Graflex Pacemaker Speed Graphic


Hi everyone, Azriel Knight here and welcome to another episode of Days of Knight. A quick little announcement before I get started, I know I'm getting into the habit of this, but please bare with me. Uh, for the rest of the month of March I'm holding a promotion on my Patreon page, anybody who signs up at the Steel Knight level or higher will get a free sticker pack when they sign up. Just so you know. Today I'm doing my first impressions on a very different type of camera. Now as you know with my first impressions, I don't normally read the manual, I don't look up much history on it, unless it's, uh, you know, just like what year in production it was, or if there's something you know really notable about it I'll--I'll mention that. But first impressions is meant to be a blind test at how somebody would react to the camera without any knowledge of it, and I mean isn't that what a first impressions is? Anyway, this camera however is way more complicated than I normally work with. Usually I'm shooting with SLRs that were produced between 1970 and say, 2004. Um, this is nothing like I have ever reviewed before, I wasn't sure what to do with it when I got it, I got it as a donation, it was gifted to me by my old mentor Neil, so if you're watching Neil, thank you so much for this camera. He specifically said, I'm really curious to see what you'll do with this camera, and when I saw it I was like, man I don't know. [laughs]
This is, again, way outside my normal range of the types of cameras that I shoot. It is made by Graflex, and if I get anything wrong today, don't come at me, just realize that this is a category of cameras that I'm not used to, um, and the only thing that's really familiar to me is the fact that it's medium format. Actually my favorite ratio of medium format, 6x9, even though my main medium format camera is a Pentax 6x7, one of the things that I wish it was, was a little bit wider. Even though my enlarger over there doesn't have a 6x9 holder, I still love that format more than any other medium format ratio. I had this camera for a number of months. First off it was completely filthy, and I went on to my Patreon Discord and I asked the nice folks on there to help me, uh, clean it and, you know, which parts that I could take off easily and clean the inside of like the rangefinder, um, attachment on the side, and all that kind of stuff. And there's still a lot to learn about using this camera, but I am incredibly intrigued I do have some photos I am really looking forward to showing you as well as what I have learned about the camera. So let's get started.

[Intro music]

I'm so proud of this thing because it was so filthy before, it was just sitting on the shelf for years as a display model, and I wasn't even sure it was going to work, but it definitely works as you'll see in a couple of minutes here, um, I'm going to show you a couple things that I have learned about it--it is not everything there is to know about it, these things are complicated instruments, but, I should be able to show you enough here to get started. So on the very top here is what looks like an imperfection in the leather, but actually opens up the camera. And then you have this tab here which unlocks, and allows you to pull the lens and bellows out. So these knobs here is actually how you focus. Now what I found absolutely fascinating about this camera is it actually has two different shutters. The front is the lens shutter and then the back is the focal plane shutter. So you have several different back options here, and different framing options as well. You've got this rangefinder on the side here and it's not the greatest in the world, what I actually prefer to use is this. This is like your old fashioned ground glass type viewer, but obviously you can't see anything right now. You need to open both shutters to be able to view whatever the camera is seeing. You want to set the lens to T and then cock this. Make sure this is set to front, and then trigger the shutter with this, now the lens shutter is open. Then you want to set this to back, and turn this dial to zero here, and now you can see there is an image. I know that's still pretty hard to see, but you should get a general idea, of course everything's going to be flipped upside down. From here, you can focus until it's sharp, and then you want to close up the back. Now at this point you don't want to touch the focusing or the tripod, you want to make sure that all that stays in play. Then I'll release the back shutter, to close that. Switch to the front, and release that one as well. this back comes back by pushing these two parts here and sliding. And what I've got here is a medium format back, a Graflex 23 Graphic 120 Roll Holder. This fits on by resting it in place, and then pushing these metal strips and there it's locked in. Now if you have a lens with the shutter then you have the option of either the focal plane or the lens shutter, and I've been choosing the lens' shutter because there are more options. But you'll still want to make sure the focal plane shutter is open, otherwise you're just going to shoot black. So you'll open that back up, you will set your shutter speed, I'm assuming you'll have a handheld light meter, the red indicator here is for your slower shutter speed, and the black indicators for your higher shutter speeds, you'll notice that you can't have it on both it'll either be at 10 or start at the 25. Shutter speed goes up to 1/400th of a second and then you will cock the shutter right here, you'll ensure that you're set to the front shutter here, you want to make sure that you take your dark slide out, and then fire the shutter. Now that was a really brief quick and dirty tutorial that will just get you started with being able to produce some frames, again, there is so much more to this camera, and I believe there are some really fantastic, photographers out there that can definitely teach you more about this than I can. It took me a while to get to this point I'm always working on other cameras but I kept coming back to this one, and fiddling around with it, and taking some test shots, and making sure that I'm going through the motions so when I did go out into the field with it for the first time, I--I Didn't totally mess it up. Now speaking of field test, field is exactly where I took this camera. To test it out I went to Field, British Columbia, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Let's take a look.


