The Speed Graphic, originally produced by Graflex, was a once ubiquitous press camera. When you see movies about the 1930's through the 1960's, and the press are carrying big cameras with flashbulbs, these are the ones they are carrying. Many famous photographers used Speed Graphics, notably Weegee.

The Speed Graphic was the dominant camera of its day. It was in production from 1912 to 1972, an amazing span for the production of any item, let alone something like a camera.

The Speed Graphic is similar to what would now be called a large format field camera - it is a large format (4" X 5") camera that folds into a reasonably portable rectangle. Unlike field cameras, though, the Speed Graphic was meant to be used while hand held. Because of the slower speeds of the film in the past, this required the use of flashbulbs.

The Speed Graphic is distinguished from many other large format cameras in that it has a built in focal plane shutter. This allows the use of lenses that are mounted in a barrel instead of a shutter, with considerable financial savings.

Graflex also sold a similar camera without a built-in shutter called a Crown Graphic.

Speed Graphics went through many model changes throughout its production, culminating in the Super Speed Graphic.

Here is a list of features usually found on Speed Graphics:

  • built-in focal plane shutter
  • carrying handle (right side)
  • flash gun bracket (left side)
  • ground glass viewing with built-in hood (later models had backs that were better integrated with optional film magazines and roll film holders)
  • wire frame sportsfinder (simple viewfinder)
  • normal viewfinder (later versions were parallax corrected)
  • the lid/lens stage could drop, allowing the lens stage to be positioned lower than the film stage
  • reasonable movements of the lens stage (shift up/down, left/right, up/down and left/right tilt)
  • latest models had a rotating back

All in all, a feature-laden camera. Still plentiful, because it was so ubiquitous in the past. A wonderful, economic way to get into large format photography. The camera and all the options are reasonably priced on the used market, except for original Graflex flash guns, which were used to make the lightsabers in Star Wars, resulting in ridiculously inflated prices.

Speed Graphic is also the title of the first in a series of three five track EPs, which are in the process of being released by Ben Folds. The second is named Sunny 16, and the third, (which has had its release delayed) is called Super D.

Speed Graphic was released in 2003 in a somewhat unorthodox way. It was not to be sold in any major record stores, and would only be available on vinyl from independant record stores, or on CD from Aditionally it was released for download at the iTunes music store. Folds chose this method of releasing the EPs to avoid large scale publicity, and just get the songs out there.

The EP itself features John Painter of Flemming and John on bass, who also produced and mixed the EP with Folds. It contains the following tracks:

1. In Between Days - a cover of the song by The Cure.
2. Give Judy My Notice - a new song written by Folds for the EP.
3. Protection - an old song, written by Ben Folds and Anna Goodman, but never relased.
4. Dog - another old song, written by Ben Folds and Evan Olson, also never released.
5. Wandering - written by Ben Folds and former bandmate Darren Jessee.

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