#907 – Photo Fun & Links

We’re starting a new feature on the blog – we’ll be bringing you a fun, recent photo story.

To get you inspired, trying new things and just keeping your photography fun.

Where do the stories come from?
• We sometimes find them via Facebook. Subscribe to our Facebook Page!
People feed us links and fun tips
• My own discoveries

London Olympics Photographer –  with a twist
This week we feature a very fun story of a London Olympics photographer. Most photographers at the Olympics are using very current, high powered, usually Nikon or Canon cameras.

Our featured photographer this week shot the Olympics using a very modern version of a camera launched in 1912. Photographer David Burnett shot with the modern Graflex Speed Graphic from the 1940s.

Graflex large format camera

Graflex large format camera

Graflex large format camera
The Graflex is probably one of the most successful press cameras ever – it was first sold in 1912 and ceased production in 1973. It’s a very compact, large format, 4×5 press camera. It’s still very available and popular because of its small size and availability.

So Mr Burnett shot the Olympics on a camera that, if you’re fast, could expose a few exposures a minute. That’s far behind the leaders of the equipment pack that shoot 11 frames per second.

How did Burnett’s photos tun out?
See for yourself, but I think they’re brilliant…

#335 Slow and Steady

I mentioned before we are working on a project with a Graflex Press camera.

Today, we booked time to work with a mountain biker to create some large photos with the large camera and bike. It was particularly challenging as I needed to build a solid rig to hold the camera solidly to the bike. Vibration will create the wrong kind of blur.

While we have shot this kind of work with 35mm cameras:

Mountain Bike Photo

… we are still working on more robust rigging to keep the big camera and bike working as a single unit. See more on motion photography:

Mastering advanced motion techniques

Photo rig Photo rig

#311 Ebay lens purchase

Remember my Graflex post?

Yesterday we received an ebay purchase for the Graflex in the mail – a 75mm lens for the large format press camera. I was very excited.


Yep, there are very few lenses available for sale in Ottawa for 4×5 cameras. The Camera Trading Company has another Graflex camera for sale but, alas, not the wide angle lens I lusted after.

I started searching online – finding a good deal on ebay. I have had good experiences there before.

Buyer beware

It was billed as “Glass is clean and clear. Shutter, focus, and f-stop are smooth, solid, and consistent. Body is in very good condition.” The seller had a 99% positive rating and over 22,000 sales – a reasonable track record.

The lens arrived. I found the shutter speed ring was seized. Seized?! Deflated, I started to dread contacting the seller about the bad lens they had sold me.

Canadian Camera to the rescue

Before contacting the selling store I thought it best to consult Canadian Camera – Ottawa’s prominent camera repair shop. I went in and presented my conundrum – had the lens seized or had I missed something?

Kishor and Raj are super. With years of experience and problem solving they quickly found the trouble – the shutter had been modified for another lens. Coupled with the glass of my new lens the shutter speed ring would not move. Removing the spacing ring (second from left, below) solved the problem.

Nikon 75mm Large Format lens


Many thanks to Canadian Camera. The Ohio based ebay seller also forgot to send the lens board we bought. I need to contact them – Any suggestions as to what to say?

#309 Graflex groove

I have eluded to a new project I am working on with a Graflex camera. So today – some more info.

The Graflex camera cornered the photography market for decades. It was the ultimate camera for many uses. Vast quantities of the camera were produced because of its merits:

  • tough, fail proof mechanics
  • compactness (for its time) and portability
  • excellent results


Graflex cornered the editorial or press photography market for many years including WWII. The last of the Graflex cameras was produced in the early 1970s.

Look at any newspaper photo in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s and chances are it was shot with a Graflex. The work was amazing.

Many people still use the Graflex for artistic projects and the technical merits are still there:

  • simple technology
  • enormous file sizes
  • matched with modern view camera lenses the Graflex knocks the socks off modern cameras

Enormous file sizes?

  • Traditional 35mm film and new ‘full frame’ digital cameras capture subjects with a sensor or film size of 864 square millimetres.
  • Most digital SLR cameras use a sensor that is 384 mm2.
  • A 4×5 Graflex uses 12500 mm2 film.

For web use or small prints the extra size is wasted. Large prints is where the Graflex will shine. Many accomplished photographers use larger versions – Karsh and Burtinsky both use(d) an 8×10 film camera.

So, why don’t people use these cameras more? There are limitations.

  • The camera is slow to use. You load 4″x5″ sheets of film individually. That’s time consuming.
  • Each piece of film costs ~$6 to purchase and process.

One of the beauties of the Graflex is it slows you down. Being a high cost per shot forces you to get back to basics and think through the shot before exposing the film.

On a recent shoot I exposed 10 sheets of film in an hour – that’s fast! I then shot 41 frames of the same subject in 10 minutes on a digital camera. They’re different technologies with different uses.