other Graflex cameras in my collection.
Graflex Graphic 35 [1955 - 1958+]
The Graflex Graphic 35 was quirky design from an American company, made using German lenses/shutters, and possibly manufactured in Japan (depending on who you believe)?
The covers were black when new, but these fade with age becoming a grey colour.
The lever on the front left (facing), which looks like a self-timer setting arm, is actually the shutter release. It's operated by a seemingly un-ergonomic pull to the user's right, but the action is actually very smooth. The mechanical linkage from this lever is pretty obvious (the wire frame on the side of the lens housing), and it is possible to trip the shutter by pressing the linking arm inwards. The shutter has to be cocked manually by a lever on the shutter assembly, plus there is a double exposure interlock system, so a film has to be loaded or the drive cog turned (with the camera back open) before the shutter will fire. The two black plastic body buttons on either side of the lens are for focus adjustment, and linked to a coupled rangefinder with a separate view window. Rather than the typical screw type focus, the Graphic 35 employs a sliding lens tube that is pushed forwards and backwards - hence the two buttons, with each moving the focus in a different direction. The travel of the focus adjustment is equal to the depth of the buttons: in other words, the buttons move synchronously like a seesaw rather than a multiple press ratchet-type system.
Operation of the camera requires the use of two hands and three fingers. The index fingers rest on the focus buttons. Their movement is not sprung, so gentle pressure from one finger counterbalances the other to make fine adjustments possible. The middle right finger operates the shutter release.
The Graphic 35 came with two lens options; a 50mm f/3.5 triplet and an f/2.8 four element Tessar type. Both used German made Rodenstock lens glass, along with German Prontor SVS shutters.
Correct flash exposure is achieved via the Graphic's
Spectramatic system. This used colour codes, so matching the colour from the focus scale to the same colour for the aperture sets the correct exposure (on the basis that Guide Number ÷ Distance = Aperture). There were a few Spectramatic variations. The first system (
single band) assumed a fixed flash guide number (or a very limited range of numbers based on an X or M sync setting). The second (
double band) had two colour bands against the aperture scale. These were read according to film speed (10 ASA or 30-35 ASA). The final version (
universal band) offered calibration of the correct aperture/distance colour match, via an additional guide number setting lens ring. This rotates the colour band so that it aligns with a new aperture marking.
Serial numbers begin at 550,000, and end at 599,999 in January 1956, and then jump to 1,100,000 with the last known being 1,118,269.
The 1960 UK price for an f/2.8 Graphic 35 was £34 - 7s - 2d (which was about two weeks average UK pay).
Viewfinder: No frame lines and a view about 75% (at a guess) of natural size.
Focus: Coupled rangefinder with separate viewing window, and operated by push buttons. User's left for close focus, and right for infinity.
Lens: Graflar 50 mm f/2.8 (4 element Tessar type). These are usually G. Rodenstock lenses, but some are Enna Werk lenses and have no overt indication of the actual manufacturer.
Close Focus: 3.0'.
Diaphragm: Five blade, stopping down to f/22.
Shutter: Prontor SVS with speeds 1 sec, 1/2nd, 1/4th, 1/8th, 1/15th, 1/30th, 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/30th plus B (earlier f/3.5 models had the old 1/5th, 1/10th, 1/25th, 1/50th, 1/100th speeds).Built-in self-timer. M-X sync switchable contacts.
Cable Release: Standard socket on lens.
Filter Size: 31.5mm.
Flash: Cold shoe and PC terminal. M and X sync.
Film Advance: Twist knob with stop when the film has been sufficiently advanced. Film wraps under the spool.
Frame Counter: Manually set, counts down.
Rewind: Rewind knob + pulling upwards on the wind knob disengages the drive sprocket.
Back Opening: Twist lock on base of camera. Whole back removes.
Size: 128 (w) x 81 (h) x 74mm (d).
Weight: 681 g.
Whilst researching this camera I have come across two very common claims:
a) model production ceased in July 1957, and
later Graflex Graphic 35s were made by Kowa and had a Seikosha MX shutter.
Stylistically, the replacement model for the Graphic 35 appears to have been the Graphic 35 Jet, which was introduced in 1961. Isn't it more likely the Jet perpetuated its predecessors unique focusing system rather than resurrected it four years later?
My own research has found magazine adverts for the push-button-focus Graphic 35 dating from:
• March 1958 (National Geographic), plus a number of similar magazine pages offered for sale on eBay, and ascribed to 1958. One of these (shown at the top of the page) is clearly pre-Christmas advertising, which suggests planned Graphic 35 availability into 1959.
• An unspecified magazine advertisement ascribed to 1959 can be found here.
• A listing in the June 1960 UK Amateur Photographer magazine Annual Camera Guide (in my possession) indicates the camera was available new that year.
• The December 1960 US Modern Photography magazine also lists the Graphic 35 in its
New Camera Buying Guide (click here for the relevant entry, or here for the whole guide). Note that the shutter descriptions in this guide refer to the flash sync.
The recently published Graflex Journal (issue 3, 2016) opens with a feature on the Graphic 35. This reports - although production records show 4,000 cameras made in 1958, this date is not supported by other company records (see footnote at the end of page 5). Regardless of when production ceased, I suspect Graflex Graphic 35s were available new from dealer stock until about 1960. This fits with the advertising material, and perpetuation of the push button focusing system in the new Graflex Jet (i.e. this system was not resurrected after 4 years of unavailability).
The very helpful people behind the Graflex Journal have told me the Graflex Graphic 35 was never produced by Kowa. I believe that the statement about Kowa making later Graphic 35s originally referred specifically to the Graphic Century 35 models, and has been corrupted through copycat repetition to imply that Kowa took-over Graphic 35 production.
These Graflexes are not easy to buy in the UK. They are plentiful in the USA, but the shipping cost is just ridiculous. I bought this camera knowing it wasn’t in the best condition, but kept my fingers crossed it was in working order – especially the push-button focusing system. Fortunately everything works, except the rangefinder where there is no second image, but this is possibly something I could have a go at fixing (pheugo.com). The camera has required a very thorough clean, and some paint touch-up. The accessory shoe is a little bent, but so what. I was nervous about bidding on this camera, as there was no condition statement, but I'm happy with it.
I paid £20.00 for this camera in October 2016. It has the faster f/2.8 lens, and universal Spectramatic flash system ... making it a
late model, which was very definitely made in the USA (including the case). It feels very solid and well made. The viewfinder is typically tiny, but adequate in comparison to the miniscule rangefinder window. The covers on mine are no where near as faded as many I have seen. I like that it's very different to other cameras in my collection, which is why I wanted to own one.