Okay folks, moment of truth. No Idea how this is gonna go. I've had the Graflex for months, uh I want to thank Neil again for giving it to me as a donation for the channel, he said he was really curious to see what I could do with it, and [Laughing] so am I. Alright.

I still hear water droplets, falling off. Just want to be thorough. Okay. Now before I take this out, there is one thing that I suspected and that was, that I only got seven shots instead of eight, so we'll see if that's true. Huh, yeah totally cut off the last shot, I got one, two, three, I didn't get seven shots instead of eight, I got six. So I'm definitely going to have to learn how to learn how to load the film better. I did look at the tutorial, but yeah. One, two, three, four, five, six. Huh. That last shoot looks really cool. So I ended up with one shot of the river, and one, two, three, four shots from my church, a little excursion there in town, and then a train shot at the end. Yeah a little disappointed I only got six shots instead of eight, nonetheless I cannot wait to scan these in and see what they look like, no waiting for you though, here are today's highlights and my contact sheet.


I hope you enjoyed those photos, I certainly love the resolution of the 6x9 format, you can just keep zooming in and in, it is fantastic, so it gives, it gives a quality that 6x7 really doesn't give me, so I'm probably going to keep this camera around for a while. Now switching from digital to film slows you down, then switching from an SLR to a Speed Graphic [exhale] slows you down just that much more. I had to do all these multiple steps just to ensure that my shot was in focus, in frame, uh, that the right shutter was open, that the right shutter was closed, that I had to carefully remove backs and add backs, there's just all these little fine tuned movements that you have to make that, that make you think, man I really do I really want to take this shot? Because I mean by the time you're set up you might change your mind, you might say, no this is a crappy shot, and it also really limits what you can shoot. Is this a sports camera? Probably not. The other thing that intrigues me a lot is changing lenses in the front, and the wide variety of lenses that I can get a hold of, um, yeah just the fact that it's basically just on a, on a little square, and you can screw, you know, whatever lens you want in there, I really don't know the limitations. I also can't wait to do tilt shifting, I know that the camera can like move up and down and stuff and stuff like that in order to tilt shift. But, that is a whole other beast that I have no experience in, and I will definitely have to read up on before I go out there and waste a bunch of film. Now a couple of years ago I decided I was going to be a minimalist and I read some books on minimalism, I believe two or three, and you know, minimalism is different from one person to another person. Like you can, you can have say, a large collection of one thing, but really limit yourself in other ways. Or you can just be a minimalist in clothing and just wear like the same, you know, shirt and pants all the time so you don't have to think about it it. I think it was President Obama that did that he just wore the same thing all the time, I don't know, I'm just talking out my butt here but there was somebody famous that said it was one less decision to make out of the day and they just, they wore the same thing all the time and that was it. Oh!

it was Steve Jobs. So minimalism should be used whenever you are bombarded by choice and it's preventing you from doing what you need to do, and for me it was having like a hundred cameras and not knowing which one to shoot. One of the first things that I decided was that besides the cameras that are up on eBay on for me to sell or have some, some sort of personal historical significance, like a hand-me-down from my father in law, or um, like a first camera or something like that that I was only going to have two cameras per format. For 35mm, that is my Nikon FE and F100, uh, for my 110 format I only have one camera that's my Minolta Auto Zoom, for instant, it's my Instax Camera and my Polaroid SX70, and for medium format, so far it's only been my Pentax 67. But this is going to be that second camera. This thing is amazing and it makes me think about photography in a completely different way. And you know, there are days where you want to shoot 36 frames, and there are days where you only want to shoot 8. I love this camera. I love everything about it, and it's not for everything, but it is going to hold a place in my permanent collection until you know, something else that comes along that contends with it and takes the title. But this is my this my secondary medium format camera now, if that gives you any idea how much I enjoyed shooting with this. I love how it's simple, and complex at the same time. I love how it's heavy but elegant, and of course these 6x9 negatives is really where it's at. If I want to print anything from it, I will have to crop to 6x7, I don't know honestly if my Beseller 23c can even handle, uh, 6x9 negatives, I might get vignetteing, I'll have to check that out, but if it can, I will buy a 6x9 holder for it and d3efinatley make some prints from it. That would be that would be amazing.

Well I hope you enjoyed this episode, if you did um, perhaps you'll consider joining me on Patreon. I've got amazing perks on Patreon, and I don't mean that to brag, I just think that you'll be super interested in checking them out, I have everything from access to a very active Discord, to early access, to the videos, to your name in the credits, free prints, and an exclusive series that I've been shooting for the last few months called Azriel's Variety Show, where I just do a bunch of random stuff, and you get to see behind the scenes, and you know, it's a bit more long form content, the videos tend to be 30, 40 minutes long, something you can toss in the background while you're, you know, developing or something like that, um, usually I'm, uh, I'm showing you my magazine collection which is almost at a thousand issues, or I'm doing research on something, or I'm trying to figure out photography equipment that I bought, a bunch of, like I said it's a variety show, it's a bunch of different stuff. So yeah, check that out, uh, the exclusive series starts at Bronze level, and the access to my Discord starts at a dollar. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and until next time, stay classic.

[Outro Music]


Transcript By Gabe Waldman