the resolution was very high, allowing huge blow-up images. For the studio, there were 8" x 10" film cameras that were also available ... imagine the cost of film, processing and printing one of those shots!
The 4x5 cameras mentioned here use 4x5 sheet film which is still available. Historically you could use a 4x5 Polaroid back and use applicable Polaroid film as well. Ideally you either want to process your own film or live near a lab that can process it. Of course for the best historical accuracy, you will probably want to shoot Tri-x which is still available in 320 iso in large format (4x5 is considered large format). Other films you may wish to try are Ilford’s HP5+ which is an ISO 400 film similar to Tri-X 400 in smaller formats. Additionally there are many options in 4x5 for color (negative and reversal) as well as a large quantity of black and white films.

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